Q: Why is it necessary for a Ben Noach to go through a formal process? Does formal status matter at all to the Holy One, Blessed be He?
Q: Why is it necessary for a Ben Noach to go through a formal process of “conversion”? Is there any difference in essence between a Jew and an idol worshipper except for the fact that Israel experienced Divine revelation? Does the formal status of a person matter at all to the Holy One, Blessed be He?
A: A Ben Noach must go through a formal process of accepting his or her status in front of a Beit Din (a halachic court) in order to become transformed from a person who performs good deeds “without being commanded to do them” into one who performs them “in response to a command.” This transforms the deeds into acts of clinging to God and not merely acts related to moral perfection.
Rabbi Yeshayahu Hollander adds the following note: In addition, it is important to also see what happens to the person making the declaration in terms of the act of making a declaration on his or her soul.
Formal ceremonies are performed in many cases by which critical status changes are made: Marriage ceremonies, for instance. Why bother with an expensive ceremony?
We have in Jewish Jurisprudence a term “Gemiruth daat“, meaning that the formal act has great meaning *for the mindset of the person making the declaration*. After making a declaration, the person has changed. He or she has gone beyond the stage of thinking about and considering the pro and con of the proposed change of status. The wedding changes the person from an unattached person to a half-of-a-union. The mindset has changed – or should have changed – from thinking about “ME” to thinking about “US”. Also: look up the term “rite of passage”.
For further reading about ceremonies, see “The Little Prince” by Antoine de
Saint-Exupery. I don’t remember the number of the chapter which deals with
ceremonies, but I can recommend the whole book for adult reading.