and the Jewish self
By: Rabbi Carlos Tapiero,
MWU Deputy - Director General & Director of Education
Monday, June 6, 2011
ד' סיון תשע"א
Shavuot, Ruth and the Jewish self
During the Festival of Shavuot we read one of the most moving Meguilot
of the Writings of the Bible: Megillat Ruth.
This is a short book, just 4 chapters. It tells the story of Ruth the
Moabite, who, despite having lost her husband in a sudden death - with
the usual immediate danger of impoverishment - decides to
unconditionally and absolutely join the People of Israel. This is more
significant if we take into consideration what was established by our
Sages: Ruth was part of the royalty of Moab - the daughter of King Eglon.
Ruth became widowed, Naomi, her mother (a widow as well) suggested that
Ruth return to the protection of her family in Moab, because she, Naomi,
could not support her financially. Ruth then pronounces one of the most
moving and famous verses of our entire Bible. Speaking to her mother
Ruth expressed in the clearest possible way the common destiny that
linked her not only to her mother-in-law, but to the people of Israel as
a whole. Ruth says:
not urge me to leave you, to turn back from following you.
where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
people shall be my people,
your God, my God;
where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.
may God do to me, and so may He do more,
anything but death separates me from you."
Ruth's statement is clear: she gives up the comforts of her family - the
Moabite nobility, accepting a life without guarantees of a secure future
- and rejecting, thus, an easy life of luxury that also included the
idolatry of her family origin. Ruth’s
joining Naomi is seen by the Rabbis, in different texts, as the process
of the full conversion that Ruth underwent - Ruth's total
acceptance of Judaism.
Through analyzing the biblical text, a question becomes apparent: What
exactly did Ruth commit to – a commitment which made her the
first known convert to Judaism through a clear formula of acceptance?
Ruth talks about three levels of acceptance and commitment:
The most important one: the adoption and entry into the Jewish people
as her own, even without being born into their ranks: "Your
people shall be my people." Being Jewish is to adhere to the Jewish
people both in their National being and their ways of life.
The commitment to the destiny of the Jewish people, regardless of their
troubles or the dangers that could haunt them: "...
For where you go, I will go; where you
lodge, I will lodge… where you die I will die, and there I will be
buried. Thus may God do to me, and so may He do more, if anything but
death separates me from you" - something we have
experienced throughout our history as a people with countless tragedies.
The commitment to the faith and the principles of the Jewish people,
"your God, my God" - the
acceptance of the richness of Judaism as her North, her integrity, and
her deepest self.
gives us the fullest expression of what it means to develop and join the
Jewish people in the color and the warmth of her shaking and stirring
words. This is not only an issue of faith. Judaism includes a set of
ideals transformed into a complete way of life. Ruth tells us that being
Jewish is to join a national destiny, even in dark and tough days, even
in pain and sadness. Being a Jew is to accept the God of Israel as God,
the land of Israel as our Homeland, the Jewish people and their destiny
as our own. This selfless surrender, this incontestable will of being
Jewish, was rewarded by God: Ruth, the converted, became the
great-grandmother of David, the future King of Israel - and thus, the
ancestor of the Messiah himself, who will emerge from the House of
do we read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot? The reason being that during
Shavuot we celebrate the acceptance of Torah by our people (around 3
at Mount Sinai,
as Ruth herself adopted Judaism and made it hers with its many treasures
- and consequences.
God inspire us to emulate Ruth's example,
experiencing the excitement of being part of the Jewish people
in the true acceptance of the ideals of our ancient heritage,
and the infinite wealth of our teachings.
we incorporate Torah as a guide for our actions and our behavior and our
deepest beliefs, to make a better world – to mend this world.
Chag Shavuot Sameach!
CARLOS A. TAPIERO
Director-General & Director of Education
The Torah speaks of 600,000 men
of military age.
The moment of Matan Torah, the
giving of the Torah, was marked by a national conversion,
accentuated by the acceptance of the mitzvot when the Children
of Israel said, “We will do and we will listen” (Shemot –Exodus
- XXIV, 7).