Monday, November 25, 2013


Genesis 41:1-44:17

Rabbi Lewis Eron for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Jews-By-Choice: Asenath and Ruth

Throughout our history, and particularly in our times, the Jewish people have been enriched by converts, people who have chosen to cast their lot with ours, to make our history and destiny their own. We benefit from their enthusiasm, their insight and their mature understanding of Judaism. We honor their new commitments by calling them "gerei tzedek" ("those who have chosen to dwell with us through righteousness") and by declaring them to be the direct descendants of our ancestors, Abraham and Sarah. They, in turn, compliment us by accepting our sacred heritage and remind us of the life-changing, life-enhancing power of our traditions.

Our ancient traditions present us with two powerful visions of the conversion process. One, represented by the story of Ruth, focuses on the convert's significant relationships with Jewish people. We all know many people who have chosen to join us because of their involvement with their Jewish spouse, their Jewish friends, and the Jewish community. The other, characterized by ancient legends concerning Joseph's Egyptian born wife, Asenath, stresses the convert's spiritual journey towards Jewish faith.

The story of the Moabite woman, Ruth, who after the deaths of her husband and father-in-law, followed her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Naomi's hometown of Bethlehem in Judah, is found in the biblical Book of Ruth. The story focuses on Jewish values of peoplehood and community, which still play a central role in modern Jewish life.

Ruth's story is a tale of a love and loyalty. Ruth leaves her native land and adopts the traditions and beliefs of the Jewish people because of the depth of her relationship with Naomi and because of her admiration of Naomi's words and deeds, which reflected the guiding principles of Judaism. Ruth's declaration of loving loyalty ("Wherever you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people and your God is my God . . . (Ruth 1:16)") is one of the most profound expressions of love in our tradition. But it is also testimony to the transforming power of the faith we express by the way we live our lives.

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