Megillat Rut teaches us how to interact with potential converts

In Megillat Rut, 1:8,11 and 12, after Naomi’s husband, Elimelech and sons, Machlon and Chilion die in Moav, Naomi, who is on the way back to the Land of Israel tries to send away her daughters in law, Rut and Orpah three times : “Go, return, each of you to her mother’s house. May God deal kindly with you, as you have dealt kindly with the dead and with me!”, “Turn back, my daughters. Why should you come with me? Have I more sons in my womb who could be husbands to you? Turn back, my daughters, go along…”

At this point, Orpah returns home. However, Rut refuses to go.

The Talmud, Yevamot 47b points out that Naomi tried to dissuade Rut by explaining to her some of the difficult laws such as Tchum Shabbat (you are not allowed to walk more than 2000 amot on Shabbat), the laws of Yichud (not being allowed to be in seclusion with a member of the opposite gender), the commandment to observe 613 mitzvot, the fact that it is forbidden to worship idols, the four types of capital punishments etc. The Talmud explains that Rut’s responses can be found in Megilat Rut 1:16-17:

Rut said: “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people and your God is my God; where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may God do to me and more if anything but death separates me from you.”

In 1:18 we read: “When she (Naomi) saw that she (Ruth) was determined to go with her, she stopped arguing with her.”

The Talmud explains that this is the source for the reason why we do not overly dissuade a convert from accepting Judaism. After trying to turn away a potential convert three times, we no longer need to dissuade them.

At this point Rut was clearly sincerely converting as she said: “your people are my people and your God is my God” and in the next verse she uses the true name of the God of Israel.

How fitting that the gematria (numerical value) of the name Rut is 606, the number of mitzvot that Rut took on when she converted. If you add another 7 for the Seven Noachide Laws which she was already observing before she converted, then the total comes to 613, the amount of commandments in the Torah.

May we interact with all potential converts the way that Naomi interacted with Rut.

 

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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