Kenneth Cohen

Ruth and Not Yitro

It is interesting to note that Ruth has gone down in history as the most famous biblical convert. It is a little puzzling why Yitro, the father in-law of Moshe, did not get similar recognition.

The Torah referred to him by the name of Chovav, when he parted ways with his son in-law in the desert. He was given this name because he demonstrated חיבה, or affection for the Mitzvot.

Moshe pleaded with Chovav to remain with the Jewish people until they entered Israel. He told him that he could be “our eyes.” At first glance it looked like Yitro could be a good navigator in the desert. The Keli Yakar wrote that Moshe was telling him that if he were to stay, he would make a huge impression on the world as he had chosen to embrace Judaism.

The refusal of Yitro demonstrated why Ruth surpassed him as the example of the devoted convert. She told Naomi that עמך עמי, “Your people are my people.” Yitro told Moshe that he needed to return “אל עמי,” to “My people.”
Despite accepting the laws of the Torah, Yitro did not see himself entirely as part of the Jewish people. Ruth was blessed for her absolute commitment to be part of Am Yisrael.

While Yitro was blessed with having his descendants serve as judges in the Beit Hamikdash, Ruth was blessed with being the mother of the Mashiach!

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at