ר תָלִֶּׁ֨ינִּי֙ אָלִִּ֔ין עַמֵׁ֣ךְ עַמִִּ֔י וֵאלֹהֵַ֖יִּךְ אֱלֹהָָֽי׃
But Ruth replied, “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16)
With these poignant words, the Biblical heroine Ruth pledges her loyalty and love to her mother-in-law Naomi. The scene takes place in the ancient country of Moab, east of Judah. Naomi and her husband had traveled there to escape famine along with their two sons who marry Moabite women. Naomi’s men-folk have died and she tells her daughters-in-law to return to their own people. Orpah sadly does so, but Ruth refuses and joins her destiny with Naomi. Together they travel to Judah, where Ruth makes an auspicious marriage to Naomi’s kinsman Boaz. Ruth gives birth to Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David who becomes king, David HaMelech.
This beautiful story makes clear that those who choose to join the Hebrew tribe are to be welcomed and honored, like our mythic ancestress Ruth.
In the midst of this terrible pandemic and political turmoil, I’ve been surprised and inspired to have several holy souls begin studying for conversion. What an unexpected balm for my heart! Our conversion students are of a wide range of ages, interests and experiences. In a recent Zoom get-together they shared their reasons for considering conversion. Some com-mon themes emerged: the atmosphere of intellectual inquiry that encourages questions; the warm, welcoming atmosphere at Temple Beth El events; and the compelling beauty of tradi-tional Jewish holidays.
I’ll be guiding the students in their studies, but I also would like to pair each of them with a mentor from the Congregation, someone to check in with them from time to time, attend ser-vices and classes together (as schedules permit), and generally be available to answer questions. Some of the students are eager to learn Hebrew, so I also am looking for Hebrew tutors. For Hebrew learning we’ll use an excellent series called Alef Isn’t Tough. If you would like to serve as a mentor or a tutor to one of our wonderful students, please be in touch with me.
While I was writing up a list of study materials for conversion students, I realized that I’ve never shared such a list with the Congregation! So here you go -Rabbi Naomi’s Suggested Resource for Adult Learners:
Toward the end of January I’ll resume Zoom appointments to visit with TBE members and advise students, and I would be delighted to go over items on the list with any of you.
I’m happily planning a Shabbat Shira Songfest for Friday, January 29, 6-8 pm. We have quite a line-up including choir members, T’filah Leaders, and some new faces and voices! If you would like to share a Shabbos song, please contact me.
I hope the joys of studying and singing will help carry us through this very challenging winter.
אַבי געזונט -Abi gezunt...Just be healthy!