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Are You Being Called to Jewish Identity?

“I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Bresheet 12:2-3)

“Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart.” (Shemot 19:6)

“It is not enough that you are merely my servant to raise up the tribes of Ya’akov and restore the offspring of Isra’el. I will also make you a light to the nations, so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth.” (Yeshayahu 49:6)

It is clear from these passukim that one of G-d’s most fundamental purposes in raising up our Jewish people from Avraham Avinu was to be a blessing to the world. Thus the nation of Israel was to become a kingdom of cohanim, ministering His Word, and bringing spiritual enlightenment and redemption to the gentile nations – אר לגיוום. To this effect the Kitvei Kodesh are replete with wonderful stories of gentiles who were drawn to G-d through the example of our Jewish people. Thus, for example, when the Israelites fled their Egyptian bondage they were joined by a ‘mixed multitude’ who subsequently travelled with them through the Yam Suf, shared the perils of desert life, witnessed the revelation of G-d and the Torah at Mount Sinai, and whose males were also circumcised. Indeed, according to the Kitvei Kodesh, after a while the ‘mixed multitude’ ceased to be an identifiable group since their faith led them to identify wholly as Israelites. Perhaps the most impactful of all of these stories of gentile converts is that of Rut, the Moavite, who expressed her faith in the G-d of Israel and joined herself to our people with these beautiful words: “Don’t press me to leave you and stop following you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die; and there I will be buried. May ADONAI bring terrible curses on me, and worse ones as well, if anything but death separates you and me.” With these simple words then Rut not only expressed her faith in the G-d of Israel, but henceforth took upon herself Jewish identity as a vital and natural extension of that faith. To this effect she was is not only rightly regarded as the prototype of all converts to Judaism but was privileged by G-d to become the great-grandmother of Melech David (and thus also an ancestor of the Mashiach)! It is further to Rut’s honour that Megilat Rut is read at Chag Shavuot when we celebrate the giving of the Torah and the ingathering of the wheat harvest. In fact, wherever Jews have lived, even in exile, G-d has not only drawn gentiles like Rut into relationship with Him but also to Jewish identity. In Megilat Ester we accordingly read of how many gentiles were so overawed at the sight of how G-d had miraculously delivered our Jewish people from sure destruction that they trusted in Him and similarly transitioned to Jewish identity: “Many from the peoples of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews had overcome them.” (Ester 8:17).

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