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A Message for Shavuos:


On the Festival of Shavuos, we celebrate the giving of the Torah – the Divine Teaching. The Festival begins on the 6th day of the Jewish month of Sivan. (This year, the Festival begins at sundown on Tuesday, May 15th.)  

Dear Friends,

On the Festival of Shavuos, we read the Book of Ruth, which tells the story of how Ruth, the Moabite, became a convert who joined the People of Israel through accepting our spiritual path to redemption. The Book of Ruth describes a series of events which led to Ruth's marriage with Boaz, a judge from the Tribe of Judah who was one of the leading sages of Israel. As a result of her spiritual courage and devotion, she merited to become the great-grandmother of King David. And from David will emerge the Messiah who will inaugurate a new age of enlightenment and shalom for Israel, humankind, and all creatures: 

"A staff will emerge from the stump of Jesse (the father of David), and a shoot will sprout from his roots. The spirit of the Compassionate One will rest upon Him - a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and reverence for the Compassionate One…Righteousness will be the girdle round his loins, and faith will be the girdle round his waist. The wolf will live with the sheep, and the leopard will lie down with the kid; and a calf, a lion whelp and a fatling together, and a young child will lead them. A cow and bear will graze and their young will lie down together; and a lion, like cattle, will eat hay. A suckling will play by a viper's hole; and a newly weaned child will stretch his hand towards an adder's lair. They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be filled with knowledge of the Compassionate One as water covering the sea bed." (Isaiah 11:1,2,5-9)

The goal of our spiritual path is the redemption of all human beings and all creatures, and this universal redemption will take place under the leadership of the Messiah, a descendant of Ruth, the convert. The fact that an ancestor of the Messiah is a convert serves as reminder that converts strengthen our ability to reach our universal goal. 

In this spirit, I will conclude this letter with a teaching from the Midrash which describes the Divine Love for converts. The Midrash also cites the mitzvah to give a portion of the tithes to the Levite, the convert, the orphan, and the widow (Deut. 14:29), and it then cites the following dialogue between the Holy One and Moses:

"Moses said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: 'Master of the Universe, is the convert the equal of a Levite to You?' The Holy One answered: 'To Me, he is greater, for he converted for My Name's sake.' "

The Midrash adds: "He (the convert) may be compared to a deer that grew up in the wilderness, yet came of itself and mingled with the sheep. The shepherd would give it better food and drink, and favor it more than his own sheep. They asked the shepherd: 'Do you favor this deer more than your own sheep?' He answered: 'What trouble have I gone to on behalf of my sheep! Until they grew up I had to lead them out in the morning and gather them towards evening. This deer grew up in deserts and forests and came, on its own, to join my sheep. It is for this reason, I favor him.' So the Holy One, Blessed is He, said: 'How much trouble did I go on behalf of My people Israel! I led them out of Egypt, I lighted their way, I brought down the manna for them and made the quail fly to them, I brought up the well for them, and I surrounded them with clouds of glory, before they accepted my Torah. This convert, however, came on his own.' " (Yalkut Shimoni, Emor 645) 

Shalom,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen



P.S. I would like to recommend the following autobiographies by converts who joined our people through accepting the Covenant of Torah and its path of mitzvos: 

"Gathered Stones" by David Starr-Glass - The story of a Scotsman's journey to Judaism. This book is published by Feldheim: www.feldheim.com  .

"My Sister the Jew" by Ahuvah Gray - The story of an African American woman and her journey to Judaism. This book is published by Targum Press and distributed by Feldeim Publishers: www.feldheim.com  . For futher information, visit: www.mysisterthejew.com  . A copy of the Hazon review of this book is available upon request.



Hazon - Our Universal Vision: www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/