What Can Rabbinic Depictions of Ruth's Conversion Teach Us about the Importance of Belief in Judaism?

in European Judaism
Maciej ‘Mati’ Kirschenbaum Bromley Reform Synagogue, UK

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This article examines selected stories of Ruth's conversion in order to find out whether the belief in God was an explicit conversion requirement in rabbinic Judaism. This examination aims to establish whether there are rabbinic sources that could support the decision to convert non-believers to Progressive Judaism. First, the article examines the story of Ruth's conversion in bYevamot 47a–b in the context of rabbinic conversion requirements delineated in bYevamot 46a–48b. It proposes that Yevamot 47a–b treats the belief in God as an implicitly necessary requirement for conversion. Second, the article analyses the story of Ruth's conversion found in Targum Ruth, which includes the description of Ruth's belief in the World-to-Come but focuses on pious observance of the commandments. Finally, the article posits that the absence of explicit references to faith in God among rabbinic conversion requirements calls for Progressive communal and liturgical openness to contemporary Jewish struggles with belief.

Contributor Notes

Maciej ‘Mati’ Kirschenbaum is the rabbi of Bromley Reform Synagogue. He received his rabbinical ordination from Leo Baeck College in 2020. He also studied at Abraham Geiger Kolleg in Germany as well as in the Conservative Yeshiva and the Hartman Institute, both in Jerusalem.

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European Judaism

A Journal for the New Europe


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