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JUNE 5-7, 2003 6-7 SIVAN 5763

Pop Quiz: Which king was Ruth a descendant of?


"For wherever you go I will go...your people are my people and your G-d is my G-d" (Ruth 1:16)

Shabuot commemorates the high point of all history. More than 33 centuries ago Israel stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and accepted a commitment to do Hashem's will as expressed in His Torah. In order to get a picture of what happened at Sinai to the Jewish people as a whole we must learn the Torah that discusses this great event. But to discover how each of us as individuals today can bring ourselves to an acceptance of Torah this Shabuot, we must examine the story of a sincere individual convert, Ruth. She accepted the Torah on her own. At Sinai the entire nation converted to Judaism. Our mission today is for each of us to make an effort to reconvert ourselves.

Rabbi Yisrael Miller examines the story of Ruth. A Jewish woman named Naomi moved from the land of Israel to Moab with her husband and two sons. The husband dies. The sons marry non-Jewish women from Moab, Ruth and Orpah. The sons die. Naomi, in poverty, returns to Israel and her two daughters-in-law express loyalty by insisting they will accompany her. Naomi tells them this is foolish, for they will doom themselves to widowhood and poverty. Orpah leaves, and Ruth stays. Ruth tells Naomi, "Do not entreat me to leave you, for wherever you go I will go." Ruth declares loyalty to Naomi. She adds, "Your people are my people." She commits herself to the Jewish people. And finally, "Your G-d is my G-d," she commits herself to Hashem. Ruth's words are the source of how a sincere convert is accepted. However, there is a problem. It seems that Ruth's motivation at first was her personal devotion to Naomi. We know that if a gentile says she wants to convert to marry a nice Jewish doctor, the answer is no!

But the explanation here is that it was not necessary for Ruth to convert in order to remain with Naomi. She could have remained a gentile and observed seven misvot. The real meaning of Ruth's statement was, I want to follow Naomi. There is something in this person that inspires. But, Ruth adds, it's not her personality, it's her spirituality. She wants to be part of this nation that is spiritual. She then goes to the next level. It's not just an ethnic quality, but it is the beauty of the Torah, and the Jews are great because of their special relationship with Hashem. To this Ruth clings with her very life, "Only death will separate me from you." Ruth converts not for Naomi, not for her people, but for Naomi's G-d.

We become elevated through contact with elevated human beings, and the best education for a Jew is to hang out with the right people. It will rub off on us until we say, "Your people are the kind of people I wish to be and your G-d is the One I wish to make my own. That is one fundamental lesson from Ruth, to find righteous people to admire and learn from them to admire righteousness itself. Shabbat Shalom. Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Reuven Semah

One of the unique differences about Shabuot is the fact that we eat dairy in one or more of the meals. Among the reasons given is the fact that Torah is compared to milk and honey which is both sweet and beneficial.

There is another resemblance of Torah to milk. Just as a baby nurses from his mother and gets the best nourishment possible, so too is the Torah the best influence in our lives. When a baby nurses a little, there is only a little milk produced, but if he tries to drink a lot from his mother, the supply will increase accordingly. So too, when a person learns a little Torah, there will be a little connection between him and the Torah, but the more he learns, the more the flow of Torah will increase and he in turn will want to have more, which will continue to produce even more.

On this holiday of Shabuot, let us realize that Torah is our sustenance, just like a little baby, and let us learn a little more each day, thereby increasing the "supply" from Hashem. Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"They stood on the bottom [lit. under] the mountain" (Shemot 19:17)

When Hashem offered the Jewish people the Torah they immediately responded "na'aseh venishma - we will do and we will listen (study)." If so, why was it necessary for Hashem to suspend the mountain over them and warn them that if they did not accept the Torah, their fate would be sealed? (See Gemara Shabbat 88a, Tosafot)

The Torah consists of two parts, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. The Jewish people were ready to accept the Written Torah, but not the Oral Torah which explains the Written one and transmits the whole corpus of Jewish law. Therefore, it was necessary for Hashem to hold the mountain over them.

Alternatively, it was not a great surprise that the Jews readily accepted the Torah and proclaimed, "na'aseh venishma." After all, in the wilderness all their needs were provided. They ate manna from Heaven and drank water from Miriam's well. Their clothing miraculously enlarged as they grew, and it was cleaned by the clouds of Heaven, which also protected them during their sojourn. Under such conditions, there was absolutely no reason not to adhere tenaciously to the teachings of the Torah.

By putting a mountain over the people, Hashem was asking them a question: "There is no guarantee that the tranquility that you are currently experiencing will last forever. What will happen when a 'cloud' hovers above you? When you go through hard times and your very existence is threatened, will you still keep the Torah?"

While some of the Jews may have entertained doubts, Hashem told them, "It is to your advantage to keep the Torah under all conditions. For as soon as you forsake the Torah, Sham tehi keburatchem - that will be your burial."

(Vedibarta Bam)


Question: Why is Eshet Hayil read on Friday night before kiddush? Answer: We praise our wives for their efforts in preparing for Shabbat. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Eglon, king of Moab.

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