As the State of Israel and its rabbinical courts are heading for a major showdown concerning conversion, it is remarkable that not one of the participants, including the orthodox, have considered a major and most crucial question: Is conversion altogether possible? This may sound like a rhetorical question since the answer is in the affirmative. Yet this question goes to the very core of the problem and as long as we do not deal with it, all deliberations concerning this matter are more or less meaningless. The reason for this is very obvious: Logically speaking, conversion to Judaism should not be possible.
When carefully reading the story of Ruth, the question of why Ruth decided to convert to Judaism is of crucial and far reaching importance. What motivated this young woman who was educated in a most adulterous and idolatrous society to make such a radical step and commit herself to a lifestyle which, like no other, makes great moral and ritual demands on its followers? What is there in Judaism which is able to defeat the lusts of sensualism, materialism, prestige and easy lifestyle which was represented by the nation of Moav?
Reading the story of Yitro, Moshe’s father in law and a convert to Judaism, is a serious challenge. For sensitive souls it is not just a meaningful narrative but above all a painful confrontation with one’s own Jewishness.