April 28, 2022

Yevamot 48

The final teaching in today’s daf (Yevamot 48b) states that once a non-Jew has decided to convert to Judaism, they should not delay their initiation of that process. In fact, we are then taught by Rabbi Abahu, or some say by Rabbi Chanina, that we learn this idea from Ruth 2:12 when Boaz says to Ruth: יְשַׁלֵּם ה’ פָּעֳלֵךְ וּתְהִי מַשְׂכֻּרְתֵּךְ שְׁלֵמָה מֵעִם ה’ אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר בָּאת לַחֲסוֹת תַּחַת כְּנָפָיו – ‘May the Lord repay your labors, and may your reward be full at the hand of the Lord, God of Israel, under whose mantle you have come to take shelter.’
But how does the verse relate to the above-mentioned teaching?
On the words אֲשֶׁר בָּאת – ‘you have come’, Rashi explains (in his commentary on Yevamot 48b) that this means that Ruth, ‘came speedily and did not delay’ – meaning that once she decided to convert to Judaism, she did not hold herself back. Instead, she demonstrated her full commitment to become Jewish.
Reflecting on this teaching, Rav Aharon Kotler (Mishnat Rabbi Aharon Vol. 3 p. 132) explains that ‘if this is the rule with converts who are not obligated to fulfil the commandments then how much more so does it apply to someone who is obligated [in the commandments] and who nevertheless holds themselves back and consciously impedes their journey of achieving the [spiritual and religious] level that they should be striving for.’
Especially as we journey towards Shavuot, I believe that now is an ideal time for us to ask ourselves sincere and heartfelt questions about our spiritual and religious goals, and once we do so, we should do what we can to reach those goals so that the words of אֲשֶׁר בָּאת לַחֲסוֹת תַּחַת כְּנָפָיו can be said about us as well.
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