Welcome back to my Blog. I am sharing a beautiful piece by a member of my shul, Arwen Kutner. As we enter into the summer, I hope to come back to regular posting…
Shavuot is coming up this week and with it comes the reading of the book of Ruth. A central question about the story is how it is possible for Ruth to become Jewish when she is actually a Moabite. Moabites are very clearly forbidden from converting into Judaism. The answer comes when we look at why Moabites can’t become Jews because the Torah says that they they did not meet you with bread and water along the way ( Dvarim 23:5) In other words, they chose behaviors that were contrary to the trait of chesed or lovingkindness.
We find that Ruth was able to convert, despite her lineage, because throughout her entire story we see that she constantly chooses to exhibit behaviors that demonstrate chesed. Because of what she does she transcends the label of being a Moabite.
This brings up the question of when someone is identified by what they are vs. by what they do.
Labels serve the purpose of pigeonholing people. When we label someone, we limit what that person is capable of accomplishing. When we label ourselves, all the more so we limit our potential.
Recently I heard someone in my workplace say to a colleague, “You know we really don’t need to waste so much paper.”
The response was, “What are you, an environmentalist?”
With that simple labeling comment, the second person was able to end the converation. She had labeled the first person and, by doing so, could proceed without having to reflect on the choice she personally was making to use more paper than she needed and to dispose of it appropriately.
We are globally at a point of crisis in which we must all look at our personal behaviors and their impact on the planet. So many people with so much power to buy, create, consume and dispose of limited resources in limited space must coordinate in order to prevent overcrowding or heating ourselves out of existence. But many people neglect this self-reflection with the perspective that, “I’m not a crunchy environmentalist. It just isn’t my thing. This isn’t relevant to me.” But the truth is, it truly is relevant to each and everyone one of us as Jews and as citizens of the world.
If you want to cook, you just have to choose to do it. You don’t have to be a chef. To do the right thing, to look closely at our obvious impact on the world around us, we don’t have to be anything other than responsible. With that I encourage you, regardless of whether you consider yourself an environmentalist, to take part in the upcoming shul greening committee meeting (Sunday evening, May 27th at 8:30 at the shul – we will be joined by Rabbi Fox’s father Dr. Herbert Fox, an environmental expert!). If you, as a reader, are not part of our shul, please consider these comments in relation to your own personal choices.