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    Everyone was there – Nitzavim

    ritualThe Shabbat before Rosh HaShanah sees a sidra which describes a Yom-Tov-like crowd, “Your heads, your tribes, your elders, your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives and your stranger, from your hewers of wood to your water-drawers” (Deut. 29:9).

    Who were the hewers of wood and drawers of water?

    Possibly the people who would otherwise be considered insignificant because of their lowly occupations.

    Rashi sees them as outsiders, hangers-on, people who joined on to the Israelite crowd and said, “I want to be an Israelite, and I am willing to perform any menial task you give me”.

    Moses heard what these people were saying but was not prepared to accept them as proselytes.

    Where did the commentators get the idea of hangers-on who wanted to be Jewish? It comes from the reference to “your stranger”.

    This suggests one of the Jewish principles of conversion: an applicant must have a genuine wish to live a Jewish life if they seek to become Jewish.

    A certain rabbi reports that when he once landed in a small town to conduct High Holyday services, he encountered a local inhabitant who said, “I want to convert to Judaism because you Jews look after each other”.

    What the rabbi did not hear was the words of Ruth, “Your God will be my God.”

    They would have made a considerable difference.

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