Illustration: Ezra Public Domain
One of the basic principles of modern debate is that you can’t compare apples to oranges. If you want to prove your point you need to compare either one group of apples to another group of apples or one group of oranges to another of oranges. But you can’t mix them…
In the Book of Ezra, a comparison is made between the foreign wives of some of the leading citizens of the community and the foreign wives of Solomon, a man who lived approximately 500 years before Ezra.
In other words: During 500 years, there was not one other example of a foreign wife corrupting the beliefs of her husband that Ezra could have referred to in order to confirm his conclusion that all foreign wives have a corrupting influence.
For example: Ezra does not mention Queen Jezebel, a worshipper of Baal, who was the mother of two kings of Israel.
But, be that as it may, there is a little complication in this narrative, because 2,000 years after the fact, the Rambam declared that we should have absolutely no doubt that the rabbinical courts during the time of Solomon would have insisted that all his wives converted to Judaism before he married them, something not mentioned in the Old Testament or even hinted at. Not only this, but the Rambam also insisted that Samson’s wife converted to Judaism before she married him.
So, if we accept the Rambam's assertion, then we have a strange situation here…
Women who underwent some type of conversion, nevertheless, corrupted the beliefs of Solomon and made him worship foreign gods.
Now, since it is almost the Holy day of: “Shavuot” and, traditionally, Jews read from the Book of Ruth, let’s just look at her story for a moment.
Almost everyone agrees that Ruth was: “the first convert” or, if not the first, at least she was a convert. What people do NOT agree about is: When she converted?
The source of the problem is that Naomi was a woman and Naomi and Ruth were alone on the road to Bethlehem. Therefore, since a woman cannot even conduct a small prayer service at the Western Wall without kicking off a riot, how are we expected to believe that a lone woman could perform a conversion, in less than an hour, with no witnesses, out in the middle of the wilderness?
The Rashi said it was impossible.
He then went on to suggest that, “perhaps”, Boaz and his friends performed a conversion after they negotiated her purchase via the sandal exchange. Perhaps, but The Book of Ruth does not mention anything about Boaz performing any conversion, nor is the subject of conversion even mentioned.
What we do see, however, is that Ruth is NEVER described as: “a Jewess”. Even after the incident on the road when Ruth sang her version of Woodie Guthrie’s classic song:
This land is your land; this land is my land,
This people is your people; this people are my people;
This God is your God; this God is my God
This land was made for you and me…..
Even after all this, Ruth is ALWAYS described as either: “a Moabitess” or as: “Naomi’s daughter in law”; never a Jewess.
In fact, after Boaz’s son is born, the people shout out: “A child has been born to Naomi”…
And then, of course, there is the question: Why didn’t Naomi and her husband insist that Ruth and Ophra convert to Judaism before marrying their two sons?
So now, let’s go back to Ezra, shall we?
If Solomon’s wives had converted, despite the fact they had convinced Solomon to worship other Gods, this would suggest, as does the Rambam, that all foreign women always converted to Judaism before marrying Jews…and hence the foreign wives in Jerusalem during the time of Ezra had also converted to Judaism before getting married because that was the tradition (This is the Rambam's conclusion, in spite of the fact that we can see Ahab's wife Jezebel clearly did not convert).
Following this logic, then what Ezra was saying is that, a foreigner who converts is STILL a threat to the community and that even a conversion is no guarantee that she will not attempt to lead her husband into idol worship. Hence, even though the women in Jerusalem are converts, they must go and so must their children.
But that really isn’t what anybody is saying. Most rabbis I speak to are saying they were foreign wives, they had not converted, and, therefore, there was a risk they would lead their husbands astray, just like the wives of Solomon did.
That then means, according to Ezra, the Rambam was wrong. The foreign wives of Solomon did NOT convert and Solomon’s son: King Rehoboam was the son of a un-converted foreign mother (Just like the two son's of Ahab and the un converted Jezebel, who both went on to become kings of Israel).
So, in conclusion:
If Ezra is comparing apples to apples, then both the wives in Jerusalem and the wives of Solomon were not converts.
If Ezra is comparing oranges to oranges, then both the wives in Jerusalem and the wives of Solomon were converts and Ezra expelled converted Jews because he didn’t trust in their conversions.
If Ezra is comparing apples to oranges, then what he is saying is:
a) Solomon’s wives were converts, but they still led him to worship foreign gods. Just imagine what these un converted wives could do if we gave them the chance…or:
b) Solomon’s wives were not converts and they led him to worship foreign gods. The foreign wives in our community did convert, but we must keep in mind what happened to Solomon. So let’s not take any chances…better to get rid of them and their children.
As you can see, the entire argument is just nonsense. The children of Solomon and Ahab’s foreign wives were Jews, but the children of foreign wives during the time of Ezra were not. The Rambam insists the wives of Solomon did convert, but nowhere are these conversions mentioned, not in the Book of Kings, nor by Ezra….and certainly no procedure for conversions is given in the written Torah.Again, Samson's wife, no conversion mentioned. The story of Ruth, no conversion mentioned. Solomon's wives, no conversions mentioned. Ahab's wife, no conversion mentioned. The women of Jerusalem during the time of Ezra, no conversions mentioned.
These conversions are not mentioned anywhere because they didn’t happen….the Rambam was lying….And, as already noted n other articles, there is not even a Hebrew word for: "conversion"!!! The Hebrew word pronounced : "ger" means: "sojourner", not "convert", unless you want to believe Abraham converted to the religion of the Canaanites....
And finally, if indeed there was such a thing as conversions to Judaism, then why didn’t Ezra just convert the foreign wives? Why expel them and cause so much pain and misery?As I said, it just doesn't make any sense.....
If you have any questions or comments, you can send them to my Facebook Page via "Messenger" which I have set up specifically for this purpose: https://www.facebook.com/people/Dror-Ben-Ami/100011593230333