Dear Rabbi:

I grew up in a religious home but slowly drifted away from Judaism. Today I live in a small South American town where I am the only Jewish person.

I have often contemplated returning to my roots, however I have one big obstacle. You see, I fell in love with a non-Jewish woman whom I truly love and want to marry. I am not getting any younger and want to have a family. I know that I can't marry her in her current status. However she is willing to convert to Judaism and live a Jewish life as a committed Jew. I have retained quite a lot of knowledge about Jewish laws and taught her many things about Judaism and our way of life.

As a result, I turn to you with the following:

Can I convert her?

I am sure that I want to marry only her and will never be able to build a family with anyone else.



It's always heartwarming to hear from a soul longing to return home. "The one who was distant and then returns stands in a place where even the complete tzadik is unable to stand," as Maimonides explains, "for he tasted the taste of sin and nevertheless pulled away from it." The Zohar goes yet further in describing the thirst acquired by the returning soul from his journey off the path: "For they draw upon themselves an intense light of holiness, with greater desire of the heart and with greater power to come close to the King." And therefore, "that which takes the tzadik many years to accomplish, the returnee achieves in a single moment."

The Talmud also teaches that "nothing stands in the way of the one who wishes to return." Teshuvah is powerful, and when any great power of good enters the world, obstacles always arise. Better to call them challenges, for they too serve a purpose—to strengthen your conviction and bring you to a higher state of truth. It is because they are not there to oppose, but to carry you yet higher, that they can never truly stand in your way.

Your challenge is the woman you have found, whom you love. No, you cannot convert her. You know that full well. She must do that herself. And it must not be a conversion either, but a giur. Meaning that she must come, as did Ruth, on her own volition, "because your people are my people and your G‑d is my G‑d." If it is in any other way, it is a lie, and certainly you do not wish upon yourself the cruelty to force another to live a lie.

You should ask her, as well, to inquire of her grandparents whether they may have some Jewish blood. Many Jews have come to South America in the past, and many of their descendants have become assimilated into the general populace.

The Torah speaks of the beautiful woman found by the warrior in the midst of battle. Rabbi Isaac Luria and Rabbi Chaim ibn Atar, based on the Zohar, discuss her as the "lost spark" of divine light. She was meant to be discovered and redeemed by a wandering Jewish soul, and it took a battle to find her. Perhaps this woman is such a lost spark. Perhaps, perhaps not. The only way to know is to allow her to discover on her own. You can introduce her to the beauty of Jewish life—and it seems you already have. Now you must separate for some time and allow her that space to make her own decision. It will be hard, but for both of you, it will be well worth it.

Please stay in contact. I look forward to hearing good news of your progress in teshuvah and Torah, as well as in marriage and building a beautiful Jewish home.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman