3 Things We Can All Learn From The Book of Ruth
Shavuot is fast approaching, and while we’re all excited for the holiday (and the cheesecake), we want to take some time to bring special attention to the figure of Ruth, whose story is recounted in megilat ruth.
megilat ruth is traditionally ready on the second day of Shavuot. The story centers around ruth, a Moabite woman, who follows her mother-in-law Naomi back to Bethlehem. This, in spite of her mother-in-law’s telling her to return to Moab and her own people (read the full story here).
Ruth is an iconic figure who teaches us about what is most important. Read on to discover the secret to her status as a beloved jewish figure, who becomes the ancestral mother of King David.
The story of Ruth comes right after the Omer, a time of mourning for Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students who perished during this period because they did not treat each other with respect. After such a stark reminder of what can happen when we don’t value each other, the story of Ruth shows us what can happen when we practice the Torah value of loving our fellow Jews.
So what are some key things we can learn?
- There Is Great Power In Helping Others
At the beginning of the story of Ruth, her father-in-law, brother-in-law, and husband die. She is given the choice to go back to her parents house, but instead decides to stay with her mother-in-law because she does not want to leave her alone. The two of them return to Bethlehem and Ruth’s acts of kindness are demonstrated, which in turn inspires others (namely Boaz) to help her.
- We Are Defined By Our Actions Not Our Past
Ruth was not born a Jew, but was accepted into Judaism due to her love for Torah and the Jewish people. Ruth came to Bethlehem essentially destitute, but she always held her head high and retained a deep respect for others. In times of prosperity, it’s easy to forget times of hardship, which can occur at any moment. Ruth’s story illustrates what can happen when we trust in the process and do not compromise our values.
- The Power of Positivity Cannot Be Understated
The story of Ruth and Naomi shows us what can happen when you have unwavering hope. In contrast to Ruth, Naomi is utterly despondent after the death of her husband and sons (one of whom was married to Ruth). Naomi says, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara (מרה), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me”. But Ruth will not abandon her mother-in-law in her time of need. She returns to Bethlehem and immediately goes to work collecting the wheat that has been left for the poor due to the laws of shickcha, which state that you must leave a section of your field for the poor. Because of her selflessness, she catches the eye of Boaz, who at the end of the story saves her from poverty.
Shavuot is about the giving of the Torah but also about its ethos, beautifully represented by Ruth, that lies at its core.
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