Jewish Link – This Saturday begins the holiday of Shavuot, the moment in the Jewish calendar that we celebrate having successfully completed the counting of the Omer and received the Torah. One of the mitzvot (divine commands) of this holiday is the reading of Megillat Ruth (the Book of Ruth). Next we talk a little about its history and importance
Why do we read this story on Shavuot? The love of the Torah
The Book of Ruth (Meguliat Rut) tells the story of two women who, after misfortune in the land of Moab, decide to return to Israel. They are Naomi and Ruth, the first was the wife of Elimelech (a well-known and wealthy man) and the second was her daughter-in-law, a Moabite princess who married their son. In Moab the family loses all their money and Naomi’s husband and his two sons (one of whom was Ruth’s husband) die without leaving any children. The two daughters-in-law try to support and follow their mother-in-law, but Naomi encourages them to go away and marry again and only Ruth decides to follow her and accept upon herself the customs and mitzvot of the Jews: “wherever you go, I will go, where you live, I’ll live. Your people shall be my people, and your G-d my G-d”
The story takes place in the times of the Judges and in times close to Shavuot as the crops of barley and wheat are mentioned in it. Even so, the reason why we read the story during the holiday is more related to its meaning and symbols: it represents an enormous attachment to God and the deepest love that can be had for the Torah and on Shavuot we celebrate the giving of the Torah and the attachment of the Jewish people to God.
Ruth is a person who, when her husband died, had no obligation to stay by Naomi’s side, she even knows that her social and economic position when making that decision is going to be very precarious in Israel and even so she decides to follow her because of the love she has for her. her and his love for the Jewish G-d and Jewish practices.
The humiliation of Ruth and Naomi; Boaz’s charity
Naomi’s name “Mara” means “bitter.” Rut and Naomi experience humiliation together upon returning to Israel; both being of a high social position (Ruth was a princess in Moab and Naomi was the wife of a recognized man in Israel) are forced to beg, people gather to see their misfortune and are socially isolated by the prejudices that surround them, Ruth also generates distrust by being a convert and coming from another land. The only one capable of seeing the pain and value of both women is Boaz, who was a judge of Israel at that time, he is charitable with them and protects them.
We can see the quality of character of the three characters: the strength of Naomi and Ruth, their attachment to spirituality and the righteousness of Boaz; sometimes it is not easy to notice happiness and treat the person with tact.
Redemption and the line of David
One of the most misunderstood events in history is the moment when Ruth asks Boaz to marry him; he talks to a close relative and takes off a shoe. In Biblical times when a married man died and the couple had no children, the woman married into her family to continue the hereditary line and make her name great. It used to be done by proximity, in the story there was someone closer in Naomi’s family line who had to marry Ruth, however, people did not want it because of the social and economic situation of the two women and the fear of misery they lived . Boaz, who does see Ruth’s virtue, decides to marry her, but to do so, first her closest relative must separate from her and Boaz must accept her legally; this is done with the shoe.
It surprises Ruth that she prefers an older man, also by marrying her it is said that Boaz redeems Ruth; and although that is what the act of marrying a widowed woman is called, the story can be a metaphor for the Redemption of Israel because the result of that union brings as a consequence the hereditary line of David who is the father of the monarchical caste and who goes to bring the Redemption of Israel.
In Praise of Conversion
In a way, the text ends up being a praise of conversion and baal teshuva, the person who moves away from religious practice and returns to it, since Naomi is a baalat teshuva and the Redemption of Israel is born from Ruth. It is a story of people who see beyond what is apparent, Boaz sees beyond Ruth’s origin and Naomi’s misfortune, and Ruth sees beyond the years. It is a story that teaches us to focus on what is most important and to be at peace with our decisions.