Today is February 19, 2019 -
Shavuot–the best kept secret on the Jewish calendar. The holiday is up there with Sukkot and Passover, but without all of the work of building a sukkah and cleaning the house. Aside from the customary eating of the blintzes, one of my favorite parts of the holiday is the reading of Megilat Ruth.
On Shavuot we celebrate receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai and we read the story of Ruth to acknowledge her accepting the Torah as one of our early Jews by choice. Ruth’s legendary words of “conversion” are really quite remarkable. Theologically speaking, saying “Your God will be my God” would seem mandatory–a basic tenant for any religion.
However, Ruth’s pronouncement was so much more. “Your people will be my people,” she proclaimed, recognizing the bond that unites the Jewish people and wanting to be a part of that. We are a communal people. We need each other to celebrate and to mourn. Our prayers are enhanced with a quorum, and even breaking bread is elevated when done with others. Ruth acknowledged that it is not enough to accept our God, but she had to accept our people and become a part of our community. It then became the responsibility of the Jewish community to warmly welcome Ruth and treat her as one of their own.
Of course, we cannot forget the climactic ending to the megilah–King David is revealed as a direct descendent of Ruth, perhaps showing us God’s favor for this remarkable woman.