Starting tonight, we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. Agriculturally, we celebrate the barley harvest, and spiritually, we celebrate receiving the Torah on Sinai. We listen to the reading of the Ten Commandments, read the Book of Ruth, and eat cheesecake. Several explanations are offered for why read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot, including its connection to the harvest as well as Ruth’s personal acceptance of the Torah.
After losing her Jewish husband, Ruth refused to return to her own Moabite people but rather insisted on sticking with her mother-in-law Naomi. She famously said, “Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
Ruth is remembered for her kindness to Naomi, and the theme of kindness continues throughout the book. Her second husband, Boaz, is remembered for his kindness to Ruth in allowing her to glean barley from his fields. The book concludes with Boaz and Ruth revealed to become the great-grandparents of King David.
“Rabbi Zeira said: Ruth tells us nothing either of purity or impurity, either of things we may not do or those we may. For what purpose then was it written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness.” (Ruth Rabbah 2:14)
Kindness and cheesecake—two great themes for a holiday.
Shavuot begins at sundown.