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Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back, and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your G-d my G-d. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the Lord do to me if anything but death parts me from you. –Ruth, 1:16
When I became ill with cancer a couple of years ago, my close Jewish friends asked me if I had a Hebrew name, which would have been given to me when I was a newborn. I seemed to remember learning that I had a Hebrew name, but I don’t remember what it was. My Jewish friends felt that their prayers for me to G-d would be more powerful if they prayed using my Hebrew name, so I asked my friend @iwe if anything could be done regarding my lack of a Hebrew name, and he consulted his rabbi. It turns out that if a person doesn’t have a Hebrew name, he or she may choose one. On hearing this information, I knew immediately that I wanted to take the name of Ruth.
I have always admired Ruth for a number of reasons. For one, her deep loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi, when they were both left widows touched me deeply; Ruth was a Moabite, had become a Jew, and was determined to accompany Naomi back to her land of origin. Her words to Naomi appear above.
Ruth’s strength also impressed me. She knew how to face adversity and embrace what life presented to her. She was not only loyal to her mother-in-law, but to Judaism and to G-d; her commitment to all of them radiates from the text.
In my own life, I’ve been fortunate to have a limited amount of adversity, but I have tried to face it and deal with it with a minimum amount of whining and complaining. I also try to demonstrate loyalty to those I love and care about, being available and comforting when difficult moments arrive in their lives. And when times get tough for them, I try to be present and helpful. I feel compelled to behave in a loving manner, stay with them during their journey, and I know that’s what G-d calls me to do.
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Tonight is the beginning of Shavuot, a holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. I will have completed the counting of Omer, which I described in a previous post. During this time, I have tried to remember that this occasion is the opportunity to reach higher, to reach out to G-d, and to those around me. And the reading of the Book of Ruth, which is part of our observance, reminds me that humility, courage, and generosity are all part of growing spiritually. I think Ruth’s determination is also a reminder of the Jews and their resolve in reaching Canaan.
I hope I have honored Ruth, G-d and the sanctity of the Jewish tradition.