Wednesday, May 23, 2007


But Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”
Ruth 1:16-17

I only learned of the Jewish Holy Day Shavuot last fall in a class on Judaism. But tonight, I got to experience a taste of it.

The Holy Day celebrates the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai and also the harvest of the first fruits. The custom is to stay up all night on the first night of the festival reading and studying and discussing sacred texts.

I am a guest during my summer course in the home of my friend Michele whose other guest, Miriam, is Jewish. She led us in a study and discussion of the first chapter of the Book of Ruth. There was a beauty in the reading of scripture, followed by the reading of commentary, followed by discussion and reading from midrash or secondary texts.

In recent years, I have come to love the connection of these two women, Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. The love they share that transcends custom. The devotion they have for one another that comes through YHWH. The grief they share over the death of both of their husbands, one of whom was also Naomi's son. The hope they share about their future together. And the verses where Ruth declares her lifelong commitment to Naomi form one of my favorite biblical poems. I asked Miriam if she would read it in Hebrew after we had read and discussed it in English. She did and then she sang it as she had at her Bat Mitzvah.

Though we had committed to study for only about an hour, once we had started it was hard to stop. But fatigue and responsbility prevailed, so we ushered Naomi and Ruth into the court of Boaz and then headed for bed, secure in the knowledge that the end of the story ultimately results in the birth of David, who would become king of all of Israel.

This was a gift that Miriam gave to us on her birthday.


Jeri said...

My friend, I love that scripture too!
Happy is Naomi to have such a friend.
Happy is Ruth to be such a friend.
Happy is God
Happy Shavuot!

Mrs. M said...

There's a decent little book out there called Girl Meets God. A Christian woman with a Jewish background talks about Shavuot, among other parts of Jewish spirituality.