ESM Blog

Shavuot and the Book of Ruth by Sherry Lush

Have you ever wondered why we read the book of Ruth at Shavuot? In a word, the holy day of Shavuot and the book of Ruth are connected by one word; the connecting word is kindness. As Pastor Mark mentioned on Shabbat, Torah is kindness! What could be more kind than for G-d to tell us how to live so that we could be blessed?  

Jeremiah 31:2 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

He drew His people with kindness, and He gave them His instructions. His instructions are also called His Law or His Torah or statutes or His Word.

David the psalmist describes the Law using all of the above words. He says it has given him life, the statutes have been his songs, he loves the Law, it makes him wiser than his enemies and gives more understanding than all his teachers. He says it is true – where else can you go for truth? He says it is a lamp and a light and that the commands give him delight. In David’s words you can hear the kindness that the Laws of G-d bring into a person’s life. 

In the book of Ruth, we see kindness displayed in the lives of people. It appears when Ruth clings to her mother-in-law, not forsaking her, but going with her on the dangerous journey back to Bethlehem and gleaning in the fields to provide food for her. And we see Naomi speak of Boaz, introducing the redeemer into her life. Now kindness in living color unfolds as Boaz enters the picture. And continuing in

Ruth 2:9b Boaz says to Ruth, Indeed, I have ordered the young men not to touch you. And when you are thirsty, go and drink from the jars the young men have filled. Ruth 2:10 …she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?  Boaz replied, I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge. 

All the acts we see taking place in these few verses of Ruth reveal kindness in living color as we see people protect each other, provide for the needs of each other, introduce the redeemer to one another, respect each other, show favor even to a stranger, speak of the kindness one person shows to another, and we could go on if we had time. The point is we see the kindness of the laws of G-d that give life and the kindness of people toward each other that also gives life in the book of Ruth. Miraculously, we see the life of King David, who loves G-d’s Law so much, come from the marriage and lineage of Boaz and Ruth! Shavuot is a wonderful time to be reminded of the value of kindness.