This week, starting Thursday night, after 49 days of counting the Omer, we celebrate Shavuot and the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. On the first day of Shavuot, we read the Megillat Rut, the Book of Ruth.
Ruth’s story has many connections to this season. It occurs during the days of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest, the period of the Counting of the Omer. Just as Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah, the life of Ruth (who converted to Judaism) marks her acceptance of the Torah. Our mesorah(tradition) tells us that Shavuot is both the birthday and jahrzeit (anniversary of his death) of King David, and Ruth was his great-grandmother.
But did you know that Ruth was a Scout?
Of course, she wasn’t a Scout like we are these days. But she lived a Scout’s life, including acting out the Scout Law.
Ruth was Loyal and Brave. The Book of Ruth starts out after Naomi’s two sons have died while the family was in Moab. Naomi is on the road back to Judah and tells her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, princesses of Moab, to return to their homeland. Orpah goes back, but Ruth refuses to return to her home in Moab where she could live in comfort; rather, Ruth chooses to follow her mother-in-law to an uncertain future in a land she does not know with nothing but the clothes she is wearing. Ruth speaks the famous words to Naomi, “Wherever you go, I will go. Your dwelling will be my dwelling. Your people are my people. Your God is my God. Where you die, I will die, and be buried.”
Ruth was Trustworthy, Kind, Helpful and Thrifty. When Naomi and Ruth arrive in Judah, they have no way to make a living, and Ruth goes into the fields to follow the harvesters and gather what they leave along with the other poor people. She worked hard and made sure there was plenty to share with Naomi.
Ruth was Obedient, Courteous, Friendly and Cheerful. Naomi advised her what to do when gleaning in the fields. When they discovered that Naomi’s late husband’s cousin, Boaz, owned the fields where Ruth was gathering grain, Naomi told Ruth how to act toward him and how to conduct herself with others. Ruth did as she was advised, and was successful in impressing Boaz’s overseer, who told Boaz how politely she asked to be allowed in the field and how hard she worked.
Ruth was Clean and Reverent. Naomi and Ruth hoped that Boaz, as a close relative, would accept the obligation to redeem the land that Ruth’s husband left her. The redemption includes not only buying the land, but also marrying the widow. The marriage is important because it is assumed the couple will have children who will perpetuate the name of the husband who died. Boaz was a righteous and distinguished leader of the community. At the end of the harvest there was feasting and drinking. Instead of enjoying the party like the other young people involved in the harvest, Ruth acted carefully so as not to draw attention to herself. When Boaz woke up, she asked Boaz if he would redeem her property, which meant he would marry Ruth. He responded by praising God that Ruth had chosen him, when she could have had younger men, and thanking her for her kindness and praising her for her reputation as a “worthy woman” who acted according to the Torah.
And that’s the story of Ruth, the Scout who earned her own book of the Torah.