Why We Read The Book of Ruth on Shavuot
The connections between this story and the spring harvest festival.
BY RABBI RONALD H. ISAACS
In traditional settings, the Book of Ruth is read on the second day of Shavuot. The book is
about a Moabite woman who, after her husband dies, follows her Israelite mother-in-law,
Naomi, into the Jewish people with the famous words “whither you go, I will go, wherever you
lodge, I will lodge, your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” She asserts
the right of the poor to glean the leftovers of the barley harvest, breaks the normal rules of
behavior to confront her kinsman Boaz, is redeemed by him for marriage, and becomes the
ancestor of King David.
Jerusalem became the capital city of the Jewish people in the time of King David who conquered
it and made it the seat of his monarchy in approximately 1000 B.C.E. It was conquered twice
in antiquity, the second time by the Romans in 70 C.E. The destruction of Jerusalem was a
watershed event in Jewish history that began thousands of years of mourning for Jerusalem—
including an official day of mourning every year on Tisha B’Av…
At the great seder night of Pesach when we read and discuss the immortal words of the Pesach Hagada, my family has always enthusiastically sung the portion of the Hagada that we know as “Dayenu.” By the grace of G-d, I have been able to witness a number of my generations singing this meaningful poem of praise to the Almighty for the bountiful goodness that he has bestowed upon us.Since I am leading the singing that always accompanies this poem, the melody may be somewhat out of tune but what it lacks in pitch it makes up for in enthusiasm and volume. I have always thought about the words that make up this poem and the entire concept that “Dayenu” communicates to us.
For many Jews, Volodymyr Zelensky is a ‘modern Maccabee ’ as he fights Ukraine’s war Leading his country in battle against Russian invasion, Jewish president is being compared to storied heroes, while also seen as dispelling notions of Jews as unpatriotic
In the Gregorian c alendar, the leap year is no big deal, just an extra winter day (unless you happened to be born on Feb. 29) But the Jewish people are not ones to do things in halfmeasure, so we add an entire month to our leap year. And, what’s more, whereas the rest of the world has a leap year every four years like clockwork, in the Jewish world it comes whenever it’s needed, seven times in 19 years (more on the math later).
Tu B’Shevat is a holiday about the land of Israel and our connection to the land. For those of us who do not live in Israel, Tu B’Shevat is an excellent opportunity to find ways to plant Israel at home, in our lives and hearts. In Jewish tradition, Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of Trees, is celebrated on the 15th (TU=ט”ו) day of the Jewish month of Shevat טבש.
Hanukkah in Israel is a magical time. There are events happening all over the country, schools are on hol iday, and families are busy exploring the country and celebrating the ‘festival of light’. This year, Hanukkah will begin on November 28 and continue for 8 nights, ending on December 6th.
In a rare alignment of calendars, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah both fall on the same holiday weekend this year. And Americans planning to celebrate this double holiday have dubbed it Thanksgivukkah like in 2013.
On Wednesdayand Thursdayof this week, we markthe arrival of the month that is usually referred to as either חֶשְׁוָןor מַרְׁ חֶשְׁוָן. It is common knowledge that the second name developed from the first: the word מַר, which means “bitter,” was added to חֶשְׁוָןbecause it is the only month in the Jewish calendar with absolutely no holidays or other out-of-the-ordinary days —not even a fast day.