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Shavuot and Ruth...

One of the main themes that appears in The Book of Ruth, which we read on Shavuot, is ‘chessed’. Now, most Hebrew speakers generally translate the word chessed as kindness. In the Torah, though, that is not solely what it means. Indeed, in many instances, when the concept comes up, it is better understood as loyalty.

The Book of Ruth begins and ends with displays of loyalty from the Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth traveling with their mother-in-law Naomi to an unknown land. Later, when Boaz, Naomi’s nephew and the leader of Israel, hears that Ruth was related to Naomi, he immediately turned to Ruth and addressed her as he would anyone else. Ruth expected no recognition and asked Boaz why he even paid attention to her in the first place. He responds by highlighting her loyalty to Naomi and to her family.

As the end of the book emphasizes, the Davidic dynasty is descended from the child of Ruth and Boaz. King David showed this same quality of loyalty in many instances before and during his reign. He refuses to harm King Saul, his predecessor, out of a sense of loyalty that was due to the one, whom G-d anointed.

There are many explanations given for the reading of Ruth on Shavuot. Using this message of kindness and loyalty we can explain that the Book of Ruth is a reminder to us just how fundamental these traits of kindness and loyalty are in Judaism. While we commemorate having received the Torah 3334 years ago at Mount Sinai, we must not forget that Moses came down with two tablets, one containing the laws between man and G-d, and the other, equally as important, with the laws between man and his/her fellow man.

As we navigate a world full of unease, we should look at the traits practiced by Ruth, Boaz, and their descendants, and find our own ways to incorporate those values of chessed. Because, from the familial line of Ruth and Boaz and King David, our Messiah, the Mashiach will come. By creating a world of people who look to connect, help, and do whatever they can for others out of a sense of loyalty, we prepare the world to accept the traits of Kings David’s descendent, Mashiach ben David.


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