I hope your Shavuot was joyous. Today is the second day of Shavuot (this is a traditional, not a biblical extension of the holy day). Our festivities began at services on Saturday. We decorated with flowers and it was especially nice to have flowers on the Torah reading table. My wife made loaves according to the biblical dimensions (huge loaves of whole wheat bread), which we used as our challah on Saturday. We worshipped and danced and ate cheesecake.
Yesterday, we gathered for a “picnic.” We had planned to be outside, but someone said, “I don’t really want to be out in the 95 degree weather.” It’s true, Jerusalem was only 82 degrees. Not everywhere in the diaspora is an ideal place to mimic the celebrations of temple times!
So we had an indoor picnic at my house. It was soul-stirring having everyone crowded into my living room as we played music and read the book of Ruth.
I offer the following reflections for your belated Shavuot enjoyment . . .
The rabbis discussed the importance of the book of Ruth, this seemingly unimportant book. They saw it as an important book indeed, confirming the legitimacy of the Messiah, the descendant of David.
In a midrash, a story not to be taken literally but which illustrates a point, the rabbis said that once Doeg the Edomite questioned the legitimacy of David. How could David even enter the congregation of Israel? After all, it says in Deuteronomy 23:3, “No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none belonging to them shall enter the assembly of the LORD for ever.”
The scholars of Israel were troubled by Doeg’s challenge and they deliberated. Finally they said, “A Moabite, but not a Moabitess.”
The book of Ruth was written, they say, to show the worthiness of Ruth and further demonstrate the legitimacy of David, and more importantly, Messiah.
Matthew goes even further than the rabbis. In his genealogy of Messiah, Matthew mentions not only Ruth the Moabitess, but also Tamar the Canaanite and Rahab the harlot
The line of Messiah brings together OUTSIDERS and well as INSIDERS. So the book of Ruth reminds us that all of us are REDEEMABLE.
The book of Ruth is notable for FOUR things:
1. The covenant loyalty of Ruth, “where you go I will go…”
2. Ruth’s redemption by a kinsman redeemer.
3. God’s election of Ruth and Boaz as mother and father in the line of Messiah.
4. And the righteousness of Boaz in an unrighteous age.
Ruth takes place in the time of the judges of Israel, a time famous for everyone doing what was right in his own eyes. Yet we see Boaz calling out a divine blessing to his workers, obeying Torah by leaving gleanings for the poor, and redeeming his kinsman according to Torah.
In every age there is a remnant of the righteous, no matter how dark times become. And Messiah is born from such as these.