Ruth: A Story 30 Generations In The Making

Why The Book Of Ruth Matters, On The Grand Scale Of History

Rabbi David Fohrman
Rabbi David Fohrman

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On Shavuot, we celebrate one of the loftiest spiritual experiences in Jewish history – the giving of the Torah – and to commemorate this day, we read Megillat Ruth. But why do we read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot? Is it because the story of Ruth takes place during the harvest season, and so does Shavuot? That doesn't sound like a great reason. Is it because Ruth shows great faith in God, and we're meant to do the same, especially on Shavuot? Perhaps, except that the part about Ruth's devotion to God is mostly in the first chapter; does it really ring true to say "That's what the Book of Ruth is all about"?

Ruth's story just seems rather... mundane, rather domesticated, when compared to the awe inspiring miracle of receiving the Torah. It has its charming moments, no doubt — but when you step back and consider its four chapters, it doesn’t really seem like such a spectacular tale.

There’s this bit about the famine, the collecting of grain, Ruth’s bumpy courtship with Boaz, the discussion about redemption at the city gates… It’s like “A Day in the Life of Beit Lechem (Bethlehem).” Of course, we're told that King David ultimately descends from this union between Ruth and Boaz, so it seems that something special happened here… but what was so marvelous about it? And why should this seemingly humdrum book have been chosen to celebrate our most lofty national experience?

Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the Book of Ruth — and the union between Ruth and Boaz, in particular — is anything but mundane, anything but humdrum. It’s just that in order to understand the Book of Ruth, you have to bend your ear to the Torah’s hints and clues… clues that point back to one of the earliest stories in the Torah. There's an incredible spiritual meaning to be found in the connections between the Book of Ruth and God's promise to Abraham, and an astounding link between the characteristics of Ruth and that of her ancestor (yes, you read that right) Abraham. Join Rabbi Fohrman as he explores the hidden layers in this story, and see the Book of Ruth for what it is: a grand narrative that cuts to the very core of our identity as a nation, providing a life-sized model of how God wants His chosen people to act in the world.