Ruth, Applied Peoplehood and Unity – Shavuot
At the opening of the Book of Ruth, we learn that tragedy struck Elimelech when he did not live up to his responsibility and abandoned his people. Elimelech was a distinguished and wealthy Jewish leader from the tribe of Judah. A severe famine struck the Land of Israel and many people were in need of food and help. Instead of leading the rescue effort, Elimelech left Israel with his wife Naomi and his two sons and went to live in the Land of Moab. As a result, the Jewish people felt discouraged and abandoned. By his actions, Elimelech renounced the standards of mutual responsibility set by his own ancestors Judah and Nachshon, son of Aminadav. Earlier, Judah originated the notion of mutual responsibility when he risked his life to save his younger brother Benjamin and reunited the divided family of Jacob. Later, Nachshon risked his life to open a path in the Red Sea to allow his people to go across.
After the loss of her husband Elimelech and her two sons, Naomi decided to return to Israel. She told her widowed daughters in law, Ruth and Orpah to return to their families and blessed them to find success in their new lives by building their own families. She kissed them, they all cried, Orpah left, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi. To emphasize her determination, Ruth said: “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried…”
Ruth was a Moabite princess, who abandoned her royal family to live as a pauper with Naomi by gleaning fallen stalks of grain in the fields. The kindness, devotion and loyalty exhibited by Ruth toward her mother-in-law have remained unique in the annals of family relationships. With her words “your people are my people” Ruth expressed love for the Jewish people and her commitment to its fate and destiny. Ruth’s actions were rewarded: she became the mother of Jewish royalty, grandmother of the great King David, and ultimately, the messianic line.