By Rabbi-Cantor Cheri Weiss
On the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, we will celebrate the receiving of our Torah.
On this holiday, it is customary to read from The Book of Ruth, one of the five Megillot read during various holidays during the year.
In The Book of Ruth we read how Naomi, her husband and two sons relocated to the land of Moab as a result of the famine that plagued them in Bethlehem. A decade later, with all three men dead, Naomi prepares to return home. She begins her journey accompanied by her two widowed daughters-in-law: Ruth and Orpah. Upon reaching a certain juncture, she tells them that rather than follow her to the land of Judah, they should instead return to their mothers’ homes and find new husbands.
Although both young women at first refuse, eventually Orpah acquiesces and returns to her home. Ruth, however, remains steadfast, responding with some of the most famous words in our Biblical Canon: “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from you, for wherever you go, I will go; wherever you stay, I will stay, your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the Lord do to me if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
The story has a happy ending. The devoted Ruth meets and marries the wealthy Boaz and gives birth to a son who will eventually become the grandfather of the great King David. Yet when she commits herself to following Naomi to a new and unfamiliar home, that happiness was far from a foregone conclusion. As she stood at that crossroad, Ruth faced a life-defining decision: return to the comfort of the familiar or take a chance and follow a new and completely unknown road. Just as the Israelites had chosen to accept and live by the Torah at Mount Sinai, Ruth followed her heart, choosing loyalty to not only her mother-in-law, but to the Jewish people and their God.
While we do not need to wait for a holiday to renew our commitment to Torah, Shavuot offers us an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the values espoused within its sacred texts. Like Ruth, we may at times find ourselves at a crossroads in terms of our own commitment to living a Jewish life. Do we remain solely on a secular path, or do we choose to incorporate Judaism and its core values — Torah, Worship and Acts of Lovingkindness — as an integral part of our daily lives? Will we open our eyes to the riches the Torah offers us, which may help guide us through the myriad of challenges that life hurls at us? Will we offer our voices and hearts in prayer? Will we commit ourselves to acts of lovingkindness, serving others who may be desperately in need of our help?
May the gift of Torah find its way into your hearts and provide you with sustenance, hope and blessings. Amen.