Shavuot – Acceptance of Ruth
The story of Ruth is read every Shavuot, and one of the reasons for this is that Ruth made a commitment, accepting the Torah and its Mitzvot just as Israel accepted them at Sinai and just as we renew our commitment to the Torah each year on this festival. In a sense the entire nation of Israel converted at that occasion, and we renew our vows at the same time each year. It is therefore very sensible to read the story of Ruth on Shavuot.
But the story of Ruth begs some questions. A girl from a pagan society gets involved with a family of Israel, eventually choosing to leave her family and become part of the Judaic nation. She had some difficulties to overcome, as Biblical restrictions had been placed on her nation in regards to conversion, but aside from that she won the respect and admiration not only of all those who knew her but from all generations of Jews thereafter. Her story was canonized as one of the 24 books of Tanach, studied by every Jewish child who has a Jewish education, commented upon by scholars along with their commentaries on Leviticus and the book of Samuel. How did that come to be? How did Ruth achieve not only acceptance of the nation of Israel, but she was embraced by them, becoming no different to one who had been a member of the tribe for a thousand years!
Conversion is a curious thing. On the one hand conversion provides membership into the club of Judaism. Yet, a convert steps into a club which is fraught with baggage, filled with historic memory. The nation of Israel carries a tremendous heritage as well as a painful burden. We have a history of thousands of years, we carry the scars of some of the most horrific persecutions and we stand on the shoulders of exceptional ancestry. How does one step into the shoes of a Jew and assume that identity by merely making a commitment? What gave Ruth the ability to merge into the Jewish nation, becoming not only a rank and file member of Israel, but eventually giving birth to the progeny of the Davidic dynasty, which would forever serve as the leadership of the nation? ————————————————————— The Meshech Chochmah explains that Mitzvot are the vehicles of relationships. They create connections for us. There are two primary types of connect