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Exodus 19:1-8, 20:1-14

Jethro, priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel, God's people, how the Eternal had brought Israel out from Egypt. - Exodus 18:1


On Shavuot, we celebrate the giving of Torah. God brought us out of slavery so that we might be given the gift of Torah, which in turn we would share with the world. The reading for this day includes the Ten Commandments, re-enacting this climactic moment in Jewish history and establishing the covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish people. It is traditional for the Book of Ruth to be read on Shavuot. The story of Ruth takes place during the harvest, which reminds us that Shavuot is also a Festival, when our ancestors brought the first fruits of the harvest to the Temple. Ruth, by converting to Judaism, reminds us that each of us makes the choice to accept Torah into our lives. The reading of Ruth has served to elevate the status of converts (Jews-by-Choice) in Reform Judaism.


  • By Rifat Sonsino

    The Book of Ruth, which appears in the third section of the Hebrew Bible, K'tuvim, Writings, is a beautiful folktale written in four short chapters. It celebrates the loyalty and reward of a young Moabite widow (Ruth) who chooses to follow her Israelite mother-in-law (Naomi) back to Bethlehem after Naomi was bereaved of her own husband and two sons. Ruth's sister-in-law, Orpah, who was married to one of the two deceased brothers, returns to her community, but Ruth decides to "cleave" to Naomi and share her fate in Judah. Ruth's social status rises rather quickly: Starting as a nochriyah, foreigner (Ruth 2:10), she next describes herself as a shif'chah, maidservant (Ruth 2:13), and then as an amah, handmaid (Ruth 3:9). By the end of the story, Boaz, her future husband, refers to her as an ishah, wife (Ruth 4:10), and the text hails her as an ancestress of King David (Ruth 4:17).

  • Torah for Tweens

    Learn about Shavuot with Torah for Tweens!

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