Rabbi Edythe Mencher
Faculty, Sacred Communities of Caring, Union for Reform Judaism
The Book of Ruth
Traditionally, the Book of Ruth, part of the section of the Bible known as Writings, is read during services on Shavuot. Ruth is a young Moabite woman who married an Israelite man. When her husband died, she followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Israel and adopted the Jewish faith and people as her own. To feed herself and Naomi, she gleaned in the field of Boaz, a rich man. Boaz is taken with her, and eventually they marry. Among their descendants is the famed King David who built the first Temple.
The theme of Ruth’s conversion to Judaism is central to this story. In Ruth 1:16–17, she states: “Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following after you. For wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. Thus and more may God do to me if anything but death parts me from you.” Ruth is often considered to be the archetype of all who “choose” or convert to Judaism—accepting the Torah, just as Jews accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai—and this passage traditionally has been understood as her conversion statement.
- What gives you the strength to persevere in the face of adversity?
- How has your community helped you through difficult times and celebrated success with you?