The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot
Shavuot is the holiday when Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
These are some of the reasons to explain the custom:
Without Ruth Jewish history could not continue. Ruth and her husband Boaz were King David’s great-grandparents.
Shavuot is the birthday and yahrtzeit (anniversary of the passing) of King David.
It describes the acceptance of the Torah by a single individual, Ruth, through an act of conversion.
I have depicted events from the Book of Ruth in my 5 paintings, using coloured inks and acrylics.
1. Ruth and Naomi
I have depicted Ruth clinging to Naomi, her Mother-in-law, in the desert, on the way to Bethlehem. Ruth says to Naomi, ‘Do not urge me to leave you. Wherever you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your God is my God’ (Ruth 1:16).
Ruth was so dedicated to her mother in law, Naomi, and to G-d, that she did not want to go back to Moab, rather to go with Naomi to Bethlehem, as shown in this famous passage.
2. Ruth Gleaning
In this painting Ruth is gleaning (collecting left over barley) in order to provide for herself and Naomi, her Mother-in-law, with whom she lived in Bethlehem.
According to the Torah farmers should leave the corners of their fields unharvested, and they should not attempt to pick up that which was dropped or harvest any left-overs. These should be left for the poor, for strangers, widows and orphans.
3. Ruth and Boaz
Ruth is at the feet of Boaz at harvest time in Bethlehem.
‘Boaz ate and drank and his heart was merry. He went to lie down at the end of the grain pile, and she (Ruth) came stealthily, uncovered his feet, and lay down'(Ruth 3:7).
4. The Sandal Ceremony
Boaz redeems Ruth and all of her deceased husband’s property.
‘So when the redeemer said to Boaz, ‘Buy it for yourself,’ he (Boaz) drew off his shoe’ (Ruth 4:8). And Boaz said to the elders, and to all the people, ‘You are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s …..’ (Ruth 4:9).
Boaz is holding up his sandal for the minyan (the ten men) at the gates of Bethlehem to see. This is the focus of this painting. The Redeemer is preparing to accept Boaz’s sandal. There are other onlookers, too. I have tried to capture the heat at the time of the barley harvest.
5. Naomi and Oved
‘So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife …..Hashem let her conceive and she bore a son'(Ruth 4:13). ‘Naomi took the child and held him in her bosom …’. (Ruth 4:16) He was named Oved; he was the father of Jesse, the father of David HaMelech (King David).
I also include a line drawing of Naomi holding Oved.