Chag ha’Shavuos 5784: Lessons From Megillas Rus

Chag ha’Shavuos 5784.  Chag Ha’Shavuos (Devarim 16:10) is also known as Chag ha’Bikkurim (Shemos 34:22, Vayikra 23:17 – the festival of the offering of the first of the wheat harvest in the form of the Shtei Ha’Lechem, Two Loaves of Wheat Bread offered on Shavuos) and Atzeres (the name Chazal use for Shavuos, see for example Yevamos 62b), and of course, it is synonymous with Zman Matan Torasainu, the Festival of the Giving of the Torah.

There are a number of beautiful customs associated with Shavuos, which comes at the end of our forty-nine day count of Omer.  Rabbi Zev Leff shlita, of Moshav Mattisyahu, teaches that we can remember the customs of Shavuos by the word אחרית (acharis), which means ‘at the end of,’ for the yomtov of Shavuos occurs at the end of our seven week count.

The letters of the word אחרית are the roshei teivos of the different minhagim, customs, of the chag: אחרית = אקדמות, חלב, רות, ירק, תיקון ליל/תורה.

Akdamos (“Akdamot” means “introduction.” In many Ashkenzai communities it is customary to recite Akdamos on the first day of Shavuos as an introduction to the Torah reading – “Akdamot” means “,to the assigned Torah reading.); Chalav – we have a custom to eat dairy foods on this yomtov; Rus – we read the book of Rus, the righteous convert from Moav who became the mother of David Melech Yisrael, and hence, the mother of Melech ha’Moshiach, may he come immediately to redeem us, in our day and in our time; Yerek – we have a custom to decorate our homes, batei kenisiyos and batei medrashos (Shuls and yeshivos) with greenery to remember Har Sinai which was blossoming at the time of the giving of the Torah, in honor of Torah; Tikun Leil Shavuos/Limud Torah – There is a widespread custom to stay up all night learning Torah to prepare for the reenactment of Matan Torah each year, and to show our zerizus (alacrity) for Kabalas Ha’Torah.

Megillas Rus (read on the second day of the Chag in Chutz la’Aretz) teaches us many beautiful lessons.  It is a short book of Ketuvim (four chapters long) which teaches us the lineage of Dovid Melech Yisrael (Rus 4:18-22).

Rus was a Moavite woman who converted to Judaism, under the guidance and direction of her mother-in-law, Naami.  Leaving her people, her father’s palatial home (her father was Eglon, King of Moav), leaving her pagan lifestyle and wanton ways of her nation of birth, she cast her lot and destiny with Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Toras Yisrael.

What did this brave girl, a lonely Moavite woman who embraced Yahadus, contribute to the destiny of Knesses Yisrael?  What will her great-great-grandson, Melech ha’Moshiach, receive from the spiritual DNA of his grandmother, that he will come to save and redeem our world, and our nation?

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Rav, zt’l teaches, “Ruth was a heroic woman; she joined a people alien to her, and committed herself to a way of life she did not understand.  She came from a pagan background, where unlimited pleasure and over-indulgences were an element in worship, and she joined a religion that demands discipline, redemption of the biological call for gratification.

“To outsiders, Judaism is a difficult religion.  The mere fact that the Halacha interferes with every phase of human life, that Judaism is so concerned with the trivial, makes the commitment seem staggering and almost superhuman.  To convert to Judaism and accept an all-inclusive Judaic commitment borders on the heroic.  In addition, even as early as the period of the Judges (the time period when the Book of Rus takes place, see Rus 1:1), to become a Jew has meant to be alienated from the rest of the world.  The destiny of Avraham ha’Ivri, the lonely Avraham, has always accompanied the Jews

“In a word, geirut is heroic action at the level of observance and practical living, and also at the level of one’s relationship with the non-Jewish world.  No wonder the Talmud says that the Jews, upon responding ‘we shall do and we shall obey,’ were called giborei koach, heroes (Shabbos 88a).

“The King Messiah must be endowed with heroic qualities, for he is coming to change the status quo, to revolutionize concepts and opinions, to transform our outlook on life.  He will defy evil, oppose ruthlessness, challenge injustice, ‘and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the land with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked’ (Is.11:4).  Messianism minus heroic action is meaningless.

“The poor of biblical times used to glean and gather after the reapers.  The Almighty too, gleaned and gathered – not ears of corn but beautiful inclinations and noble virtues.  From them He wove the soul of the King Messiah.  G-d found a heroic girl in Moav.  The Almighty was ‘busy’ with the formation and creation of the Messiah’s personality, which was to embody the finest and most beautiful elements concealed in the depths of mankind.  G-d brought the girl to Judea so that she could collaborate with Him in creating a Messiah personality.  She contributed the heroism of loneliness and acceptance of the incomprehensible.

“Ruth, no matter how idealistic she was, no matter how sturdy her character, no matter how heroic and revolutionary her spirit, was in her heart deeply loyal and grateful.  In fact, her heroism was a consequence of her loyalty to her mother-in-law.  Her first words, ‘Do not entreat me to leave you’ (Ruth 1:16), tell a story of great humility.  She revered her mother-in-law.  When Naomi told her to do something odd, namely, to visit the threshing floor and uncover Boaz’s feet, she did not argue with her mother-in-law.  And she did according to all that her mother-in-law bade her’ (3:6).  Respect for the elderly, humility, and a sense of gratitude are indispensable.  Heroism is important, provided it goes hand in hand with humility and loyalty” (Abraham’s Journey, p.180-182).

The beautiful qualities of his great-grandmother, Rus, will be emulated in the King Messiah.  He will restore discipline to a world of anarchy and chaos, he will defy the satanic evil that runs rampant in our times, he will be a hero who will teach humanity to embrace the middos of respect, humility, and gratitude, which are indispensable for peace, world order, and redemption.  He will walk in the path of his great-great-grandmother, a lonely, humble, and courageous woman, Rus, who left the fields of Moav to return to Beis Lechem, Yehuda.

And though he may tarry, nevertheless, I await his arrival each and every day.”

בברכת חודש טוב, שבת שלום, וחג שמח,


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