News From Ramaz
By Eliana C. (Grade 8)
Every year we read Megillat Ruth on the second day of Shavuot. Megillat Ruth is a book about a Moabite woman, Ruth, who follows her Jewish mother-in-law and joins the Jewish people, after her husband dies. Ruth isn't originally Jewish, so her mother in law, Naomi, was forced by Jewish law to try and convince Ruth not to come with her or convert. Ruth responds;
(וַתֹּ֤אמֶר רוּת֙ ...כִּ֠י אֶל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֵּֽלְכִ֜י אֵלֵ֗ךְ וּבַֽאֲשֶׁ֤ר תָּלִ֨ינִי֙ אָלִ֔ין עַמֵּ֣ךְ עַמִּ֔י וֵֽאלֹקיִךְ אֱלקי: (פרק א' פסוק ט"
Wherever you go, I will follow. Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d.
Here we see her impressive act of embracing the Torah the first step of conversion.
As all Jews can be thought of as "converts from Mount Sinai," Ruth's act is a reminder to us that we all chose to be Jewish because of our act of accepting the Torah as our own, many thousands of years ago. Judaism isn't something you're merely born into or handed, but rather it is actively accepting the Torah, something we do each year on Shavuot and each day when we say Kriat Shma.
We can see a hint to Ruth's readiness to become Jewish from the letters of her name. In Hebrew, Ruth's name is made up of the letters reish vav tav, which add up in gematria to 606, the number of mitzvot without the 7 Noahide laws that Ruth would have observed even as a Moabite.
There are many reasons we read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot. First, because the Megillah is about Ruth accepting the Torah's commandments just as B'nai Israel accepted the Torah from G-d at Har Sinai. Additionally, we learn that King David is a descendent of Ruth. Many say that King David died on Shavuot, another reason to read the Megillah. Lastly, this story takes place during harvest time, just as Shavuot is known to mark the harvest.