We are reminded of the story of Ruth on the holiday of Pentecost; that story, untypical, of the bond between two women, an elderly Israelite woman who had found herself on foreign shores, after an attempt to improve the conditions of the family’s life, had turned unlucky… her sons had died; and her gentile daughter-in-law does not go off to remake her life, but remains tied to her mother-in-law, expressing a commitment to the old woman, and to her way of life as well.
The holiday is unique in many ways… marking the season of the first harvest of the grains… remembering the giving of the law. Not the receiving of the law. For we say, because everyone receives it differently, according to his willingness to accept… according to his understanding of what it has to offer… some pick and choose what they will accept… and some interpret and search the ramifications and the implications of what is but hinted in the bible… so the receiving of this cultural framework is a very subjective thing. But all of us can celebrate that it has been given.
The dietary laws were given on this day…
And the story goes that the children of Israel heard the rumors of dietary laws, separating milk and meat… and specifications regarding which meat could be eaten and which could not. And so they ate just milk products on the eve of the giving of the law… if they weren’t eating manna at the time…In any case, it is tradition with us… not obligation, but tradition… and so we eat bread and noodles, and milk products… lasagna sometimes; fish is always acceptable… and for dessert, there is always cheese cake… and we drink wine. And through the night, it is our custom to study, to study all night in celebration of the holy book.
And those are the themes of the day…
the compassion of Ruth for her mother-in-law Naomi
the acceptance of a Gentile woman, as a convert, and as one of our own;
she whom it turned out, was the grandmother of our favorite king
and a symbol of womanly straight forward goodness
and the memory of Moses the prophet, who stuttered, and gave us the law
and was considered the most modest among men
and the lightness of a holiday feast devoid of meat
and the earnestness of study throughout the night
and the approach to prayer with heavy eyes, somewhat tired
in the morning
and the stalks of wheat, a reminder of the beginning
of the harvest of grain.
this is one of the three holidays
on which the Jews would leave their homes across all of Israel
and travel in holy pilgrimage to Jerusalem
to the holy temple
to bring a present to god