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Shavuos: When We Give, We Receive Much More

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

It’s interesting that on Shavuos, the holiday when we celebrate receiving the Torah, we read Megillas Ruth, the book of Ruth. What is the connection here?

One of the main themes in the book of Ruth is chessed, or kindness. After Ruth’s father-in-law, husband, and brother-in-law all die, she decides to go with her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Israel and take care of her, even though Naomi really has nothing to offer Ruth. After all, Naomi has lost her money, her husband and sons, and even her reputation, as this once-wealthy family had abandoned the poor families of Israel during the famine. Moreover, Ruth is a Moabite princess! She can go back to her family and enjoy a life of wealth and privilege. And yet she tells Naomi, “[W]herever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God…”[1]

Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi is one of the major acts of kindness in the Book of Ruth, but there are many other big and small acts of kindness throughout.

Kindness is at the heart of the Book of Ruth, and it is also the core of the Torah. G-d created the world to give good to us. G-d doesn’t owe us anything; He wants us to derive pleasure from Him. The Torah is the guidebook for how to best achieve this.

We know that Torah wisdom must be translated into action. Yes, we are commanded to do mitzvot, but acts of chessed are acts of kindness that we are not obligated to perform, yet we do anyway. Through these voluntary acts of kindness, we emulate G-d and merit to be vessels that can receive the Torah’s light.

In the book of Yirmiyahu, Hashem tells the Jewish people: “Let not the wise man be proud of his wisdom, nor the powerful man of his strength, nor the wealthy man of his wealth. Rather, man shall be proud of knowing Me, G-d, for I am a G-d who performs chessed and justice and charity in the world, for it is these that I desire.”[2]

In his commentary on the Book of Ruth, Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky applies this teaching to our generation. He says that although modern society has acquired much wisdom, strength, and wealth, we have not seen the realization of humanity’s happiness. Why? Because our “progress” is often self-focused and thus missing the core of chessed. As a result, these gifts are destructive. When we pursue wealth, wisdom, and strength with the intention of doing kindness, then when we do acquire these things, they will truly be blessings because they will be like a body that has a soul.[3]

I have learned in my own life, time and again, that when I do kindness for someone else, I never lose out. If anything I only gain. We also see this with Ruth. She married Boaz and gave birth to the grandfather of King David, who is the ancestor of our Moshiach. Although Ruth sacrificed a lot to stay with Naomi, in the end, she gained an eternal privilege that is hers only.

The Torah is Hashem’s gift to the Jewish people so that we can get the most satisfaction out of life. As exemplified by Ruth, when we emulate G-d’s constant acts of kindness toward us and show kindness to others, we can merit to receive this gift in all its glory.

*Based on teachings in Seed of Redemption: An Adaptation of Nachalas Yosef on Megillas Rus by Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky

[1] Book of Ruth, 1:16

[2] Yirmiyahu 9:22-23

[3] Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky, Seed of Redemption: An Adaptation of Nachalas Yosef on Megillas Rus, p. 25-26

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