Sivan 5777

Shavuot – Ruth and Jewish Peoplehood

Last month we focused on the holiday of Shavuot, which falls on the 6th and 7th Sivan (this year, 31st May-1st June), and discussed the idea that within the Torah (which, traditionally, we celebrate receiving on Shavuot) are always multiple opinions and approaches, which we call machloket.

This month our focus is another concept that is central to Shavuot; the idea of Jewish Peoplehood, which emphasizes that the Jews are a collective that shares a past and a future, culture, norms, a literature and much more. This idea of the Jews as a People emerges from Shavuot because it is the holiday in which our experience of the revelation at Mount Sinai and the Giving of the Torah formed us as a collective. The Torah was not given to individuals at Mount Sinai but to the People as a whole. This idea is emphasized when we read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot.


(Photo Credit: The Forward)

This story, in which the Moabite woman Ruth joins her destiny to that of her mother-in-law Naomi and ultimately becomes the grandmother of King David (and the future Messiah), is all about collective belonging. At the critical moment, when Ruth has the choice to leave Naomi and return to her family home and her tribe, but instead decides to stay with Naomi and join the Jewish People, she says “Do not urge me to leave you and turn away from you.  For wherever you go, I shall go. Wherever you lodge, I shall lodge. Your People is my People, your God is my God.” (Book of Ruth, 1:16)

Note the order of Ruth’s words. First she says “your People is my People” and only after that she adopts the Jewish faith. In other words, she puts her connection to the People before her connection to God, which emphasizes that belonging is first about a commitment to the Jewish People, and only second about faith. It is through our belonging to our People that we have access to the Torah; its stories, laws and wisdom, and everything that has evolved from it through the generations.

This year on Shavuot we encourage you to think about what it means to be part of the Jewish People, to have a connection to a global community, to an extended family that shares memories and much more. Our resources will provide you with lots of food for thought and discussion, with your families, your colleagues, and your communities.


Resources for Shavuot


(Photo Credit:My Jewish Learning)


View Resource of the Month Archive for resources posted in previous months.