On Shavuot, a holiday that celebrates the Jewish people receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, it is customary to eat cheese products. It’s a rough time to be lactose intolerant or simply to not like cheese, as every meal often contains a cheese plate, cheesecake, cheese blintz, mac and cheese or other foods containing cheese. However, there is more to Shavuot than cheesecake. On Shavuot we read Megillat Ruth, a Megillah about Ruth’s process of joining the Jewish religion, and it teaches us many important lessons.
I think that people often let their past prevent them from experiencing their future to the fullest. It’s easy to get stuck in the past; it’s easy to get caught up in mistakes or failures. However, it is crucial to reflect on prior experiences, both good and bad, and use them as guidance for the future. Ruth is the perfect example of this. Her early life was unlucky: she was born in the city of Moab, which was disliked by many Jews, and she lost her first husband before she was able to have any children. For a woman in Ruth’s time, being husbandless and childless was very difficult because of what was expected of women. As she began her journey to Israel, she had every excuse to turn around, but she did not. Ruth did not allow her past pains and sufferings to prevent her from the possible joy that the future could hold. She held her head high and kept walking.
People will often act differently when they feel that no one is watching. Many of us are guilty of this; it can be hard not to sometimes. However, someone with true great character acts kindly especially when they feel no one is watching. Ruth is the perfect example of this. She showed great respect to a not-so-great mother in law, she worked hard to support Naomi and much more. She did all this because it was truly who she was—not because she knew a book would be written about her.
The lessons we learn from Ruth are especially important to consider during these times. Just as Ruth kept her spirits up during her own time of change, we must too. However, unlike Ruth, we are lucky in the sense that we have so much spare time that can be used solely to reflect on ourselves and envision how we can become better people once our daily lives continue. Additionally, now is the perfect time to test our moral characters. Like Ruth, we should still be good people even when no one is watching because of social isolation. As a community, we are about to ‘receive’ the Torah, and it is our choice what we do with it. We should take this opportunity to learn new lessons and hopefully apply them both in isolation and when quarantine is over.