Thoughts for Shavuot

Our Jewish brothers and sisters observe Shavuot beginning this evening at sundown. Shavuot is the Festival of Weeks mentioned in this Sunday’s Pentecost readings as the reason Jews from all over the known world — from Mesopotamia to Rome to shavuotparts of Libya belonging to Cyrene — had gathered in Jerusalem.

This reflection was written by Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice Director Rabbi Renee Bauer.

Shavuot is a central Jewish holiday that celebrates both the spring grain harvest and the revelation of the Torah to them at Mt. Sinai. On this holiday, Jewish congregations read the biblical description of the people receiving the Ten Commandments and they also read the Book of Ruth.

The Book of Ruth tells the story of Ruth who leaves her native land of Moab and follows her mother-in-law to Bethlehem. The women must depend not only on the kindness of others but also on important social welfare laws that are in place in order to survive. Ruth is a strong woman who works hard and negotiates the system in order to care for herself and her mother-in-law. At the end of the Book of Ruth we learn that she is the great-grandmother of King David. In Jewish tradition the Messiah will come from the line of King David. The Book of Ruth is thus a text that uplifts a poor, immigrant woman and teaches us that those from foreign lands bring gifts we can yet to imagine.

It is compelling at this moment in our country, as our representatives in Washington, DC, debate immigration reform and the plight of 11 million immigrants living in our communities is being decided, that we all hear the message of the Book of Ruth. Whether or not we believe that the Messianic age will come through the line of Ruth, may we all use this sacred text to remember that immigrants and their descendants are made in the image of God and deserve the rights, respect and care that all of God’s children do.

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