Sunday, May 20, 2012

There's a Grain of Truth in this Shavuot Custom from Ethiopia

Yes, Shavuot is a celebration of our receiving the Torah, but have we missed out on the underlying message of the story of Ruth? It is much more than a love story. Much more than a tale of bonding or of a woman embracing our faith. It provides the setting for an important Jewish value -- helping the needy. Boaz was a wealthy man, owner of bountiful grain fields. Naomi was his destitute, long lost relative. In order to help Naomi without embarrassing her, he orders his workers to let Ruth glean from the leftover grains fallen to the side.

While one of Shavuot's many names is "The Harvest Festival", can you think of a custom that actually incorporates grain? I have just discovered one and I want to say thank you to Ethiopian Jews for reminding me about the lesson of the Book of Ruth. They have a communal tradition of bringing bread and grains to their Kes -- their religious leader. He blesses the bounty, after which the entire community sits down and eats together. After all, bread is the staff of life -- a fact of which Boaz was mindful.

Grain photo credit

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