I love this time in our Jewish calendar when we are Counting the Omer. We are metaphorically moving from the Red Sea to receiving the Ten Commandments. Nonetheless, there is a bigger theme in our reading from the Book of Ruth on Shavuot.
The Omer is all about our harvesting. In the Book of Ruth, Boaz famously helps Ruth in allowing her to glean from the fields, having discovered she is widowed and in need. Boaz teaches us the importance of giving back.
In the Midrash Ruth Rabbah we see "Boaz noticed that Ruth had a look on her face that could show him that she had been hurt or abandoned. It was obvious to Boaz that she was someone special and different by the glow in her eyes and her intense desire to glean the field. Boaz knew it was the right thing to ensure that Ruth was helped in any way possible."
It is so important for us to recognize those who are lonely or in need in our society. Prolific writer Joel Lurie Grishaver says that: "It is loneliness that drives the Midat ha-Din (God's just side) to risk losing control, risk being absolute, and making itself vulnerable enough to connect to someone. It is loneliness that teaches the Midat ha-Rachamin (God's merciful side that gives balance to the Midat ha-Din) to let loved ones go, take risks, be free, in order to retain them. It is loneliness that teaches people that winning arguments isn't always finding happiness. It is loneliness that makes the growth and compromise necessary for relationship, family, and community."
We must recognize that loneliness is a part of who we are, but we need to be there to give back to those who are in need. Ruth Messinger, President of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) says that "Our tradition recognizes the importance of this giving when it teaches that our lives get meaning not from what we say or what we believe, but from the deeds we do."
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