Naomi Welcomes Ruth

This is the story of Ruth and Naomi. The book of Ruth is sometimes called the Book of Tikkun. This is because it can be said to reveal the Path for Healing. Tikkun Olam literally means the repair of the world, but these words can also be translated as revealing what is hidden. What is hidden in the story of Ruth's life is a symbolic story or metaphor for the path we can all follow to rise from adversity. 

At the time of Ruth and Naomi's story there was famine in Israel. In order to escape the famine and retain their comfortable lifestyle, the wealthy family of Naomi and Elimelech decided to move from Bethlehem to the land of Moav. Elimelech died. Their two sons ended up marrying Orpah and Ruth, two Moabite women. Ruth, a princess, was next in line to be a goddess amongst her people.

However, she converted to Judaism. The first painting shows Naomi's loving care as Ruth left behind all her family and all her former beliefs. Naomi welcomed Ruth into their home and tribe and taught her the ways of Judaism. 

When the two sons also died, Naomi was devastated. She changed her name from Naomi, which means pleasantness, to Ma'arah, which means bitterness. Jewish women were not allowed to inherit at that time. Thus Naomi was rendered destitute. She told Ruth and Orpah that she could not provide for them. Naomi planned to return to Bethlehem and asked that they each should go back to their homes. After much argument, she convinced Orpah to return but Ruth would not leave her side. Ruth's poetic reply is an often quoted and timeless passage: "Wither thou goest, I shall goest. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried."

So Ruth returned with Naomi back to Bethlehem. This was a very brave act because she was a Moabite and Moabites were despised enemies of Israel. During the previous time of the Exodus, the Israelites had passed through the land of Moav and had asked for water. The Moabites not only refused them but also ran after them and killed as many as possible. From then on, the Moabites became enemies of Israel. And in following Naomi, Ruth forfeited the opportunity to remarry or have any life other than to provide for Naomi. This responsibility weighed heavily on Naomi.

In those times the mandate was for field owners to leave a portion of their field unharvested so that the poor could glean from them. Ruth, after laboring in the fields, was able to provide for Naomi. Their relationship comes full circle as depicted in this painting. The one who was taken and nurtured becomes the caregiver and nurturer.

One of Naomi's relatives was Boaz and he was a very wealthy landowner. Ruth was gleaning his fields when he saw her. He thought she was very dignified, modest and attractive. He heard how loyal and loving she was to his cousin, Naomi. He instructed his workers to actually leave bales of grain for Ruth to take home for Naomi so that she didn't have to work so hard. This relationship went on in this tacit manner for a while, until Naomi felt something should be done. She wished to give Ruth a husband, a home and happiness.

One evening she instructed Ruth to go at midnight to the threshing room floor where Boaz slept and lay down at Boaz's feet and to do whatever he instructed. When he awoke and saw her at his feet, he was surprised, delighted and also concerned for her honor. He couldn't believe that she would be interested in him, a man so much older. He was concerned that her honor would be tarnished if someone saw her there, so he put his cloak over her and sent her back to Naomi. He told her he would take the necessary steps to make her his wife and they did marry.

Ruth and Boaz were also important because they were the great-grandparents of King David. Samuel wrote the Book of Ruth in order to prove the worth of David's lineage. In the time of David, King Saul was threatened by David's rise to power. Saul's advisors spread propaganda to counteract David's popularity. "How could you want a king with Moabite blood? A man whose great-grandmother is Moabite is not fit to be our king." Samuel wrote the Book of Ruth to defuse that propaganda, not denying that David was Ruth's great-grandson, but illuminating that she was a heroic and devoted woman.

Sadly, Rachel died in childbirth with Benjamin. In her memory, Jacob loved Joseph and Benjamin above the rest. He prized them above the others and gave them everything. This resulted in the other brothers becoming very jealous, to the point that they allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery in the famous story of the coat of many colors.

 Rachel symbolizes motherhood. She wanted children desperately, and ultimately gave her life to have her children. Even though she sacrificed herself for her sister, her husband, and then for her children, her ultimate reward is she became the mother of a nation.

Full Circle: Naomi and RUTH

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