Ruth is the megilla (scroll) to be read at Shavuot. The JPS Commentary is filled with not only historical-critical insight, but also reference to the interpretations of the rabbis. In the flow of the course I will also refer directly to some rabbinic commentary on Ruth.
Frymer-Kensky and Eskanazi mention a number of reasons Ruth was chosen as the megilla for Shavuot, and here I paraphrase them:
- The Torah and Ruth are both about khesed (loyal love, and Torah was given on Shavuot), so that the lesson of Ruth is the essential lesson of Torah.
- Ruth takes on herself the obedience of Torah just as Israel did at Sinai (on Shavuot).
- A tradition says David was born and died on Shavuot (Ruth has David’s genealogy).
- The barley harvest is the beginning reference point for Shavuot and Ruth is during the barley harvest.
- A midrash teaches that suffering hardship is the best Torah teacher and Ruth shows this to be true.
- Ruth shows us that actions are the true way of Torah, that accepting converts is essential to Torah, that Torah living elevates all Israel and partially redeems the world, and that in truth even Jews are proselytes (proselytes of God).