Our biblical Ruth’s story highlights the significance of resilience and creativity. Throughout the brief book, repeatedly Ruth makes decisions. When her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law die she must make a choice: return to her own people or return with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem. Ruth goes with Naomi, joining her fate with that of Naomi and the Jewish people in the famous statement of conversion.
Even when Naomi is despondent, Ruth understands that she can improve their situation and goes to glean in Boaz’s fields. Ruth seems to know that there are ways to make change. One can wait for action or one can act and advocate for oneself, one’s family, and one’s community.
Ruth is an enterprising person. She uses community structures to ensure she and Naomi have food and she connects with family members to improve her life. Ruth is an outsider as a Moabite. This fact of her biography makes the premise of the book subversive, a member of a foreign nation becoming the ancestor to the Messiah. The Torah contains clear parameters for relationships with Moabites and the story of Ruth runs counter to those Deuteronomic instructions. There are times when LGBTQ people know discrimination and injustice. The book of Ruth reminds us that this does not have to be the way. Laws can change, ignorance can be eradicated, repentance for the past can be made.
For these reasons, Ruth is an inspiration. She reminds me that even when things are hard, there are glimmers of hope that we can take advantage of. Ruth’s story also teaches that we all have agency and can make the transformation we desire.
About Rabbi Eleanor Steinman
Rabbi Eleanor Steinman, currently serves as an Associate Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel and is pursuing a doctoral degree from the University of Southern California.
You can find her at www.rabbisteinman.com