Friday, February 25, 2011

The Book of Ruth: tears, love, grace and friendship

This week we've been immersed in the Book of Ruth in the Daily Office readings, and I am much engrossed in the story.

I recall from my seminary education that it was dryly put that Ruth is in the Hebrew Scriptures primarily as a prequel to the King David saga and to show his mixed pedigree.

All that may be true, but I am struck by Ruth's courage, the power of friendship, and the humility of servanthood. There is pain and tears, joy and grace lacing throughout the Book of Ruth.

Many years ago Lori and I led our youth group on a pilgrimage (one of five) to an Indian reservation, joining youth groups from four or five other churches. One evening the teens were asked to do a skit on a book of the Bible, and I recall one of the groups picked the Book of Ruth. Their enactment had humor and teenage goofiness, but it also had a memorable underlying poignancy and humility as these young adults recognized that they were foreigners on the reservation and the recipients of hospitality from people not their kin.

I looked around the internet to see if I could find a poem about Ruth, and I found this one from Jewish Heritage Online Magazine. Hope you enjoy:
The Book of Ruth and Naomi
By Marge Piercy

When you pick up the Tanakh and read
the Book of Ruth, it is a shock
how little it resembles memory.
It's concerned with inheritance,
lands, men's names, how women
must wiggle and wobble to live.

Yet women have kept it dear
for the beloved elder who
cherished Ruth, more friend than
daughter. Daughters leave. Ruth
brought even the baby she made
with Boaz home as a gift.

Where you go, I will go too,
your people shall be my people,
I will be a Jew for you,
for what is yours I will love
as I love you, oh Naomi
my mother, my sister, my heart.

Show me a woman who does not dream
a double, heart's twin, a sister
of the mind in whose ear she can whisper,
whose hair she can braid as her life
twists its pleasure and pain and shame.
Show me a woman who does not hide
in the locket of bone that deep
eye beam of fiercely gentle love
she had once from mother, daughter,
sister; once like a warm moon
that radiance aligned the tides
of her blood into potent order.

At the season of first fruits, we recall
two travellers, co-conspirators, scavengers
making do with leftovers and mill ends,
whose friendship was stronger than fear,
stronger than hunger, who walked together,
the road of shards, hands joined.
Marge Piercy's poem "The Book of Ruth and Naomi" first appeared in Mars and Her Children (Knopf, 1992).

Art by Pomegranate Studios. Translation of the Hebrew: "I will lodge where you lodge; ...your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you commented on Ruth. It was probably the first Bible story about a woman (after Mary) that I remember hearing as a child.

thanks so much, I have passed it on to my Jewish daughter-in-law.

I think most women aspire to either be a Naomi or to have, or be a daughter like Ruth...but few of us actually experience either relationship in the depth that they had.

Joan Burchell