Shavuot, the Book of Ruth, and the meaning of giving
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What we can glean from Ruth

Shavuot is the holiday of hiking, flower arrangements, cheesecake and pulling all-nighters. We celebrate the giving of the Torah at Sinai, the end of the counting of the Omer, and the grain harvest.  
Among other reasons, celebrating the grain harvest ties the holiday to the reading of the Book of Ruth.

About Charitable Giving

The Hebrew Free Loan Association has, as its mandate, a direct link to the Torah in the texts of Exodus and Deuteronomy prohibiting interest on loans to the poor (Exodus 22:24, Deuteronomy 15:8). This mandate is but one of many ways that we are commanded in the Torah to be charitable, open hearted and kind.

The laws of agricultural charity, exemplified in the Book of Ruth, serve to reinforce the underlying understanding that permeates all of Jewish chesed (loving-kindness) and tzedakah (charity).

When Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi return to Israel, they are penniless and hungry. Ruth sets about to collect the leavings of the fields: leavings that are mandated by Jewish law leke, gleaning, the recovery of dropped stalks, shikechah, the gathering of forgotten yield, and pe’ah, the intentional leaving of a corner of a field unharvested. 

About Ruth

It is not how Ruth gathers her rightful due, it is that she does it with dignity and pride. Not the pride of one who disdains being poor, but the pride of knowing that poverty is not a badge of shame. Ruth's dignity did not keep her from asking for help, it was a mark of courage and resilience that made that plea all the more powerful.

Boaz, the farmer that made sure his fields had charitable leavings, is a reminder that success is not only in the conversion of product to proceeds, but in being a pillar in the community. He was willing to leave wheat on the ground not merely out of duty, but out of conscience.

The Book of Ruth teaches us that it is BOTH the asking for and the giving of charity that we are commanded to do. Both reflect dignity and kindness, and both are mitzvot of the Torah.

--Chag Sameach,
Rabbi Deborah Reichmann, JD, MPH
Executive Director
Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington

Since 1909, the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington has been a part of the DC Metro community of chesed and tzedakah. 


We keep doing what we do, because
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