Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Of Orpahs and Ruths

As I write this, we are getting ready to usher in the holiday of Shavuos. I always enjoy Shavuos because it's a relatively easy yom tov; no Pesach-like massive house cleaning and kitchen/food changeover, no Sukkos-like hassle over building a Sukkah and having to eat there despite bugs, cold, etc. Not that I don't love those holidays too, but with yom tovim, like with most things (movies, books, kids...) sometimes it's nice to have an undemanding one!

In fact, Shavuos has no unique biblical laws or rules besides those common to all yom tovim, although there are a number of widely accepted Shavuos customs of later origin, such as learning all night, eating dairy, and decorating the shul with greenery. Most meaningful to me is the custom of reading the charming and beautiful story of Ruth (Rus or Rut in Hebrew, but both transliterations look so funny!) on the second day of yom tov (or the first day in Israel).

Last year, Aaron's shloshim ended on the day after Shavuos. We held a siyum mishnayis in the house the night of motzai yom tov. For this event, in contrast to the vast crowds who participated in the funeral and shiva, we invited just our family, a few of Aaron's best buds, and our special friends E. and P. with their families. And my comments at the gathering were tailored to that group - and fortuitously supported by the Rabbi's speech in shul that very morning.

The Rabbi had dealt with the characters of Naomi's two daughters in law, Ruth and Orpah. When Naomi's husband and her two sons - Ruth and Orpah's husbands - had died, she began to head back to the land of Israel, and encouraged Ruth and Orpah to stay behind in their native land of Moab. Both initially pleaded to stay with Naomi, but after much dissuasion, Orpah turned for home, while Ruth insisted on staying, and, by tradition, became a Jew at that point.

In the Rabbi's homiletic opinion - and in contrast to some midrashic views - Orpah was not a terrible person. She stayed with Naomi for a while, but just didn't have the ability to stick it out it for the long haul. Ruth, by contrast, had the staying power - she was there for the duration.

In our case, I said that night, we've had many many "Orpahs" over the past month - many who came to comfort and help us in the heat of the crisis, when things were at their worst. And all of them have been helpful in their own way. But it's good to know, I concluded tearfully, that we have you all - our precious few "Ruths" - to help us survive the lonely months and years ahead.

I relate this story not just because it is now Shavuos once again, not just as a timely reminisce. It's also a form of gratitude to all those of you who have shown such amazing care, empathy, and dedication to this blog and what I'm trying to do with it. All those who have become another type of Ruth - a blog-Ruth, if you will - for me these past 10 or so months.

Thanks from the heart. May we have opportunites in the coming year to share not just sorrow, but gladness and joy as well.

A good yom tov to all!


At 6/5/06, 4:01 AM, Blogger Mirty said...

Hope you had a good yom tov.


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