Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Ruth is the embodiment of gratitude. Unlike Naomi her mother-in-law who is filled with bitterness upon her return to Judea, Ruth is ever loyal, loving and grateful. Naomi proclaims-"Call me Mara (bitterness) for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter. I went away full and the Lord has brought me back empty." Indeed Naomi returns to Judea empty handed, a widow who is childless. All she has is Ruth. But Ruth too accompanies Naomi without anything but her loyalty and love for Naomi. She is a foreigner, a widow, without parents or children. Yet, never do we hear a word of complaint, an outburst of self-pity or bitterness at her new-found God.
Each gesture of kindness toward her or her mother-in-law is greeted with profound gratefulness and humility. Upon receiving special consideration from Boaz, her soon to be husband, she declares:"You are most kind, my lord, to comfort me and to speak gently to your maidservant-though I am not so much as one of your maidservants."
What is the source of her gratefulness? Nothing is evident in the story. All we know is that Ruth lives her life compassionately. Her selfless giving is, I believe, the genesis of a posture of gratefulness. The more she shares the greater her gratitude.
The Talmud insightfully recognizes in her name the source of her spiritual strength. "What is the meaning of Ruth? Rabbi Johanan said: Because she was privileged to be the ancestress of David who saturated the Holy One Blessed be He ,with songs and hymns."Ruth was the great grandmother of King David, the one from whom will emerge the Messiah himself. How radical! How fascinating! The Jewish Messiah will originate from a gentile woman, a widow, a stranger to her newly discovered people and land. Yet, one overriding characteristic made her the ideal ancestor of the Messiah. Her name-Ruth- derived from the Hebrew-"ravoh,"to saturate, to satiate, to fulfill, points to a woman of undiminished gratefulness. Not only did her descendant David saturate God with his Psalms, but Ruth herself saturated God with her experience of grateful "fullness." Her gratefulness and compassion were her gift to God, a gift that pleased and delighted the Almighty beyond all measure.
As we cultivate greater gratefulness in our lives, perhaps this will pave the way for the Messiah's eventual arrival ; we await his coming: let us wait gratefully.

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