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Shabbat and Shavuot (Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17)

Because Shavuot falls on Thursday and Friday, the cycle of weekly Torah readings is interrupted by a special holiday selection. Akdamut Milin, an 11th century mystical poem in Aramaic is read on the first day. The Book of Ruth is read on the second day.

Pirkei Avot teaches, “Make a fixed time for study, say little a do a lot; welcome every person with a pleasing countenance.” (Pirkei Avot 1:15). The rabbis don’t specify what makes for a pleasing countenance. But they find an example in the Book of Ruth.

Boaz, a wealthy landowner, is a central characters in the Book of Ruth is. When he returns from Bethlehem, he greets his farmhands with, “Adonai imachem, The Lord be with you.” They respond with, “Y’varech’cha Adonai, be blessed by the Lord.” (Ruth 2:4) God’s name provides a protective bracket for the meeting. It turns a prosaic exchange into a sacred encounter.

Because of this model, the archtypic Jewish greeting evolves into “Shalom Aleichem, peace unto you,” with the response, “Aleichem Shalom, unto you, peace.” Shalom is also one of God’s names. Now the greeting becomes a human activation of the evening liturgy’s metaphorical request of God to, “spread over us your sukkah, or canopy, of peace.”

Shavuot in the Torah celebrates the harvest of the bounty of the land of Israel. Shavuot in the rabbinic mind celebrates matan torah, the giving of the Torah from Sinai. The Book of Ruth combines the two: Ruth’s acceptance of the Torah against the backdrop of the harvest. Boaz emulates those models of completion by making God a partner in his social interactions.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom
Gut Yontif/Chag Sameach

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