Robin Kahn's Blog (Our educational Director)
Ruth`s Journey is Your Journey! - Shavuot 5773
Dvar Torah for Confirmation
Erev Shavuot 5773
Mazel Tov! In a moment I am going to give each of you a gift that is decorated with this verse from the Book of Ruth (1:16): Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.
In the opening chapter of this book we learn that Naomi has tragically lost her husband and two sons and finds herself alone with Ruth and Orpah, her two daughter-in-laws. Following the burial of their husbands, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah begin a journey from their home in Moav to Bethleham where Naomi had been raised. Shortly after they set out, Naomi instructs her daughter-in-laws to “turn back” to the homes of their own mothers.
Orpah obeys and “turns back”. Ruth however begs and pleads with Naomi. Ruth really wants to continue her journey with Naomi and insists: Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die; and there will I be buried.
A contemporary bible commentator, [Merle Feld], suggests the image of a crossroad to describe where Ruth is at about this scene in her journey and in our narrative. With her mother-in-law’s instruction Ruth has 2 choices. She can either “turn back” or continue on with Naomi following an instinct and desire.
Abby, Adina, Callie, Jackie, Madeline, Coby, Zay, Joel and Ty, like Ruth, this evening, you too are at a crossroad. Tonight is about choices.
A few minutes ago, each of you, in one form or another, confirmed the choice you made after you became a bar or bat mitzvah -- to continue with your Jewish education and to follow a path connecting you to the Jewish community. Albeit a slightly different circumstance, your choice a few years ago was similar to Ruth’s – to be a part of the Jewish community.
Tonight we commend and recognize you for making the choice to stay engaged with our community and tonight we challenge you to make the choice to continue on a path that maintains your connection to each other and the Jewish community. Whether you choose to stay involved through study, social action, creating music and art, writing, poetry, the spoken word, singing, telling jokes, advocacy, making movies, being a madrich or madricha, dancing or anything else that connects you to the community, we promise to support you.
I imagine that as Ruth went forward, at times she heeded Naomi’s advice and did “turn back” to remind herself where she had come from. It’s often been suggested that where we come from informs the choices we make. As you move forward, don’t forget Naomi’s command to “turn back”. Every so often remind yourself where both our people and you have been. Knowledge and awareness of the past will help you make choices that are right for you, your family and our community.
The gift you are getting is a tzedakah box, I apologize for ruining the excitement of what comes with opening a gift. I do want to share with you an idea about why the artist chose this verse for a tzedakah box.
[According to Judith Kates] Another name for the Book of Ruth is the Book of Hesed (or Kindness) because of the kindness Ruth and Naomi show for each other. Whatever choices you make, please show hesed: give generously, be a friend and stay connected to each other as Ruth and Naomi model for us.
My blessing for you this evening is that when you find yourself at busy intersection:
Stop and breath.
Get a feel for what’s all around you
Be patient. Be kind.
Follow your instincts.
Be confident in your decisions.
Keep your eye on the road.
Go forward and arrive safely.
Lastly, we have two more gifts for you in the bag.
One is a small copy of Tefilat Haderach, the prayer travelers. Since one of our themes this evening is journey’s this seemed like an appropriate blessing to share you. As you become more independent and continue on your journey and, I hope you will find meaning in this short blessing.
The other gift is a t-shirt with the “tagxedo” created from your words (and all the other words BAI students submitted) about Israel a few weeks ago. Philadelphia’s celebration of Israel’s 65th Birthday is this coming Sunday and we hope you be part of the celebration in town and wear this t-shirt to show your support and our community’s support of Israel.
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