Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ruth: Strength of Charachter

Shvuos: Ruth

I always thought of Ruth as a mousy woman, with little personality. She kind of just got through everything quietly, albeit with great determination. She sort of sneaks through the story of the megilla, as a secondary charachter, which is funny considering the megilla goes by her name. But that was always my impression when reading Megillat Ruth.

Thinking about it though, I realize that impression is completely wrong. Ruth is a paradigm of strength of charachter. She is the central figure of the story, but succeeds in making herself sort of blend into the background at the same time.

Ruth, we must remember, is the daughter of the king of Moab. She is a princess of one of the greatest nations of the time! By no way could she possibly be timid, mousey, or non-descript. Not coming from where she came from.

With her whole future open before her as a princess of Moab, she changed directions. She felt she had found the truth. "Your God is my God, your nation is my nation."

She did not waver, but stayed the course. She found the truth and decided she had to live her life by it, no matter what the hardships would be. It is not easy to be a convert. I am sure she knew she would be up for hard times, especially after her husband died. It is not easy to be a convert to any nation, not just Judaism, so she knew what she was getting into. And she went ahead with it anyway.

Ruth persisted and found her way to Boaz and the leader of the nation. And she did everything in a tzanua fashion. She was not loud and boisterous. She did not stick out. So much so that she comes off as a secondary charachter in her own book!

Ruth was worthy of being the grandmother of Kind David, King Solomon and the future Mashiach.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

from rag to riches

Shavuos - Omer

The Torah is going through various details of the various holidays. It discusses the Omer offerings and upon arriving at the end of the Omer count (i.e. Shavuos), one has to bring a sacrifice called "shtei ha'lechem" - the two loaves. In 23:17 the Torah tells us, "מִמּוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם תָּבִיאּוּ לֶחֶם תְּנוּפָה, שְׁתַּיִם שְׁנֵי עֶשְׂרֹנִים--סֹלֶת תִּהְיֶינָה, חָמֵץ תֵּאָפֶינָה: בִּכּוּרִים, לַיהוָה" or in English, "Ye shall bring out of your dwellings two wave-loaves of two tenth parts of an ephah; they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven, for first-fruits unto the LORD."

This korban had a very unusual detail that makes it practically unique. It was made from chametz - leaven. It is one of two korbanos that contain leaven (the second is the korban Toda). All other sacrifices, including all the various mincha offerings, including the lechem ha'panim, including all other dough that would be offered in avrious forms in the mikdash, were leaven free. Kosher for Passover. Matza, albeit it thick and soft usually.

What is the significance of this sacrifice, the "Two Loaves" being made from chametz, unlike almost every other korban?

This offering, the שתי הלחם, is brought at the conclusion of the omer. The Omer count began on Pesach and concludes on Shavuos. In a sense, the Omer is the bridge between Pesach and Shavuos.

Pesach is יציאת מצרים - the Exodus from Egypt. Shavuos is מתן תורה - the giving of the Torah. Omer, the bridge between them, is the process of leaving Egypt and working towards מתן תורה. It is the time to prepare for the receiving of the Torah.

On Pesach we ate לחם עוני - poor man's bread, a.k.a. the Bread of Affliction. We eat the matza to remember the days of slavery and oppression. By doing so we recall the process of leaving Egypt and leaving that oppression behind. Shavuos is when we finally hit the target and got the Torah. That is when we ultimately became free and a nation.

To symbolize this we offer the rare sacrifice with חמץ - the opposite of poor man's bread. This is the bread of the free and the wealthy. The un-oppressed. Rich man's bread, if you must. When we get to Shavuos we can finally say the עוני of מצרים is behind us.

We start with poor man's bread, we work towards our freedom and we end with rich man's bread.