I have to admit that I did not know much about Shavuot growing up. I was the kind of Jew that knew Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover and Chanukah. Maybe also Tu BiShvat… But as you know (or may not, if you are a new reader)… my first and only trip to Israel in 2014… SO FAR… there WILL be more… put me on a whole new path.
I am still a lover of Passover, but Shavuot has become a favorite of mine. The idea of learning and learning and learning is powerful. It connects me to Judaism in a strong and detailed way, and reminds me of how wonderful it truly is. Though I will say, Shavuot is like a music festival… there are so many teachers/speakers/bands that you want to see, you always have to pick and choose, and unfortunately wind up having to skip a few…
One of my “guys” that I tend to go multiple classes of, is Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld. In the almost five years since I have known him, I have had a lot of life go by, and he has become a friend and mentor, as well as a guide and confidante. He is the very definition of a modern, major General… I mean Rabbi… Sorry, I had to throw in a little Gilbert & Sullivan reference for you opera lovers. But seriously, Shlomo defines the word Rabbi… part teacher, part advisor, part therapist.He had so many gems late Saturday night into early Sunday morning… but this one really stood out. He spoke of Ruth and how much a part her story is this time of year. So naturally, he taught us her characteristics… I’ll use the list from the site Nishmati.com:
He said he was not sure if the origin of the word “Ruthless” came from this or not, but ruthless means you are WITHOUT all of those traits… You are without Ruth. (Insert head exploding here) And yes, there was a literal gasp/sigh/wow from the crowd after he dropped this on us.
According to Merriam-Webster: Ruthless means “having no pity; merciless; cruel.” So yes, it is the exact opposite of who Ruth was. A simple but potent lesson that lead us into the importance of SELF… and a strong self at that.
We learned that in order to love others, we need to love ourselves first and foremost. And of course we learned that a strong, trusting relationship with Hashem is essential in us doing that. When we love Hashem, we automatically love ourselves, because we are one in the same. A love of Hashem is the way to fulfill our souls and connect our souls with that higher power, connect ourselves with G-d.Just as we must not live a life without ruth (ruthless), we must also not live a life without “self” (selfless)… This does NOT mean we are not kind and generous and giving… It DOES MEAN that we must have a strong sense of self that we take out into the world… share with others… GIVE to others…
The world needs more Ruths… the world needs more US… and to bring a little secular yoga into the mix (any good lessons come from G-d, even outside of Judaism) in order to truly be ourselves, we must be the most of ourselves that we can be…
Hashem has made us complete. It is ALL within us already. We just need to access it, tap into it… and we do that by loving ourselves, loving the qualities of Ruth that are already within us… and sharing who we truly are, fully are, with the world.
Be the most of who you are, for when you find those who love you for that, you will know they truly love you, all of you.