29/30 May 2020, 6/7 Sivan 5780 – Shavuot thoughts

Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

The poet John Keats thinks of Ruth’s nostalgia in his Ode to a Nightingale. But the way we are taught, Ruth was not homesick; she was looking forward and she was desperate to be accepted and included and welcomed. Although born a Moabite she becomes an Israelite and is the ancestor of King David, who came into the world because of what Ruth creates in her loyalty to her mother in law Naomi and finding Boaz her second husband.

Everything changes, Naomi (pleasantness) becomes Mara (bitterness) and back to pleasure again. Ruth was a stranger, desperate for acceptance and finds home and family. Famine ends, a baby is born and a Moabite (the most despised tribe) becomes an Israelite. Everything shifts just like we recognise nowadays when things change and we have second chances. We are always looking forward to what may be.

This, just like Pesach, will be Shavuot (meaning literally weeks) with a huge difference. The 49 days we have marked since Seder night culminate for us tonight with Shavuot; service and study and, I guess, acknowledges the changes we have moved through. And how most of us spend our lives looking to be known, recognised and accepted. The wonderful attendance at our services, learning, discussions and morning meditations attest to that.

This year our ‘Shavuot with a difference’ on zoom just like Seder was, includes welcoming Rabbi Rene Pfertzel & Kingston Liberal Synagogue to our study evening tonight. And tomorrow we will join Rabbi Margaret Jacobi & Birmingham Progressive Synagogue for Shavuot morning service. I anticipate all of it to be special.

We have some fabulous sessions tonight – do join us even if you have never fancied Shavuot before.

Wishing you Chag Sameach, a joyful Shavuot.

Rabbi Rebecca