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May 17

Harvesting like in the Book of Ruth

Shavuot is coming! On Shavuot, we read the Book of Ruth. In Shorashim, we have been reading a Shorashim-appropriate version of the story, with a focus through the lens of Tzedakah vaChessed. For example:

 “Ruth shows so much chessed when she picks up all the leftover barley for Naomi,”

and,

“Boaz does chessed when he asks the harvesters to leave more leftover barley for Ruth to pick up.”

Leftover barley/wheat/corn that harvesters leave on the field is called “gleaning”. In Judaism, we are told that we are supposed to leave the gleaning for the poor and hungry.

In Shorashim, we have added a corner for the story of Ruth in pinat miyuchad. There is dry wheat for the kids to pick up and put into their baskets to bring to “Naomi”.

The kids have the opportunity to pretend they are Ruth picking up the leftover barley that the harvesters have left behind for them. (They also, if they choose, can pretend to be Naomi, who receives the barley, or Boaz, who tells the harvester to leave more barley behind them for Ruth.)

By acting out this part of the story, they do three things:

(1) They themselves act out an act of chessed.

(2) They learn about and momentarily inhabit the agricultural world of the Torah.

(3) They have the tactile learning experience of playing with wheat and, through this, learn about what a harvest is. Understanding the concept of a harvest is crucial towards understanding Shavuot.

Textual References in the Torah to gleaning:

Leviticus 19: 9-10

Leviticus 23: 22

Deuteronomy 24: 19-21

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