Compassion can be taught one of two ways. The first way is teaching via the phrase “thou shall”, threatening figurative fire and brimstone if one looks away from the suffering of their fellow human. The second way to teach compassion is via kindness and example.
This week, Jews around the world celebrate the Jewish holiday of Shavout. The heroine of the holiday is Ruth. An unlikely heroine, her story teaches compassion and kindness for the poor, the stranger and the outsider.
The story, for those who are unaware, is as follows: Moabite Ruth’s Israelite husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law are all dead. Her mother-in-law, Naomi left ancient Israel decades ago due to a famine with her husband and sons. Neither Ruth or Orpah, her sister-in-law, have children via their late husbands.
Naomi bids the younger women to return to their families, as she has nothing for them. Orpah goes back to her family, but Ruth stays with Naomi. To make a long story short, Ruth will travel back to Israel with Naomi, eventually convert and re-marry. One of her many great-grandsons is King David.
The stories in the Bible speak to us for any number of reasons. For me, the Book of Ruth is not just a lesson in helping out those less fortunate. It is the lesson of accepting and respecting others who are different from us. It is also the story of two women who take control over their own lives instead of waiting for a man to rescue them.
For those who celebrate, have a happy Shavout.