By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
Shavuot, the two-day holiday that falls on June 4-6 this year, commemorates a momentous event in the history of our people—the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
It’s a holiday for celebrating community and the relationships that form a community’s heart and enliven it with energy. A common Shavuot tradition is gathering for all-night Torah study sessions—learning, discussing, debating, and exploring together, an experience that can be enhanced with large pots of coffee and generous helpings of cheesecake.
Another is to hear readings of the Book of Ruth, the story of a humble woman and the profound impact she made on the people around her. Ruth showed how one person’s simple acts of decency can repair our world.
Scholars believe the story was set down some 2,500 years ago, but considering its timeless relevance, it could have been written last week. The story’s themes illuminate enduring Jewish values, among them, kehilla/areivut, community/mutual responsibility. When we tend the relationships that are at the heart of community, as Ruth did through her acts of kindness and her well-placed sense of loyalty, the impacts touch lives far and wide, weaving the bonds of community stronger.
Those bonds of community are needed, now more than ever, when horrific tragedies—like those in Buffalo and Uvalde—break our hearts and remind us of how far we have to go to repair our world.
Our technological, fast-paced society bears little resemblance to the simpler, slower world of Ruth’s era, but the lessons we can learn from her actions are meaningful to our lives. As we navigate the uncertainties of reopening two long years after the pandemic’s onset, being intentional about strengthening community connections will have many positive ripple effects: It will welcome more people to Jewish life. Help us discover common ground and cultivate habits of civil discourse amidst the many contentious issues of our time. Lay a strong foundation for meeting the many challenges that surely await us in the years ahead and ensuring that Jewish Puget Sound continues to thrive.
Small acts of kindness and caring, like Ruth’s, add up. As we gather for Shavuot celebrations—and, perhaps, help ourselves to just one more slice of cheesecake—it’s worth taking to heart.