Tag Archives: Shavuoth

Shavuoth and The Book of Ruth

Ezekiel’s Vision by Laya Crust

This week we have a series of interesting readings. It is Shabbat Nasso which would normally be accompanied by the haftarah that introduces Samson. In the haftarah an angel comes to a farmer’s field and tells a childless woman that she and her husband will have a child. The baby boy is to be raised as a nazir- a person who is not to cut his hair or partake of grape products. When invited to join the farmer and his wife for dinner the angel rises to heaven in a fiery flame.

There are two haftarahs for Shavuoth. One is Ezekiel’s vision of beings with four faces appearing in lightning-filled skies. The other haftarah is a section from Habakkuk. He uses amazing imagery to describe Gd’s power over nature.

Ruth Gathering Grain by Laya Crust

On Shavuoth we read the Book of Ruth. It is a story of famine and poverty, loss, love, loyalty, and redemption. There are scenes that hint at the meanings of Shavuoth. Shavuoth is a harvest/ first fruits festival, and the celebration of “Matan Torah”, the giving of Torah. Ruth shows dedication to Gd and Judaism, and the story takes place during the harvest season.

There are allusions to food and agriculture in the stories of Ruth, and Samson’s parents, and of course in the holiday itself. Today we live in a world so far removed from the biblical setting that it’s hard to remember how our ancestors were tied to the land. They ate simply and in the most basic of ways. Ruth was poor. She gleaned from the corners of the fields where those in poverty gleaned. She was offered a meal with Boaz’s workers. At the mealtime there were only three items on the menu: a morsel of bread, vinegar (either sour wine or the brine of pickled vegetables), and roasted or parched grain. (Ruth: 2:14)

Ruth and Boaz by Laya Crust

Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi had returned to Canaan because of a famine in Moab. They had no means of support so Ruth was dependent on charity, the aforementioned grain found in the corners of a field. The simple meal she shared brings to mind the difference in the availability and abundance of food today as compared to biblical times. Bread is easy for us to buy or to make with dried yeast. Our ancestors ate sour dough bread, bread that would have taken a couple of days to go through the rising and then the baking process.

Most of us are very removed from the land and from the difficulties of basic food cultivation. Maybe, during this time of Covid-19 isolation we can eat a little more simply and appreciate what is available to us, even when we think times are a little tough.

Here is a recipe for ricotta cheese that you can make for one of your meals. Add a sourdough flatbread, fresh cucumbers in vinegar and dill, and some toasted grain, and your meal might be like the meals eaten by Ruth, Naomi, and Samson’s parents.

Fresh Ricotta

4 quarts/ litres whole milk

1 1/2 tsp salt

6 Tbsp. lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar

Line a sieve or colander with 4 layers of cheese cloth. Suspend over a large empty bowl. Bring the milk and salt to a low boil. As soon as it begins to boil take it off the heat. Add the salt vinegar or lemon juice. The milk will separate. Skim off the curds with a slotted spoon and put in the seive or colander. Continue until the milk has completely separated and there is only whey in the pot. Refrigerate.

The whey can be used in muffins, bread dough, or pancakes. It’s full of vitamins!

The paintings of Ruth and Boaz in this post are illustrations I made for a Book of Ruth in 1982. It was commissioned as a gift for a Bat Mitzvah girl. The book includes 18 illustrations and was written by hand. One copy is in Israel and the other is my possession, to be read on Shavuoth.

Enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday, Laya


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Shavuot Second Day

Shavuot day2 sig


Habakkuk 2:20 – 3:19

Habakkuk- prophet, lived circa late 7th Century

Shavuoth is the time celebrating both the “first fruits”- the first harvest- and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Our Torah reading discusses celebrating the holiday, but the haftarah seems to echo elements of the giving of the Torah.

Habakkuk was the prophet who wrote the words we read today. The text is less like a lecture and more like a psalm or a poem. First Habakkuk describes God’s glory and might and then asks Him to rescue His people.

The prophet ends the haftarah saying he will rejoice in the Lord, the God of his salvation.

The descriptions of nature are reminiscent of Mount Sinai during the giving of the Torah. In the haftarah we read that the mountains tremble, there is thunder and lightning,  the earth shakes,there are fiery bolts, and the sun and moon stand still in the sky. During the revelation at Sinai there was thunder and lightning, fire and smoke, and the mountain trembled. The shofar blew louder and louder and louder. The children of Israel were so frightened they did not want to approach the mountain and acceded to Moshe’s position of communicator with God.

The painting at the top of this post (if you click on it, it will enlarge) shows the sun and moon, the waters flooding through the mountains, rocks tumbling down, and lightning contrasting in the deep blue sky.

My intention was to show in this tiny image the beauty and fury of God’s power as exemplified by nature. We can learn from nature and we can learn from words.  I hope the Shavuoth is a time of learning, inspiration, and enlightenment.

Chag Sameach!

Please share this post with your friends on Facebook, your friends at synagogue and school, and your friends and relatives at home.


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