Category Archives: Shavuot

For Shavuot: They Saw the Thunder

A Palestinian farmer harvests barley on a farm near the border of southern Gaza Strip with Israel

Photo: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Looking up from the barley harvest
they heard the sounds, like the blaring of trumpets
echoing across the hills.

Thick smoke rose up like smoke from a kiln
and then they saw the thunder,
fire sparking and flashing
as mortar shells fell from the sky.

The orders came in:
we have set bounds for the village
take care not to cross it
lest you be put to death.

They were sent out on the third day
and headed east into the hills
to the place where the Moabites once lived.

While back home, the unharvested barley
scattered like dry grass in the wind
and homes toppled into piles of stone.

Those were the days
the judges ceased to judge.

For Shavuot: Solidarity With Women Workers at Hyatt

carlos-hyattJust in time for the Jewish festival of Shavuot, I strongly commend to you “Poverty, Chesed and Justice,” a text study just released by T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights together with Justice at Hyatt.

It is customary to engage in a late night study session on the eve of Shavuot – and since the story of Ruth is traditionally read on this festival, a study that focuses on the struggle of women workers at Hyatt feels profoundly appropriate.

As the introduction notes:

In the Book of Ruth, Ruth’s actions are lauded as acts of chesed, kindness. Ruth’s kindness is embodied through action: not just following her bereft mother-in-law Naomi back to the land of Israel, but taking on grueling work in the fields in order to keep them from falling into abject poverty. It is this determination and chesed that causes Boaz to notice Ruth and to perform his own acts of chesed in return. We hope that this Shavuot, the Hyatt Hotel Chain will display similar chesed toward the women who toil every day to change linens, scrub bathroom floors, and carry heavy bedding, all in the hopes of providing a better future for their children.

Right on. The story of Ruth is a story of solidarity, compassion and redemption. Here’s hoping the workers of Hyatt – and all workers everywhere – find an ample measure of each this Shavuot

Ruth the Moabite’s Request for Permanent Status Rejected!

Some great Shavuot satire from the Israel Religious Action Center. (h/t Elaine Waxman)

This week we celebrate Shavuot, the holiday on which we read the Book of Ruth. The following is a simulated correspondence between IRAC and the Ministry of Interior if the Biblical Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David and Judaism’s first convert, were to be seeking legal status in Israel today. Chag Sameach!


Attn:
Mr. Eli Yishai*
Minister of Interior
Kaplan 2
Jerusalem

Dear Sir,

Re: Ruth the Moabite – Request to Obtain Permanent Status in Israel

Our client, Ruth the Moabite, is the non-Jewish widow of a Jewish husband, Chilion son of Elimelech. Her husband passed away outside of Israel, in Moab, and is buried there. My client entered Israel legally with her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, who was also widowed while abroad.

The following is a declaration of our client, Ruth the Moabite, regarding her strong link to the Jewish people: “Where you lodge, I shall lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where you die will I die, and there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17).

In addition, you may find attached the appeal of Mr. Boaz son of Salmah, an Israeli citizen, who participates in this request for Ruth the Moabite’s permanent status in Israel with his intention to marry my client.

I ask that you grant our client status in Israel by virtue of her prior marriage to a Jewish man.

With respect,

Anat Hoffman, Executive Director
The Israel Religious Action Center
The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism

*Yishai (Jesse)—Biblical name of the father of King David and grandson of Ruth the Moabite.


Attn:
Anat Hoffman
The Israel Religious Action Center
Jerusalem

Dear Ms. Hoffman,

Re: Ruth the Moabite

Your request was received by our offices and has been reviewed by our staff at the Ministry of Interior. The request is rejected due to the absence of essential documents needed for the Ministry’s procedures regarding these matters:

The Moabite woman is required to present a marriage certificate when requesting verification, as the marriage was performed abroad.

A death certificate of the deceased Jew signed by a recognized Chevra Kadisha must be presented.

Your client’s declaration of her link to Judaism is not acceptable as a conversion. In the absence of a conversion certificate, she is registered as a Moabite, not a Jew.

In reference to your client’s declaration: “Where you die will I die, and there will I be buried.” This statement cannot be used to seek approval from the Burial Council.

Your client is attempting any and all potential methods to legitimize her being in Israel, first through her claim that she is a widow to a Jewish husband and now through her new claim that she is the partner of Boaz son of Salmah.

In light of the above, we ask that the Moabite woman exit from Israel within 30 days from the receipt of your initial request in order to arrange her documents from abroad. As such, she can present herself at the Israeli Embassy in Moab to submit all of the required documents that meet the specified criteria for obtaining residency status in Israel.

The position of the Minister is that one must regret the situation in which a respected Jewish citizen of such high status, such as Boaz son of Salmah, requests to marry a non-Jewish woman. Do we lack proper women here in Israel? It is necessary and advisable to take into account the status of the expected children from such a union.

With respect,

Dr. Shuki Amrani
Director-General
Interior Ministry

Late Night Shavuot Shenanigans in SF

If you’re planning on being anywhere near the Bay Area on May 15, you might want to check out Dawn 2010, an event that describes itself as “a late-night Cultural Arts Festival and Celebration of the Jewish holiday Shavuot at the California Academy of Sciences.”

Dawn 2010 seems to fancy itself a hipster version of the Tikkun Leyl Shavuot (the all-night study session traditionally held in observance of the Shavuot festival). This decidedly post-modern incarnation will feature a myriad of eclectic lectures, performances and exhibitions. Headliners will include Sandra Bernhard, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and Gary Shteyngart (author  of “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook”). There will also be a debut screening of filmmaker Spike Jonze’s short tribute to Maurice Sendak, Maurice at the World’s Fair.

The whole deal is sponsored by Reboot and the Jewish online mag Tablet.  Click here for the full headliner schedule.

Shavuot Gifts for You

In case you aren’t able to make it to shul for Shavuot (Thursday night through Sunday night), here are some video gifts to help you honor the holiday:

Click above to hear the great Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi read and comment on The Book of Ruth. Sublime. You can find the entire video oeuvre (seven parts) on YouTube

In honor of the harvest, click below to watch a clip of Berber farmers in Riad bringing in the barley. (Probably just how it looked in the days of Ruth…)

Below that comes a brief Sinai moment: a time lapse thunderstorm (“…and all the people saw the sounds…”)

And below that, click for a tutorial on how to make a Shavuot cheesecake.

Chag Shavuot Sameach. May this be a season of revelations for us all…

Coming Home: A Sermon for Yom Kippur

For those interested in an aftertaste of the High Holidays, here’s a short excerpt from my Yom Kippur sermon:

As for me, I’ve always felt it is far too early to write the epitaph for synagogues just yet. I do believe in congregations. I do believe that congregations are still places where great and important and transformative things can happen. But I believe just as strongly that that synagogues must become more relevant to a rapidly changing American Jewish community or, sad to say, they will eventually become extinct.

For the entire sermon, click below:

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