Payment! – Shavuos and its Meaning!

Traditionally, the Book of Ruth is read during the Holiday of Shavuos. There are a number of reasons offered. One reason is that King David was born and died on Shavuos, thus it is fittings that the Book of Ruth which provides us with the lineage of David, should be read.

Another reason is so that on Shavuos, the holiday that commemorates our receiving of the Torah, we read from all three segments of Tanach by reading – 1) a portion of the Torah. 2) a portion from the Book of Prophets (Haftorah) and 3) a portion of Scriptures which includes the Book of Ruth.

Lastly, on Shavuos G-d gave us the Oral Law, which is contained in the Talmud, along with the Written portion of the Law – the five books of Moshe. In the Book of Ruth which is in the Scriptures there is a perfect example of the application of the Oral Law.

The Torah specifies that converts to Judaism from the nations of Amon and Moav cannot fully join the Jewish people and can only marry a convert. Our Sages based on the Oral tradition, teach us to interpret the verse to mean that this restriction applies only to male converts of Amon and Moav and not to women converts from Amon and Moav. Ruth, who was a Moavite convert to Judaism, was only permitted to marry a Jew based on exegesis of our Oral Law. The Book of Ruth thus comprises the Oral law as well.

The Medrash tells us that the Book of Ruth was written to accentuate the reward for those who do loving-kindness. Let’s explore what this means.

The Hebrew phrase used to describe a giving person is, Gomel Chesed.

Rabbi Moshe Finkel o.b.m. focuses in on each of these words. The word Gomel can be translated as payment or reward. The word Chesed connotes doing something without seeking payment. Thus, on face value, the blending of the two words means “to pay chesed” which seems contradictory.

There are two ways to do acts of kindness; one, is to do it to benefit another person. Then there is a higher level of conducting kindness as a Gomel Chesed.

When one wishes to help another person, the recipient may become embarrassed. However, there is a way to prevent this shame by being creative and making the recipient think that he is receiving the kindness as some type of payment or reward. This is the meaning of the words Gomel Chesed – to help out another in a way that he thinks that he is receiving payment. This is the highest form of the Mitzvah of helping others. Gomel – make him think it’s a reward and then you accomplish the ideal way of performing Chesed.

Let’s now turn to the Book of Ruth and see how this ideal of helping someone without them even realizing it played itself out.

The Megilla describes that when the two widows, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, came back to the Land of Israel from the land of Moav, they were completely destitute. Ruth volunteered to go to the fields and collect the various gifts that the Torah commands an owner to leave over for the poor. Ruth was providentially directed to collect in the field of Boaz, a relative of her deceased husband, and she began collecting the forgotten gleanings that the Torah allots to the poor.

When Boaz got wind of who Ruth was he instructed his employees to leave extra gleanings to make it easier for Ruth, and she would not have to go to other fields to collect for her needs. Boaz accomplished this without Ruth realizing that they were doing it for her benefit, thus Boaz skillful achieved being a Gomel Chesed.

In the beginning of our Amidah prayers – silent devotion, we extol G-d as, Gomel Chasadim Tovim.

G-d gifts us Chesed of goodness. Rabbi Elya Lopian o.b.m. explains that G-d bestows Chesed to us in a way that we feel we are being rewarded for something that we did – such as adhering to the Torah and Mitzvos and performing acts of kindness. On a Kabalistic level G-d does it in this fashion so that we don’t feel humiliated for receiving gifts from the Almighty for no reason at all.

The Megilla continues and tells us that Ruth approached Boaz, the leader of the Jewish people, and asked that a relative of her deceased husband redeem his ancestral property and marry her as well. Boaz asked the closest relative, who demurred.

Boaz, who was an elderly widower and had sadly lost all his children, decided to marry Ruth.

Our sages tell us that Boaz died very shortly after marrying Ruth, but she conceived a child and gave birth to Oved, who had a son Yishai, who had a son David.

Boaz’s Gemilas Chesed to Ruth paid off, as G-d, the Consummate Gomel Chesed orchestrated that he be the one who was presented with the opportunity to lay the seeds of the Davidic dynasty and whose name is forever connected with the destiny of the Jewish people.

The Megila relates that Ruth also exhibited a special degree of Chesed toward her deceased husband Machlon, by desiring to keep his memory alive by insisting that she marry a relative of his. G-d rewarded Ruth for her efforts by granting her a very long life thus enabling her to see the fruits of her efforts. Not only did she witness her great grandson King David ascend to the throne, she saw her great-great grandson, King Solomon as well.



Shavuos and Its Meaning –  Jewish Heritage Connection



Try to picture in your mind, the entire Jewish Nation, approximately three million people, standing at Mount Sinai, where they witnessed the Revelation of G-d and heard Him proclaim the Ten Commandments.

This awesome event occurred just fifty days after the Jews were miraculously redeemed from Egypt. During those fifty days the Jews strove to raise their spiritual level, which made them worthy of this great gift of Torah from G-d.



With our acceptance of the Torah we entered into a covenant with G-d making us unique among all the nations of the world. Our observances of G-d’s commandments – 613, and in turn His protection over us is a result of this special covenant.


Shavuos Sunday & Monday – May 20th and May 21st 2018

We commemorate the day of our original acceptance of the Torah by observing the Holiday of Shavuos. Shavuos serves to reawaken our inner and sometimes hidden aspiration to explore and discover the beauty of our Torah and observances.


Time of harvesting the first fruits in the Land of Israel

On Shavuos there was a special Temple offering that consisted of two Challos – loaves of bread that were made of newly harvested wheat. This offering was unique, since Chometz (leavened bread) was never offered in the Temple throughout the year. With the offering of these Challos, the new crop of grain was permitted to be used for Temple purposes.

Once the Challos were offered, landowners could begin to offer their own Bikurim – the first ripened produce of the seven species the Land of Israel is noted for. The owner would bring the produce in a basket to the Temple and make a proclamation of thanks to the Almighty, and give the basket to the Kohain (priest), who placed it on the side of the Altar. The baskets were distributed to the Kohanim. The seven species are, wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.


Shavuos – means weeks, referring to the seven week counting period from Pesach to Shavuos. Shavuos also means oaths, referring to the oath of loyalty that we took, when we accepted the Torah.



The Torah is a blueprint and guideline of how a Jew is to conduct himself both morally and ethically in relation to G-d and mankind. Torah consists of two parts which blend into one. The written law is contained in a hand written scroll, with which we are all familiar. The Oral Law, the Mishna, Talmud and Medrash, clarify and explain the concise and often cryptic written law.



Shavuos is a Torah obligated holiday, whose laws are very similar to laws of the weekly Shabbos, except for that which is associated with cooking, baking and food preparation, which is permitted on Yom Tov.


Candle lighting – This year Shavuos directly follows Shabbos.

Shabbos candles are lit on Friday May 18th at 8:00 pm

At 9:02 p.m. Saturday night, candles are lit to usher in the holiday. In addition to the holiday blessing over the candles, the Shehechyanu blessing is recited as well.

At 9:03 p.m. Sunday night Yom Tov candles are lit, the Yom Tov and Shehechayanu blessings are recited.

On Monday night, at 9:04 p.m. or thereafter, the Yom Tov comes to a conclusion with the recitation of the wine and Havdalla blessings.

(Times are calculated for the Scranton area)


Shavuos and Its Meaning  –  Jewish Heritage Connection


The Ten Commandments

The Torah reading on Shavuos is the narrative of days leading up to G-d’s Revelation; how the Jews prepared themselves for the event, and G-d’s proclamation of the Ten Commandments.

  1. To believe in G-d. 2. Not to worship idols. 3. Not to swear by G-d’s name in vain. 4. To remember and observe the holy day of Shabbos. 5. To honor your father and mother. 6. Do not kill. 7. Do not commit adultery. 8. Do not steal. 9. Do not bear false witness. 10. Do not covet that with belongs to someone else.



On Monday, the Yizkor – memorial prayer is recited. Yizkor is the remembrance service for our dear departed relatives. The prayer itself, as well as pledging charity on their behalf, brings spiritual benefits to their souls.




It is customary to adorn our Synagogues and homes with flowers. This serves as a reminder that Mount Sinai, although it was in the parched desert, bloomed and sprouted flowers in honor of the giving of the Torah.



After receiving the Torah, which included the dietary laws, the Jews returned home and had to Kosher their pots and correctly slaughter the animals. What they were readily able to eat was milk products. It has theref ore become custom by many to eat types of dairy products on Shavuos.



The Scroll of Ruth is read on the second day of Shavuos. It describes how Ruth, a Moavite princess, converted to Judaism. Ruth gave up royalty, honor and wealth to become part of the Jewish people. Her determination and self sacrifice to be part of G-d’s chosen nation earned her the privilege becoming the great grandmother of King David. Incidentally, King David passed away on Shavuos.


Study of Torah

There is a well-known custom that men stay awake the entire first night of Shavuos, immersed in the study of Torah. The source for this custom comes from an astonishing occurrence that happened the morning the Jews were slated to receive the Torah from G-d at Mount Sinai. The nation overslept. Moshe had to go and awaken them to come to the Mountain, where G-d was already waiting. It is hard to imagine that they all overslept, until, we turn to our commentators who explain that this was the working of the Satan who wished to prevent the Jews from receiving the Torah.

We try to rectify our ancestor’s sluggish attitude toward receiving the Torah by displaying an eagerness to accept the Torah through staying up the night of Shavuos, studying the Torah.



Our ancestors accepted the Torah and it is our unique inheritance. Thus, we are all privileged to have an equal share in this great legacy. Torah and its knowledge is acquired through devoting time to its study, and through its study, its truth, brilliance and message is revealed.

Feel free to contact us at the Jewish Heritage Connection to arrange opportunities to pursue this great inheritance.


Happy Shavuos,   Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family