Good Shabbos. This week we celebrate the Festival of Shavuot, and we recognize with reverence the time when G-d granted us the Torah, 3,314 years ago. It begins on Thursday evening, May 16th, through May 17th and 18th. In our synagogue we will have a study group starting Thursday night at 8pm to discuss and learn the Book of Ruth. Everyone is cordially invited to participate.
The Book of Ruth, also called Megillas Ruth, was written approximately 3,050 years ago by the prophet Samuel (Shmuel). Who was Ruth? Why is Ruth referred to as the mother of royalty? Because, in reality she became the great-grandmother of King David. Let’s explore the concept of mother, a timely topic since tomorrow is the holiday known as Mother’s Day. I’d like to wish all the mothers a great day.
Does everybody know what the Hebrew date of Mother’s day is? What’s the answer? Some say it is every day. We all know how serious a Jewish mother takes her job; she works very hard and invests much energy in her family, especially her children and grandchildren.
Throughout history, we have applauded and recognized the importance of mothers. We begin with the world’s first mother, Eve, also known as Chava. Then came the four matriarchs in Judaism, the mothers of the Jewish people, Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. So much is written about their lives in the Torah, both the oral and written teachings, Biblical commentaries and even in contemporary literature such as the popular book, The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, which many of you may have read or heard about. We can learn a great deal from these biblical role models and heroines.
In America, we too have many great mothers. George Washington is known as the Founding Father of our country. What about his wife, Martha—the Founding Mother? There is a well-known story about Martha’s bravery and dedication to our nation. Her husband George led and fought for the colonist’s freedom for six long years. In the fourth winter at Valley Forge, as the freezing days dragged on, the conditions for Washington and his men became worse and worse. Many of his soldiers deserted and the wounded lay dying without medicine. The entire army was starving and suffering from the cold. Even the great General Washington was becoming despondent. The situation appeared so hopeless; it seemed only a miracle could help. And then, in comes Martha Washington to save the day. Apparently, in February of that winter, Martha drove by horse-driven coach from her home in Mt. Vernon to Valley Forge. It was recorded that she arrived to alleviate her husband’s weariness. Supposedly, when he saw his wife, he said, "Seeing you will take away all my worries and concerns. Martha said and I quote, "I have brought medicines, food and knitting needles, not much, but I’m going to do whatever I can for your poor soldiers. I’m going to knit stockings for every last one of them. I may not be able to do it all, but at least I’ll try. I’m going to take care of you." End of quote.
It is recorded in history that Martha Washington’s visit gave new life and hope to General Washington and his men, a tremendous lift in spirit which some credit as helping sustain the soldier’s morale. Her presence undoubtedly helped win the Revolution and the rest is history. In reality she was an unsung hero.
What did Martha Washington and the Biblical Ruth have in common? Clearly both were dedicated, brave and loyal women-- characteristics which earned them a beloved place in history. Did you know that Ruth was born a non-Jew? Ruth’s father was the King of Moab, a land in the Middle East (today it is somewhere between Jordan & Syria). Ruth married to a Jew and she converted. As a matter of fact, Ruth became the "model convert" that for centuries people pointed to as a sincere and whole-hearted Jewish convert. The Jewish people hold in high esteem those who accept Judaism in accordance with the traditional law.
The story of Ruth’s life is filled with many tragedies and melodramatic twists and turns. For example, after her husband died, she chose to remain with her mother-in-law Naomi, in poverty and uncertainty instead of returning to her father’s palace, whereby she could become a princess again. G-d rewarded her intense love and genuine devotion to the Jewish people. By divine providence she became the great-grandmother of King David.
May all the mothers here today find spiritual strength and wisdom in our maternal ancestors and derive much encouragement from those who came before us. I would like to thank my mother for visiting us and wish her a safe trip back to Israel and hopefully find peace.
At this mothers day we pray that Hashem will heal the hearts of the mothers who unfortunately this year will not hear their children’s voices. May Hashem bless us with long years to be able to carry out the duties of motherhood with health, happiness and much nachas from our families and peace in the world. Happy and healthy Mother’s Day to all.