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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

None of Us Know

Tomorrow we will read Megillat Ruth as we do each year on the second day of Shavuot. This short story seems to speak of ordinary characters caught up in the drama of life. We read about famine which forces people to make hard choices and to leave their land to find food. We read about seemingly ordinary characters who make choices about their lives, as we all do. In particular we read about Ruth, who makes the decision to remain with her mother-in-law, Naomi, despite having the option to return to her home with her family. We read about Boaz, who offers the women the opportunity to glean the fields, and later we read of their marriage and finally of their child, Obed, who was raised by Naomi. And then, we read of the generations that followed Ruth and Naomi and Boaz, ending with the name of David, who would become one of the central figures in our long history.

A few months ago my husband and I visited the Grand Canyon. I found it difficult to find a place to rest my eyes, because the scenery was so vast and overwhelming. Instead I began to focus on the gnarled trees that appear at the edge of the canyon. I wondered what it would be like to be a tree whose lot it was to be born on the edge of a canyon. What would its life be, struggling to grow in a landscape so inhospitable to trees.

This lonely tree is not unlike Ruth, Naomi and Boaz. It is not unlike any of us. Why were we born in this generation, this place and how will we be remembered? Which are the actions that we take that will determine how we will be remembered? How do the small, seemingly inconsequential actions we take during our lives combine to create our history, which becomes part of somthing so much bigger than just ourselves?

Somehow, this image of this solitary tree connects to Megillat Ruth and the world we live in now. We never know. We just never know.

The period of counting the omer is coming to an end and Shavuot begins this evening. May this holiday of Matan Torah bring learning and sweetness to you and may we hear

better news soon.



None Of Us Know

None of us know where we will be born

or who are parents will be

or what our circumstances will be,

our communities, our nations,

or which world events will occur during our short time on this earth.

None of us know the choices we will be given,

or who we will love,

or the paths we will take

or where those paths will lead us.

None of us know 

None of us know who will come after us

and how we will be remembered,

which words and which deeds

or how we are affected by the circumstances surrounding us.

None of us know how we will be forever changed.

None of us know what lies ahead

We are only small plants, dried and gnarled,

Clinging to the thin ground under our roots

at the edge of a tall mountain

Truly, none of us know.

In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land; and a man of Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the country of Moab.

The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. They came to the country of Moab and remained there.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.

They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they lived there about ten years.

Then those two—Mahlon and Chilion—also died; so the woman was left without her two sons and without her husband.

She started out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab; for in the country of Moab she had heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food.

Ruth 1:1-6

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