Posted in Dvar Torah, on June 1, 2011

A Shavuot Message from Shayna Liba Brainin, New York NCSY Alum

As I reflect on Shavuot, I observed that some start cooking in advance, some may worry about making the most awesome cheesecake man ever tried, but there may be a few people who catch up on the holiday before it comes around just so the holiday has more spiritual meaning to them.

Every Shavuot, we read Megillat Rut. Rav Zeira says that Megillat Rut was written to show how great the reward is for those who bestow chessed (kindness).

In the megillah, Boaz takes Rut as a wife through the mitzvah of Yibum (levirate marriage). If, G-d forbid, a married man would die childless, the brother, or any close relative, of the deceased is obligated to marry the widow in order to “establish the name of the departed.” The Sfat Emet calls this mitzvah of Yibum a Chessed Shel Emet – a true kindness. It’s a Chessed Shel Emet because there’s no expectation of any compensation from the deceased. It’s a chessed that’s done solely for the sake of doing chessed. Because Rut and Boaz engaged in the ultimate expression of the Chessed Shel Emet, they secured the establishment of the Messianic Dynasty which Rut merited to have come from her children.

We even see that this Chessed Shel Emet was also one of pure selflessness, as Boaz didn’t survive through the morning, and the child, who established the name of the departed Machlon, was considered by everyone as Naomi’s son and not Rut’s.

The Sfat Emet also brings down that Rut dramatizes the theme which is expressed in the Mishna that says, “Not study but practice is the main thing” (Pirkei Avot 1:17). All of us have to look at the deeds of righteous individuals who usually perform these acts of their own initiative without any halachic precedent. A true role model of Judaism doesn’t just practice Judaism, but rather, personifies it. Every action they do is guided by principles from the Torah. The practices of the righteous are a living supplement to the Torah.

When a Jew studies Torah, his soul becomes so perfected that he is able to conduct all his deeds in accordance with the Torah.

The way Boaz conducted himself is a classic example as to how righteous individuals personify the Torah through their actions. Boaz married Rut despite the fact that she was a Moabite woman, which Jewish law forbids. However, he relied on the Biblical interpretation of the sages of his time who ruled that the prohibition against marrying a Moabite applied only to males of that nation. His marriage to Rut publicly displayed the confidence that he had in the Sages. He affirmed Emunat Chachamim (faith in the rulings of Torah scholars of the time). However, he intended to marry Rut even before the Sages officially ruled that he could. This indicated that the behavior of the righteous is inherently correct. Boaz anticipated the ruling of Sanhedrin because his own identification with Torah law was complete. This is one reason why we read Rut on Shavuot. Rut demonstrated the power of authorities of a generation to interpret and even anticipate the rulings involving halacha through their personal conduct.

Having Emunat Chachamim helps us arrive at the truth.

The Zohar says that any act that’s done in this world awakens the power of that same act in the heavens. So, if someone were to do a Chessed in this world, they would awaken the power of the Chessed in the heavens.

When we read Megillat Rut on Shavuot, we should all recognize the Chessed Shel Emet that’s contained in it and apply it to our lives so we can awaken the Chessed’s special powers in the heavens in order for us to gain substance as we live our lives as the Chosen Nation once again this Shavuot.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach! (Enjoy the cheesecake!)

–              Shayna Liba Brainin

Shayna is from Brooklyn, NY and is a senior at Shulamith High School . She also plays guitar in the all female band “Faux Real”