Shavuot Outline

The Book of Ruth as the text from which to learn the two aspects of Shavuot: The story takes place at the harvest and her accepting the Torah. We will read the Book of Ruth and explore these two aspects within it.

Big Ideas

  • Shavuot is Hag Habikurim/Hakatzir/Shavuot--a time to celebrate the bounty of the Earth; Humans are dependent on the harvest for sustenance; The harvest is not something to be taken for granted, and we can show this gratitude by celebrating the harvest
  • Shavuot is Zman Matan Toratenu--the time to celebrate the gift of the Torah, during which we engage and accept Torah; Accepting the Torah is a choice
  • The Book of Ruth contains the themes of Shavuot embedded in its story

Essential Questions

  • How are the themes of Hag Habikurim and Zman Matan Torahtenu represented in the Book of Ruth?
  • What does it mean to choose to accept the Torah? What does it mean to receive vs. accept the Torah? (explore Ruth's story with Bnai Yisrael's 'acceptance' of Torah EXODUS 19)
  • What is the relationship between people and agriculture (that they depend on for food?)
  • How can be grateful and show gratitude for gifts of nature that sustain us?

Discussion questions

  • How are the convictions of a person who has converted different from someone who was born Jewish?
  • Do you have a direct relationship with agriculture?
  • In modern times, how do we understand "the harvest?"
  • In Biblical times, how was the harvest a part of people's lives? (Famines caused whole groups of people to move)
  • What can we do to understand human's relationship with the harvest/agriculture?
  • What's was Ruth's relationship with the harvest?
  • In the Book of Ruth, what picture is painted of people's relationship with agriculture?
  • Can you imagine if the wheat crop failed, you and your community would have to pick up and move to Florida?
  • Tie in nature/weather affecting people's lives?
  • How does the role of family/loyalty play into the Ruth story?

Lesson 1

LESSON ONE: What do we know about Shavuot:

Big Ideas

  • Shavuot is a major holiday in Jewish tradition, but is often overlooked today
  • There are many name to Shavuot: Yom Habikurim; Zman Matan Toratenu; Hag Hakatzir; Hag HaShavuot
  • Shavuot does not have a mitzvah associated with it, but is full of many rituals

Essential Questions

  • What role did Shavuot play in the past?
  • What role does it play now?
  • How were the themes of Shavuot relevant to the ancient Israelites?
  • How are the themes of Shavuot relevant to us today?
  • What rituals do we do on Shavuot?

Activities

  • HOOK: (8 min) Post pictures around the whiteboard. Tell students: "Open your MMJ to an entirely new section (maybe page 75?) Write: SHAVUOT on the top of that page, and add it to your table of contents. Next, write 'know' and 'want to know' and make a list of what you know already and want to know about Shavuot." (Write on the board: Know, want to know, and learned)
  • Spend five minutes filling this out. (Timer?)
  • (7 minutes) Take responses from students about what they think they know: Write everything down, with question marks to show if someone isn't sure about something, push students to think about rituals, names, phrases, characters, etc.
  • Goal is to have a list of notes outlining Shavuot (from KWL Shavuot Doc)
  • Date: vav sivan (6th); God gave the Torah on Mt Sinai; One of the 3 pilgrimage festivals (Succot, Pesach, Shavuot); Marks the end of counting the omer;
  • Names for the Holiday:
  1. Chag HaShavuot -- Festival of the Weeks, or counting the 7 weeks after Pesach
  2. Chag HaKtzir -- Festival of cutting the harvest, specifically the barley harvest
  3. Yom HaBikurim -- Day of the first fruits. Farmers brought the first of their harvest to the Temple as an offering
  4. Zman Matan Toratenu -- Season of the gift of Torah, celebrating the giving and accepting of the Torah on Sinai
  5. Atzeret: the Talmud rabbis refer to it as Atzeret or Conclusion because it closes the Omer
  6. Christians call it the Pentecost (πεντηκόστη), because it marks the 50th day after Pesach, or Jesus' Last Supper.
  • Customs:
  1. Akdamut: poem (read on Shavuot, in the Siddur) Composed by Rabbi Meir ben Yitzchak in the 11th century, in Worms, Germany, it has 90 verses in terse, difficult Aramaic which lead us through the great heights and depths of mystical understanding. It is read on Shavuot, right before the first aliyah. It appeared in siddurim and remains as part of the Ashkenazi custom. When the Torah reading for Shavuot (Shemot 19-20, the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai) was read, it was also read in Aramaic. The poem Adkamut Milin (or "Introduction") is a poem in Aramaic meant to introduce the Aramaic translation/reading of Shemot. It was customary to read Shemot 19:1 in Hebrew, then read Akdamut, then read the Aramaic translation of Shemot 19:1. However, there was a Halakhic ruling against interrupting a Torah reading, so it is now read before the Torah reading (after the aliyah is called, but before the blessing). It is an acrostic poem with 45 verses, starting with a double alphabet (alef, alef, bet, bet) then reading "Meir, son of Rabbi Isaac, may he grow in Torah and in good deeds, Amen, Be strong and have courage."
  2. Chalav: eating cheesecake. This tradition likely comes from the time of year that Shavuot lands on. At this time of year, the baby animals are being weaned off their mother's milk, so that there is an abundance of milk--lots of extra to make cheese and yogurt. Another association with Halav foods is white--a symbol of purity. Receiving and accepting the Torah shows purity.
  3. Ruth: megillah (a megillah is found in ketuvim, it literally means “scroll” but is one of five books read on certain holidays). The Book of Ruth has several connections to Shavuot. First of all, the story takes place at the harvest time. It shows how dependent on the harvest the people at that time were. Ruth also represents true acceptance of the Torah. "Your G-d is my G-d." Also, Shavuot is when King David, Israel's greatest leader, was born and died. David was the great grandson of Ruth.
  4. Yerek/greenery: According to the Midrash, Mount Sinai suddenly blossomed with flowers in anticipation of the giving of the Torah on its summit. Greenery also figures in the story of the baby Moses being found among the bulrushes in a watertight cradle (Ex. 2:3) when he was three months old (Moses was born on 7 Adar and placed in the Nile River on 6 Sivan, the same day he later brought the Jewish nation to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah). For these reasons, many Jewish families traditionally decorate their homes and synagogues with plants, flowers and leafy branches in honor of Shavuot. Some synagogues decorate the bimah with a canopy of flowers and plants so that it resembles a chuppah, as Shavuot is mystically referred to as the day the matchmaker (Moses) brought the bride (the Jewish people) to the chuppah (Mount Sinai) to marry the bridegroom (God); the ketubbah (marriage contract) was the Torah. Some Eastern Sephardi communities actually read out a ketubbah between God and Israel as part of the service.
  5. Torah: Tikkun Laila, All-night study. This custom comes from a story about Rabbi Joseph Caro, author of Shulchan Aroch, who invited his colleagues to an all-night Torah study, during which an angel appeared and commanded them to go live in Eretz Yisrael. According to a Midrash, the night before the Torah was given, the Israelites retired early to be well-rested for the momentous day ahead, but they overslept and Moses had to wake them up because God was already waiting on the mountaintop. To rectify this flaw in the national character, religious Jews stay up all night to learn Torah.
Any subject may be studied, although Talmud, Mishna and Torah typically top the list. In many communities, men and women attend classes and lectures until the early hours of the morning. In Jerusalem, thousands of people finish off the nighttime study session by walking to the Kotel before dawn and joining the sunrise minyan there. The latter activity is reminiscent of Shavuot's status as one of the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals, when the Jews living in the Land of Israel journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday.

Lesson one work from 5/12/10:
Know:

  • Stay up all night the night before studying
  • A pilgrimage holiday
  • Read Megillat Ruth
  • The day we got the 10 commandments
  • 2 days long
  • Eat a lot of dairy
  • A major holiday
  • Wheat
Want to know:
  • Was it the 10 commandments or the Torah that we received?
  • When is Shavuot?
  • What do we do on Shavuot?
  • Why do we eat a lot of dairy?
  • Why is there wheat?


Lesson 2

The Book of Ruth

Big Ideas

  • The Book of Ruth takes place during the barley harvest, and paints a picture of how dependent they were on the harvest
  • The Book of Ruth portrays a picture of how Ruth took on the Jewish people as her family

Essential Questions

  • What is the Book of Ruth?
  • Where do we find it?
  • What time does it take place?
  • What is the setting of this story?
  • What are the big ideas of this story?

Activities

Hook:
  • Directions: We are going to start reading the Book of Ruth. When you have a question about the story, or find a connection to one of the themes of the holiday (accepting the Torah, Harvest celebration), please write it in your MMJ.
  • Students will read one paragraph at a time.
  • Pause after Ruth's "conversion." (...until they reached Bethlehem.")

Skit

Naomi, Ruth and Orpah head out to Israel
Characters:
NAOMI
RUTH
ORPAH
Three women are walking, lead by Naomi. Suddenly she turns to the other two women, and dramatically exclaims,
NAOMI: Turn back! Each of you to her mother's house! May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me! May the Lord grant that each of you find security in the house of a husband!"
She kisses them farewell, and the two women break into weeping.
ORPAH and RUTH: No! We will return with you to your people!
NAOMI: Turn back, my daughters! W
hy should you go with me? Have I any more sons that they may be your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go on your way! For I am too old to be remarried. Even if I should have hope, even if I find a husband tonight, and bear more sons; should you wait for them to be grown? Oh no, my daughters; for this saddens me much for your sakes. The hand of the Lord has struck out against me.
Orpah and Ruth start crying again, and Orpah waves farewell to Naomi and leaves. But Ruth clings to Naomi.
NAOMI:
Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people, and to her gods; Go follow your sister-in-law.

RUTH: Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. Wherever you go, I will go, where you dwell, I will dwell. your people shall be my people, and your G-d my G-d. Wherever you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. This and more may the Lord do to me, if anything but death parts you from me.
Naomi sighs, nods, and allows Ruth to follow her.

Stop after the skit to discuss the idea of accepting the Torah.

  • Why does Ruth say "your people are my people?"
  • What is she committing to?
  • Why do think this passage might have an impact on conversion?
  • Using this as a guide, what do you think a person who wants to become Jewish should be feeling/saying/acting?
  • Why do you think Naomi wants her daughters-in-law to go back to their families?
  • Why do you think Ruth would not go?
  • What are we supposed to learn from Ruth?
  • Write a list of adjectives/phrases describing Ruth's accepting this new family? (passionate, intimate, persistent, informed, familiar)
  • Ruth accepting Judaism, and this new "family" so passionately informs us about how we should engage in Torah--we should be as passionate and accepting as Ruth.


Lesson 3

Big Ideas

  • Shavuot is Hag Habikurim/Hakatzir/Shavuot--a time to celebrate the bounty of the Earth;
  • Humans are dependent on the harvest for sustenance;
  • The harvest is not something to be taken for granted, and we can show this gratitude by celebrating the harvest

Essential questions

  • What can we do to understand human's relationship with the harvest/agriculture?
  • What's was Ruth's relationship with the harvest? In the Book of Ruth, what picture is painted of people's relationship with agriculture?
  • How can we understand our relationship with agriculture? Compared to this Biblical portrait of agriculture?

Activities

Hook:
Who can remind me where we were in the Book of Ruth? (Call on a student for a summary of where we are in the story)
Read the rest of the book of Ruth.
  • Starting with Molly, each student will read a paragraph, while the next student recaps what happened.
  • Students will read until 2:14.
  • I will have a group of students act out Ruth and Boaz's meeting.
PAUSE: to discuss what role the harvest and agriculture played in people's lives then. Compare that to now in modern Western world. Discussion questions:
  • Do you have a direct relationship with agriculture?
  • In modern times, how do we understand "the harvest?"
  • In Biblical times, how was the harvest a part of people's lives? (Famines caused whole groups of people to move)
  • What can we do to understand human's relationship with the harvest/agriculture?
  • What's was Ruth's relationship with the harvest?
  • In the Book of Ruth, what picture is painted of people's relationship with agriculture?
  • Can you imagine if the wheat crop failed, you and your community would have to pick up and move to Florida?
  • Tie in nature/weather affecting people's lives?
Continue reading the story:
  • The reading can skip over much of the story, from 2:20 through 4:13.
Wrap-up
  • How do the themes of Shavuot (agriculture and accepting Torah) fit into this story?
  • Based on this story and what you are now thinking about, what are some ways that you can think of to celebrate Shavuot?
  • Think about how we will represent these ideas to the school at the assembly.

Skit

BOAZ MEETS RUTH
Characters:
RUTH
BOAZ
NAOMI
REAPER 2
WORKER

RUTH: (turns to Naomi) "Mother-in-law, I'm going to go to the fields and glean among the ears of grain. Hopefully I can find someone who will show me kindness."

NAOMI: Yes, daughter, go.
Naomi walks off stage.
Ruth starts picking grain off the ground along with the other Reaper.
In walks Boaz with his worker.

BOAZ: The Lord bless you!

RUTH and NAOMI: The Lord bless you!

Boaz turns to his worker:
BOAZ: Who is that girl?

WORKER: She is a Moabite girl who came back with Naomi from Moab. She asked to be able to glean in the fields, and has been working since the morning. She has barely even rested.

Boaz turns to Ruth.
BOAZ: Listen, don't go glean in another field. You can come and glean after my workers, just follow them as they are harvesting. I have ordered them not to bother you and let you glean. When you are thirsty, go drink some water.

Ruth bows down to Boaz as a sign of respect.
RUTH: Why are so kind to me? Why do you single me out, especially when I am a foreigner?

BOAZ: I have been told all that you did for your mother-in-law, how you left your homeland and came to live with a new people. May you get a reward for your deeds from the Lord, G-d of Israel, who you have turned to.

RUTH: You are most kind, my lord, to speak so nicely to me, even though I don't even work for you!

BOAZ: Come and partake in the meal!
Ruth comes over and eats some of the meal.


Lesson 4

Monday, May 17

Big Ideas

  • Shavuot is a major holiday in Jewish tradition, but is often overlooked today
  • There are many name to Shavuot: Yom Habikurim; Zman Matan Toratenu; Hag Hakatzir; Hag HaShavuot
  • Shavuot does not have a mitzvah associated with it, but is full of many rituals

Essential questions

  • How can students represent the themes and story of the Book of Ruth as a skit to the whole school at the Friday Assembly?
  • What major themes do they want to convey about the Book of Ruth

Activities

  • Hook: Raise your hand if you have an idea of the big idea of the Book of Ruth? When we present it to the whole school, what is the one thing you think the audience has to learn about this story?
  • Students will share their ideas, as I write it on the board.
  • I will pick students randomly to be a part of the two skits (6 students total, who will go into the music room? to practice their lines). I will ask Jasmine privately if she and a student of her choosing would like to be the "prop" master. She will need to look at the skits and narration and decide what props to make from constructions paper.
  • I will assign Alicia as the note-taker, and ask students to volunteer to make the script.
  • "There will be a narrator or narrators who will tell the story, and then we will pause to act out parts of the story. We can even use the narration to convey major themes or big ideas of the story."
  • After we go through the entire story (students can use their stories to refer to while compiling a script for the presentation), we will practice it as a whole group.

Possible script


In the time of Judges, there was a famine in the land of Israel. A man named Elimelech took his wife, Naomi, and two sons to the land of Moab, where there was plenty of food to eat.

They had a nice life there. Naomi's sons married local women--Moabites.

When Naomi's husband and two sons died, she decided to go back to Israel because the famine was over. There was food back in Israel!

She started walking back to Israel, but her two daughter-in-law followed her close behind.

SKIT 1

When the two women--Naomi and Ruth--arrived back in Bethlehem, the whole town was excited. They arrived at the beginning of the barley festival, when everyone was eagerly awaiting to see how well their crops grew that year.

Can it be Naomi? They asked.

NAOMI: Oh don't call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Lord has made my life bitter.

Ruth insisted on going to the fields to see if the harvesters would leave any of the grain in the field, which is a nice thing to do. She ended up in the field of a mensch named Boaz.

SKIT 2

Ruth went home and told Naomi all about this kind man that she met, and how he had let her stay all day and pick grain from his fields.

And so Boaz and Ruth fell in love and got married. They had a son named Obed, who is the grandfather of David Hamelech, Israel's greatest leader.

This story shows us how humans are dependent of the bounty of the harvest each year. Even though we get our food from the grocery store, we know that without farmers who harvest crops, there would be no food.

We also learn from Ruth how to open our hearts and accept the Torah will open arms. Ruth shows us that she fully embraces accepting the Torah, G-d and the Jewish people.