To most Jews, the Book of Ruth immediately conjures up thoughts and memories of the holiday of Pentacost or Shavuot, which falls out every year towards the end of May or early June. Shavuot is one of the three central pilgrimage festivals and is the day when the Jewish people experienced revelation and received the Torah from God on Mount Sinai. Out of all the books in the holy Bible, why specifically do we read Ruth on the day we commemorate the giving of the Torah?
The giving of the Torah was the single most important moment in the history of civilization – not just for Jews, but for all of mankind. Long ago, the Sages wondered why, if the Torah is so holy, it wasn’t given in the Holy Land? Why was the Torah given in a desert, and not the Land of Israel? The ancient rabbis explained that since Israel is the Jewish homeland, had the Torah been given in Jerusalem, it would have belonged exclusively to the Jewish people. Therefore, God chose to transmit His moral code on a barren mountain in the ownerless desert to emphasize that His Word is for everyone equally, because His instructions are the key to universal survival.
In the Book of Ruth we read about the Moabite princess Ruth who forges her own path to Mount Sinai through her relationship with her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth is associated with the holiday of Shavuot because, with great self-sacrifice, she finds her way to the ultimate truth of the Torah. As she movingly declares to Naomi, “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16). This redemptive experience leads Ruth to become the matriarch of King David’s royal lineage, and the ultimate ancestress of the Messiah, who will bring the whole world to recognize the Lord and the Torah He gave on Mount Sinai on the holiday of Shavuot.