Ask any elementary school boy to tell you about Shavuos, and he will likely tell you about the Torah being given on Har Sinai, the first fruits of the season being brought to the Beis Hamikdash, how he (hopefully) made it through Sefiras Haomer with a bracha, and his grand plans to pull an all-nighter in shul, with plenty of soda and snacks to keep him going. Flip through any Jewish magazine, and you’ll find yourself face to face with a different side of Shavuos, with elegant floral displays jumping off the page in multiple ads, while full color photos of cheesecakes and other dairy items have even the most hard-core meat lovers thinking fondly of butter and cream.
But the aspect of Shavuos that is resonating most deeply for me this year is something different entirely, a theme that emerges in the very beginning of Megilas Rus. As we read about Naomi losing her husband and both of her sons one after the other, we see how her daughter in laws offer their support and commit to standing by her side. Naomi’s heartfelt refusal has Orpah agreeing to return home to her family after a tearful goodbye, but Rus has other ideas. In a dramatic declaration, she vows to remain at her mother in law’s side through thick and thin, no matter what the circumstances.
That powerful exchange between Naomi and Rus may be just a small blip on the radar over the course of Shavuos, which has a considerable amount of activity packed into its relatively short duration. But Rus’s steadfast commitment to her mother in law during a time of crisis deserves far more attention than it typically receives and is something that can teach us all a thing or two about supporting someone who is struggling with abuse, addiction or mental health issues.
It's no secret that there are challenges coming at us all from every direction in today’s day and age, and there are far too many instances where we at Amudim feel like we are playing Whac-A-Mole, where the minute we resolve one crisis another pops up just seconds later. By now, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have written pre-yom tov messages asking people to offer a kind word to someone who looks like they’re struggling or to invite them to join you for a cup of coffee for a Shabbos meal. But I’m here to tell you that while making that effort just once or twice is certainly commendable, it just isn’t enough.
Time and time again, we have seen that being there consistently for those in crisis is crucial. Solving the problems that we as a community face today requires the same kind of long-term commitment that we see in the megillah when Naomi stands at a crossroads with her widowed daughters in law and her life completely in shambles. Of course, Orpah did something noteworthy and positive by taking those few steps with Naomi before returning home to her family, but it was Rus’s actions that were truly remarkable, standing by her bereaved mother in law for the long haul instead of leaving her to face the future on her own.
As we get ready to enjoy Shavuos, let’s all do our best to help those who are struggling, not just today or tomorrow, but even next week, next month and maybe even next year. By following in Rus’s footsteps and being a reliable source of support to those around us who are in crisis, we truly have the ability to change lives and build futures.
Each week, Amudim fields calls covering a wide range of crises and addressing various human concerns, including addiction, depression, abuse, health and domestic emergencies and many others. We track the calls and breakdown of issues for many reasons, foremost of which is to consistently improve and strengthen our knowledge and ability to address community’s needs.
Happy Shavuot and Chag Sameach from the Amudim Family!