Lessons from the Book of Ruth

By Tali Asher

I dedicate this article to women of Ukraine.

I love the Book of Ruth. It seems her story follows me through different stages of my life, guiding me with wisdom and counsel.

It is the story of a Moabite widow, who is left alone with her mother-in-law, after the death of her husband and all the male members of the family. Ruth’s destiny appears to be doomed. She can’t bear children, can’t find provision. Against all odds, through the pages of the Book, she stands out as a remarkable example of hope and dignity.

I know many interpretations of this story. I especially admire the beautiful image of Ruth, as Church, who is serving her mother-in-law, and through her, the Land of Israel; bringing blessing, hope and provision.

However, at this time, my attention is drawn to something different. Something that became alive now, when the war with Ukraine is forcing thousands of women, my co-nationals, away from their homes, their land, their established lives into something unknown and scary. Nothing can be compared to the brutality and ugliness of this hideous process. These precious women are uprooted and left without their husbands and adult sons. They seek refuge in foreign lands.

I met some of them here, in Italy. Their courage and resilience is remarkable. Their hope for a better life is passionate. I saw incredible light in the eyes of their children. I saw their inner beauty. I know they are going to fight for their lives, for their future. These young ones are already fighting with every new word they learn in an unknown language, with every new step they take in this new land. Their moms stand by them, trying to provide help and comfort.

We all navigate life with a combination of rational and irrational. We try to do what we can and we trust the Lord to take care of the rest. These women don’t have that possibility. Ruth didn’t have it either.

She couldn’t hope for much. She knew all too well that she couldn’t bear children, therefore, her value, her worth, according to the tradition of that time, were nullified.

This is the case with so many of us. We are women. Our primary call is to nourish, sustain, and care for our loved ones. When we are left alone, we are stripped off this first and most vital role. We are left without support, care, and provision. There is no natural way we can do it. However, let’s not forget that with the Lord there is always a way.

Under these difficult circumstances, Ruth’s mother-in-law decides to return to her own land and Ruth is determined to follow her.

Those of you who had the experience of immigration will certainly understand me.

It has never been an easy process, just on the contrary. I have been an immigrant twice in my life – first I immigrated to Israel in 1994, then I immigrated to Italy 12 years later, in 2006. I have neither Jewish, nor Italian roots. I have been adopted to the nation of Israel through a marriage to my first husband, Gamliel Asher. A couple of years after his early death, I married an Italian man, Riccardo Santovecchio and moved to Italy.

As I am writing these lines, I still remember those first years of immigration. Years of hard work and studying, trying to push my faith always a bit higher, my natural abilities a bit further. It reminds me of the first days of Ruth, gleaning on the fields of Boaz, finding enough provision and strength only for one day at a time.

However, the time will come when you stop just surviving. I know this, because I saw it happen so many times in my life. I am sure it is going to happen in yours too.

There is a point when Boaz extends his favor to Ruth. There is always this invisible shift, this sudden change when you begin to feel that you are moving on with your life, that you begin to bear fruit, that you don’t merely survive. Through hard work, perseverance, patience, and faith you are managing to penetrate the wall of prejudice and indifference. Your love and care compensate for the lack of vocabulary and common roots. You see more trust from people at work, you meet a sudden smile, you are given an extra word of encouragement. You worked your way into the hearts of people and it has enlarged your own heart.

I have been on this road for quite a while, and I am so grateful for it! It allows me to constantly reach out to something bigger than myself, to discover new heights and new treasures along the way. Deep within myself I know I am no longer an immigrant, I have become a part of the nation!

It has been the most exciting and rewarding experience. I know It is going to last a life-time. I am committed to continue on this path of dedication and hard work, facing every day with gratitude and looking out for new opportunities – just the way Ruth did.

Immigration has turned out to be a way of life for me, a way of gathering the fruits of my past and present and offering it as a gift to the world. I see it as a process of creation a beautiful tapestry of my life, where I choose the threads, picking carefully the right colors and patterns and weave them into a masterpiece of incredible uniqueness and value.

Boaz could have married any woman, but that would be too simple. We would be left without this beautiful story of hope, resilience, and courage. We would be left without a chance to notice that humble Moabite woman and her incredible value. We would be left without her example of trust, kindness, and selflessness.

I find it so remarkable that we read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot, the festival of first fruits. We celebrate the harvest, enjoy fruits of the land. We think about the fruits of our lives. Maybe the Lord, in his infinite creativity, is trying to suggest that our own fruitfulness might sometimes depend upon our ability to notice and care for these simple women, Ruths of distant lands.

Talia and her late husband, Gamliel (z”l), were founding members of Tents of Mercy Congregation in Kiryat Yam, in the mid 90s. She came from Ukraine; he was Hungarian. Their fresh enthusiasm to be settling in Israel, and their dedication to Yeshua brought them onto our elders’ team. Both brilliant, gifted teachers, the young couple gave much to our pioneering efforts. Talia can be reached at ashertalia20@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Revive Israel – Tikkun Global, May 12, 2022, and reposted with permission.