Last week we enjoyed Shavuot, which is the Jewish festival of firstfruits of the wheat harvest, as well as the day celebrating when Moses brought the Torah to Yisrael: “Finally, G-d gave Moses the two stone Tables of Testimony, containing the Ten Commandments, written by G-d Himself.“
An easy way to remember Shavuot is that it is the same day as Pentecost: God gave the Torah, and He gave the Spirit.
“The Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “re-gives” the Torah. The word Shavuot means “weeks.” It marks the completion of the seven-week counting period betweenPassover and Shavuot.” (chabad.org)
Traditionally, the entire book of Ruth is read on Shavuot, so, I was reading all 4 chapters of Ruth…I remember it being a little longer than 4 chapters, for some reason. But, 4 chapters it was. I always had read the book of Ruth as a love story between Boaz and Ruth, but now I am reading it and noticing that the whole thing basically took place in the fields! So, that makes sense, being the festival of wheat harvests.
“The Book of Ruth was recorded by the prophet Samuel. It is appropriate to read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot for two reasons: First, because Shavuot is a harvest festival and the Book of Ruth gives us a picture of the harvest, and how the poor were treated in the harvest season with sympathy and love. Secondly, because Shavuot is the anniversary of the passing of King David, who was the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz, whose story is told in the Book of Ruth.” (chabad.org)
When I just started the book, though, I was completely struck with how close Naomi and Ruth were. These were women who had come together through Ruth’s marriage to Naomi’s son, experienced deaths of husbands together, and clung to each other in friendship through life and through hardships.
“Naomi was loving to Ruth and Orpah, and while Orpah decided to return back to her mother, Ruth wanted to stay with Naomi.
Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.“
This is such an incredible picture of friendship between women.
But…in reality, they had something more than friendship. The relationship Naomi and Ruth had was something akin to “kenzoku,” which is, “is a Japanese term which means “family”, a bond that is shared by people with the same or nearly the same ideals, have the same commitment or even destiny. We know and feel the presence of the deepest connection of friendship. These people may be family members, a friend from high school, co-workers who we probably haven’t talked to in decades but we know they are there for us when we need them. Time and distance do nothing to cut the bond we have with them.”
These women loved each other. They were friends and they were family; they were kenzoku. I am honestly moved just thinking about the two of them holding hands and traveling home, together.
Sometimes, relationships in life can be complicated.
Friendships in school when we were kids was rather uncomplicated. We all had our friends, and we knew who definitely weren’t our friends; but adults can be complicated, sometimes.
The other day I got a message out of the blue from someone I used to know. We were not close, at all, and I had only talked with her once on the phone sometime last year, and it was for something in particular. I did not have any sort of relationship with her, because we weren’t friends.
I haven’t even seen her since last year, when we were both attendants of the same group; so getting a message from her was surprising. Without any context, she simply said:
“I am sad you unfriended me.”
Which was also odd…because if I remember somewhat correctly, I closed the connection with this woman sometime around last summer. It’s been almost a year. I haven’t talked with her or heard from her in ages. Our kids never became friends, I never got together with her, our husbands never talked. I really don’t know what this meant…there is zero context on this statement.
Odd. A little complicated. But odd.
Now, with any other situation I might have seen this as an open door to rekindle something. But, there really aren’t embers to rekindle anywhere.
There never was a friendship with her, because there was no relationship with her.
Friends, especially kenzoku friends, aren’t complicated because love isn’t complicated. It really isn’t. You know when someone loves you, and you definitely know when they don’t. This is one thing you don’t need to debate back and forth: if someone loves you, you feel loved. If someone doesn’t love you…what is there?
The thing about friends, is that they are part of your life. They call you and see how things are going. They text you once in a while to connect with you. You feel better after being with them and sharing your life with them. Friends include you. They encourage you. I can think of friends I have had for years, and I look forward to talking to them every time we get on the phone together. I truly enjoy including them, and encouraging them in their lives, and I look forward to being included in their lives and being encouraged by their words. I love the friends in my life because they are amazing people who are part of my life.
Having a relationship with someone is so much more than just showing up and being a warm body. Mere attendance is not the soul of a relationship: the heart is.
A relationship is understanding your friends in ways no one else can. A relationship with your friends means you don’t bully them into obeying your own dogmas and expectations; which seems like and overly obvious quality, I think. A relationship with your friends is kind and generous.
A truly wonderful relationship with friends means you love them.
“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
It is a tremendous thing, indeed.