The story of Ruth is read in synagogues at this spring harvest festival, which also celebrates the giving of the Law to Moses.
Long ago, there was famine in Palestine. A man called Elimelech and his wife Naomi, along with their two sons, decided they must leave their home town of Bethlehem in search of food. Eventually, they settled in a land called Moab. There, the boys grew up and married local girls. That was the good news.
Then came the bad news. First Elimelech and then the two sons died. Naomi and her two daughters-in-law were left without husbands and, in those days, it was near impossible for a family to survive without a husband or father.
Naomi decided to return to her homeland.
"Stay here," she said to her daughters-in-law. "It's your home."
One of them, Ruth, decided to go with Naomi. "You looked after me when I was younger. Now it's my turn to look after you."
Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem at the time of the spring harvest.
Naomi was glad to be home, but worried how two widows could earn a living.
However, a law allowed poor people to pick up waste ears of corn and barley that dropped to the ground during the harvest, which Ruth did, and Naomi baked them into bread.
One day, the owner of the fields spoke to Ruth. "You may eat and drink with my workers," he said.
"Why should you be so kind to a foreigner?" she asked.
"I know your story," said the man, who was called Boaz. "Because you have cared for your mother-in-law, you deserve a reward."
And he even told his workers to drop extra pieces of corn for Ruth to salvage.
Eventually, Boaz married Ruth, a woman prepared to become a stranger in a strange land, just so she could care for an elderly widow.
The Giving of the Law is described in Exodus, chapter 19. Discuss the Ten Commandments (chapter 20) and whether they are all still relevant.
At Shavuot, synagogues are decorated with lilies, other flowers and sheaves of corn or barley. Create a spring harvest or flower festival.
Further information about the celebration of Shavuot is
An in-depth essay on its meaning is at