“We are witnesses,” share the elders as they stand at the gate and Boaz finalizes the agreement to care for Ruth, Naomi and their property. Thanksgiving Day we gather around food, perhaps the zoom gathering, and reaffirm our appreciation for companions, family, friends on our journey. We know the rough spots we traveled, the tensions of relationships but we try to look back through a positive lens with thanksgiving. Some will stand with sick loved ones. Others will stand in the middle of the recovery process from demonstrations that wracked our cities. We have been through much and there are still large challenges on our horizon.
The elders “witness” the reality of the present, good and bad, but they turn their hearts to blessing the young couple for the unfolding future. The first blessing was “unity,” and we can say AMEN to that blessing. The second blessing is more oblique. “May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. (Ruth 4:12)” Many know about Bethlehem as the birth place of Jesus but these elders didn’t. They may have known it was the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah but I doubt it. Ephrathah was the place where Jacob, grandson of Abraham, had to bury his beloved second wife Rachel when she died in childbirth of her second son, Benjamin. Rachel who was the love of Jacob’s youth, the beautiful woman of his dreams, but also the source of much heartache in his contentious marriage to her and her sister as they fought for his affection.
I suspect that at Thanksgiving, as we praise for our blessings, often we evaluate in our hearts and realize we might need a “course correction.” The original care-plan has evolved and become something different. We must bury those original dreams of “happy ever after” and develop an up-to-date plan. We need a new version for going forward. The second blessing is the blessing of vision for the future that will unfold for Boaz and Ruth in their new life together.
Today, 2020, there is a shrine at the spot where Rachel was buried. Jews, Christians, and Muslims consider it a holy spot. It is the third holiest spot in Judaism. Tradition has it that Rachel wept for her children and for the children of Israel who went into captivity. Tradition has it that the key to the shrine, place under a pillow, eases the pain of childbirth. Tradition has it that Rachel hears the prayers of those struggling with infertility. Travelers on difficult journeys and women struggling with pregnancy frequent this shrine. We too need the blessing of new visions and hope for facing the challenges of the future.
Many bemoan 2020 now and rejoice that the elections are over and the vaccine is coming closer. Others grieve losses of family and jobs. Some rejoice at a safe birth of a new child, a new marriage, or a new friendship. As we look at our Thanksgiving meal today and whatever is on our plate, may we briefly ponder what is on our life’s plate. Perhaps we have dreams that need to be modified. Perhaps we need to envision new starts. May we bless each other with unity and with vision as we face the coming year. We do not walk alone. God is still with us. Blessings.