JTA — As Jews, we tend to pride ourselves on our tradition’s values and how we pass them on to future generations; values such as education, tzedakah, loving the stranger, pursuing justice and tikkun olam, “repair of the world.” But if you were to start a conversation today with a teenager, would you be ready to articulate Jewish values related to dating and sexuality?
Several such values can be gleaned straight from the Book of Ruth customarily read during the holiday of Shavuot, which begins this year on the evening of June 11.
For example, here we read about Boaz, a wealthy kinsman of Ruth’s destitute, widowed mother-in-law, Naomi.
He tells Ruth that he has instructed his men not to molest her.Naomi, hearing later that day about Ruth’s gleaning in Boaz’s fields, admits her relief that young men from another field won’t be touching her daughter-in-law.But he points out there is an even closer relative in the town, whom he goes to look for as soon as day breaks.We can also infer that nothing of a sexual nature happens between them because of what we know about Boaz from the start: He considers everyone created in the image of God.Later Naomi counsels Ruth to make herself as attractive as possible, to seek out Boaz after his dinner, and to “uncover his feet and lie down.” Boaz was a sexual hero to our ancestors — one who manages to restrain himself for the sake of the dignity and welfare of another.
When Ruth identifies herself that night, she calls Boaz her redeemer — someone who can save her, legally, from continued widowhood.