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    The heroes & heroine of Shavu’ot

    Ruth gleaning, by James Tissot, 1896

    The festival of Shavu’ot has an obvious focus on Moses, since it was he who brought the Israelites to Sinai and ascended the mountain to receive the Divine instructions.

    There is also a case for calling it the festival of David, who is the symbol of Jewish kingship. He was the founder of the Jewish royal dynasty for which the Ten Commandments are the national constitution.

    But that is not the end of the discussion. There is also a possibility that Shavu’ot can be regarded as the festival of Abraham, the pioneer patriarch whose dedication to the Torah principle of chesed (lovingkindness) was the central moral principle of Judaism (Micah 7:20).

    The psalmist says olam chesed yibbaneh – “The world is based on lovingkindness” (Psalm 89:3). Abraham trained his children to build a society founded on chesed (Gen. 18:19).

    All these three heroes have an association with Shavu’ot, but in addition the festival focuses on Ruth, the great-grandmother of David. Chesed is the keynote of the Megillah of Ruth which we read on this yom-tov. Shavu’ot therefore celebrates three heroes and a heroine (Midrash Ex. R. 28:1).

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