Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Book of Ruth Comes Alive
in Antique Photos Taken 100 Years Ago

"Ruth the Moabitess"
The Jewish holiday of Shavuot-Pentecost will be celebrated next week.  The holiday has several traditional names: Shavuot, the festival of weeks, marking seven weeks after Passover; Chag HaKatzir, the festival of reaping grains; and Chag HaBikkurim, the festival of first fruits.  Shavuot, according to Jewish tradition, is the day the Children of Israel accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai.  It is also believed to be the day of King David's birth and death.
Ruth said, "Do not entreat me to
leave you, to return from following
you, for wherever you go, I will go...
Your people shall be my people, your
God my God"




The reading of the Book of Ruth is one of the traditions of the holiday.  Ruth, a Moabite and widow of a Jewish man (and a princess according to commentators), gave up her life in Moab to join her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, in the Land of Israel.  She insisted on adopting Naomi's God, Torah and religion.

And Naomi and Ruth both went on
until they arrived at Bethlehem
A central element of the story of Ruth is her going to the fields where barley and wheat were being harvested so that she could collect charitable handouts.  She gleans in the fields of Boaz, a judge and a relative of Ruth's dead husband (as such he has a levirate obligation to marry the widow).  The union results in a child, Obed, the grandfather of King David. 
Ruth came to a field that belonged
to Boaz who was of the family of
Naomi's deceased husband



Boaz said to his servant, who stood
over the reapers, "To whom does
this maiden belong?"
The members of the American Colony were religious Christians who established their community in the Holy Land.  They were steeped in the Bible and photographed countryside scenes that referred to biblical incidents and prohibitions.
Boaz said to Ruth, "Do not go to
glean in another field...here you shall
stay with my maidens"
Boaz said to her at mealtime, "Come
here and partake of the bread..." He
ordered his servants "Pretend to 
forget some of the bundles for her." 
We present a few of the dozens of photographs found in the Library of Congress' American Colony collection.

Ruth carried it to the city and Naomi
saw what she had gleaned
Ruth came to the threshing floor and
Boaz said, "Ready the shawl you are
wearing and hold it," and she held
it, and he measured out six measures
of barley....
A major effort was made by the photographers to re-enact the story of Ruth.  "Ruth," we believe, was a young member of the American Colony community; the remaining "cast" were villagers from the Bethlehem area who were actually harvesting, threshing and winnowing their crops.  We have matched the pictures with corresponding verses from the Book of Ruth.

See more of the pictures here.

Unfortunately, we don't know when the "Ruth and Boaz series" was created, but we estimate approximately 100 years ago.

Click on the pictures to enlarge, click on the caption to view the original. 

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