Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Jewish Festivals - Shavuot
The Book of Ruth Recreated 100 Years Ago
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Photo portrait of "Ruth the Moabitess" (Library of Congress)
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"
And Naomi and Ruth both went on until they arrived at Bethlehem
The Jewish holiday of Shavuot - Pentecost is celebrated this 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 came to a field that belonged to Boaz who was
of the family of Naomi's deceased husband
The reading of the Book of Ruth is one tradition 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.

A central element of the story of Ruth is her going to the local 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 had a levirate obligation to marry the widow).  The union resulted in a child, Obed, the grandfather of King David. 

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." 
Ruth carried it to the city and Naomi
saw what she had gleaned

We have matched the pictures with corresponding verses from the Book of Ruth.

We present a few of the dozens of "Ruth" photographs found in the Library of Congress' American Colony collection.   See more of the pictures here.

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, probably in the fields near Bethlehem.  "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.

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

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


  1. Pictures from late 1800s
    Found via
    Could I get your direct email. I'm the person who advised you of the Mitchell Library collections in Sydney Australia.

  2. Wonderful to have unearthed these photos.- Thank you!