Am Echad, our people, us. The Jews. It’s a deep wish, like One Nation Indivisible. It’s a prayer means to lead us foward, a pledge while we fight one another fang and claw. Now and then the truth of One People is made plain to me. It’s the murk we see all around us. I’m not talking politics, I’m talking about the fires we’ve been living with for the past months. My Colorado is bell-clear, the light strong and vibrating, sometimes it seems to ring like a bell, but California burns and we cough and the mountains are muzzy with dead smoke.
People who have been here long enough remember the explosion of Mt. Saint Helen. We notes that four days earlier, our land, our cars, leaves, roads, houses and patio furniture were covered with a very fine- it looked like dust, but when I wrote my name in the inviting hood of my mustang the finish came off and rendered my name permanent. In some junkyard, it’s still there- immorality.
The message of Am Echad is an order of miracle to me. Do I believe in miracles? Absolutely. What I take issue with is that the modern definition of a miracle, which is something beautiful or a prayer that is answered but can not be explain by the normal laws of science. Who dragged science in? The original meaning of miracle is something to be seen and wondered at, something that causes awe and amazement, and yes, theres is a brucha for such happenings. Laughter is a miracle. God bless the strength it takes to laugh. People who insist that the making of human beings was random shouldn’t yell it so loudly when they don’t even know what laughter is or consciousness, for that matter.
We, you and I are, I hope, living peaceful and productive lives at a time that might go down in history aa hair-raising. We read about such phenomenon in the Book of Ruth. I think this book us very much undervalued. There’s no holiday connected with it, no special food to remind us of it; it’s not bloody enough to rate one of those Hollywood Westerns like Ben Hur- no sword play, no wheels coming off chariots. Nobody parts water and the principal character is a mother-in-law. Look again. With whom do these quiet people share the grand story? The people in the Book of Judges, with Samson, for example, Samson the mighty man, a muscle-bound meathead with the IQ of a grape. In the middle of the blood-drenched century that was the Book of Judges, Ruth is a story fill of wisdom and humanity. People in that book are faithful to one another, thoughtful and modest. They do the right thing and are rewarded with peace and tranquility. The usual lesson we are given about Ruth is that one that tells us that Ruth was a Moahite, an alien, and that when she made the decision to become one of us, one of the Am Echard, she will become the ancestress of King Davis, whose story has lots of broken chariot wheels.
The hero of this book is also undervalued, Boaz, usually pictured as an old man. Piffle! Some musty midrash makers wanted to take the sex and need out of the book so as to put it all on a higher level. Naomi tells Ruth to join the harvesters in Boaz’ field and then to lie at his feet. It wasn’t the feet. Her actions was a need, a tradition and culturally acceptable in those times. They married. Boaz and Ruth. Good things happened. Another message is that Ruth’s story, ending in the story of King David, started in a drought and with a death and a mother-in-law whose weakness as a widow turned to strength and with an immigrant’s acceptance into the Am Echad, the People. Us.