Naomi – whose name means ‘pleasantness’ – lived a life that was anything but. She appears in the narrative as the silent, accommodating wife of Elimelekh, a wealthy man from Bethlehem.
And when famine struck, the family disingenuously moved to Moab. In the ensuing 10 years, sadly, first her husband, and then her married sons died off.
As the widow Naomi’s high-status evaporated, she rediscovered her own voice.
Deciding to return to Bethlehem, she attempted to cut all ties with Moab. Yet one of her two daughters-in-law, insisted on travelling back with her; their delicate devotion to each other is beautifully conveyed in the Book of Ruth.
Returning home to country and kinsmen, Naomi asked those remembering her to call her Mara (bitterness). Her sojourn abroad had been a desolate failure!
Many of us face immense adversity and succumb to its overwhelming pressures.
Naomi could have been forgiven the same. Few realize how much faith, courage, and ingenuity it takes to press forward.
So it’s uplifting to read that back home, Naomi emerged a transformed woman.
Her resourcefulness and Ruth’s cooperation enlisted their kinsman’s redemptive aid.
Boaz, after marrying Ruth also bought back Elimelekh’s mortgaged fields. And so, eventually Naomi returned to social importance and was credited with raising Ruth’s child, Obed, from whom King David would descend.
Let us not pretend that Jewish communities in the UK and elsewhere are without our share of struggling single mothers, once socially vibrant widows and those whose fortunes have simply taken a turn for the worse.
Lessons to learn from Naomi are that adversity shouldn’t be allowed to define any one of us. But, equally, it is incumbent upon us all to lend support and help relieve the bitterness of the Naomis of the Jewish world. They have much to add to our communal success!
Rabbi Jeff Berger serves the Rambam Sephardi Synagogue in Elstree and Borehamwood and can be contacted at RabbiJeffLondon@gmail.com.