The Book of Ruth

The Book of Ruth is read in the synagogue on the holiday of Shavuot. The story told in this book is linked to the holiday of Shavuot in terms of the time of year at which it takes place — the time of the wheat harvest. This is also the time of year at which we celebrate Shavuot. In addition to the timing, the content of this book is also related to the holiday of Shavuot.

Unit Ages: 12-14 | 2-3 lessons


On the holiday of Shavuot, we read the Book of Ruth. The story told in this book, which according to tradition occurred 3000 years ago, is the story of a woman who chose to leave her home and family and become part of the Jewish people. The story includes references to different values, first and foremost, chesed (kindness) and the acceptance of converts. The content of this book relates to Shavuot in that both the story and the holiday occur at the time of the wheat harvest. There is also a parallel between Ruth’s acceptance of Judaism and the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah, which we celebrate on this holiday.

Desired Outcomes

Big Ideas

The story of the Book of Ruth includes values that are very important in Jewish culture, including belonging to the Jewish people and identifying with its values.

Essential Questions
  • In what ways am I connected to the Jewish People?
  • How is my Judaism expressed in my life?
  • How do Jewish practices reflect Jewish values?
  • What can we learn from different generations?
  • How do beliefs, ethics, or values influence different people’s behavior?
  • What are the Jewish values (e.g., freedom, responsibility, justice, community, respect of diversity etc.) that should be honored in an ideal society?
  • The students will be familiar with the story of the Book of Ruth.
  • The students will be able to identify different events in the story and the chesed expressed in those events.
  • The students will be able to connect Ruth’s choice with their own choices to identify with / belong to the Jewish people.

Assessment Evidence

What evidence will students provide to demonstrate that they:
Know the knowledge; Can do the skills; Can respond thoughtfully to the EQs and BIs

Teacher creates authentic assessments before beginning the unit.

Learning Experiences

Possible Unit Plan

Possible unit opener:

Distribute the Personal Identity Card worksheet to the students and ask them to fill it out. As a class or in small groups, discuss which of the identifying traits that you noted in the worksheet are choices and which are not. What about Jewish identity? Is it a given or the product of choice?

Content study:

  • Learn about Ruth’s choice of Judaism in the resource Megillat Ruth: Being a Jew. Compare her choices with the choices about Jewish identity that we make in our own lives.
  • Learn about Kindness in the Book of Ruth. Examine how chesed (kindness) is related to Ruth’s joining the Jewish people and what we can learn about kindness and its importance.

Unit closing / assessment:

We saw that the Book of Ruth raises a number of Jewish subjects. We will examine how our studies answered the essential questions. To that end, conduct summarizing activities that connect the studied material with aspects of our own lives. For example, students can interview family members, asking what Judaism means to them, students can engage in chesed activities in the community, etc.

Related Resources