Photo Credit: Saul Jay Singer

Jewish sources provide many explanations for why Megillat Ruth is inextricably entwined with Shavuot, but the three primary themes include receiving the Torah, seasonal harvest, and messianic redemption.

First, just as Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the Megillah tells the story of Ruth’s conversion to Judaism and her acceptance of the entire Torah. Interestingly, by accepting the Torah, the Jewish people took on 606 new mitzvot – there were already sheva mitzvot B’nei Noach (the seven commandments that had been given to non-Jews at the time of Noah) – and the name “Ruth” in Hebrew has the numerical value of 606.


Second, Shavuot is a harvest festival, celebrating the first fruits of the wheat harvest in Israel, and the Megillah takes place during the barley and wheat harvests and features central characters who work the fields. Two other names for Shavuot are explicitly agrarian, including Chag HaKatzir (“the harvest feast”) and Yom HaBikkurim (“the day of the first fruits”), and Ruth provides one of the best depictions of ancient Jewish Israelite agricultural practices, including reaping, gleaning, threshing and winnowing.

Third, the story of Ruth is one of ultimate Jewish redemption, where the point of the story is that Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi and her conversion to Judaism lead to the birth of her great-grandson, King David – who was born on Shavuot – and to Moshiach, who will descend from the Davidic line.

I have many items in my collection relating to Megillat Ruth, some of which I present here.



Zev Raban’s stunningly beautiful edition of Book of Ruth, which was first produced in 1930 in English only, features ten full-color illustrations by the artist. Exhibited here are five of the original sketches in my collection that Raban made for the book.


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Ruth 1:1: “And a man set forth from Bet Lechem Yehudah to dwell in the fields of Moab.”

Born in Galicia as Wolf Rawicki, a name he later Hebraicized, Ze’ev Raban (1890-1970) acquired his reputation through the designs he made for Bezalel and was undoubtedly one of the most important artists and designers in pre-state Eretz Yisrael. Recognizing that the traditional European style did not fit the growing style of the newly emerging Jewish arts, he synthesized European techniques with authentic Jewish art based on specifically Jewish motifs. He developed a visual lexicon of Jewish themes with decorative calligraphic script and other decorative devices which came to be characterized as the “Bezalel style” and, in doing so, he drew freely from Persian, Oriental, Classical, and Art Nouveau elements.

Ruth 1:19: “And it came to pass that when they arrived at Bet Lechem, the entire city was excited because of them . . .”

Raban’s work, which closely follows the historical events of the building of the Jewish State, reflected his desire to strengthen the identity of the emerging Medinat Yisrael through the revival and artistic expression of Jewish symbolism, and he was actively involved in the ethos of the emerging nation, encouraging tourism through posters, illustrating primers for teaching Hebrew, and designing decorative functional objects to imbue the Jewish home with Jewish content. He was renowned for his original depictions of beautiful Israeli landscapes, holy places, Biblical tales, and people, adopting the Yemenite as a model for the biblical figure.

Ruth 3:8: “And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was startled, and turned himself . . .”

Raban designed symbols and brands for Zionist entities and promoted Israeli businesses that exported goods such as wines, oils, tobacco, and food products, and he designed products for various artistic cooperatives under the control of Bezalel as, for instance, items in metal and ivory. His prominent works include sculptures for the YMCA building in Jerusalem (1934); the brass doors for the Nathan Strauss Health House (1928); various pieces for the Bezalel Building, Bikur Cholim Hospital, and the National Bank; and the ceramic tiles that decorate many buildings in Tel Aviv.

Ruth 4:18-22: Detailing the genealogy from Boaz to King David: “And these are the generations of Peretz: Peretz begot Chetzron . . . and Yishai begat David.”

Raban’s father, Yechiel, was a rabbi in Kalish, Poland, and his mother, Reisel Besser, was the daughter of a well-known Polish merchant. He received his primary education in a Polish cheder before studying art, first in his hometown of Lodz and later in Munich, where he learned object and jewelry design; Paris, where he specialized in sculpture; and Brussels, where he earned a living through architectural decoration projects. When he arrived in Lodz in 1911, he heard about a Bezalel School arts and crafts exhibition in the city and he met with several new olim, whose enthusiasm for Eretz Yisrael proved contagious. He met Boris Schatz in Paris, and accepted his invitation to teach at Bezalel, arriving in Eretz Yisrael in 1912. He was appointed director of the brass and copper repousse department (1914) and ultimately became interim director of the school. At the end of his very productive life, he became blind and suffered from Parkinson’s Disease.

Original design by Raban for a Ruth Israel postage stamp.

One of Raban’s most famous and enduring works was Ruth, which he completed in 1928. The work, which is executed in his characteristic style, combining elements of Art Nouveau and Art Deco with traditional Jewish motifs, is a prime example of his unique style and his ability to blend traditional Jewish motifs with modern artistic techniques. The figures are stylized and elongated, with flowing lines and intricate patterns; Ruth wears a traditional Jewish headscarf and clothing; and the background is filled with symbols and motifs from Jewish culture, such as the menorah and the Star of David. In addition to its aesthetic beauty, Ruth also has significant symbolic meaning. Megillat Ruth is often seen as a symbol of the Jewish people’s connection to the land of Israel, and Raban’s work emphasizes this connection by depicting Ruth gleaning in a field.



Harvest, by Meir Gur-Aryeh.

Exhibited here is a beautiful color postcard of Meir Gur-Arie’s Harvest. Born Meir Horodetsky (1891-1951), he studied at Bezalel School of Art (1909-1911) and went on to teach painting and ivory carving there. A member of the Menorah group, he, together with Zev Raban, opened the Menora workshop (1913) and later established the Workshop for Industrial Design (1923). A participant in the famous “Tower of David” Exhibition, he was a founder of the Union for Hebrew Art (1920). Among his projects is the framework for the decorations at the YMCA building in Jerusalem and his work, which remains highly popular, is exhibited worldwide, including at the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem.

A member of the Menorah group, he, together with Zev Raban, opened the Menora workshop (1913) . . .



Exhibited here is the cover of the Shavuot issue of Hayeled, issued by the Keren HaTorah Committee, and the “Story of Ruth,” published in the pamphlet. Other articles include “The Practice and Value of Studying Torah”; “The Shavuot Night”; “The Torah – A Gift for All”; “Dinim (Laws) for the Study of the Study of Torah”; “Mishna”; “The Teheran Children”; and several Shavuot poems.


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The Committee, under the presidency of Dayan Abramsky, was concerned about the Jewish education of thousands of Jewish children during the war who were evacuated from their homes, often without parents, and Hayeled was a project designed to connect with all these scattered Jewish children. As British Chief Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz wrote in 1942,

Hayeled brings the old undiluted Torah teachings to our boys and girls in modern language and form. There is a distinctive feature in all of the articles appearing in these pages; namely, the emphasis on observance in the precepts of Judaism. This duty is stressed for children when they are away from home, for only by unswerving adherence to the Torah and Commandments we hope to retain the loyalty of our growing generation.



1918 card by Elijah Bothers in Jaffa. “And Ruth is gleaning after the reapers . . . (Ruth 2:7)

Exhibited here is a 1918 Ruth card issued by the Elijah Brothers, a publishing company based in London founded by two English-born brothers, Benjamin and Samuel Elijah. The company, which was active from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, specialized in producing and distributing Judaica books, including prayer books, Bibles, and other religious texts. Benjamin, the elder brother, had a background in publishing and bookselling; he previously worked for the Jewish Chronicle and established his own bookshop in London, and he appears to have been the driving force behind the company’s success.

Beginning as a small-scale operation in the mid-1800s, the company quickly grew in size and reputation, becoming one of the leading publishers of Judaica in the United Kingdom, and it became renowned for its high-quality publications, which were produced using the latest printing technologies and materials. The company’s books were also noted for their elegant and attractive design, featuring ornate covers and illustrations. One of the most significant works it published was the Elijah Prayer Book (1864), which became a standard text for many Jewish communities in the UK and was widely used in synagogues and homes. The company also produced a range of other prayer books, including editions for women and children, and, in addition to their religious publications, the Elijah Brothers also published works on Jewish history, culture, and literature, including translations of classical Jewish texts and contemporary works by Jewish authors.

The publishing venture continued to thrive throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries but, by the mid-20th century, it had begun to decline in popularity, with many of its publications becoming outdated or less relevant to contemporary Jewish communities. The company eventually closed in the mid-20th century, although its legacy continues to be felt in the world of Jewish publishing.

While the Elijah Brothers were primarily known for their production of Judaica books, they also published postcards during the early 20th century, which featured a variety of religious and cultural themes, including images of synagogues, rabbis, and biblical scenes. The cards, which were produced using high-quality printing techniques and materials, were noted for their artistic and aesthetic qualities, and many featured colorful illustrations and designs as well as intricate border patterns and lettering. Some of the most notable postcards produced by the company were images of synagogues in London, such as the East London Synagogue and the New West End Synagogue, and illustrations of religious figures and events, such as Moses and the Ten Commandments, the biblical story of Queen Esther, and the Book of Ruth.

Spanish playing card from “Biblical Women” series, circa early 1900s, depicting Ruth: “Born in Moab, after losing her husband, she did not want to abandon her mother-in-law, Naomi.”

The Elijah Brothers’ postcards, which were distributed both in the UK and internationally, with many being sent as greetings or souvenirs by Jewish travelers or tourists, were also collected by enthusiasts and historians interested in the history and culture of the Jewish community in the early 20th century. They provide a unique glimpse into the religious and cultural life of the Jewish community during this period, and they are considered to be rare and valuable collectors’ items, with some examples realizing high prices at auction.



Finally, exhibited here are some interesting old postcards and stamp material reflecting the Story of Ruth. Wishing a happy and healthy chag to all!


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Saul Jay Singer serves as senior legal ethics counsel with the District of Columbia Bar and is a collector of extraordinary original Judaica documents and letters. He welcomes comments at at [email protected].