While Ruth, the heroine of Shavuos, serves as a role model for us in many ways, it’s interesting to explore her greatness when it comes to the contentious arena of mother/daughter-in-law relationships.
Ruth not only afforded her mother-in-law Naomi great respect; she actually clung to her fiercely, refusing to part ways. How does that happen?
Honestly, I don’t feel qualified to write this article. Hashem blessed me with a mother-in-law so giving and warm that the usual in-law struggles don’t resonate with me. However, since this is indeed a hot topic for most women around the globe, using Ruth as our guide to enhancing this unique relationship seems like the way to go.
Two Separate Entities
The classic mother/daughter-in-law tension revolves around the former, the latter, and the monkey in the middle—the mother-in-law’s son who also happens to be the daughter-in-law’s husband. Being the one person whom both cherish dearly, he’s often caught as the tightrope between two opposing forces, trying to please both women in his life while treading gently.
When the husband exhibits behaviors that don’t impress his wife, she’s tempted to play the blame game. Whether the wife confirms that he’s just like his mother or that she gave him the worst chinuch ever, wife knows just who’s at fault. Although Ruth’s first husband, Machlon, was a righteous person, his sins resulted in his untimely death. Still, instead of pointing fingers at Naomi, who watched idly as her son committed his sins, this Moabite princess respected her mother-in-law deeply and afforded her incredible honor. To Ruth, her former husband and mother-in-law were two separate entities, her perspective unmarred by even an iota of blame.
Let Bygones Be Bygones
Humans of the female persuasion have a particularly hard time letting go of grudges, especially when it comes to mother-in-law terrain. It takes us a long time to get over that disinvitation or hurtful comment. Ruth, we see in the Megillah, was a pro at letting go. Although Naomi’s intention in parting from Ruth was righteous, Ruth could have perceived it negatively, feeling slighted and unwanted. Despite the rejection she faced from her mother-in-law, who begged her to return to her city of origin, Ruth persevered. And when she continued her journey with Naomi, she constantly expressed her gratitude to her mother-in-law for having allowed her to join her.
Ruth worked hard not only to sustain herself, but also to provide for her mother-in-law. Of course, it’s way more pleasant to be hosted and served, to be lavished upon by a mother-in-law who doesn’t stop buying gifts, sending packages, or inviting for this Shabbos and that Yom Tov. But when the tables are turned, we’re put to the challenge that Ruth faced. Can we give lovingly to the woman who raised the most important person in our life? When we’re placed in a position of giving vs. taking, how well do we do there? Ruth voluntarily offered to share her provisions with her mother-in-law, giving from a place of true love and appreciation. With merits like these, it’s no wonder she ended up being the mother of Moshiach.