The ProsenPeople

Naomi, Ruth, and the South

Friday, August 08, 2014| Permalink

Earlier this week, Lenore Weiss wrote about Rabbi Levi Selwyn and Torah "Koshering" and asked Rabbi Selwyn a few question about the process. Her most recent collection,Two Places, is now available. She has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council's Visiting Scribe series.

When I moved to Sterlington, Louisiana, the first question any person meeting me asked was, why did I move from California? After a certain time had passed, I began to ask that same question. The immediate answer was obvious: I had packed up my books and bags because I had fallen deeply in love and believed my mate and I could make a life together. I continue to believe that, but I’m not sure you can remove a city girl from everything she knows. Maybe I had to give up too much. It wasn’t a slam-dunk decision either. It had taken me two years to decide to move south. My friends and family watched me agonize: to move or not to move? It’s true. I’ve always had difficulty making transitions. During my elementary school years, just starting a new grade fanned me into nausea and cold sweats. So why should I expect this move to be any different?

I reflect upon Ruth and Naomi. While there isn’t a real parallel here, there are enough—both my mate and I met after we had already been seasoned by difficult marriages, enough to recognize our heart’s desire. But at issue is the question of devoted loyalty. After Naomi entreats Ruth to return to her own family in Bethlehem, Ruth tells her, “entreat me not to leave thee [or] to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge…”

I’ve often wondered what allowed Ruth to make that unequivocal declaration. Was it devotion to her deceased husband, Mahlon that allowed her to stand by her mother-in-law? Did she not wish to return to an unsupportive family where she knew she would languish and die? Or was she just young, wanting to see more of the world and knew she could do that at Naomi’s side? Whatever the reason, she did. Maybe she didn’t even have to think about it.

Which leads me to my own question. Can I love without nurturing who I am, and leave behind the multitude of flowers that the butterfly of my soul needs to drink? There’s always a chance I will discover something I never could imagine on the threshing floor of life by remaining at the side of a person who brings me joy.

Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way—maybe there’s a chance of creating a new amalgam. Because when it comes down to it, I’m not sure if G-d placed me south so I could confront myself and my writing without the distractions of city life—something I could put off doing as long as there was somewhere else to go. Or maybe this was not meant to be a long-term assignment.

Or just maybe I need a new Bible story.

I drove to the mall today, not one of my favorite pastimes. I wanted to be around people and didn’t know what else to do with myself.

I hear my girlfriends talking in my head.

Read more of Lenore Weiss's work here.

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