The Eponymous Yet Excluded Heroine of Megillat Ruth

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The Eponymous Yet Excluded Heroine of Megillat Ruth

In the megillah, our eponymous heroine, Ruth, suffers grueling misfortune after misfortune. First, her husband dies as a result of a divine punishment issued against him, his brother, and his father. Then, Ruth departs from her home, parents, and everything she’s ever known in order to support Naomi, her mother-in-law, and, in return, Naomi does not express an ounce of gratitude. In fact, once she and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem, Naomi pretends Ruth is a stranger. Nevertheless, Ruth never leaves Naomi’s side and keeps her promise, providing her with food and continuity.

When Ruth embarks on finding a field owner who might help them, she is consistently turned down. Even when she finally encounters a field with workers who do not shoo her away, they speak ill of her Moavite status and sexually harass her. When Ruth befriends Boaz, Naomi coerces her into sleeping with him so her family line can continue. And yet, despite all of this tragedy, Ruth never gives in, ceases serving Naomi, or fails to be a true heroine. In the end, it is Ruth, together with Boaz, who saves Naomi and her lineage, as well as the Jewish people.

For this artwork, I have drawn one half of Ruth’s hand with pencil and the other half colored with oil pastel to represent her adversities on the one side and her successes on the other. The left half is colorless and grim, much like Ruth’s burdensome life, and the right half is vibrant and spirited, symbolizing Ruth’s victories, strength, and unwavering will. On the left-hand side, there are tears falling, which also represents Ruth’s despair. On the right-hand side, there are shimmering stars in the black of the night. This illustrates that no matter the difficulty, Ruth always defends herself and her loved ones and sees her troubles through.

ARTIST’S STATEMENT: An Artistic Exploration of Megillat Ruth is a collection of art pieces centered around key moments in Megillat Ruth. I created these in response to prompts that were part of a Judaic Studies unit on the Book of Ruth, and, as you can see, decided to take a more artistic route with my submissions. There are statements associated with each individual artwork, but overall, this project meant a lot to me because it illustrates a book that I think has been greatly misunderstood. On the surface, Megillat Ruth seems quite uneventful, but if we look closer and deeper, as you will through the art pieces, the complexity of the narrative and its characters shines through.

Sarah Gorbatov is a member of the class of 2022 at The Idea School in Tenafly, New Jersety. She is the editor-in-chief of her school publication, The Ideals, and a staff writer for the Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens. When Sarah is not writing, she is mixing potions and conducting scientific research, whether for her biodegradable fashion line or her work at Columbia University's Mitochondrial Psychobiology Lab. She is passionate about STEM, journalism, and education and is a sucker for arts and crafts.