Megillat Ruth’s Most Complex, Intriguing Character

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Megillat Ruth’s Most Complex, Intriguing Character

In Megillat Ruth, Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law, Elimelech’s wife, and Machlon and Khilyon’s mother. This artwork portrays the complexities and ambiguities of her persona. It examines Naomi’s shame as she debates her culpability for the fatal decision to leave Bethlehem and move to Moav. Moving to a foreign country meant leaving God’s Promised Land, potentially angering Him and unleashing His wrath. Some rabbinic sources find Naomi innocent since they view her as nothing more than the wife of her husband and therefore his mindless pawn. Other sources find her guilty since she never considered preventing her husband and sons from sinning and thus took part in the sinning herself as a bystander.

I drew Naomi’s face in a stern, resolute expression, as characterized by her scrunched eyebrows and determined eyes that follow you any way you face her. Her pupils form the shape of stars to signify that she is looking upward toward God searching for approval, forgiveness, and help. Her sharp features denote her anguish and bitterness. Her lack of hair, which is often a symbol of strength in Ketuvim (the third and final book of Tanakh), further suggests that she has been stripped of her identity. The contrast between Naomi’s gray face and the warm and cool colors encircling it conveys her extraordinarily enigmatic character. The writings on the different colors are essentially a mindmap of Naomi’s thought processes, influences, and feelings.

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.