The Book of Ruth is traditionally read on Shavuot, and scholars offer various reasons for this choice. The book’s major themes of giving, kindness, and selflessness align with the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Shavuot. As a trade unionist, I personally find a meaningful connection between our union actions and the powerful historical account of Ruth.
One verse that particularly resonates is, “May the LORD reward your deeds. May you have a full recompense from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have sought refuge!” (Ruth 2:12) This verse highlights the appreciation for righteous actions and serves as a reminder of the significance of seeking refuge in our beliefs while fighting for workers’ rights.
Drawing parallels to the struggle for workers’ rights in contemporary society, the story of Ruth reflects the challenges faced by workers today. Ruth, a foreigner and widow, persevered through numerous difficulties to provide for herself and her mother-in-law by collecting leftover crops in the fields. Similarly, workers worldwide endure long hours, inadequate wages, and unsafe conditions as they strive for fair treatment and just compensation.
Boaz, the landowner in the story, can be seen as a representation of workers’ rights advocates, such as organizations like Histadrut. Boaz recognized Ruth’s dedication and ensured her fair treatment, going beyond legal requirements by providing extra grain and protection from harassment. This mirrors the efforts of worker committees, unions, and representatives who fight for improved conditions, higher wages, and legal safeguards.
The importance of solidarity and community support highlighted in the Book of Ruth resonates deeply within the trade union movement. Naomi served as a mentor to Ruth, guiding and advising her throughout their journey. Similarly, workers’ rights movements rely on the backing of global unions, international organizations, and political allies to foster change and create a more just and equitable society for all workers.
This week, I participated as an observer as leaders of European unions convened at the European Trade Union Confederation Congress in Berlin. At this gathering, unions reaffirmed the unwavering commitment to fighting for workers’ rights, fair pay, workplace equality, and solidarity. Just like in the story of Ruth, we recognize that resilience, determination, and collective efforts are necessary to secure workers’ rights. This tale reminds us that change is possible, even in the face of adversity, and that through unity and advocacy, we can build a society that upholds and protects the rights of all workers.