Shavuot: a Ruth poem by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

The Handmaid’s Tale (Ruth)


Time for a different kind of harvest.
Sated with bread and beer
Boaz and his men sleep deeply
on the fragrant hay.
The floor doesn’t creak.

When Boaz wakes, his eyes
gleam with unshed tears.
He is no longer young, maybe
forty; his face is lined
as Mahlon’s never became.

Who are you? he asks
and I hear an echoing question:
who is it? what is it? who speaks?
Spread your wings over me, I reply
and his cloak billows high.

Now he clasps my foreign hand
and kisses the tips of my fingers
now skin glides against skin
and the seed of salvation grows in me
the outsider, the forbidden

we move from lack to fullness
we sweeten our own story
and as my belly swells I pray
that the day come speedily and soon
when we won’t need to distinguish

Israel from Moab
the sun’s radiance from the moon’s
Boaz’s square fingers
from my smaller olive hands
amen, amen, selah.


Rabbi Rachel Barenblat holds an MFA from Bennington and ordination from ALEPH. Author of Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013) and 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia, 2011), she blogs as the Velveteen Rabbi and serves a small Reform congregation in western Massachusetts.

Image source: Ruth in the Fields by Hugues Merle, 1823-1881.