Thursday, 2 October 2008

Saving the Family

What an extra busy week it was last week! On Monday evening we had our first full session ‘Under the Tree of Life’ , with its sub-title of ‘Family’, as we discussed the wonderful story of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz. We had learnt that the book of Ruth was one of the Festal Rolls read at each of the Jewish Festivals and that Ruth was read at the Feast of Pentecost.

As you know, the story begins with crop failure and Naomi and her husband and two sons becoming refuges in the land of Moab, where her husband died. Her two sons married Moabite women but both died before they had children. So the three landless, childless women decided to return to Naomi’s family in Bethlehem. On the way, Naomi advised her daughters-in-law to go back to their own homes and Orpah was persuaded to do so, but Ruth declared that she would stay with Naomi, saying ‘Your family will be my family.’ They returned at the beginning of the barley harvest and Ruth was able to support herself and Naomi by gleaning in the harvest fields of Boaz, a kinsman.

Since Boaz was a kinsman, Naomi encouraged Ruth to take advantage of the levirate marriage law, which meant that if a man died childless his brother should marry the widow and give her a child, so that the dead brother’s name would not die out.. But Boaz knew that there was another kinsman who was a closer relative of Naomi and he had to be consulted first. However, he was unwilling to marry Ruth because it would jeopardise his own family. So Ruth and Boaz were married and had a son, Obed, who became the grandfather of King David.

In studying the levirate law, we looked at the strange (to us) story of Tamar, who went beyond the boundaries of the levirate law in order to save the family (Genesis 38). Someone wondered how old the widow would have to be for the brother to marry his brother’s widow and, quick as a flash, someone else said, ‘As old as Olive’. (I am always getting cheek from that young man.) We also looked at times when we include others in our family.

Questions that we discussed were –
What priorities strengthen your family life?
What threatens relationships of lovingkindness in families?
How does your experience of faithful community strengthen or weaken your family’s cohesiveness? What determines the effort and/or sacrifice you are willing to make to maintain connections with extended family?
Identify some of the inconveniences that keep us from including the outsider in our family life? And
What actions and attitudes overcome barriers of inconvenience?

My own thoughts on these questions were that families are much more dispersed today, right across the world, which has made keeping the family in touch with each other much more difficult. However, e-mail has made a huge difference in maintaining contact, not only because of the speed of communication but also because i have found that the male members of the family will gladly send an e-mail whereas they never sent anything by ordinary mail!

For the rest of last week we were set the task of studying the whole of I Chronicles!

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