Saturday, May 28, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 36: Orpah


Day 36: Chesed in Yesod, Love/Kindness in Connection
If you remember from day 1, Naomi had two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. When Naomi's husband and two sons died, she offered Orpah and Ruth the opportunity to go home to their parents and remarry, rather than remaining with her when she had no more sons to marry them or way of providing for them. After some back and forth in which both Ruth and Orpah offered to go with Naomi and Naomi insisted they leave, it ended with this:
"They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell. But Ruth clung to her." (Ruth 1:14)
Orpah is often treated as a footnote in the story of Ruth, because she chose to go home and start her life over, instead of staying with Naomi, like Ruth did. Don't worry, we will get to Ruth at a later date. For now, Orpah is a fascinating example of love and kindness in connection. Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman notes that Orpah did nothing wrong by choosing to go home and suggests that Orpah's choice is the one that most of us would make in the same situation. She says, "We tend not to see ourselves as active and capable of making a difference in the world. Because of this, we often make the choices of Orpah and shy away from challenging our identities and roles."

We don't know what happened to Orpah after she left Naomi, but because of Naomi's kindness, she had the opportunity to (and we can assume or hope that she got to) go home and start a new life. I can only imagine that her new life was informed by the love she presumably had for her husband and that she clearly showed in her tearful goodbye to her mother-in-law. Orpah may not have chosen to adopt Judaism and leave her native land, like Ruth did, but those connections stay with us, even when we are apart.