46 All of the days an impurity affects someone, that person shall be in quarantine, dwelling outside of the camp.Leviticus 13
Lepers lived outside the confines of their neighborhood. Pity and compassion mixed with fear could be seen on the faces of our family and friends as they left their home. Nothing remains to look forward to until they could somehow be cleaned of this disease. So very close to widowhood, abandoned and alone on the open road under the searing sun they would travel.
11 Naomi said to her daughters-in-law: turn back; why should you follow me? I have no more sons in my womb that could be your mates. 12 Turn back, go, because I am too old to be with a mate even if I had hope and tonight I were to be with a mate and would give birth to sons. 13 Would you wait until they grew up and not have a mate? NO, my daughters; I despair so for you because YHWH has turned against me.Ruth 1
Once there were 3 widows, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah who walked along in despair, even less hope than a leper who might one day find a cure. These widows lived outside the confines of their neighborhood. They were walking on a simple journey, in silence, not a word was spoken. No birds or flies on this desolate road. Those three women had cried so much together and then were traveling together, soon to be even more alone, to be separate. Pity and compassion were all they could seek but had nothing to look forward to until they could be released from this leprous disease of widowhood. Barren and alone on the open road, would there ever be a cure?
1 How can it be?!
The city that was full of people sits alone, like a widow?
She was great among the nations,
She was ruler among the states, now a vassal.
2 She weeps bitterly in the night
Her tears are on her cheeks,
she has no comfort from her loved ones…Lamentations 1
And then the destruction of Jerusalem came. She too became a widow and a leprous city. Tears flowed after that horrific event. No Priest would be able to return her to life and no burnt offering could kindle joy in the hearts of her inhabitants. Death had taken life from this world and thrown them all into isolation. How could this be their fate? It is too hard to endure the end of Jerusalem.
Could those ancient trials and tribulations be like the constellations of stars in the night sky that guided ancient travelers? They might hold clues to navigate safely in the darkness of our own plight.
8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning; patience is better than haughtiness. … 10 Don’t say: “what came before, in the early days, is better than these days”; because there is no wisdom in your query.Ecclesiastes 7
Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021