This is the front and back of a black and white postcard, published by the Lebanon Company in 1870. The postcard is depicting characters from the Book of Ruth. The artist, Hector Le Roux, illustrates the pivotal moment when Orpah leaves Naomi but Ruth chooses to stay. The description of the postcard is written in French, despite the fact that it was produced in Warsaw. This may be because the artist was French or because French was a very common language at the time. The word postcard is also written here in numerous languages. The Hebrew word written on the postcard is מכתב גלוי (literally, an open letter) – perhaps an attempt to translate the word into Hebrew. The modern Hebrew word for postcard is גלויה.
According to the Book of Ruth, Naomi and her family left the Land of Israel and relocated to the neighbouring Moab due to drought and famine. After her husband and two sons die, Naomi decides to return to her roots in Israel. Her two daughters-in-law refuse to leave her, even though she explains that she has no more sons for them to marry and insists that they return to their own nations and lands. The drawing, based on Ruth 1:6-18, shows Ruth embracing Naomi and refusing to leave her, while Orpah, seen in the background, accepts Naomi’s position and returns to her people. Ruth the Moabite’s decision to stay with the Jewish nation turned her into the ultimate symbol of the Jewish convert and is one of the reasons why the Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot, seen traditionally as the festival commemorating the Giving of the Torah.
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Shavuot - Shavuot, the festival mentioned in the article – also known as the Festival of Weeks – is celebrated on the sixth of Sivan. Shavuot, one of the three biblical pilgrim festivals, commemorates many different things: it marks the day that the Israelites received the Torah on Mount Sinai; it celebrates the wheat harvest in Israel; and it signifies the end of the Counting of the Omer. It is celebrated with many colourful and festive traditions such as holding bikkurim ceremonies, eating dairy food, decorating the synagogue with flowers and greenery, reading the Book of Ruth, and studying the Torah all through the night (Tikkun Leil Shavuot).
The Book of Ruth – This postcard depicts a scene in the book of Ruth. The book of Ruth is one of the Five Megilot that is including in the Writings (Ketuvim) section of the Bible. The story that is told is set in the area of Bethlehem at the time of the Judges. The book tells of Ruth's acceptance of the Jewish faith and her arrival in Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi. Once a rich woman, Naomi has returned penniless to her hometown and Ruth helps her survive by collecting reminders of the barley and wheat harvest. It is then that Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi and the owner of the field, notices Ruth and understands the kindness that Ruth is doing for Naomi. The end of the book tells of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz. They have a son who is the grandfather of King David.
Reading Ruth on Shavuot - The Book of Ruth is traditionally read on the festival of Shavuot. One of the reasons for this is that the events of the book centre on the harvesting season and Shavuot is the grain harvest festival. Another reason is the focus of the book on the acceptance of the Torah by Ruth. Finally, a tradition that David, Ruth's great grandson died on Shavuot, might also be the reason why the book is read on this festival.
The Lebanon Company and Postcards - The Lebanon company published postcards featuring Zionist and Jewish themes. It operated out of Eastern Europe in the early twentieth century, a time when postcards were very popular also within Jewish communities. The symbol of the Lebanon com pany is printed on the reverse of the postcard and comprises an open book, palm fronds, and an agricultural tool, perhaps a plough.
Louis Héctor Leroux - Louis Héctor Leroux was a nineteenth-century artist from France. He drew in the classical style, and many of his works have biblical themes.