Have you read the Book of Ruth? Ruth is the ultimate daughter-in-law in the Jewish Bible. Even after her husband dies, Ruth remains with her mother-in-law, Naomi, refusing the request that she return to her own people. Ruth adopts Naomi’s religion and travels with her to the land of Judah. Ruth and Naomi have a special bond of friendship. Ruth is depicted as the first convert to Judaism in the bible and interestingly, it is from her line that David, the great king is descended.
A convert to Judaism myself, I feel a connection to Ruth. Not only is she the first convert, but a revered and important figure in the history of the Jewish people. To me, the story of Ruth is a testament to Jews always welcoming converts and was partly responsible for me publicly owning my new religion.
Besides being a convert, Ruth is a true friend and source of support for Naomi, her mother-in-law. In Eden, Ruth is the consummate daughter in law to Sadie. She stays by Sadie’s side even after Robert dies, and coincidentally it is her son that is the family’s financial savior, purchasing the home, and keeping it in the family.
Being a daughter-in-law to people who have no daughters of their own, I also feel that connection to Ruth. In my case, it was not my mother-in-law who leaned in me for support, it’s been my father-in-law. I am his surrogate daughter. Even in this modern age, when my husband is willing to pitch in on an equal basis, there are things his father just feels more comfortable coming to me for. Is it because I am a woman? Because I am more comfortable talking about emotions and relationships? Because we share the vocation of writing? Because he just assumes I’m more available to help with domestic and medical matters? We have a friendship and share points of view that are not shared by my husband.
Being a daughter or son-in-law, is often a delicate dance. I certainly stumbled and mis-stepped in the beginning, but figuring it out, and disproving the caricature of in-law as “out-law” has resulted in one of my most satisfying relationships.