Footnoted song lyrics
Separate Histories (Footnoted)
Sometimes the road chooses you
and not the other way around
I don’t know how but I just knew
you would lead me to sacred ground1
I was living in a place but it was time for me to leave I’d lost all of my faith but I was ready to believe2
In the middle of the night
I went and lay down by your feet3
I knew that if the time was right you would welcome me
I crept away before the break of day4
By then I knew that you would come to me5
And all the people in the gate
and all the elders they will say6
we are the witnesses today to this covenant you make7
Generations pass generations come8
And now our separate histories are one9
1 Literally, Ruth follows Naomi to the sacred ground of Judaism: the land of Israel. I also mean this figuratively, as the “promised land” or “sacred ground” more broadly interpreted: the place we set out for when we embark on a pilgrimage, be it physical or internal.
2 When I lived in New York City, I taught for a wonderful congregation called Kolot Chayeinu. They described themselves as a place “where doubt is an act of faith.” I love that phrase; the complicated relationship of doubt to faith fascinates me. I imagine Ruth as a spiritual pilgrim who has to be honest with herself about the doubt she experiences in her life in order to explore a deeper relationship to faith (by following Naomi into spiritual, cultural and personal parts unknown).
3 Ruth 3:6–7: “She went down to the threshing floor … then she went over stealthily and uncovered his feet and lay down.”
4 Ruth 3:14: “So she lay at his feet until dawn. She rose before one person could distinguish another, for he thought, ‘Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.’”
5 Although I had not read this midrash at the time I wrote the song, this resonates with a rabbinic interpretation of Ruth’s “self-prophecy” from Ruth rabbah 5:2:
Ruth fell on her face and bowed [to Boaz], saying, “Why have I been so lucky that you have chosen to single me out [le-hakireni, lit., to know me]?” (Ruth 2:10). This teaches that Ruth prophesied about herself, that one day Boaz would “know” her intimately.
6 Ruth 4:9–11: “And Boaz said to the elders and to the rest of the people, ‘You are witnesses today that … I am acquiring [note: not our ideal of marriage, I know!] Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, as my wife… All the people at the gate and the elders answered, ‘We are witnesses. May God make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built up the House of Israel! Prosper in Ephrathah and perpetuate your name in Bethlehem!’”
7 Ibid (see note 6)
8 Ruth 4:12: “And may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah—through the offspring which God will give you by this young woman.”
9 Ruth 4:18-22: “This is the line of Perez: Perez begot Hezron, Hezron begot Ram, Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, Nahshon begot Salmon, Salmon begot Boaz, Boaz begot Obed, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.”
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Footnoted song lyrics." (Viewed on December 2, 2023) <https://jwa.org/node/22288>.