Women of Freemasonry: Ruth

It’s been a bit of a crazy week at our house, school is out of session for T’s brothers, so we see them much more often, and his eldest brother graduated High School. I ordered the first Master Craftsman (more on that next week) program for myself, so I will have a bit of school work. T’s Lodge does not go dark for the summer, but my Chapter cuts down to one meeting a week, so there is a lot more time for fun activities.  Since its been so crazy, I wanted to go back to the basics and work on finishing up the star points.  The two we have left are Ruth and Martha. Martha, who appears often throughout the bible and therefore has many stories attached to her, I will leave for another time. Ruth is the woman I would like to focus on today. If you’d like to go back and read any of the other star point stories, they are:

  • Ruth- the widow (this one)
  • Esther– the wife
  • Martha- the sister
  • Electa– the mother
  • Adah– the daughter

Ruth, like Esther, has an entire book of the Bible named after her (those are the only two named after a woman). The book, unlike many books in the Bible, is set up in chronological order, and is a stand alone story. It is broken up into four chapters, kind of like acts in a play. When we first meet Ruth, a terrible famine has taken over Israel, and has taken the life of her husband as well as his brother and father. Her mother in law tells her to go and remarry. Ruth’s sister in law goes with some hesitation, but Ruth tells her mother in law Naomi, “”Intreat me not to leave thee, [or] to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people[shall be] my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, [if ought] but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16–17 KJV)”

So, Ruth goes with Naomi back to her home town, Bethlehem. Ruth knows that she needs to be able to support both herself and her mother in law, so she goes to the field to glean (harvest) wheat, as it was the beginning of the barely harvest. The field that she happened to harvest in that day belonged to a man named Boaz. He had heard of Ruth’s kindness, and unwillingness to leave her mother in law after the deaths of her husband and children. Boaz was actually a close relative of Naomi’s, which under Levite law obligated him to marry his kin’s widow, you guessed it, Ruth. So, Naomi sent Ruth down to the threshing floor, and submit herself at the feet of Boaz.

However, Boaz knew that another man was a closer kin then himself. Luckily for them, the man was not willing to risk his inheritance, so he gives up his right to marry her.  The two are wed, and Ruth eventually becomes the great-grandmother of the biblical hero David. Not exactly the most romantic story out there, but one that a lesson can be learned from nonetheless. An interesting note here; Ruth is often touted as being the first convert to Judaism. This is true, she was born a Moabite, and converted to Judaism. This is often shown through the passage found in Ruth 1:16-17 (seen above). It can be argued that Ruth converted for Naomi, whom Ruth refused to leave, even though Naomi warned her becoming a Jew may not allow her to lead and easy life. It could also be said that Ruth converted for Boaz, whose kindness allowed her to support herself and her mother in law.

Also like Esther, Ruth has a Jewish holiday that involves her, called Shavuout. The holiday is a celebration of the anniversary of the day that God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai. The celebration, though small, includes eating dairy products, staying up all night and studying the Torah, and reading the book of Ruth. The book of Ruth is read for a few reasons: King David, one of Ruth’s desendants, was born and died on Shavuot; Shavout is harvest time; The gematria (numerical value) of Ruth is 606, the number of commandments given at Sinai in addition to the 7 Noahide Laws already given, for a total of 613; Ruth was a convert, as were all the Jews when the Torah was given; the central theme of the book of Ruth is loving and kindness, as is the central theme of the Torah; and that Ruth was allowed to marry Boaz on an interpretation of the Oral Law.

So, it isn’t ever really implicitly stated, but each of the star points exist because they embody the “ideal” of that role. For example, Electa is the ideal mother, Adah the ideal daughter, etc. Which is a little weird when you realize that makes Ruth the ideal widow. How can someone be the ideal widow? The Grand Chapter of Ohio states that it is because “she cherished her family, faith, and inheritance of her husband above her every personal ambition, her original native allegiance, and her originally heathen religion.” Ruth knew who she was, even when everything in her life seemed lost. Imagine loosing your husband, and living with your mother in law, and being so dedicated to her and her family, that you are willing to give up your own identity, your own birthright, to show your love for her. That’s some pretty powerful stuff. Even if we are not yet widows, we can learn from the kindness that Ruth showed to her family, even in times of desperation. It is also a wonderful reminder, I think, to turn to your family in times of need.

Although there is an entire book about Ruth, it is not a terribly long one. If you get a chance, pull out a Bible or Torah and read it. If you are unable to do so at home, you can find the book of Ruth in its entirety here.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns, either here, or you can email me atthemasonslady@gmail.com Have a wonderful week!

Women of Freemasonry: Adah

So, I didn’t realize until today, that only two of the five star points have been discussed! I’ve obviously been slacking a bit. If you’ve missed out on the others, you can find their stories here:

  • Adah- the daughter (this one)
  • Ruth – the widow
  • Esther – the wife
  • Martha – the sister
  • Electa – the mother

The story of Adah is a little bit like that of Electa; there was an unnamed woman in the Bible, whom Rob Morris, the creator of the Order of the Eastern Star, simply gave a name to, and made a star point. Adah has a bit more story behind her than that of Electa however. Adah is the name given to the daughter of a man called Jephthah, who is talked about in the Old Testament book of Judges (more specifically, Judges chapters 11 & 12, you can read the original here). Jephthah had a bit of a shaded past, his mother was a prostitute, and his father could have been any number of men. Because of this, he was driven out of his hometown, and basically became an outlaw, all because of his heritage.

The lady Adah. Or, at the very least, Jephthah’s daughter.

He became known as a bit of a fighter in the area. There were a number of skirmishes and wars going about at this time, and soon enough, Jephthah and his people found themselves being attacked by a people known as the Ammonities. Everyone in the area asked Jephthah to lead them into battle, and he agreed. He also agreed, that if he was victorious in this fight, he was willing to lead the people from there on out. Just before battle our friend Jephthah made a bit of a boo-boo. He made a bargain with G-d, that if he was victorious in the battle, he would sacrifice whatever was the first thing to come out of his house when he returned.

You see where this is going, right?

Jephthah is victorious, and everyone is quite happy with the result. The celebration is short lived however, because the first thing that comes out of his house upon his return, is his daughter, called Adah (in OES). Jephthah really doesn’t want to go through with this sacrifice anymore, but after explaining the situation to his daughter, she agrees that the vow must not be broken. It is said that she asked for it to be delayed by two months, so that she could spend some time with the other women of the village, and “mourn her virginity”. After that time, Jephthah did as he vowed.

Part of me really wonders if anyone read the stories of the women that were picked to be the star points. As you can imagine, this story carries a lot of controversy with it. The story is incredibly similar to that of Isaac, except in Adah’s case, her father actually goes through with her murder. Some versions say that she simply was banished to the mountains, or that she was to remain a virgin forever, but the majority of the versions agree that the sacrifice was made.

So, what does that mean for people in OES? What does this story of sacrifice teach us?

As far as the story given during an initiation, Adah teaches us fidelity, loyalty, and intelligence. The first two I can heartily agree with. I am not so certain that if my father told me he had vowed something similar, that I would have gone through with it. Another big thing Adah focuses on is innocence. Adah was a virgin, yes, but she was also probably a fairly young girl as well, since she was not yet wed. Both Adah and Jephthah were willing to fulfill their obligations, even if doing so meant death for one, and a great loss for the other. I think that this is the biggest lesson in this story.

So often we say we are going to do something, and don’t. Its so easy to sign up to help out at an event, and instead of going, stay home and watch TV. I think that those of us in the Masonic communities are at risk for this kind of behavior, not because we are bad people, but because there tends to be so many things to sign up for, so many events that need help, committees that need chairs, and parts that need to be done. It can be easy to get bogged down. Never forget that its okay to say no. No one will fault you for it, many older Masons are aware that burnout can happen very quickly. Simply do what you can, and when it is time to fill your obligation, don’t drag your feet, go willingly, like Adah and Jephthah, even if it does feel like its going to end in your death.

I will leave you with this short poem I found about Adah. There are a number of them out there about each star point. Perhaps at one point I will collect them all together.

ADAH
“Obedience”
Our Star life’s not always easy,
We do need rare courage now,
Like that of young, heroic Adah,
Keeping her father’s awful vow.

We obey, as she has taught us,
Sometimes cry o’er life’s ills;
But steadfast we turn our faces
Far from Adah’s lonely hills.

This world has obedient daughters,
Carrying out a hard command;
We must seek them — weary, troubled,
Their quiet trust and true obedience
Are examples naught can mar.
Bring a candle of rare courage
To the first point of our Star.

As always, have a wonderful week.

Women of Freemasonry: Electa

Before I begin, let me say, Happy Mother’s Day! I am so grateful for all of the wonderful mothers in my life, they do so much for all of us.

For Mother’s Day, I thought I would return the star points of Order of the Eastern Star. Now, you may not think this topic to be terribly mother oriented, but Electa is known as the mother. In fact, all of the star points represent a potential time in a member’s life:

  • Adah- the daughter
  • Ruth – the widow
  • Esther – the wife
  • Martha – the sister
  • Electa – the mother

Her gentle smile and yielding heart

Shall grace our world no more;

She chose the true but bitter part,With never-falling skill,

He treasures up His bright designs,:

And works His gracious will.

Where does Electa come from?

The truth is, Electa does not come from the Bible in the way that the four other heroines of OES do. Electa is the only one that is never named, the name was created for her solely for the purpose of the ritual. I think this is fudging a bit, perhaps there may of been a different heroine that could have been worked into the star points, but, Electa does fit in her own way, so perhaps her name is not as important as we may think it to be. The name Electa was chosen, because 2 John was addressed to “the elder to the elect lady and her children..” Some translators have actually attached the name Kyria to her.

What is her story?

Here again, there may of been some liberties taken. OES references her story being in 2 John, but there’s not much there. Instead, her story is based in Masonic tradition. The story goes, that she was born and raised in Asia Minor, and brought up as a pagan. At some point, she converted to Christianity, probably during the era of St. Paul. Regardless of when and where and how, she would of definitely been a very important and influential woman within her community, this is obvious by her title. She was known for her kindness towards the less fortunate, giving money to the poor, and caring for and sheltering those in need, and filling the bellies of hungry travelers.

As most all of us know, during St.John’s time, Christianity became a nuisance to those who did not follow it, and an edict was put out by the Roman government that was issued against anyone who proclaimed to be a Christian, under penalty of death. The “test” given to people, was that they were given a crucifix and were told to stomp on it, as a showing of a renouncing of any lingering Christian faith. Electa, for she wouldn’t be the heroine of the story otherwise, refused to comply with the edict, and refused to renounce her faith.

Instead of killing her outright, perhaps because she was so well known and loved within the community, the Romans chose instead to throw her and her family into the dungeon for a year. After this time she was brought out, and again offered to renounce her faith. Electa again refused to do so. The Romans didn’t like this so much of course, so they followed through on their threat and killed her. More than that however, they crucified her entire family in front of her, before allowing her to die.

You can read a short analysis of 2 John here.

What does she teach us?

Even though it is an allegorical story, Electa can still teach us many things. Perhaps the strongest here is that principles, not matter what they may be, never die. This woman had the strength to profess her faith to the world, even though she knew that it would get her and her family killed. Even though it meant the loss of everything that she had, wealth, good fortune, family, and even her own life. She was willing, however, to undergo these things in order to stand by her faith. Electa teaches us strength and courage, to stick by what we believe in, no matter how hard it may be, or how alone we may feel. “Endurance of persecution”

More than that though, Electa taught us the simplest lesson that is too often overlooked, “That we love one another.” While this may not seem as emphasized in her story, Electa is called the mother with good reason. She had wealth, and perhaps a position of power, regardless, she was living comfortably. Even still, she brought in anyone who needed assistance, regardless of their social or financial status, and did not worry about how it may change the way that others may see her. This, is truly why she is called the mother, for like our own mothers, she teaches us to love unconditionally. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the most difficult lesson of all.

Order of the Eastern Star: A Primer

This week is a little crazy- my birthday is tomorrow, and I have two exams, as well as working during the week, so I apologize if you have seen this before (you will if you followed me here from Reddit), but my free time is a little short this week. We will be returning to your regularly scheduled programming next week, with an article on the first known woman to become a regular mason. (Yes, you read that right!) One last bit before I get started, in case you don’t read this- I started a twitter account for this blog, check it out at @themasonslady , and say hi!

What is the Order of the Eastern Star?

The Order of the Eastern Star (or Eastern Star, or OES), is the world’s largest fraternal organization that can be joined by both men and women. It is a member of the Masonic family, but joining does not make a member a mason. It’s more of an axillary group, that supports masonic lodges, masonic youth organizations, as well as their own agenda. Like all Masonic organizations, they support membership when in need, both financially and emotionally. They also provide a framework for introspective thought and philosophical discussion on ethical and spiritual topics.

Who can join OES?

In order to be eligible to receive the degrees of Eastern Star, a woman must be a: wife, daughter, adopted daughter, mother, widow, sister, half sister, granddaughter, stepmother, stepdaughter, stepsister, daughter-in-law,grandmother, great granddaughter, niece, great niece, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, or aunt of a Master Mason in good standing. (Basically, if you can prove you are in some way or another related to a Mason who is paid up, you’re in.) Former members of Job’s Daughters and Rainbow Girls are also eligible to join. Men wishing to join the order must be Master Masons. All members must be at least eighteen.

How do I join OES?

Step 1) Find a chapter in your area.

Step 2) Ask for a petition, fill it out, return it.

Step 3) Interview with members of your prospective chapter.

Step 4) ????

Step 5) Profit.

But, what do they *do*?

I can’t answer for other chapters, only for what goes on in Nebraska. In Nebraska, OES is the majority supporter for the Masonic youth organizations- Job’s Daughters, Rainbow Girls, and Demolay. They also operate the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children – a place for kids who are either wards of the state or are having other troubles. They also provide scholarships to college students and support other minor charitable efforts in their respective local areas.

What about the degrees? Is there memory work?

There are five  degrees, received in one night. There is no memory work required for initiation. There is, however, memory work involved if you would like to be an officer.

Why did you chose to join?

Eastern Star was very important to my great-grandparents; I never got to meet any of them, so this is a way for me to connect with my family’s past. I can now say I have walked the same path my great-grandmother did, almost 100 years ago. I also think that it is a great way to connect with T, as a lot of the rituals are similar to what they do in lodge. I cannot, of course, share any of the secret work with him, just has he cannot share his with me; I think its kind of nice to have my own masonic secrets.

Does there have to be a guy involved?

It’s not the way that I would have it set up, but yes. MMs are involved in a number of different ways. There’s two male only officer positions that they can hold- Worthy Patron and Associate Worthy Patron. My chapter current has a MM also sitting the position of Chaplin, Sentinel (Tyler), and I was lucky enough to have a MM who is a good friend of mine as Host (I’m not sure if blue lodge does this- he sat with me before I was called in, and after my initiation, to help me with the rest of the meeting, introduced me to people, etc). I’m not sure about the rest of the positions, I know that the points and matron positions must be held by women (obviously), but I don’t see why a MM couldn’t be say, treasurer, or secretary. Otherwise, MMs are full, voting members, but it does tend to be a bit of a role reversal, the MMs are there to support the sisters, the girls run the show here.

I was orginally upset about this fact, that a man must be there in order for a chapter of OES to be open. Now that I am a member of Eastern Star, I realize, I was looking at it all wrong from the beginning. In the Blue Lodge, the MM does his work, with support from his wife. In Eastern Star, the opposite is true, the Sister does her work with the support of her husband. MMs are present in the Star, but it is a support role, the women are truly the ones in charge here. Much of my offense was simply ignorance, but I believe it to be one of those things you cannot really get over until you are already in.

If you still disagree with this, there are women’s only orders within the masonic family.

Everyone asks me “Why would anyone want to join OES?”

There is kind of a huge stigma involving OES within the masonic family. When I told our masonic friends I was joining, everyone had something to complain about it, mostly about how boring it was, and how much marching there was. I ignored them, I wanted to find out for myself. Yes, it is true that watching grass grow would be more exciting than listening to a chapter open. However, I think that there is a lot of wiggle room for change, and that your chapter is what you make of it. I would love to change people’s thoughts about OES, and make it something more attractive, something at people will want to join. If you are reading this right now, chances are you are in the “next generation” of masonry. We are the ones that will bring about the positive change to this organization. I also believe that if we do not, it will be gone in the next 20 years.

I’m going to cut it a bit short and leave it there for now. I am planning on returning to the general topic of Eastern Star at a later point, but if you have any questions let me know, and don’t forget to check us out on twitter @themasonslady!

Women of Freemasonry: Queen Esther

I decided that one of the reoccurring posts I would like to do is women in history and their influence on Freemasonry. Since Purim (more on this in a bit) was on Sunday, I decided – why not start with Queen Esther?

Queen Who?

She has an entire book in the Torah/Bible, but a quick survey of my co-workers told me that no one had any idea who Queen Esther was, which leads me to believe that most people do not. So, let’s start with that.

Way back in the day, sometime before 460 BC, King Xerxes I ruled in Persia (Xerxes the Great, known as King Ahasuerus to the Jews). He apparently had too much time on his hands, because he had been throwing a party for the last 180 days (yes, you read that right, 6 months of party time!) When he was done with his giant party, he decided to have a smaller, moderate, week-long party (you know, with just close friends). On the last day, he we drunk on wine, as I could imagine anyone would be. He told his wife, Queen Vashti, to dance for all the men at his party so that he could show off how hot she was to all his buddies. Vashti, who apparently had not been drinking near as much, refused. Xerxes had her executed because of this (some stories say divorced, but let’s be realistic here).

After Xerxes sobered up, he realized he was “lonely”, and wanted a wife. It was suggested to him that he hold a beauty contest, and that he wed the winner. That’s exactly what went down. A young Jewess named Esther was one of the contestants. Esther’s parents had passed when she was young, and she had been raised by her Uncle Mordechai, who, at the time, was also the leader of the Jews. The story goes that Xerxes immediately liked Esther, and they wed at once. Mordechai told Esther to keep her nationality hidden, even from her new husband.

There was a briefly mentioned incident where Uncle Mordechai learned of two men plotting to kill Xerxes. Mordechai altered the proper people, and the traitors were hanged. Shortly after this, one of King Xerxes ministers, Haman, was elected to Prime Minister. Haman was kind of jerk, and was well-known for not liking the Jews. One of his first decrees was that everyone in the streets must bow down to him. Our friend Mordechai refuses to bow down to Haman, and Haman takes it personally, holding a grudge against Mordechai. Knowing that Mordechai was a Jew, Haman decides to attempt to talk King Xerxes into letting him make a decree that all Jews should be killed. Xerxes, not knowing that his beloved Queen was a Jew, allowed Haman to do as he wished, and made a decree that the Jews would be exterminated on the 13th of Adar (Feburary-March).

Mordechai, being the leader of the Jews, found out about this decree. He informed Queen Esther, hoping that she would be able to do something about it. Esther invited Xerxes and Haman to dinner, with intent of telling them both she was a Jew. She lost her nerve, and tried again. The second night, she begged them both to spare her and her people, stating that Haman sought to kill her (because she was a Jew). Xerxes and Haman were both upset, understandably. Since Haman plotted to kill the queen, regardless of the fact that he did not know, he was hanged.Kingly decrees could not be undone, so Esther and Mordechai wrote a second decree for the king (with permission of course), that the Jews could preemptively strike out against those they felt might want them dead.

Halloween, Christmas, and New Years? Sign me up!

A big theme of Jewish holidays is: they tried to kill us, they failed, lets party. Purim is the name of the holiday that celebrates this story. Usually, on Purim, Jews will:

  • dress in costumes
  • give gifts to friends
  • have a “festive meal” (aka, get stupid drunk)
  • give charity
  • listen to the k’riat megillah, or the Book of Esther (pretty much the story above)

One of the more interesting notes about this, is that women are encouraged to listen to the reading of the Book of Esther, because women were heavily involved in the miracle. In extreme Orthodox communities, this is a rarity.

Sounds great and all, but what does this have to do with Freemasonry?

Directly with masonry, not a ton. With appendant  bodies, a lot. Esther is a star point in Eastern Star. She is the third star point. The story of Esther is taught, although in a shorter and more flowery version, during the initiation ceremony. A quote from Esther is her pass. Her star point symbolizes purity, joy, and light, although I do not think that these virtues have much to do with her story. What does though, is this, “In the excercise of authority we should be governed by justice and unselfish loyalty to the welfare of others. It was by the practice of these virtues that Esther was able to save her people from extermination.” I’m not sure that I can say it any better than that.