“Now this was the way in times past in Israel regarding redemption and change to confirm all things; a man would take his own and give it to his neighbor …” Ruth 4: 7 (Masonic Bible)
During the entered apprenticeship degree ceremonies, the candidate is instructed on the above-mentioned Masonic Bible scripture passage, which is intended to indicate both the confirmation of a contract and the commitment to fully abide by the terms and conditions. of that contract. In Freemasonry, this symbolism is intended to convey the sanctity of the contract made between the candidate and the Masonic institution when he takes his vows. For the Israelite of the era of Ruth there was nothing more essential than shoes or sandals without which men and women were forced to walk through hot sands, dirt and rocks. Consequently, gifting a shoe to someone else conveyed not only the importance of commitment, but the feeling that the person to whom the shoe was given was just as important as the person who gave it to them.
This symbolism is repeated throughout Masonry through different lessons, because the purpose of the Office is to ensure that each Mason appreciates the importance of their vows and promises. Entire charities depend on the fulfillment of such commitments. Shriners-operated hospitals would disappear if Freemasons suddenly decided that caring for the defenseless is not important. Nursing homes would no longer receive funding if Masonic groups turned their backs on the needs of others. Members of individual Masonic lodges would never experience random acts of kindness from their brethren if Masons concluded that self-interest is more important than helping others. It is the agreement or pact made by each Mason that guarantees that the world will experience the fruits of Masonic labor. However, as with other Masonic symbolisms, there are also other esoteric lessons to be learned from the Masonic biblical scriptures found in the book of Ruth.
“This was the way in times past in Israel about redemption and change to confirm all things; a man torn away
his and gave it to his neighbor … “
Ruth 4: 7
“Taking off your shoe and giving it to someone else” also symbolizes redemption and change and is equally important to Freemasons. For those who regularly attend church services and watch the collection plate being passed around, it is intriguing to observe how often people throw in some change, a dollar or two, or maybe nothing at all. For some, the simple fact of having attended the service is enough, as it represents the sacrifice of time, if nothing else. Similarly, the bricklayer working for a living has probably observed his co-workers expressing support for those in need during the holidays, but how often do you observe actual acts of charity – giving time, food, shelter, and compassion? It is within this realm that redemption and change apply.
Theologians frequently remind their audiences of man’s original fall from God’s grace, commonly referred to within these circles as “original sin.” The villain here is temptation, about which a lot has been written before. Temptation represents the transition from obedience to disobedience. The man who has given in to the temptations that have invaded his life really needs to redeem himself and change to regain his original obedient nature. The Sacred Scriptures offer us the allegory of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to convey to us the importance that is attributed to all men striving to control the passions and keep them within the limits due to all humanity.
In the Masonic Bible book of Genesis, Eve heard the voice of the serpent, saw that the tree of knowledge was good to eat, and took and ate what she wanted in total contravention of God’s command. There is no greater symbolism of disobedience recorded anywhere in our Holy Writings, or anywhere else in any other traditional history. The voice of the serpent represents the living being whose intelligence is more advanced and whose consciousness is directed towards the horizontal or material plane instead of the vertical or spiritual plane. The intelligence of Adam and Eve before the Fall was completely vertical. Their eyes had not been opened to their own “nakedness” and they were aware of everything vertical, or of God. After the Fall, his understanding of his condition changed radically. Suddenly aware of their nakedness, the fig leaves adjusted to cover the most private parts of the human body and their entire consciousness was consumed with things related to the material plane.
Here, the serpent symbolizes the principle of power without God. The rest of the stories and accounts set forth in the Holy Scriptures relate to man’s journey back to the living God. Temples are erected in his name; the prophets exhort the generations to obey their laws; wars are fought for their cause; men suffer in obedience to his word; and man seeks a messiah to deliver salvation. Along the way, man also discovers that the true principle of obedience is unreserved devotion to the one voice from above. It is precisely at this juncture that Freemasonry generally stands aside to allow Freemasons and their families to seek their own path to salvation, because all men, at all times and in all places, know that Freemasonry is not a religion.
Those who follow the Jewish faith find the way to redeem and change through the law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments. Buddhists walk the path of inner serenity, as do Hindus, each seeking peace within himself that enlightens the soul. Christians resolve to accept the divinity of Jesus Christ. Muslims try to align themselves with the teachings of Muhammad and his descendants to ensure a proper place in the world of obedience to God. But what about the Mason who has not chosen a formal religion to follow? If you don’t adhere to a particular dogma, is your journey from the Fall back to obedience doomed? Freemasonry tells that man that he will not fail if he unreservedly dedicates himself to the only voice from above: the voice of the Supreme Architect of the Universe.
All of human existence is about choices: the choice to live in the light, as well as the choice to live in the dark. Humanity is offered a plethora of religious doctrine from which to choose and is surrounded by the philosophies developed by the greatest minds ever to exist. History, literature and science also put before each person a literal feast of choices. The one who has chosen well has chosen the path that leads directly back to obedience. Man is both redeemed and claimed by the Creator, and changed when he decides to ask God to reveal his will to him; he seeks to understand how to apply that will to his own life; and knock on the door of the Great Architect with faith that the door will open. You never open the door by force. One expects it to be opened by the will of God.
It is relatively easy to discern the obedient person. Avoid anger and replace it with kind words for your fellow man. He acknowledges his own faults, apologizes for his slights to others, and decides to do better next time. He freely gives of his precious time to serve, comfort, and be compassionate to others. Visit the widows, orphans and the elderly. Avoid disputes and build harmony. He understands different points of view and keeps his pride of himself well under control. And regularly kneels in humble praise and supplication to the Almighty Father of the Universe, the only living God. In short, he is a Freemason.