A detailed analysis of Megillat Ruth

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I have taken this from the blogger jewishspectacles who has provided some fascinating insights into the megillah and how to translate/read it!

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There are 70 interpretations on every word of Torah. Clearly, to go through that many is not feasible.  I try to stick with Rashi here and sometimes with othercommentators.

CHAPTER I

Verse 1: And it was in the day of the judge’s judgment and there was a famine in the land and a man (ish) from Bais Lechem from the tribe of Yehuda went to live in the fields of Moav, him, his wife and his two sons.

“And it was”:  Any time Scripture uses this phrase of “Vayehi” you know tragedy is going to unfold.

Judge’s judgment:  either refers to the time period this happened, which was before the kings, during the reign of the judges or

Judge’s judgment: it was time when every Tom, Dick and Harry thought theycould judge the leaders – the people sat around schmoozing and beingcritical of their leaders; and/or

Judge’s judgment, G-d was judging the leaders since they were not doing a good job of leading us, which brought upon us the famine

A man:  Ish denotes stature.  He was extremely wealthy and was stingy, worried that all the poor would be knocking on his door to ask for food (Rashi)

So this Megilla opens up with selfishness.  There was a rich man who didn’t want to give Tzedaka – he wanted to live for his family only, and therefore, he left his people, the Jews, when they needed him.  His children continue his selfishness – they get married to advance their careers and to just have a good time, not to build a family.

And that is the problem that began the story – self-centered non-giving behavior.  That is why the ending of the story, the “rectification” of it, has to be extreme acts of giving by Rus –an example how to completely get rid of her own needs and wants to give to others, and to ultimately bring new life to the Jewish nation by having a Jewish baby.

Verse 2:  And the name of this man was Elimelech and the name of his wife was Na’ami and the name of his two sons Machlon and Kilyon, from Efrat, Bais Lechem, Yehuda, and they arrived to the fields of Moav and they were there.

And they were there:  Malbim – at first (see first verse) they wanted to just live temporarily in Moav, but once there, they decided to settle in.

Verse 3:  And Elimelech died, the husband of Na’ami and she remained and her two sons.

Rashi:  Why does it have to describe him as the husband of Na’ami as he dies?  2 things:  first, a man dies mostly for his wife – his loss is felt more keenly by her than by his children or by others.  And secondly, why didn’t she get punished and die for leavingIsrael?  Because she had a husband who took the lead before he died and brought her here – it was not her initiative, therefore, not her fault.

Verse 4:  And they married wives, Moaviot, one was named Orpah and the second one’s name was Rus, and they lived there like ten years.

Verse 5:  And they also died the two of them Machlon and Kilyon and the woman was left alone without her two sons and without her husband.

And they also:  why is it necessary the word “also”, Rashi:  G-d first hit their money and made them paupers to try to wake them.  They didn’t repent.  Then, they also died.

G-d always hits us first financially to get our attention.  If we ignore when He hits with money problems, then G-d is so-to-speak  “forced” to hit us with sickness.  “Kee Lo Tachpotz B’mos Hamays” – we are taught that G-d really doesn’t want the dying [for their sins] to die.  “Ad Yom Moso Achakeh Lo”  – until a man is stone-cold dead, G-d waits for man to repent.

Verse 6:  And she got up and her two daughter-in-laws and returned from the fields of Moav because she heard that G-d had pity (remembered) his nation to give them bread. Verse 7:  And she went out of the place where she was and her two daughter-in-laws with her, and they went on the way to return to the land of Yehuda.

First they moved away from her hometown because she decided the luck there was bad (Shoneh Mekomo, Shoneh Mazalo – which means switching one’s residence switches one’s luck).  Then she decided to depart completely from Moav and go back to Israel.

She went out:  Rashi.  When a Tzaddik leaves a place, the place is affected because the holiness goes out of the place– that is why it says, “she went out” instead of she left.  The same language is used by Yaakov Avinu

Verse 8:  And Na’ami said to her two daughter-in-laws, go, return each woman to her mother’s home, G-d should do with you Chesed-kindness like you did with the dead ones and with me.  Verse 9:  G-d should give you and you should find tranquility each woman in her husband’s home, and she kissed them and they raised their voices and cried. Verse 10:  And they said to her, but with you we are returning to your nation.

They tell her they want to convert for the sake of fitting into her nation.  This is the 1stindication they want to convert, but they are not yet saying they are doing so because of G-d.  Conversion to Judaism MUST be only done for the sake of G-d.

 Verse 11:  And Na’ami said, return my daughters, why should you go with me, do I still have sons in my womb so that you might end up marrying them?Verse 12:  Return my daughters, go, because I am too old to get married and even if I had a [wild] hope that tonight I would find a guy and I would have more children.  Verse 13:  Will you wait for the children until they grow up?  Would you tie yourself down to them?  No my daughters, because it is very bitter for me more than for you because G-d’s hand went out against me.  Verse 14:  They raised their voices and cried more and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and Rus stuck to her. 

The word stuck is DEVEK (which incidentally also means glue).  It is a very close connection – we are told to stick to G-d – how can you do so, by sticking close to holy people.

Why did Orpah leave at this point?  She was willing to convert, but only if she could see benefits in life from her conversion.  If, however, what Na’ami said was true, that she might convert and no one would marry her and she would have to be a spinster, then she wasn’t willing to convert.  She wasn’t willing to sign on for the truthful life, the Torah life, if it included heartache.  Rus, on the other hand, was willing to do whatever it takes to change.  In the end, Rus is the one with lasting generations.  Sometimes we see the sacrifices we make for Torah and think we don’t see reward.  Wait a few generations, and you will see those who don’t make the sacrifices end up losing out big-time, while those who did make the sacrifices end up having generations of grandchildren they can get credit for.

 Verse 15:  And she [Na’ami] said [to Rus], see here your sister-in-law returned to her nation and to her god, return after your sister-in-law

Note she did not say, “return to your god – she wanted Rus to return home but still be a righteous gentile

Verse 16:  And Rus said, don’t pressure me to leave you to return from following after you because wherever you go, I will go, wherever you sleep, I will sleep, your nation is my nation and your G-d is my G-d  Verse 17:  And how you die, I will die and there I will be buried, so G-d shall do to me if anything other than death will separate us.

 Rashi:  from here we learn that when a converts comes to join our nation, we let them know some of the punishments that would befall them if they took on the Mitzvos and didn’t keep it – you can see it from what Rus is responding to Na’ami (which indicates that Na’ami said something to prompt this monologue).  Na’ami explained T’chum Shabbos – so Rus said “where you go, I’ll go – I’ll learn the borders of where I can go by observing you and follow suit. “ Na’ami told her the Halachos of Yichud, and so Rus said, I’ll make the same sleeping arrangements as you, never alone with an unrelated man.  Na’ami said, but we Jews have so many laws, minute details – 613 categories of them.  So Rus said, your nation if my nation – I am signing up for this by converting.  Na’ami tried another tack – we Jews only have 1 G-d and you can’t worship anything else – so Rus responds, your G-d is mine.  Na’ami tries now the real scare tactic:  if you do mess up on all these 613 you said you want to take on, for some of them, if you violate them you get yourself killed by Bais Din.  To which Rus responds, I accept that I will be killed “how you die…” if I transgress.  Na’ami said, but even after Bais Din kills you, they sometimes punish you further by how and where they bury you, and Rus responds, “I accept that a consequence might be that ‘there I will be buried.’”

Verse 18:  and she [Na’ami] saw that she is strengthened [in her will] to go with her, and she stopped speaking to her.

From here you learn, once you have ascertained the sincerity of the potential convert, you stop trying to push him/her away but also don’t persuade him/her into the conversion.

Verse 19:  And the two of them went until they came to Bais Lechem and it was when they came to Beis Lechem and the city was in an uproar about them and they all said, is this Na’ami

 And the two of them…Rashi:  see how beloved are converts – as soon as Rus had the intentions of converting she becomes on equal footing as Na’ami

[Remember the va’yehi codeword –] and it was…there was a funeral that day which is why the whole town saw Na’ami enter town – they were all outside.  Who died?  The wife of Boaz.

Verse 20:  And she said to them, don’t call me Na’ami, call me Marah because G-d caused bitterness to me

Don’t call  me – don’t think I was a Na’ami a person of pleasant deeds and that this happened for no reason –call me Marah – I was the one whocaused this bitterness by doing the wrong thing.  Na’ami wanted to make sure that no Jew thought that things that happen for the bad are random – so she confessed that she deserved what she had gotten, stressing it so that no one should be angry/bitter against G-d.

Verse 21:  I left full , and empty G-d returned me, why should you call me Na’ami and G-d answered against me and punished me.  Verse 22:  And so it was that Na’ami returned and her daughter-in-law, Ruth the Moaviyah along with her, returned from the fields of Moav and they came to Bais Lechem at the beginning of the barley harvest season [the time of the Omer, which is Pesach time].

CHAPTER II

  Verse 1:  And Na’ami had a relative of her late husband, an important rich man from the family of Elimelech and his name was Boaz.

How was Boaz related?  He was Elimelech’s nephew –the son of his brother. Elimelech was actually also Na’ami’s uncle.  Nachshon ben Aminadav had three sons:  Elimelech; Shalmon the father of Boaz and of Ploni Almoni; &  an unidentified man who was the father of Na’ami.  Why didn’t Na’ami ask Boaz for help?  She was too embarrassed that her husband had left his town in dire need, while Boaz stayed on and supported the poor.  Please note, in those days, relatives all lived together in the same towns, hence Elimelech was not just abandoning Jewish people when he didn’t want to share his wealth – he was walking out on his family.  Boaz, on the other hand, stayed behind and gave generously to those who were starving.

Verse 2:   And Ruth the Moaviyah said to Na’ami I will go to the field and will gather Leket in the fields of someone who will favor me [who won’t mind that I’m doing it]

In Israel, the poor people have instant rights to certain parts of the field.  The corners of the field are not to be harvested by the owners, but are left for the poor people to gather food from there.  Similarly, as they bundle the wheat t ocut them down, if two stalks are notcaught up in the bundle, the bundle cannot be retied and those two stalks belong to the poor people.  Lastly, as the bundles that are cut are beingcarried across the field, any two stalks that fall are the domain of the poor people.  Hence, Ruth had the right to those goods.  However, she was going to ask permission of the owner if she could do this in his field.  A very beautiful middah that G-d loves is when a person doesn’t demand his/her full rights.  Not insisting on our rights – Ruth had a right to gather –but did it where she wouldn’t be resented.

Verse 3: And she went and she came and she gathered in the fields after the reapers, and it “happened” that she ended in the fields of Boaz who was family to Elimelech.

Weird wording, she went and came and then gathered.  It seems out of order.  But Rus was a thought-out person.  She went and came – made sure she knew the way home before settling in for work.

See how circumstances “happen” – all leading to the mother of Moshiach having her child.  Ruth “happened” to arrive in Bais Lechem when Boaz lost his wife.  She “happened” to chance upon his field…and you will see the rest below…

Verse 4:  And behold Boaz came from Bais Lechem to his fields and he said to the reapers, G-d be with you and they said to him, G-d should bless you.

Boaz is the one who instituted the custom of Jews of greeting with G-d’s name to keep G-ds presence in everyone’s mind.

And he “happened” to come by the field on the precise day that Rus was there and “happened” to speak to his workers in the area of the field where she was at work.

Verse 5:  And Boaz said to his overseer, who is that girl?

 Rashi:  Boaz noticed Rus right away.  Why?  She stood out because of her strictness with Halacha and for her modesty.  Most of the poor women hitched up their skirts to work easily among the grains – they also flirted with the reapers.  Rus did neither. She knelt for each gathering she took.  Furthermore, she only took two stalks, never three, and always made sure what she was taking was Halachically able to be taken.  Therefore, it is no wonder she stood out.

Verse 6:  And the overseer said, a Moaviyah girl, the one who returned with Na’ami from the fields of Moav. Verse 7:  (con’t) and she asked, please let me gather after the reapers, and she came and stood from then in the morning until now except for a short rest in the hut

 Some people don’t know how to hear or say positive things.  Boaz notices the girl and her positive traits and asks about her, and the worker had to stick in a bit of Lashon Harah – oh, that girl, she’s the Moaviya – she’s the convert.  We have to make sure we don’t stick in bad every time we talk about someone.

 Verse 8:  And Boaz said to Rus, listen carefully, my daughter, don’t go gather in another field, and don’t leave this one, and here you shall stick to my maidservants.

 Allegorically, Boaz was saying, Yasher Koach, kudos to you for converting to belief in G-d and Judaism – and stay here, don’t try to go outside to secularism.

Verse 9:  Keep your eyes peeled on the field where they are harvesting and go after them and I told my male workers not to touch/bother/molest you – when you are thirsty, go to the drinking vessel and drink what the workers draw up from the well.  Verse 10:  And she fell on her face and she bowed to the earth and said to him, why have I found favor in your eyes that you recognize me and I am a stranger. Verse 11:  And Boaz answered and told her, I was told already all you did for your mother-in-law after the death of you husband and that you left your father and mother and your homeland and you came to a nation you didn’t know at all at any time.

 Even though Boaz’s worker said the part about the conversion as lashon Harah, Boaz saw the good in it and praised her for it.  Even when someone says something derogatory about someone to us, we should flip those words and see how what was said is a credit to the person.

 Verse 12:  G-d should pay you for your efforts and your reward should be fully from G-d of Israel because you came to rely/rest beneath His wings.Verse 13:  And she said, let me continue to find favor in your eyes because you have comforted me and you spoke to the heart of your servant and I am not even worthy of being like one of your servants.

It is important to realize what a good word can do for someone.  Don’t be stingy with your nice words and compliments – it can change a person’s whole day to hear a nice word.

Verse 14:  And Boaz said to her at mealtime, come close hear and eat from the bread and dip your bread into vinegar and she sat aside from the reapers and he gave her some parched/roasted grain and she ate and was full and had leftovers from her meal. Vinegar is good for the heat.

Midrash:  If Boaz would have known that the Torah would record he gave her this bit of barley, he would have run out and slaughtered acalf and roasted it and given her succulent steak.  If we only knew how precious what we do, even the small things, are to Hashem – and that it might be recorded in future scrolls to be unveiled in the times of Moshiach, how much more effort and heart and soul would we put into our deeds!

Verse 15&16:  And she got up to gather and Boaz commanded his workers saying, let her gather among the stalks and don’t embarrass her, and on purpose leave stalks that she will think you forgot so that she has what to gather and don’t rebuke her.  Verse 17:  And she gathered in the field until evening and she beat out what she had gathered and it was a measure of an Epha of barley. Verse 18:  And she carried it and came to the city and her mother-in-law saw what she had gathered and she took out and gave to her what was left of her lunch.

 Rus made sure to save some of the ready-made food she had eaten during lunch so that her mother-in-law shouldn’t have to go hungry for one second longer than it took her to get home.

 Verse 19:  And her mother-in-law said to her, where did you gather today and where did you do this – may he who recognized you be blessed, and she told her mother-in-law what she did with him and she said, the name of the man who I did for today is Boaz.

Wait a moment, didn’t Boaz do something for her and not her for him, so what is she talking about?  Rus understood that more than the taker takes, the taker also gives, the opportunity for Chesed is a giving too.

Verse 20:  And Na’ami said to her daughter-in-law, blessed be he by G-d that he did not leave his kindness to the living and to the dead, and Na’ami told her, he is a relative to us, he is one of our redeemers. Verse 21:  And Rus the Moaviya said, he also told me, “to my [male] workers you should stick until they finish the harvest for me”.

When Rus was recounting what Boaz said, she erroneously said that he told her to stick with his male workers, which is why this Posuk stresses her Moaviya status (as opposed to next Posuk) – that she still was learning modesty.

Verse 22:  And Na’ami said to Rus her daughter-in-law, it is good, my daughter that you go out with his [female] workers and won’t get harmed in another field.

 Na’ami was softly telling her what to do to stay modest – she said, if Boaz told you it is okay to hang around his male workers, they are probably G-d fearing and okay to be around, but I suggest you to rather stick with his female workers.

Verse 23:  And she stuck to Boaz’s female workers to gather until the end of the harvest of the barley and the harvest of the wheat and she returned to her mother-in-law

 It was 90 days until this point – which is how much time a convert must wait from conversion until when they can Halachically marry into the Jewish nation.

 CHAPTER III

Verse 1:  And Na’ami, her mother-in-law, said to her, my daughter, shall I not seek for you a security/read GUY so that it should be good for you. Verse 2:  And now, Boaz is our relative, and you were with his servants, and he is now winnowing his barley tonight.

 What is the point of the introduction of Boaz and about the “you were with his servants” part – Na’ami was redting a Shidduch and had to do it properly, introduce the best aspects of the guy.

Verse 3:  And you should wash yourself, anoint yourself, put on your dress, and you should go down the winnowing place and don’t let man see you until he finishes to eat and drink.

Put on your dress:  Rashi – get dressed in Shabbos clothing.

Verse 4:  And when he lies down, note the place that he is laying and you should go and uncover his foot and lie down and he will tell you what to do.

Please note:  nothing wrong was being instructed since Yichud for an unmarried woman only came about in the times of Dovid (who was a grandson of Rus)

Verse 5:   And she said to her, whatever you said {to me is read but not written} I will do

Why this weird reading out of a word that is not written?  To show the greatness of Rus, she left herself out of the equation.

Verse 6:  And she went down to the winnowing place, and she did as her mother-in-law commanded

Rashi:  she reversed part of the order – she got dressed and perfumed only once she was down there so that while she was walking on her way there she should not attract undue attention

Verse 7:  And Boaz ate, drank and his heart was good, and he came to sleep on the edge of the grain pile and she came quietly and uncovered his feet and and she lie down.

His heart was good:  he was learning Torah

Verse 8:  and it was midnight and the man was startled because there was a woman lying by his feet.

Midnight:  He got up to learn Torah.  His grandson Dovid wrote in Psalm “Chatzos Layla Akum…”MidnightI wake up to thank/acknowledge You Hashem.

Verse 9:  And he said, who are you and she said, I am Rus your servant and please spread your wings over your servant because you are a redeemer.

 Verse 10:  And he said, you should be blessed by Hashem, my daughter, you have extended your latest kindness from the first because you did not chase after the young guys, poor or rich.

 Verse 11:  And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid, I will do whatever you want of me, because all know you to be a woman of valor.

 Verse 12:  and now, I am a redeemer, but there is a closer redeemer than me

 Verse 13:  Stay the night and when it is morning, if the other guy redeems you, great, and if he doesn’t want to redeem you, I will redeem you, Chai Hashem, lay until morning.

 Why did he swear?  Rashi:  to put his Yetzar Harah  under his control, by promising that until he married her, he would not have a relationship with her.

Verse 14:  And she lay there by his feet until morning and he got up before it was time when one person could recognize his friend and he said let it not be known that the woman came to the winnowing place.

He davened all night, please G-d don’t let her reputation be ruined, let no one know she was here so that no one casts aspersions against her, spreading false rumors about why she was here.

Verse 15:  And he said, give me your shawl and grasp the other end, and he put six measures of barley and put it on her back and then he went to the city.

 He alluded in prophecy to six of the great descendants they would have together or (Rashi) alluded to the fact that a descendant would have six measures of praises/wisdom.  Why did he go to the city?  Rashi to walk her back so she would get home safe.

Verse 16:  And she came to her mother-in-law and she asked, who are you, my daughter,  and she told her all he had done.

Who are you – married yet or not?

Verse 17:  And she told her, he gave me these six measures of barley because he said I should not come empty-handed to my mother-in-law.

 Verse 18:  and she said to her, stay put, my daughter, until we know how the matter will fall, he will not be silent, this man, until this matter is concluded today.

A righteous person always follows through on his commitment, so Na’ami was no longer worried once she knew Boaz had committed himself to helping make sure Rus got married.

CHAPTER IV

 Verse 1:  And Boaz went up to the gate and sat there, and behold, the redeemer who he spoke about passed by, and he said, turn aside and sit here, Ploni-Almoni, and he turned aside and sat there.

 Why was he called Ploni-Almoni, because it was an indignity that he didn’t want to do this Chesed, so he gets named ANON.

Verse 2:  And he took ten men from the leaders of the city and said, sit here and they sat there.

 Verse 3:  The field of Avimelech is being sold by Na’ami who came back from the fields of Moav

 Verse 4:  And I said, I will let you know you can buy the field in front of those who sit here, in front of these Elders, and if you redeem it, redeem it, and if not, tell me because other than you, I am next in line for redeemer and I told myself I will redeem it.

 Verse 5:  And Boaz said, on the day you buy the field from Na’ami and from Rus the Moaviyah, the wife of the dead, you must establish a name for the dead on his inheritance/his land portion.

 Verse 6:  And the redeemer said, I cannot redeem in case I destroy my own inheritance – you redeem my redemption-obligation – I cannot redeem.

 Verse 7:  and this used to be the redemption method or exchange contract by the Jews to fulfill it, a man would draw off the shoe and would give it to his friend and this was the way of ratification.

Verse 8:  And the Redeemer said to Boaz, buy it for yourself, and he removed his shoe.

 Verse 9:  And Boaz said to the Elders and to all the people, you are witnesses today that I bought all that belonged to Elimelech and all that was to Kilyon and Machlon from the hands of Na’ami

 Verse 10:  and also Rus the Maoviyah the wife of Machlon I purchased as a wife to establish the name of the dead on his inheritance and the name of the dead man shall not be cut off from his brother and from the gates of his place, you are all witnesses today.

 Verse 11:  And all the nation who was by the gate and all the elders said we are witnesses, May G-d give you the woman who comes into your home like Rachel and like Laya that both built the house of Yisroel, may you prosper in Efrat and be renowned in Bais Lechem

 Verse 12:  And may your house be like the house of Peretz that was born to Tamar and Yehuda from the children that G-d will give you from this girl

The people told Boaz that it should be just as Yehuda – who it was the right thing to have a child with Tamar because it too was a redemption.

Verse 13:  And Boaz took Rus and married her and she became pregnant and she gave birth to a son.

 Boaz died that night – Rus had the baby alone

Verse 14:  And the women said to Na’ami Blessed is G-d who did not withhold a redeemer and his name should be called in Israel.

 Verse 15:  And he will be for you a restorer of your spirit and to fill your days of elderliness because your daughter-in-law who you love gave birth and she is better to you than seven sons.

Verse 16:And Na’ami took the boy and held him and was his nanny.

 Verse 17:  And the neighbors (the wags) said a son was born to Na’ami and she called his name Oved, he is the father of Yishai, the father of Dovid.

 Verse 18:  And these are the descendants of Peretz:  Peretz had Chetzron

 Verse 19:  And Chetzron had Ram, and Ram had Aminadav

 Verse 20:  And Aminadav had Nachshon and Nachson had Shalmah

 Verse 21:  And Shalmon had Boaz and Boaz had Ovaid

Verse 22:  And Ovaid had Yishai and Yisha gave birth to Dovid.

Dovid is the Melech HaMashiach – -the forefather of our future redeemer – -here starts our redemption – by a woman who taught us how to be giving, how to go above and beyond ourselves to build a solid Jewish home.  My blessing to us all is that each of us learn how to be unselfish so that we merit to see generations of amazing children.  Rus lived to see Shlomo HaMelech, who installed a throne in his palace for her and had her sit with him so that she could see, firsthand, the amazing results and rewards of her hard work.  Life can be hard when we do the right thing, but the reward for doing the right thing, the impact on the whole face of history, is beyond our wildest calculations.  Go, do, give and build.

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