Ruth – Chapter 4

Ploni Almoni

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Boaz went to the gate of the Sanhedrin and waited for his relative. When the relative came by, Boaz escorted him in. (The relative is only referred to as “Ploni Almoni,” which is Hebrew for “John Doe.” For simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to the relative as Ploni.) Boaz also gathered ten elders, for reasons that will soon become clear. Boaz explained the situation.

“Naomi is selling the property of our relative Elimelech, who died. As his brother, you are the closest relative. Do you want to purchase it? If not, I am next in line and I’ll take it.”

“I’ll take it,” Ploni said.

“There’s a string attached,” Boaz continued. “The property is being sold with the condition that the one who buys it has to agree to marry Ruth. Are you still willing?”

At this, Ploni balked. “Ruth? She’s that Moabite convert, isn’t she? Yeah… that’s a little too much baggage for me to handle. You go ahead.”

In transactions, we make an act of acquisition called a “kinyan” in Hebrew. Nowadays we typically transfer an object such as a pen or a handkerchief. (Perhaps you recall doing this when empowering the rabbi to sell your chometz before Passover.) In Boaz’ time, a shoe was used to make the kinyan, so Boaz and Ploni transferred a shoe to seal the deal. Boaz then bought the property of Elimelech and his sons, plus he married Ruth. (This was why he gathered the ten elders – he needed a minyan for the marriage ceremony.) The witnesses blessed the couple that Ruth should be like Rachel and Leah (the mothers of the Tribes) and like Tamar, another illustrious woman in the house of Judah, not to mention an ancestor of Boaz.

Boaz and Ruth went home and Ruth conceived on their wedding night. Ruth had a son and the local women blessed Naomi, who had previously lost her own sons. The baby was named Oveid, and he grew up to be the father of Yishai (Jesse).

The Book ends with a list of the descendants of Peretz, who was the son of the aforementioned Judah and Tamar. Peretz was the father of Chetzron; Chetzron was the father of Rom; Rom was the father of Aminadav. Aminadav was the father of Nachshon (who, of the Jews that left Egypt, was the first to run headlong into the Red Sea). Nachshon’s son was Salma, or Salmon (pronounced sahl-mohn, not like the fish). Salmon was the father of Boaz, who was the father of Oveid. Oveid’s son was Jesse, the father of David.

Why is Ploni’s name omitted from the Book of Ruth? Ploni balked at the thought of marrying her because he felt her background might be too scandalous for his reputation. Clearly that was an error in judgment, as Ruth went on to be the mother of the Davidic (and Messianic) dynasty, while Ploni’s name has literally been forgotten. Just something to think about.

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