OU Torah Insights Project
Rut is a story of human
tragedy and triumph.
Elimelech, the scion of a famous Judean family, leaves the Holy Land during a
famine and settles in Moav. He dies
there, and his two sons, who had married Moabite women, also both die,
Why did such devastation befall this family? Because, the Gemara states, Elimelech panicked when the poor and oppressed approached him for charity after the famine struck. In order to retain his wealth he fled. These punishments were Divine retribution for his selfishness.
His widow, Naomi, is left with two widowed daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. It is up to the women to rebuild the destroyed family. Naomi decides to return to Judea.
heeds Naomi's prognosis of a grim future and remains in Moav. But Ruth
inextricably links her destiny to Naomi and the Jewish people. Ruth's tenacity
and dedication are startling. She could have remained behind. Her options where
open. In fact, the Midrash apprises
us, Orpah remarried well and had powerful offspringamong them Goliath.
every footstep toward Judea, Ruth can turn back.
She can turn back when the Judean women come out to meet them and gloat
at Naomi's misfortune. The women
don't invite them into their homes. Just
like Naomi had abandoned Judea during the famine, the women forsake Naomi and
Ruth in their moment of need. Measure
is embittered by the fate Hashem has inflicted upon her. She is so disheartened
that she does not even notify Boaz, a prominent family member, of her return.
is one of the ironies of Megillat Rut.
Naomi sees herself at the end of her life and can not be burdened with Ruth, who
is just beginning a new life.
Naomi thought she would die in peace among her people, but they abandoned her.
Only Ruth remains devoted to Naomi and elevates her out of her depths of
goes out to find food, and finds herself in Boaz's field. Rashi
says that Divine Providence caused Ruth to stumble onto Boaz's property.
Others say that Ruth intended to find Boaz, and Hashem guided her
immediately to his field.
with her grace and dignity, makes an impression on Boaz, who remarks that her
loyalty to her mother-in-law is exceptional. Boaz blesses her that Hashem will
compensate her for coming under His wing. Ruth
responds that Boaz, has comforted her, but that she does not want to be like
one of his maidservants, And wants to find favor in his eyes. Here Ruth is implying that she has bigger plans; she wants
Boaz to be her redeemer, to marry her. Boaz instructs his field hands to
be helpful, but makes no personal commitment to her.
When Ruth returns home and relates the events of the day, Naomi is delighted. She sees this encounter as a heavenly sign that Hashem has not forsaken them. Naomi now talks about the future. This transformation is inspired by Ruth's perseverance.
three months pass, and Boaz still has not proposed to Ruth, Naomi suggest that
drastic measures be taken. She
implores Ruth to confront Boaz in the threshing house. Ruth does. I am Ruth
your maidservant, she tells him. Spread your wings on your maidservant,
because you are my redeemer.
Ruth and Boaz's wedding and the birth of their son, the women acknowledge that
Ruth is truly unique, and that the child born to Ruth will give Naomi a new
lease on life. Ruth's devotion to Naomi is so great that Ruth lets Naomi assist
in raising the baby.
transformation is complete. Upon
leaving Moav, Naomi exclaimed that she was bitter and had no future. Yet she is
rejuvenated by Ruth's valiant efforts and determination. Theirs is a reciprocal
relationship. Ruth would not
have reached her full potential and merited such a glorious future as the
forebear of King David without Naomi's guidance and inspiration.
Rosensweig teaches Judaic studies and History at Touro College in New York City,