Ruth – Chapter 3

"Who the Heck is THAT?"

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Naomi told Ruth that she was going to set her up with Boaz (who, clearly, was already interested in Ruth). She gave Ruth the following advice: Boaz would be working at night, winnowing his barley crop. Naomi told Ruth to put on her best clothes and go to Boaz’ threshing floor, but to stay out of sight until after he had finished eating and was ready to turn in for the night. When he lies down, Ruth should lay down at his feet and follow Boaz’ lead. (Naomi and Ruth were too modest to go right up to Boaz and say, “Hey, how about marrying this girl?” so they were kind of putting the idea in his head. The lead they would follow would be Boaz’s knowledge regarding the right to redeem Machlon’s property and the opportunity to marry Ruth.)

Ruth did as Naomi instructed. Boaz went to sleep on his threshing floor (to protect his grain), and Ruth lay down at his feet. Boaz awoke with a start to find a woman at his feet. “Who’s there?” he asked. “Ruth,” she said. “It turns out that you’re a close relative of my late husband. Perhaps you could see your way clear to marrying me and redeeming his property?” Boaz, who was an older man, blessed Ruth and praised her that her deeds keep getting more and more virtuous. First, there was the fact that she converted and stuck by Naomi. Now, instead of going after younger, more attractive men, Ruth’s motivations were completely altruistic. Boaz agreed to do whatever Ruth wanted, though there was one fly in the ointment: there was another relative who was closer than Boaz and who had right of first refusal on the property. Boaz agreed to deal with matters first thing in the morning. Ruth stayed overnight at Boaz’ feet, leaving early in the morning so people shouldn’t get the wrong idea. He gave her a load of grain to take back to Naomi.

Ruth returned to Naomi, who asked her how it went. Ruth told her and Naomi said, “Relax. Worrying about it won’t make it happen any faster. I know Boaz – he won’t rest until he’s taken care of things.”

There is an opinion that the relative’s name was “Tov,” which means “good” in Hebrew. Verse 13 says, “If he will redeem you, good, let him redeem you…” but that can also be understood as “If Tov will redeem you, he will redeem you.” However, even if his name actually was Tov, it is obscured by the more obvious way of reading the verse. (Why is the relative’s name hidden? We’ll discuss that in the next chapter.) Rashi (on verse 12) cites the Midrash explaining the relationship among the players: Tov, Salmon and Elimelech were brothers. Boaz (the son of Salmon) was a nephew to Elimelech, so Tov was closer and had first call.

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