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Monday, September 26, 2022
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For the past six weeks, Mondays at TABC saw the assemblage of 50 plus women who came to hear Rabbi Daniel Fridman, faculty member at TABC, expound upon Megillat Rut. The series was organized by Terry Norman, executive director of TABC, and graciously sponsored by the Forgash family in conjunction with the Torah Academy Parents Association (TAPA). Each session was devoted to a key concept that Rabbi Fridman explored that offered food for thought within broader contexts. Below are a sampling of the concepts raised in each session.

Part 1: When the Judges Judged

Key to our understanding of Megillat Rut is the opening phrase, “Now it came to pass in the days when the Shoftim (judges) ruled that there was a famine in the land.”  Shmuel Hanavi, the author of the Megilla, wants us to understand how one of the most prominent families of Beit Lechem, the breadbasket of Israel, was motivated to simply abandon his people at a time of famine and seek salvation outside.

Part 2: The Abyss

After the deaths of her husband and two sons, Naomi decides to return to Canaan. When Ruth and Orpah proclaim their desire to return with Naomi, they say, “No, we will return with thee to Thy people.” Ruth and Orpah are not members of God’s people. Orpah returns but Ruth has another plan. Her thinking is expressed in the famous phrase, “v’Rut davka ba,” and Ruth “held fast” to her. Ruth realized that she could become part of Naomi’s nation by “clinging” to a representative of that nation, her mother-in-law Naomi. “For wherever thou goest, I will go: and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people; thy God shall be my God.”

Part 3: Mother of Converts

When Naomi saw that Ruth was “steadfastly minded” to go with her, then she left off speaking to her. The word “amatz,” meaning “steadfastness, resilience and great courage,” is rare in the Tanach. When Naomi saw the quality of “ometz” in her daughter-in-law, she realized that Ruth truly was expressing unwavering commitment to the Jewish nation and that she should be allowed to join. Putting the needs of others before yours is key and virtually the opposite of what the people of that era were practicing in “everyone doing according to his own will and in his own interests.”

Part 4: Boaz: A Righteous Man in Troubled Times

When Boaz arrives from Beit Lechem, he greets his reapers by saying, “the Lord bless thee.” Boaz is on a mission to re-introduce God into the lives of his kinsmen.When he meets Ruth for the first time he praises her for clinging to her mother-in-law and blesses her. Unlike the others in Beit Lechem who refer to her as the Moabite, Boaz calls Ruth by her name. Boaz may have even seen Ruth as no less than one of the “Imahot,” the Matriarchs from whom the nation is descended.

Part 5: Chayil

Ruth and Boaz are both referred to with the adjective “chayil,” Ruth as an “Aishet Chayil” and Boaz as an “Ish Gibor Chayil.” The night on the threshing floor reflects the “valor” of both. Boaz refuses to allow Ruth to become part of our “mesorah” in the dark. Thus he overcomes his “yetzer” and waits until morning, the light of day and truth, to arrange matters properly so that Ruth will become the progenitor of Dovid Hamelech in the proper manner witnessed by the community.

Part VI: Legacy

In the final chapter of the Megilla, all the themes come to fruition. The ceremonial “yibum” whereby Boaz will take upon himself the continuation of the line of Avimelech and his sons through purchase of their fields and, most importantly, marrying Ruth for the purpose of continuing their lineage, were all done at the gate, in front of the beit din. Thus law and order is restored. In referring to Ruth as a Moabite at this point, he is doing so to reinforce the halacha that when the Torah forbids the descendants of Ammon and Moav from entering the Jewish nation, it is referring to the males as it was their duty to greet foreigners with water, not the women. The “chesed” that both Ruth and Boaz exemplify in the Megilla emanates from their willingness and ability to transcend their environments, Ruth by genuinely adopting Naomi’s nation, and Boaz by attempting to fix a cruel society.

Megillat Rut is a fitting testament to Shavuot, Zman Matan Torateinu, as it is described as a “book of chesed in its entirety.” How fitting that it represents the Torah that begins with the chesed of Hashem clothing Adam and Chava and ends with the highest form of chesed in Hashem’s burial of Moshe Rabbeinu.

By Pearl Markovitz

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