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Ruth

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales

  

Library » History » Prophets | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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I.

The Book of Ruth was recorded by the prophet Samuel. It is appropriate to read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot for two reasons: First, because Shavuot is a harvest festival and the Book of Ruth gives us a picture of the harvest, and how the poor were treated in the harvest season with sympathy and love. Secondly, because Shavuot is the Yahrzeit of King David, and in the Book of Ruth we are shown the origin of the House of David. For King David was a great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz.

But perhaps the main reason for our reading the Book of Ruth on this festival, is because Shavuot is also known as the "Time of the Giving of Our Law," and we get such a vivid picture of the perfect Ger Zedek, the proselyte. For we were all more or less in that category prior to the giving of the Torah, and when we received it, we, too, like the Ger Zedek, pledged ourselves to accept the Torah and fulfill its 613 Mitzvahs (commandments)

Ruth was a Moabite princess of very fine character. She was dissatisfied with the idol-worship of her own people, and when the opportunity arose, she gladly gave up the privileges of royalty in her land, and accepted a life of poverty among people whom she admired.

Here is how it all came about:

It was in the days when the judges ruled in Israel. The children of Israel had become lax in their observances of the Torah and had called G-d's punishment down upon themselves. A great famine reigned in the Land of Israel. There was a certain man in Judah named Elimelech. He was a wealthy merchant who was not used to hunger and poverty, and so he thought he could escape from the misery by moving elsewhere. He therefore took his wife Naomi and their two sons, and went to live in Moab.

She did not feel any pangs of regret at what she was giving up: her life of luxury at the palace, her royal title, her prospects of wealth and honor in the future
Ruth became friendly with this Jewish family. She learned to admire their laws and customs. The dissatisfaction which she had already felt at the meaningless idol-worship of her own people, now turned to positive objection. And so, when one of the sons asked her to marry him, she was happy and proud to accept. She did not feel any pangs of regret at what she was giving up: her life of luxury at the palace, her royal title, her prospects of wealth and honor in the future. All she saw was the selfishness and mercilessness of her own people, and the difference of the Jews to whom she now had attached herself.

Elimelech and his two sons died, and Naomi was left, a poor widow, not knowing what to do or whither to turn. She therefore said to Ruth and to her other daughter-in-law Orpah (also a Moabite):

"My daughters, I must go away, and I have decided to return to my hometown, to Beth-Lechem. Things cannot be too good there, and there is no reason why you should suffer too. Take my advice, therefore, and go back to your parents' homes. Your husbands are dead, and perhaps if you remain in your own country, you may find other men to marry you. I have lost my sons for ever, but you are young, you can get other husbands."


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Shavuot
Early summer festival marking the day when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (1312 BCE).
Judah
1. The fourth son of Jacob and Leah. He was blessed by Jacob to be the leader of the tribes. Consequently, the Davidic royal dynasty is from the tribe of Judah. 2. The southern part of Israel which was occupied by the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and always remained under the reign of the kings from the tribe of Judah.
Samuel
1. A prophet and judge who appointed Saul as the first king of Israel in the 9th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, named after the abovementioned Samuel, one of the main characters of the book.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Ruth
1. A Moabite woman who accompanied Naomi, the Jewish mother of her deceased husband, back to Israel. She converted, married, and was the ancestor of King David. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles the events of Naomi's life.
Ger
A convert to Judaism.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.