"וילך איש מבית לחם...הוא ואשתו ושני בניו...ושם שני בניו מחלון וכליון...וימת אלימלך...ותשאר היא ושני בניה...וישאו להם נשים מאביות...וימותו...מחלון וכליון ותשאר האשה משני ילדיה"
“A man went from Bethlehem, he, his wife, and his two sons...the man’s name was Elimelech and his two sons were named Machlon and Chilion...Elimelech died...and she was left with her two sons...They married Moabite women...Machlon and Chilion died, and the woman was bereft of her two children.” (1:1-5)

QUESTION: Why are Machlon and Chilion referred to as “banim” — “sons” — the first three times and then called “yeladeha” — “her children”?

ANSWER: In Hebrew, the term “yeled” — “child” — denotes 1) biological offspring, 2) someone immature. The Hebrew word for son is ben,” and is associated with the word “boneh” — “builder” — i.e. one who continues to build that which his father started (see Bereishit 5:28, Rashi). A son represents continuity. Moreover, when a person is blessed with sons, and his sons in turn have sons, the name of the family is built up and perpetuated.

Consequently, to Elimelech and his wife, Machlon and Chilion were banim/bonim — builders — perpetuators of the family tradition from whom they would have nachas.”

Unfortunately, a sudden turn of events shattered all their hopes and left them in dismay. Their two sons married non-Jewish women. Now, their children would not be considered Jews, but Moabites. By intermarrying, Machlon and Chilion would not only fail to build the home of Elimelech, but actively prevent it from continuing. Therefore, they were no longer banim (bonim — builders) but merely yeladim — biological offspring — who, regardless of their age, acted like children and brought shame and disgrace to their prominent family.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)


"כי אל אשר תלכי אלך"
“For wherever you go I will go.” (1:16)

QUESTION: According to halachah (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei’ah 268:2) a prospective convert is informed of some difficult and some easy Torah laws. Therefore, the Midrash Rabbah (2:22) says that Naomi told Ruth, “It is not the custom of daughters of Israel to go to theaters,” to which she responded, “For wherever you go I will go.”

Why did Naomi particularly select this halachah?

ANSWER: Torah teaches the way of life for the Jew. Its teachings apply to the time before one is born till after one dies. Unfortunately, there are those who observe some of the traditions they find pleasant and enjoyable, but are not ready to commit themselves entirely to the ways of Torah. For instance, some will eatchallah and gefilte fish on Friday night, but not observe Shabbat according to halachah. Some will eat latkes on Chanukah and blintzes on Shavuot, but fail to light the Chanukah menorah or otherwise fall short of accepting the Torah in its entirety. Some come to synagogue to hear the beautiful voice of the chazzan, but not to actually pray to Hashem or listen to the Torah reading.

Naomi, in preparing Ruth for her conversion, was conveying a basic principle about Yiddishkeit: Torah and mitzvot should not be viewed as a theatrical performance, and one should not observe only what is pleasant or intriguing. It is a way of life which demands full dedication at all times and under all circumstances.

Ruth, fully comprehending her mother-in-law’s message, responded, “For wherever you go I will go.”

(הרב פנחס מ. ז"ל טייץ)


"ויאמר לקוצרים ה' עמכם ויאמרו לו יברכך ה'"
Boaz said to the harvesters, ‘G‑d be with you’ and they said to him, ‘May you be blessed by G‑d.’ ” (2:4)

QUESTION: Why did Boaz recite Hashem’s name first when he greeted the harvesters (“Hashem imachem”), while the harvesters said “yevarechecha” — “may you be blessed” — then reciting Hashem’s name?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Nedarim 10a) says that when a person designates an animal as an offering, he should not say, “This is to G‑d as a sin-offering,” but “This is a sin-offering to G‑d.” The reason is that if he should die after saying the word “laHashem” — “to G‑d” — without completing the phrase, he will have recited Hashem’s name in vain.

Therefore, the harvesters said “yevarechecha” — “may you be blessed” — and afterwards recited Hashem’s name. However, our sages have taught, “Be the first to extend greeting to anyone you meet” (Pirkei Avot 4:15). One who fulfills this merits longevity, as King David says, “Who is the man who desires life — bakeish shalom veradfeihu — seek shalom (peace) and pursue it” (Psalms 34:13,15). Thus, since Boaz greeted the harvesters first, he did not have to fear that he would die before finishing his greeting, and therefore he mentioned Hashem first.

(ישועות יעקב יו"ד סי' קמ"ח, נפש יהונתן מר' יהונתן בנימין הכהן ז"ל מסעליש)

* * *

When two people meet it is customary that the first one says Shalom aleichem and the second responds Aleichem shalom.” Why doesn’t he too say in response “Shalom aleichem”?

The word “shalom” is considered one of the names of Hashem (see Shabbat 10b). Consequently, since the one who opened with the greeting will be blessed with long life, he can recite the name of Hashem first without fear. However, the one responding says “aleichem” first and then mentions “Shalom.”

(עי' בהנ"ל, וטעמי המנהגים ע' תק"ג)


"ויאמר בעז לנערו הנצב על הקוצרים למי הנערה הזאת"
“Boaz then said to his servant who was overseeing the harvesters, ‘To whom does that young woman belong?’ ” (2:5)

QUESTION: Isn’t it improper for a tzaddik like Boaz to make an inquiry about a young woman?

ANSWER: Boaz, as the proprietor of the field, would visit it on a regular basis. However, this time Boaz noticed the Divine presence (shechinah) in his field. Upon realizing that the harvesters did not perceive that the Divine presence was among them, he proclaimed in excitement, “Hashem imachem” — “G‑d is with you!” Not understanding, they took his statement as a greeting and responded, “Yevarechecha Hashem” — “May G‑d bless you.”

Realizing that he had been misunderstood, Boaz turned to the servant who was overseeing the harvesters and asked him, “To whom does this young woman belong. Undoubtedly the presence of Hashem I see here is due to her.”

(ר' יצחק זצ"ל מווארקא)

* * *

Alternatively, instead of asking “Lemi hana’arah hazot” — “To whom does this young woman belong?” he should have just said “Mi hana’arah hazot” — “Who is this young woman?”

Boaz was a widower. Noting her modesty and perceiving that the Shechinah was with the young woman, he was impressed with her spiritual stature, and therefore inquired, “To whom does she belong?” wanting to know if she was marriageable.

(אגרת שמואל)


"ויאמר הבי המטפחת אשר עליך...וימד שש שערים וישת עליה"
“And he said, ‘Hold out the shawl...’ and he measured out six grains of barley, and set it on her.” (3:15)

QUESTION: Rashi says that with the six grains he alluded that from her descendants will come Mashiach, who will be blessed with six blessings. Why, however, did he give her specifically barley and not something else?

ANSWER: When Mashiach reveals himself the Jewish people will experience immense of spiritual and material wealth. As the Rambam says, “In that time there will be no hunger, war, jealousy, or competition. There will be goodness in abundant measure, all delicacies will be available like dust, and the entire world will be involved only in the understanding of G‑dliness” (Melachim 12:5).

The Hebrew word for barley, “se’orim” (שערים), can be rearranged to spell the word “ashirim” (עַשִירִם) — rich. With the giving of six se’orim Boaz alluded that she would be the ancestor of Mashiach, in whose time the Jews will all be ashirim — wealthy — materially and spiritually.

(נפש יהונתן מר' יהונתן בנימין הכהן ז"ל מסעליש)


"ויאמר הגאל לא אוכל לגאל לי פן אשחית את נחלתי גאל לך אתה את גאלתי"
“The redeemer said, ‘Then I cannot redeem it for myself, for I may imperil my own estate. Take my redemption responsibility on yourself.’ ” (4:6)

QUESTION: If Tov thought that the Torah law “a Moabite should not enter into the community of Hashem” (Devarim 23:4) applied also to the woman, why did he say “penashchit” — “I may imperil”? He should have said “kiashchit” — “because I will imperil.” Moreover, if he considered her forbidden, why did he tell Boaz to marry her?

ANSWER: Tov had a wife whom he considered a valuable part of his “nachlah” — estate — and Boaz was a widower. Tov said to Boaz, “Since I have a wife, it is not advisable for me to bring another wife into my household, because there may be strife between the two. Since you have no wife at all, it is better that you marry Ruth, so that she will be your only wife.”

(תרגום על מגילת רות)


"ותקח נעמי את הילד ותשתהו בחיקה ותהי לו לאמנת. ותקראנה לו השכנות שם לאמר ילד בן לנעמי"
“Noami took the child and held it in her bosom, and she became his nurse. The neighborhood women gave him a name, saying, ‘A son is born to Naomi.’ ” (4:16-17)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Sanhedrin 19b) asks, “Wasn’t Ruth the one who bore him?” and answers, “Ruth gave birth to him, but Naomi raised him.” From here it is derived that “He who raises an orphan in his home is considered as though he gave birth to him.”

Oved’s mother was Ruth and his father was Boaz. How from Naomi’s raising him can we learn about the raising of an orphan?

ANSWER: According to the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Ruth 608) Boaz died the night he married Ruth. Thus, their child, Oved, was paternally orphaned from birth. From the fact that Naomi raised him, our sages learned the equation of raising and giving birth to an orphan.

(מהרש"א)


"ותקראנה לו השכנות שם לאמר ילד בן לנעמי ותקראנה שמו עובד"
“The neighborhood woman gave him a name, saying: ‘A son is born to Naomi.’ They named him Oved.” (4:17)

QUESTION: 1) The words “leimor yulad ben leNaomi” — “saying: ‘A son is born to Naomi’ ” — are superfluous. It should have just said, “The neighborhood women named him Oved”?

ANSWER: Everybody considered the birth of the child as Hashem’s reward to Naomi for leading Ruth in the right path. In order to always remember that, “yulad ben leNaomi” — “a son is born to Naomi” — they called him Oved because the middle letter of Naomi (נעמי) is an ayin (ע), the word bein (בן) contains a beit (ב), and the final letter of yulad (ילד) is a daled (ד). Thus, they gave him a name which “leimor” — i.e. the name would “say,” “a son is born to Naomi.” Though Oved (עובד) is spelled with a vav (ו), it serves as a vowel and is not actually a part of the name. In fact, in the final pasuk of the Megillah, “VeOved holid et Yishai — “And Oved begot Yishai” (4:22), the name is spelled without a “vuv.”

They reversed the sequence of the letters and named him Oved as a blessing that the child would serve (“oved”) Hashem with a full heart.

(נפש יהונתן ואגרת שמואל)