ויקח עשרה אנשים מזקני העיר
He took ten men of the elders of the city. (4:2)

QUESTION: What was Boaz’s purpose in gathering these ten people?

ANSWER: According to one opinion (Rav Abahu) in the Gemara (Ketubot 7b) Boaz gathered ten people in order to publicly clarify the halachah that the ban against Amon and Moab applied only to males and not females. Thus, it would be permissible for him to take Ruth as a wife. The Gemara (ibid.) opines that to properly publicize something a minimum of ten is required.

If so, why did he take exactly ten; wouldn’t more publicity have been generated by a larger group?

The halachah he was publicizing is derived from the fact that the pasuk uses the terms “Amoni and Moabi with an extra yud and not simply “Amon” and “Moab” (see Yevamot 77b, Tosafot). Hence, to simultaneously publicize the source of the halachah, he specifically took ten elders since the letter “yud” has the numerical value of ten.

(אם המלך – בן איש חי)

ויקח עשרה אנשים מזקני העיר
He took ten men of the elders of the city. (4:2)

QUESTION: According to an opinion (Rav Nachman) in the Gemara (Ketubot 7a) Boaz took ten to teach that to recite the Sheva Berachot initiating marriage there must be a quorum of no less than ten men present.

Now the Gemara (ibid.) says that Rav Abahu derives this requirement from the pasuk (Psalms 68:27) “Bemakheilot barchu Elokim Hashem mimkor Yisrael” — “In an assembly [of ten — see Rashi] bless G‑d, Hashem from the womb of Israel.” (Since marriage leads to procreation, the Sheva Berachot are considered matters of the womb.)

What is the practical halachic difference between the two opinions concerning the source for the requirement of a quorum of ten to recite Sheva Berachot?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Ketubot 8a) says that a quorum of ten men is needed to recite Sheva Berachot and the chatan — groom — is counted as part of the quorum; i.e., in addition to the groom only another nine men are needed. Now, this would be only according to Rav Abahu who derives the requirement of ten from “In an assembly of [ten] bless G‑d, Hashem, from the womb of Israel.” According to Rav Nachman, however, who derives it from Boaz’s taking ten men, the groom is not part of the quorum, and thus, ten are needed in addition to the groom (since in Boaz’s case there were ten elders plus Boaz).

(עי' שו"ע אבה"ע סי' ס"ב פרישה ס"ק י"א, ועי' נמ' בהקדמה לספר כנסת יחזקאל מר' יחזקאל קצנלענבויגען [נדפס לראשונה באלטונא תצ"ב] ודבריו צע"ג כי לא נמצא ברמב"ם ובכ"מ כמ"ש ואולי משו"ז בספר מועדים בהלכה הובא דבריו רק בדפוס ראשונה ואח"כ הושמט)

ויקח עשרה אנשים מזקני העיר
He took ten men of the elders of the city. (4:2)

QUESTION: What message can be learnt from Boaz in regard to wedding planning?

ANSWER: There are two wedding feasts recorded in the Torah.

1) When he married off his daughter to Yaakov, “Lavan gathered all the people of the place and made a feast” (Bereishit 29:22). The meal was lavish and the ambiance was exquisite. According to the Midrash (Rabbah, Bereishit 20:19), however, at the end he fooled all the guests and made them bear all the costs of the wedding.

It is, therefore, very befitting that he became known as “Lavan Ha’Arami” — “Lavan the Aramean” (with a pun on “HaRamai” — “the Swindler”). Not only did he fool his son-in-law, Yaakov, but he also cheated the entire city where he lived.

2) Boaz was a respectable and honest person. He believed that there was no need to make extravagant weddings to impress people and then struggle with the bills or perhaps even do unethical things to meet the financial obligations incurred by the wedding. He practiced what he preached and when he had to make a wedding of his own, he invited only the quorum that was necessary for the wedding to be halachically proper.

(פון אונזער אלטן אוצר)

ויאמר לגאל חלקת השדה אשר לאחינו לאלימלך מכרה נעמי
“He said to the redeemer, the parcel of land which belonged to our brother, Elimelech is being sold by Naomi. (4:3)

QUESTION: The way Boaz is describing the field to the redeemer, it appears that it was a sedei achuzah — ancestral heritage field. According to halachah, when such a field is sold it cannot be redeemed until two years from the date of the sale (Rambam, Shemittah 11:10). How did Boaz expect the redeemer to repurchase it now?

ANSWER: Due to this halachic restriction, most commentaries explain that it was not actually sold; rather, it was being offered for sale.

(רש"י, אבן עזרא, אגרת שמואל, ועוד)

Others want to say that it was actually sold. However, the two year restricted sale applies only to the owner of the field, but relatives can redeem it at once. Most halachah codifiers, however, disagree with this.

Alternatively, the two year redemption restriction of a sold ancestral field applies only when the owner who sold the field on his own volition was a member of the ancestral line. In this case, however Naomi was not heir to Elimelech’s field. She merely sold it through the Beth Din in order to collect the money due her for her ketubah after Elimelech died. In such a case the family may repurchase it immediately if they wish.

Alternatively, before a relative can redeem the field he needs consent of the owner who had originally sold it (see Shoresh Yishai — Rabbi Shlomo Alkavetz). Boaz was telling the would-be redeemer, that in approximately two years the field will be eligible for redemption. Noami stipulated that whoever would agree to redeem it would have her consent only if he agreed to also marry Ruth. Thus, as a relative you have priority to repurchase. However, Naomi will extend that privilege for you if on the day you commit yourself to make the purchase, when the time arrives, simultaneously, on that day you will marry Ruth.”

(שרש ישי, משיב מפש)

"ויאמר הגאל לא אוכל לגאל לי פן אשחית את נחלתי גאל לך אתה את גאלתי"
“The redeemer said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, for I may spoil my own estate. Take my right of redemption for 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 “pen ashchit” — “I may spoil”? He should have said “ki ashchit” — “because I will spoil.” 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)

ויאמר הגאל לא אוכל לגאול לי פן אשחית את נחלתי
The redeemer said, then I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I may spoil my own estate. (4:6)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that “Nachlati” means “my children,” as the Psalmist says, “Nachlat Hashem banim” — “the heritage of Hashem is children” (127:3). [Thus, Tov was saying,] “I may cause my children to become disqualified due to the prohibition against Moab.” Rashi also writes that “The redeemer erred because of his unawareness that Amoni means only males and not females.”

Instead of saying that he refused to marry Ruth lest his children become disqualified, he should have simply said “It is forbidden for me to marry a Moabite”?

ANSWER: The Rambam (Mamrim 1:4) rules that the Sanhedrin had two options for deciding a halachah in doubt.

1) By utilizing one of the thirteen methods for expounding the Torah.

2) Determining if there is a Halachah l’Moshe MiSinai — a ruling transmitted to Moshe at the time the Torah was given at Sinai.

If the latter method is employed, there can never be any disputes in the matter (ibid. 1:3). However, if the question is resolved by employing one of the 13 methods, the ruling can be overturned in the future by a more prominent Sanhedrin.

The redeemer was indeed aware of the ruling of the Sanhedrin permitting a Moabitess convert to marry members of the Jewish community. He assumed, however, that it was a law interpreted by the Sanhedrin and was not aware that it was transmitted to Moshe at Sinai and hence uncontestable (see Yevamot 77a).

Consequently, he told Boaz, “I personally have no qualms about marrying Ruth since the Sanhedrin ruled it permissible. But I will not do so because, if at a later date the ruling will be contested and overruled by a succeeding Sanhedrin, my children may be disqualified, and I don’t want to cause them any suffering.”

(הגרי"ז ז"ל סאלאוויטשיק)

* * *

Alternatively, Boaz met with the would-be redeemer, Tov, in the presence of ten of the elders. Boaz publicized the recently re-enacted law permitting a female Moabite, and made it known that this was an old forgotten law which is not derived by Scriptural inference or logic, but rather a halachah leMoshe miSinai — an Oral Tradition from Sinai — and thus, there was no possibility of dissent (see Yevamot 77a).

Tov accepted this and therefore did not object to marrying Ruth. His concern was, however, that just as the halachah was forgotten until now, the same might occur again in the future, as the Gemara (Temurah 16a) relates, that “three thousand halachot were forgotten during the period of mourning for Moshe.” (See also Megillah 3a.)

He was thus saying, “When that may, G‑d forbid, occur, people will incorrectly interpret the prohibition against Amon and Moab to also include female Ammonites and Moabites and they will disqualify my children to marry into the Jewish community.”

(הרב ישראל אליעזרי בקובץ תורני עם התורה ח"ד, ועי' צפנת פענח לרות [סוף חומש במדבר] עמוד שכ"ו שמואבי ולא מואבית מן ההלכות שנשתכחו בימי אבלו של משה רבינו ונתחדשה בימי בועז)

ויאמר הגאל לא אוכל לגאול לי
The redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself.” (4:6)

QUESTION: Rashi writes that he erred in regard to Ammoni and not Ammonit, [he did not think the Torah distinguished between males and females of Ammon]. Since Ruth was of Moab, shouldn’t Rashi have said that he erred in regard to Moavi (male Moabites, who are prohibited) but not a Moavit (female Moabites)?

ANSWER: In the Gemara (Yevamot 77a) Rabbi Yehudah says that the source for the halachah that only male members of Ammon and Moab are prohibited from joining the Congregation of Hashem is that the Torah prohibits “Ammoni” (עמוני) which implies males, but not Ammonit (female). Likewise the Torah says “Moavi” (מואבי) which implies males, but not Moavit (female).

Tosafot asks why when the Torah (Devarim 23:8) says “You shall not reject a Mitzri (Egyptian) do we not say that it applies only to males but not Mitzrit (female Egyptians)? Tosafot answers, that if the Torah intended to prohibit also the females of Ammon and Moab from joining the Congregation of Hashem then it should have just said Ammon and Moab which would mean the nation, which is also shorter than the words “Ammoni Umoavi.” Since it says “Ammoni, Moavi,” one can conclude that it only applies to males but not females. However, to refer to the nation of Egypt it would have to say Mitzrayim (מצרים). Thus, we cannot infer from the word “Mitzri” a distinction between male and female, since Mitzri is shorter than “Mitzrayim.”

Tosafot continues to ask, in the same pasuk it also says “you shall not reject Adomi — Edomite — why don’t we say it applies only to males of Edom and not females. Tosafot answers since Edomi and Mitzri are mentioned in the same pasuk and we cannot expound on Mitzri because it is a shorter term than Mitzrayim, likewise, we do not infer from Edomi “but not female” because the Torah wrote Edomi only in deference to the word Mitzri though it could have simply said Edom.”

Now, the would-be redeemer thought that we expound only “Ammoni” (the first mentioned in the pasuk) to exclude females and that the word “Moavi” was not written with a yud for the purpose of expounding it, but it was written that way in deference to Ammoni (and only in regard to Ammon is there a distinction between male and female but not regarding Moab). His mistake, however, was that Moavi was not written that way in deference to Ammon but both could have been shortened to Ammon and Moab. Since this was not done, both were written to prohibit only the males and not females.

(שמחת הרגל בשם הרב החסיד אברהם גרשון זצ"ל קוטבר – גיסו של הבעש"ט)

וזאת לפנים בישראל על הגאולה ועל התמורה שלף איש נעלו ונתן לרעהו
Now this was the former custom in Israel concerning redemption and exchanging, to confirm all things: a man took off his shoe, and gave it to his friend. (4:7)

QUESTION: In addition to the simple meaning of the pasuk, what practical message is being imparted?

ANSWER: This pasuk can be explained homiletically as a message in regard to tzedakah. The Gemara (Bava Batra 10a) says that giving tzedakah hastens the redemption. Also, when one is, G‑d forbid, experiencing a difficult situation, giving tzedakah can miraculously change things.

The prophet Shmuel (who wrote Ruth) is saying that there was a time in Israel when the populace had emunah peshutah — simple faith — in the geulah — redemption — and when they had the absolute belief al hatemurah — that things would change to the better. In order to accomplish this, “shalaf ish na’alo” — one would generously remove his own shoe, i.e., take everything and anything one had, venatan lerei’eihu — and give it to his friend — i.e. give tzedakah.

Unfortunately, this is not so widely practiced today. Let us hope that all Jews will have a reawakening and begin to make this a prevalent feature of Jewish life.

(שי לחגים ומועדים בשם ר' מרדכי ז"ל בענעט)

וזאת לפנים בישראל על הגאלה ועל התמורה לקים כל דבר שלף איש נעלו ונתן לרעהו וזאת התעודה בישראל
Now this was the former custom in Israel concerning redemption and exchanging, to confirm all things: a man took off his shoe, and gave it to his friend; and this was the confirmation in Israel. (4:7)

QUESTION: Why in the former days was chalifin — symbolic barter — the popular method of acquisition for purchases and exchanges, subsequently losing its popularity and then being reinstated in the Boaz era? Also the words “vezot hate’udah” seem to indicate that it was some sort eidut — witness/testimony; what did it attest to?

ANSWER: Originally, the universal methods for Jews and non-Jews to acquire anything were the Biblically ordained kinyanin — methods of acquisition — of kesef — money, shtar — document, and chazakah — proprietary act. In order to prevent assimilation the Jews popularized chalifin as a mode of acquisition. According to many halachah authorities this is not valid when dealing with non-Jews and even those who hold that it can work under certain conditions, even in dealing with non-Jews, agree that it was not the popular practice when dealing with non-Jews (see Kidushin 3a Tosafot, Choshen Mishpat #123, Shach #31).

Instituting distinctions between Jews and non-Jews when dealing in monetary matters serves as a reminder to the Jew that he should not assimilate. It also brings to his attention that we should only deal with non-Jews when we have no alternative, and when that occurs we specifically conduct our transactions with them in a distinct way.

As years went on, unfortunately, the lines of demarcation between Jew and non-Jew became dimmed and mingling became rampant. The Jews, not wanting to appear antiquated in the eye of their non-Jewish neighbors, abandoned the former “unique Jewish way” of doing business. In order to be well accepted in society, Jews adapted the slogan of niheyeh kagoyim — let us be equal to them — and business acquisitions between Jew and Jew and Jew and non-Jew began to be conducted in the same fashion.

Under the tutelage of Boaz, the great judge and tzaddik, the “old” method of doing acquisitions was reinstated. Now, when dealing with non-Jews the acquisition mode of money, document or proprietary act was common, and when dealing with fellow Jews, chalifin — symbolic barter, was the popular practice.

V’zot hate’udah beYisrael — this became a testimony in Israel. It demonstrated that we are proud of our Jewish heritage and willing to adhere tenaciously to our Torah. Although at times there may be a need to deal with non-Jews, however, to assure the preservation of our sanctity as His chosen people we implement distinctive measures to remind us that we are never to emulate them, G‑d forbid.

(אם המלך מר' צבי הירש ז"ל זיסמאן, ווארשא תרמ"ט)

וגם את רות המואביה אשת מחלון קניתי לי לאשה
I have also acquired the wife of Machlon as my wife. (4:10)

QUESTION: The previous pesukim explained that Boaz consummated his deal with the redeemer (Tov) through the kinyan — mode of acquisition — known as chalifin — symbolic barter. However, the Gemara (Kiddushin 3a) says that a wife cannot be acquired through chalifin. If the kinyan is invalid, wasn’t it forbidden for Boaz to live with Ruth?

ANSWER: Boaz indeed did not violate any halachah. He did not acquire Ruth as a wife through chalifin — a symbolic barter. The kinsman (Tov) as the closest relative had priority to redeem the field and marry Ruth. For personal reasons he renounced his right. Boaz was apprehensive, that the kinsman would later regret his decision and lay claim to the field and also decide to marry Ruth. Therefore, to formalize the kinsman’s conveyance of his rights to Boaz and make it irrevocable, they utilized the act of acquisition known as chalifin. This was the way they would validate all matters and the accepted process of ratification.

After this was officially accomplished, Boaz proceeded to acquire Ruth as a wife in accordance with the laws of Moshe and Israel. Thus, it is stated later (4:13), “And Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.” This refers to the first stage of marriage known as Eirusin — which he achieved by giving her kesef — money (a ring), (see Kiddushin 2a). Afterwards, “vayavoh eilehah” — “he came to her” — i.e., he consummated the marriage (nisui’in) through their living together.

(שו"ת ציץ אליעזר חי"ג סי' צ"ח - ואין זה קנין דברים דכיון דהיה להגואל זכות בזה הנכסים שיהיה שלו יכול להקנות כדי שבועז יזכה אותם וכמבואר ברמ"א סי' קע"א סעי' א)

וגם את רות המאביה אשת מחלון קניתי לי לאשה
I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Machlon, to be my wife. (4:10)

QUESTION: Five times throughout the Megillah, Ruth is referred to with the title “Moabite,” Why is her title spelled four times (1:22, 2:2, 2:22, 4:5) with a vavואביה), after which, the fifth time, Moabite (מאביה) is spelled without a vav?

ANSWER: The popular consensus was that the Torah rule of “An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter the Congregation of Hashem” (Devarim 22:4) applies to males and females alike. With Boaz’s marriage to Ruth, it was clarified that there is a distinction and only a Moabite male is forbidden to enter into marriage with a Jewish woman, but a female is permitted to marry a Jew.

Thus, up to this pasuk, which records Boaz’s actual marriage, the title Moabite is written full with a vav, to indicate that though she was a female, she was considered a full fledged Moabite with all the applicable restrictions. Now that Boaz married her, it became evident that women of Moab are halachically not fully in the same category as the males of Moab; rather (although the males are forbidden) women may enter the congregation of Hashem. To indicate that as a female Moabite Ruth had less restrictions, her title is written with a missing vav (מאביה).

(טעמא דקרא ר' חיים שי' קניבסקי)

וגם את רות המאביה אשת מחלון קניתי לי לאשה להקים שם המת על נחלתו ולא יכרת שם המת מעם אחיו ומשער מקומו
I have also acquired the wife of Machlon as my wife to perpetuate the name of the deceased upon his inheritance, that the name of the deceased not be cut off from among his brethren and from the gates of his place. (4:10)

QUESTION: Was the marriage of Boaz and Ruth considered yibbum — a levirate marriage?

ANSWER: This would depend on whether Ruth underwent a conversion before marrying Boaz (see p. 198). According to Rashi’s opinion that she did not convert, her marriage to Machlon had no halachic validity and thus yibbum does enter into discussion. Others hold that she had indeed converted and their marriage was a levirate one.

However, even if Ruth converted before marrying Machlon, how could her marriage to Boaz be a levirate marriage when he was only Machlon’s cousin and not his brother?

To clarify this, a brief synopsis of yibbum is necessary:

The Torah (Devarim 25:5) writes, “When brothers dwell together and one of them dies, and he has no child, her brother-in-law shall take her to himself as a wife and perform levirate marriage.”

The concept of yibbum is also mentioned in Bereishit (38:8) in regard to Yehudah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar. After Er, her first husband died, Yehudah said to his son Onan, “Consort with you brother’s wife and enter into a levirate marriage with her and establish offspring for your brother.”

Rashi explains this to mean that “the son will be named after the deceased.” Ramban understands Rashi to hold that the son born of the levirate marriage is named after the deceased. Ramban disagrees. He opines that the son need not be literally named as the deceased; rather, the son of this union is considered the spiritual son of the deceased. The newborn child becomes the receptacle for the soul of the departed and, in turn, the deceased brother gains a new life as it were, so that his mission in life can now be completed.

Ramban goes on to explain that before the Torah was given the secret spiritual benefits of yibbum — levirate marriage — were known to wise men such as Yehudah. They, however, opined, that in the absence of a brother-in-law, the closest blood relative, too, could function to marry the widow and thus bring to fruition the unfulfilled mission of the deceased. Once the Torah was given many forms of family marriage were banned as incestuous, but the Torah ordained that the brother of a deceased could marry his widowed childless sister-in-law.

Since Boaz was Ruth’s cousin, his marrying her would not be forbidden as incestuous. Consequently, though according to Torah law he was not obligated to marry her, nevertheless, he was a “redeemer” because in those days the Jews acknowledged a moral obligation on the other relatives in addition to a brother to marry a widow and thus provide comfort to the departed soul through a child that would be born from the union.

Hence, according to Ramban, Boaz, in a levirate marriage “redeemed” the soul of Machlon.

As mentioned above, according to Rashi Ruth had not converted prior to her marrying Machlon. Thus, Boaz’s marriage was totally unrelated to yibbum, and was merely a moral gesture on his part in response to Ruth’s pursuing him. According to Rashi, the ‘perpetuation of Machlon’s memory’ was thanks to Boaz’s acquiring the field and subsequently marrying Ruth. Thus, “due to his wife going about the field doing her business, all who would see her would say she was the wife of Machlon, hence, his name would be ‘perpetuated’.” Since this was not a levirate marriage, according to Rashi, therefore there was no requirement to name the child after Machlon.

(עי' ציץ אליעזר חי"ג סי' צ"ח)

ויאמרו כל העם אשר בשער והזקנים עדים יתן ה' את האשה הבאה אל ביתך...
All the people who were at the gate and the elders said: “We are witness! May Hashem make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and like Leah. (4:11)

QUESTION: It is previously recorded that “Boaz said to the elders and all the people you are witness this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s... and that I have also acquired the wife of Machlon (Ruth) as my wife” (4:9-10). If this pasuk is recording their consent to be witnesses, why did “all the people respond before the elders? Isn’t it audacious!

ANSWER: This pasuk is not recording that the elders and all the people consented to be witnesses; rather, it is telling us that all the people blessed him that Hashem should make the woman who is coming to his house to be like Rachel and like Leah and that he should merit to build up the House of Israel through the offspring which Hashem would give him through Ruth.

The words “vehazekenim eidim” are part of the blessing given to him. The people told him, that this should happen so quickly that “vehazekeinim” — the elders — who were present at that time, should all live to be “eidim” — witnesses — to this occurrence.

(אגרת שמואל)

יתן ה' את האשה הבאה אל ביתך כרחל וכלאה אשר בנו שתיהם את בית ישראל
May Hashem make the woman who is coming to your home like Rachel and like Leah, both of whom built up the House of Israel. (4:11)

QUESTION: 1) Instead of saying “the woman who is coming” they should have said “the woman who you are bringing into your home.” 2) Why did the elders compare her specifically to Rachel and Leah? 3) “Sheteihem (שתיהם) is masculine; when talking of Rachel and Leah they should have used the feminine “shteihen(שתיהן)?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Eiruvin 100b) says that it is improper behavior for a woman to verbally pursue a man. It is permissible for one to petition her husband “in her heart” and act in a pleasing manner before him, but it is highly immodest for her to make blatant verbal requests.

The elders sensed that Boaz was having some apprehension about Ruth since “she came into his home.” Instead of him proposing to her and asking her to marry him, she had approached him and directly asked him to marry her. To dispel his uneasiness they told him that such already had occurred with the Matriarchs Rachel and Leah. Rachel approached Yaakov saying “Give me children” (Bereishit 30:1). And of Leah the Torah relates “Leah went out to meet him and said, ‘It is to me that you must come for I have surely hired you’ [with my son’s dudaim]” (ibid. 30:16). Nevertheless, these two women built the House of Israel and their conduct was not considered improper because their intentions were very noble and lesheim Shamayim — for the sake of Heaven. They knew prophetically that with them Yaakov would bring to the world the twelve tribes.

Thus, the elders were saying “Likewise, though Ruth approached you blatantly, do not hold it against her. Her intentions were pure. She knew prophetically that from you and her will emerge the Davidic dynasty and Mashiach, the ultimate redeemer of Klal Yisrael.

The elders used the masculine form in regard to Rachel and Leah, because they were saying that though these two acted like men and openly requested marital relations; nevertheless, because of their holy and lofty intentions they merited to build the House of Israel.

(שמחת הרגל – שער בת רבים)

יתן ה' את האשה הבאה אל ביתך כרחל וכלאה אשר בנו שתיהם את בית ישראל
May Hashem make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom who built up the House of Israel. (4:11)

QUESTION: Why did the elders equate Ruth to Rachel and Leah, and why was it necessary to mention that they built up the House of Israel. Isn’t this common knowledge?

ANSWER: Just recently it was clarified that the prohibition against Moabite people marrying Jews after they convert does not apply to Moabite women. Thus, once Ruth, who was of Moabite lineage, properly converted, it was permissible for Boaz to marry her without any doubt whatsoever.

The elders, however, wanted to dispel any additional apprehensions that Boaz may have harbored. After all, she was a descendant of a nation that was born from incest. Her ancestor, Lot, cohabitated with his daughter who afterwards gave birth to a son whom she called Moab. He was the ancestor of Moab, and Ruth’s father was Eglon, the king of Moab.

The elders told him that the Gemara (Yevamot 98a, see Bereishit, 20:12 Rashi) rules that there is no halachic relationship through paternity for non-Jews. A Noachite is forbidden only to women who are related to him maternally. Hence, a Noachite is permitted to marry his daughter (Sanhedrin 58b). Consequently, the relationship Lot had with his daughter is not considered illicit.

This can also be derived from Yaakov’s marriage to Rachel and Leah. The commentaries ponder the questions, how did Yaakov allow himself to transgress the Biblical violation of marrying two sisters? One of the explanations given is that while they were they daughters of Lavan, nevertheless, they were from different mothers (see Seder Hadorot p. 43). Since Noachide Law does not consider paternal relationships as forbidden relationships, they were not considered sisters, and the prohibition of marrying two sisters did not apply.

Thus, the elders told Boaz, “You may marry Ruth and have children with her without any hesitations. Just as Yaakov married Rachel and Leah without any apprehensions, and through them built the House of Israel, likewise, may the children you will have with her be a source of pride to you and Klal Yisrael.”

(בית יעקב – מסולתן, בשם ספר עץ חיים ונחלת עזריאל)

ותאמר הנשים אל נעמי ... ויקרא שמו בישראל
And the women said to Naomi... May his name be famous in Israel. (4:14)

QUESTION: Literally “Veyikarei shemo b’Yisrael” means “May his name be called in Israel.” These are the words recited at a brit milah when naming a child. Why didn’t the women say his name?

ANSWER: It is customary to name a newborn child after a deceased relative or after a righteous person. The women were not giving a name; rather, they were extending a berachah to Naomi: “May your newborn grandchild grow to be a great tzaddik, and then veyikarei shemo b’Yisrael — his name will be a popular one in Israel and people will name their children after him.”

(אגרת שמואל – בשורת אליהו)

"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 to have given birth to him.”

Oved’s mother, Ruth, lived to a ripe old age, 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.


ותקראנה לו השכנות שם לאמר ילד בן לנעמי ותקראנה שמו עובד
The neighborhood women named the child saying: “A son is born to Naomi.” They named him Oved. (4:17)

QUESTION: How many names was he given?

ANSWER: The women called him by three names: 1) Go’eil, 2) Sheim, 3) Oved.

Previously we read “And the women said to Naomi, blessed is Hashem, Who has not left you without a “go’eil — redeemer — today, and may his name be called in Israel” (4:14). It can be interpreted that they were saying that the name by which he should be “called in Israel” is “Go’eil” — “redeemer.”

In our pasuk it first says “The neighborhood women gave him sheim — a name — saying ‘A son is born to Naomi.’ Then the pasuk concludes “They named him Oved.” Careful analysis of the wording of the pasuk indicates that 1) the woman called him “Sheim” — “Name” — because of the fact that “a son was born to Naomi” 2) “they named him Oved.”

* * *

QUESTION: What is the significance of these three names?

ANSWER: Boaz died on the night of his wedding to Ruth (Yalkut Shimoni 608). When Ruth pursued Boaz for marriage she said to him “ki go’eil atah” — “for you are a redeemer” (13:9). And Boaz too declared of himself “ki go’eil anochi — “for I am a redeemer” (3:12). Since he fathered the child, they named the child “Go’eil” because it was a way to remember Boaz the redeemer and to perpetuate his noble deed of redeeming the spirit of Machlon that pulsated in Ruth and also redeeming the property.

Moreover, the name “Go’eil” was the expression of a wish that from this child should emanate Mashiach, the redeemer of K’lal Yisrael.

Calling him “Sheim” — “Name” — was for the benefit of Naomi and her son Machlon. Ruth beseeched Boaz to take possession of her so that “the name of the deceased will be perpetuated in his property” (see Rashi to 3:9). Boaz publicly declared “And what is more important I have also acquired the wife of Machlon as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the deceased in his inheritance, that the name of the deceased not be cut off from among his brethren” (4:10).

“They called him Oved” as a blessing that the child would be an oved Hashem — serve Hashem with a full heart (see Targum). For his sincere devotion to Hashem, he would merit children like Yishai — who died without any sin (Bava Batra 17a) — and a grandson like David who was selected by Hashem to head the Davidic dynasty of the Kingdom of Israel.

(זאת נחמתי)

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

QUESTION: How did the neighborhood women reach their decision to name 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 that it always be remembered 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 Oved, “leimor” — i.e. the name would “say,” i.e. remind everyone that, “a son is born to Naomi.”

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.

Though Oved (עובד) is spelled with a “vav” (ו), the vav merely 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 “vav.”

(נפש יהונתן ואגרת שמואל)

ואלה תולדות פרץ
These are the generations of Peretz. (4:18)

QUESTION: Rashi writes “after having detailed David’s descent from Ruth the Moabite, the Megillah now traces his lineage to Yehudah.” Ruth was one of the most prominent women in Jewish history; why must we also know David’s paternal lineage?

ANSWER: Our patriarch Avraham was childless. When Hashem appeared to him in a vision and told him “I am a shield for you; your reward is very great,” Avraham said “What can you give me seeing that I go childless and the steward of my house is the Damascene Eliezer?” Then Avraham said, “Behold, to me you have not given zara — offspring — and behold ben beiti — my household member — inherits me” (Bereishit 15:1-3). Since Avraham had said that if he is childless, he had nothing, obviously he wanted a son — so why did he repeat again that he had no heir?

Avraham’s prayers consisted of two parts. Firstly, he wanted a son who would become the steward of his home in lieu of Eliezer. Even if he was blessed with a son he had an additional request. In the second part of his prayer he spoke of “zara” — “offspring.” When Lots daughter’s planned to cohabitate with him, they said “unechayah mei’avinu zara” — “we may give life to offspring through our father” (ibid. 19:32). The Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 49:8) says that they used the term “zara” — offspring — and not “ben” — a son because they were referring to Mashiach.

Avraham knew prophetically that the emergence of Mashiach would start through Lot and his daughter. Therefore, he said to Hashem, “Even if You give me a son, I am still concerned that you have not given me zara — offspring i.e. Mashiach is not my descendant, rather, ben beiti — a member of my family, i.e. my nephew Lot — is the one who will inherit my kingdom in Klal Yisrael.” Hashem told him not to fear, “that one [Lot] will not inherit you; only the one who shall come forth within you shall inherit you.” He was saying, “Mashiach will emerge from your great-grandson Yehudah who will father Peretz the ancestor of Mashiach.”

Hence, after detailing David’s maternal lineage, the Megillah depicts his paternal lineage to show the fulfillment of Hashem’s promise to Avraham that the Davidic kingdom and Mashiach will emerge from him.

(חלק בני יהודה)

ואלה תולדות פרץ
These are the generations of Peretz. (4:18)

QUESTION: The Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit 12:6) says that “throughout the entire Torah the word “toldot” is written missing one vav, except in two places. One is here and the other is ‘Eileh toldot’ — ‘these are the products of the heavens and the earth behibaram (בהבראם) — when they were created’ (2:4). The reason is because when Adam sinned, six (vav = 6) things were taken away from him and they will not return until the son of Peretz — Mashiach — will appear.” Why is this alluded to in these two pesukim necessarily?

ANSWER: The Midrash says that the word behibaram (בהבראם) can be rearranged to read be’Avraham (באברהם) (see Rabbeinu Bachaya and Ba’al HaTurim). This teaches that the heavens and earth were created in the merit of Avraham. (Avraham is the prototype of chesed, and the pasuk says olam chesed yibanehPsalms 89:3).

Since the intent of this pasuk is to tell us that Mashiach will emerge from Peretz, who is a descendant of Avraham, and this was made possible because of Avraham’s prayer (see above). Therefore in a pasuk about Avraham and a pasuk about Peretz the word “toldot” is written full to allude something related to Mashiach, who linked them together.

(חלק בני יהודה)

ונחשון הוליד את שלמה ... ושלמון הוליד את בעז
Aminadav begot Nachshon, and Nachshon begot Salmah; and Salmon begot Boaz. (4:20-21)

QUESTION: Why was he originally called Salmah (שלמה) and in the next pasuk called Salmon (שלמון)?

ANSWER: In Hebrew the suffix of a vav and nun at the end of a word indicates of diminution as opposed to amplification of the root word.

For example, the apple of the eye (pupil) is called “ishon” (אישון) and it is traced to the root of the word “ish” (איש) — “man.” Thus, “ishon” means “a small man.” (If one looks into someone’s eyes he will see his own reflection appearing like a small man.) Similarly, the seventh day of the week is called Shabbat, because it is a day of rest, and Yom Tov is called Shabbaton, since it is also a day of rest. However, regarding Yom Tov a vav and nun are added (שבתון) because the requirement of resting is less than on Shabbat. On Yom Tov work pertaining to food preparation is permitted, and Shabbat is the ultimate day of rest when no work at all is permitted. (See Radak and Metzudat David to Psalms 17:8.)

Salmah was a tzaddik — righteous man — in his own right. His son Boaz, however, was a tzaddik of a much greater rank. To describe the greatness of Boaz the Gemara (Sanhedrin 19b) says that though Yosef was a renowned tzadik, nevertheless, the triumph of Yosef resisting the overtures of Potiphar’s wife is modest, relative to the trial Boaz had to overcome (since the temptress, Ruth, unlike Potiphar’s wife, was an unmarried woman and lay next to him on his bed — Rashi.)

The name of Boaz’s father was indeed Salmah. However, after Boaz rose to glory and was acclaimed as the tzaddik of the generation, the greatness of Salmah was diminished by his son’s fame and in contrast he was now perceived in the eyes of all as Salmon, someone of diminished stature. This father-son relationship can be described with the words of the Gemara (Shavuot 48a) “Yafeh ko’ach haben mi’ko’ach ha’av — “The strength of the son is (sometimes) more powerful than the strength of the father.”

(עבודת עבד ר' עזריאל זעליג ז"ל קארעלענשטיין)

וישי הוליד את דוד
And Yishai begot David. (4:22)

QUESTION: The name “David” is usually spelled without a yud, but in I Chronicles ch. 10-29 it is spelled with a yud (דויד). What is the significance of the two spellings?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Yevamot 76b) relates that due to the Torah edict “An Ammonite or Moabite may not enter into the Congregation of Hashem” (Devarim 23:4), some claimed not only that David was unfit for kingship but also unfit to marry into the congregation since he was a descendant of Ruth the Moabite.

The Gemara, however, refutes this based on the fact that when the Torah precludes Ammonites and Moabites it does not refer to them by the name of their nations, i.e. Ammon and Moab. Rather it says “Amoni and Moavi with an extra yud (עמוני – מואבי). This implies that the preclusion applies only to the males and not the females.

Since David’s claims to legitimacy are based on the letter yud, at times his name is spelled with an extra yud.

(חלק בני יהודה)

David (דוד) without a yud has the numerical value of fourteen and indicates that he was the fourteenth generation from Avraham. It is thus most appropriate that Megillat Ruth, which was written by Shmuel the prophet to establish the Davidic pedigree and prove that David is a bona-fide member of Klal Yisrael, is the fourteenth volume of the twenty four holy books of Tanach (Torah, Neviim — prophets — and Ketubim — writings).

(שמחת הרגל)

* * *

King David said, “Sarim redafuni chinam umidevarecha pachad libi. Sas anochi al imratecha kemotzei shalal rav” — “Princes pursued me without cause, but umidvarcha (ומדברך) — from Your word — my heart feared. I rejoiced over imratecha (אמרתך) — Your saying — like one who finds abundant spoils” (Psalms 119:161 — 162). This may be explained as a reference to the difficulties David encountered from Doeg, the head of the Sanhedrin in the days of King Shaul, and others who sought to discredit him by disparaging his ancestress Ruth the Moabite, based on the pasuk, “An Amonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of Hashem” (see Yevamot 76b).

Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemot 13a) writes in the name of the Kabbalists that the term “davar” — “word” — refers to the Written Torah, and “amar” — “say” — refers to the Oral Torah. Thus, David was saying, “Princes pursued me without cause” — charging that I was unfit to enter into Klal Yisrael. “But my heart feareddevarecha — Your word” — the Written Torah which appeared to disqualify me. However, “sas anochi al imratecha” — “I rejoiced over Your saying” — i.e. the Oral Torah which explains that the Written Torah included an extra yud (Moavi — מואבי) to teach that only Moabite men are precluded but Moabite woman may join Klal Yisrael in marriage, “like one who finds abundant spoils.”

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי בשם ברוך טעם)

וישי הוליד את דוד
And Yishai begot David. (4:22)

QUESTION: In mispar kattan — miniature numerals — (not counting the tens and hundreds), the word “David” (דוד) adds up to fourteen as does the word kos (כוס) — cup. What is the connection between the two?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Pesachim 119b) says that when the resurrection takes place, Hashem will make a feast for the tzaddikim, and when Avraham will be given the Cup of Blessing he will say, “I am unfit to recite the blessing because I had a son Yishmael.” Yitzchak will say, “I am unfit because Eisav was my son.” Yaakov will turn it down, “Because I married two sisters, which the Torah will later forbid.” Moshe will say, “I cannot be the one to recite the blessing because I was not privileged to enter Eretz Yisrael,” and Yehoshua will decline it saying, “I am unfit, for I did not merit to have a son.” He will then say to David, “Take the cup and recite the blessing,” and David will respond, “I will do so, and it is fitting for me, as it is stated, kos (כוס)yeshuot esa — I shall raise the cup of salvations, and the Name of Hashem I shall invoke’ ” (Psalms 116:13).

* * *

ויהי בימי ... ועבד הולד את ישי וישי הוליד את דוד
And it happened in the days ... and Oved begot Yishai, and Yishai begot David. (1:1-4:22)

QUESTION: The book of Ruth consists of four chapters containing a total of 85 pesukim (which is also the numerical value of Boaz [בועז]). Except for eight pesukim, every pasuk in the book starts with a vav. What message is conveyed by these 8 pesukim?

ANSWER: A major reason that the prophet Shmuel wrote the Book of Ruth is to delineate the geneology of King David and establish that he was a true member of Klal Yisrael.

The Gemara (Yevamot 77a) relates that many questioned whether David was halachically acceptable since Boaz was not permitted to marry Ruth the Moabite in light of the Torah’s edict “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of Hashem” (Devarim 23:4). The consensus of opinion is, however, that the Biblical prohibition refers only to a male Moabite and not a female. The reasoning is that the Torah stated explicitly that it is due to the fact that “they did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Egypt” (ibid. 5), and it is customary for men to greet travelers at the border with bread and water, but it is not customary for women to do so.

A further question was raised. It is only improper for women to greet men with bread and water; why didn’t the women greet the Israelite women!? The Gemara concludes that in Eretz Yisrael this question was answered in the following way. When the Angels visited Avraham they inquired “Where is Sarah your wife?” He replied “Hineih b’ohel — “Behold [she is] in the tent” (Bereishit 18:9). Avraham implied it is inappropriate for a woman to leave the confines of her home. Hence, the Israelite woman, undoubtedly, emulated this dignified behavior, and thus, the woman of Amon and Moab cannot be faulted for not greeting them with bread and water, since they were unaware that the Jewish women were journeying together with the men.

The 8 pesukim not starting with a vav are as follows:

1) יתן ה' לכם ומצאנה מנוחה...

May Hashem grant that you find security (1:9)

2) שובנה בנותי...

Turn back my daughter (1:12)

3) עיניך בשדה אשר יקצרון...

Keep your eyes on the field which they are harvesting (2:9)

4) ישלם ה' פעלך...

May Hashem reward your actions (2:12)

5) באשר תמותי אמות...

Where you die, I shall die (1:17)

6) אני מלאה הלכתי...

I was full when I went (1:21)

7) הלהן תשברנה...

Would you wait for them ... (1:13)

8) ליני הלילה...

Stay here tonight (3:13)

The acronym of these 8 pesukim spells the words “Yish’ee b’ohel (ישעי באהל) — “My salvation is in the tent,” i.e., from Avraham’s saying that Jewish woman should be b’ohel — within the confines of the tent — proof was derived that Moabite women who convert are not forbidden to enter into marriage with Jewish men. Consequently, David says, “Yish’ee — my salvation — comes from Avraham’s saying that Sarah is b’ohel — in the tent. Thanks to his words, Boaz was permitted to marry Ruth, and I am thus halachically qualified to be the head of the Davidic dynasty and the ancestor of Mashiach.”

(בית יעקב מר' יעקב ז"ל הכהן טראב – מסולתן, ראב"ד ביירות, ועי' חיד"א, וילקוט שמעוני)