They raised their voice and wept again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but
Ruth cleaved to her.
Naomi first urged them to return to Moab, Orpah and Ruth had raised (utahu)
their voice and wept (v. 9). And they continued weeping as they walked, until
their strength gave out. Thus the missing letter t here associates vba,u
weakness; as in Of the Rock that begot you, weakness (ha,),
and you forgot God, Who bore you (Deuteronomy 32:18). Such was
their exhaustion that they could barely raise their voices.
moving plea (vs. 12-13), full of love and concern for their welfare,
evoked fresh tears, and they raised their voice and wept again.
singular form (voice) is significant.] Only Ruths weeping came from the
depths of her being. Orpahs weeping was patently superficial, for she kissed
her mother-in-law and left. This time (compare v. 9), she did not even wait
for a parting kiss from Naomi. This too is conveyed in the incomplete spelling of
sages infer that nevertheless, in the merit of the four tears she had
shed[hinted at by the four words (sug vbhfc,u ikue vba,u) that describe the
weeping]-four mighty warriors would descend from her. Thus it is written,
These four were born to Harafah in Gat (2 Samuel 21:22), namely Saf,
Madon (Lahmi), Goliath, and Yishbi (ibid: 16, 18, 19, 20, 1 Chronicles
truly wept and clung to Naomi out of love. Thus the women of Bethlehem were later to observe: Your
daughter-in-law who loves you, she who is better to you than seven sons, has
borne him (v. 4:15).
sages declare: Let the sons of Orpah, who kissed Naomi, fall by the hands of
the sons of Ruth, who cleaved to her. And generations after the two
sisters-in-law parted ways, the four warriors who came from Orpah were slain by
Ruths great-grandson David and his men (1 Chronicles 20ff.).
She said, Behold, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and to her
gods; return after your sister-in-law.
Ruth and Orpah had declared their intention to convert. Nevertheless, after
Naomi told them that she could not arrange for them to marry distinguished men
suitable for a kings daughters, Orpah left. In a final test of Ruths
determination to convert, Naomi now told her to follow Orpahs example and go
back to Moab.
Your sister-in-law came this far out of
courtesy and because she was ashamed to leave me, said Naomi, but now she has
returned home. You are also free to depart. Do not feel obligated to remain
because Orpah has left.
interpretation is that Naomi, thinking she succeeded in persuading Ruth to
leave, urged her to hurry and catch up with Orpah (return after your
sister-in-law), so the two could travel together.
Orpah had but returned to her people, Naomi knew that under their influence
she would also return to her gods. In this regard, the influence of the
environment is already noted in the Torah, which warns: they [idolators] shall
not dwell in your midst lest they cause you to sin against Me (Exodus 23:33).
who encourages a Jew to worship idols incurs the death penalty. If therefore
Naomi told Ruth to return after her sister-in-law who has returned to her
gods, evidently Ruth had not yet converted. Or else, Ruth and Orpah had
converted to marry Machlon and Kilyon, but invalidated the conversion by
secretly continuing to worship idols.
Naomi spoke as she did in order to test Ruth, and she chose her words
carefully. She did not actually say, return to your gods, but return after
your sister-in-law. She accepted Ruths sincerity of faith, and only urged
her to go back to her fathers house in Orpahs company.
But Ruth said: Entreat me not to leave you, to return from following after
you. Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people
are my people, and your God is my God.
urged to follow the example of Orpah, who returned to her people and to her
gods, Ruth countered: Your people are my people, and your God is my God.
had also advised her to return to her mothers house or go to Judah on her
own. The first she rejected categorically, declaring, I will not go back to
the idolatry of my mothers house. Your people are my people, and your God is
my God. And to the second, upon which Naomi had a right to insist, she
replied: Entreat me (hgdp,) not to leave you, to return from following
expression hgdp, can also mean strike a blow, and thus Ruth conveyed to
Naomi that she was stung by the insinuation that she was only accompanying her
out of politeness. In coming with you I have no ulterior motive, not even to
collect my marriage settlement in Bethlehem.
Wherever you go, be it Bethlehem
or elsewhere, I will go.
sharp words will not turn me away. Even if you tell me black is white, I will
follow you and obey you.
can you frighten me away by implying that the hand of God that has gone out
against you may also strike me if I cleave to you.
if I remarry, I will not leave you. Nothing, not the land, nor differences of
nationality, religion, or custom, will separate me from you.
wished us to find rest in the houses of our husbands, but I am not looking for
peace and security; I would rather be a wanderer casting about for my lodging
with you, than live in the palace of a king.
if you do not let me come with you, I will go alone to Judah to
convert. Where you go - i.e.; to Judah there will I go. for your
God and your people are mine. And our paths must eventually join, for our goals
are the same.
Naomi was for Ruth like forsaking the Torah; by the seemingly redundant
phrase, to return from following after you, she indicated that with every
step she might take away from Naomi, the distance between them would double.
Similarly our sages teach: When a person departs from the Torah, the Torah
departs from him, hence doubling the separation between them.
had instructed her in the commandments, and Ruth now committed herself to
fulfill them. Your people are my people was her acceptance of the laws
between man and his fellow; your God is my God relates to the laws between
man and God.
sages expound: Your people are my people these are punishments and warnings
[of the Torah which Ruth now accepted as binding]. Your God is my God these
are the other precepts.
implication: Your people are my people who will take me away from idolatry;
your God is my God who will reward me for my labor. Ruth thus expressed her
belief in reward and punishment.
instructed her with particular care in the laws of the Sabbath, for Sabbath
observance unequivocally attests to belief in God as Creator. And our sages
wrote that despite their desire to reach Judah as quickly as possible, she
taught her that it is forbidden to walk on the Sabbath more than two thousand
cubits beyond the last inhabited settlement. To this Ruth replied, Where you
go, I will go.
also taught her the code of Torah morality, including the prohibition of yichud
seclusion with men. And this Ruth accepted: Where you lodge, I will lodge.
to our sages, when Naomi said to her: We are commanded to fulfill six-hundred
and thirteen precepts, Ruth replied:
people are my people.
are forbidden to worship idols.
God is my God.
daughter, a Jew does not reside in a house that lacks a mezuzah.
you lodge, I will lodge.
maidens do not frequent pagan circuses and theaters.
you go, I will go.
understood Naomis hesitation to take her to Judah; she feared that no Jew would
marry a Moabite woman since the prohibition against marrying Moabites was
generally thought to extend also to women. Her answer was: I will cleave to
you and from your deeds learn how to cleave to God.
Where you die, I will die; and there I will be buried. Thus may God do to me,
and more, for death will separate me from you.
cannot bear to be without you. The moment you die, I will die. And may God deal
severely with me if I permit anything but death to separate me from you.
that it was unlikely that any man in Judah would marry her, Ruth was
prepared to live and die alone with Naomi, and be buried next to her rather
than next to a husband.
will separate me from you, she insisted, but not my place of burial. Since,
however, it was not within her power to determine when and where she would die
and be buried, Ruth prayed that God grant that she remain free of sin and thus
worthy of dying in the same place as Naomi, and hence be buried next to her.
she prayed that her death and burial be in the Holy Land,
for according to our sages, one who dies there is like a baby in his mothers
arms, whereas one who dies elsewhere is like a baby in the arms of a
stepmother. And one who is buried in the Holy Land is considered as if buried
beneath the altar of the Holy
realizing that she had spoken of Naomis death before her own (Where you die,
I will die), Ruth quickly corrected herself by adding, Thus may God do to me ...
for death will separate me from you, mentioning her own death first.
to the Midrash, Naomi had warned Ruth that one who accepts the Torah is liable
for transgressions and subject to the four types of capital punishment. And
Ruth replied: In whatever way you die, I will die, expressing her acceptance
of the Torah along with its specific punishments.
she added may God do to me- a prayer that she die a natural death rather than
incur the death penalty for her sins.
to our sages, for death will separate me from you also alludes to the
teaching Ruth absorbed from her mother-in-law regarding lifes purpose in this
world: to fulfill as many mitzvoth as possible and accumulate good deeds for
which one is rewarded in the World to Come. [She would strive for this by
becoming a Jew and cleaving to Naomi.] In the hereafter, on the other hand,
they will be separate. For the souls of the righteous are uniquely rewarded
in the World to Come, each occupying a different abode (Talmud).
contrary is true of the gentiles who worship idols, whom death does not set
apart. [Since they do not acknowledge the one true God, the source of all
distinctions and differences in the world, the difference between living and
non-living is denied]. In life they are all as dead, and in death they are not
separate (Daily Prayer).
Ruth said: Death will separate me from you, affirming her belief in life
rcet conveys her belief in the resurrection of the dead. The last four
letters spell vfrc blessing, which is an allusion to resurrection.
Thus it is written, For there has the Lord commanded the blessing (vfrc)eternal
life (Psalms 133:3).
said, Thus may God do to me. She prayed that the blessing Naomi had given her
daughters-in-law (May the Lord deal kindly ..v. 8) should be fulfilled
through her alone, now that Orpah returned to her gods. And moremay He add to
this blessing (find rest in the house of her husbandv. 9) so that from her
marriage will come forth the royal dynasty.
Abraham Ibn Ezra
1:15 YOUR SISTERINLAW HAS GONE BACK: The
declension of sisterinlaw we have already explained in the Torah.15
HER PEOPLE AND HER GODS: This shows that they had been converted to Judaism.
1:16 DO NOT ENTREAT ME: The meaning of dp is persuasion,
the preposition c is always found with it, as in Entreat
Ephron for me. It is not a strange word, except far the occurrence with the
meaning I will spare no man, and I will explain this in that place.
PEOPLE SHALL BE MY PEOPLE: I will never forsake the Torah of Israel and the
declaration of the unity of God.
then kissed her mother-in-law. A kiss of separation, because she had
intended to accompany Naomi only to the extent that it was
"beneficial" to her. Whereas, Ruth, whose purpose in going with Naomi
was for the " good" ,
clung to her.
Your sister-in-law has returned. By this she meant to say that since she
returned to her people, most likely she returned also to her god (Midrash
Ruth Rabbah 2:21), implying that she had not intended to convert. Naomi
insinuated, "You probably are of a like mind and, if so, accompany your
16. Do not press me. The Midrash
Ruth Rabbah (2:22) interprets her words in the following way: Ruth said to
her, "Do not sin against me! You will not receive your beseechment from
me!" This is based on the idea that the word hgdp, (urge) has three possible meanings: striking,
as it says, And he struck him and he died (Melachim 1,2:25); meeting, And
he met [came across] Jericho
(Yehoshua 16:7); and beseeching, Beseech on my behalf from Ephron
(Bereshis 23:8). According to the Midrash, "meeting" and
"beseeching" are essentially the same -one requests and then expects
that his friend will come out and " meet" him in order to fulfill his
petition. As such, Ruth chose the language of 'y~!)n in the sense of striking
to harm. She meant to tell Naomi that if she would be forced to leave her she
would die a spiritual death. This the Midrash paraphrases: Do not sin
against me! [In the sense of meeting and beseeching, she wanted to
communicate to Naomi, "Do not think that my heart will 'meet' (i.e., agree
with) you in this request, and will think like you." The Midrash renders
this thought as, "you will not receive your "beseechment" from
To leave you, to turn back from following you.
Ruth said, "1 will not
leave you because I do not wish to part with you or to turn back from you! Even
if I would have to withdraw from you, I would not go back to the land of Moab! No matter what, I will journey to
the land of Judah and be converted to your
religion. [So, too, in the Midrash Ruth Rabbah (2:22), to turn back
from following you: Nevertheless, my intention is to convert -preferably by
you and not by others. ]
where you go, I will go. Ruth declared, "Do not think that the
purpose of my going is different from your own: you are going there for
the sake of your religion -so that you will be able to keep the commandments
which are dependent on the soil (that is, of the Land of Israel), as well as
the rest of the Torah and its commandments; however, you think I go only for
the sake of some benefit...not so! My purpose is identical to yours."
Likewise, "Do not think that I hope to achieve some temporal advantage
such as marrying a wealthy man, etc."
you sleep, I will sleep. "I will reside as a foreigner in the
Land just like the righteous who reside in this world as a place of temporary
dwelling:' The motivation of my odyssey is: your people is my people, and
your God is my God. "I have already embraced the Torah of
your God and the customs of your people and recognize myself as one of your
Where you die, I will die. Ruth expressed, "My ultimate desire in
going is to die the death of the righteous just like you, in which the spirit
returns to the Rock of life."
there I will be buried. "In the same place in the Holy
land and in the graves of the righteous who anticipate the
resurrection of the dead."
the ETERNAL treat me like this. Ruth swore that this indeed was her genuine
anything but death separates between me and you. Ruth stated, "My
reason for accompanying you is because I understand that death will create a
great divide between us. In life, I have clung to you. Even though our
religions separated us, we were united by virtue of our mutual love. However,
after our death, we will be separated because you will be linked with the Lord
of Hosts but I will be banished to the realm of the idolaters. Therefore, I
plead with you that I may convert so that we not part in death!" By these
words (verses 16 and 17) Ruth revealed that she had already accepted the major
tenets of Judaism: the existence of HaShem and His Oneness (as she said, your-God
is my God), the uniqueness of Torah and its customs (for where you go, I
will go: meaning that I will go in the path of the upright and the
Torah, your people is my people) and the eternity of the soul, reward
and punishment in the World to Come, and the resurrection of the dead (Where
you die, I will die, and there I will be buried). Our Sages (Yevamos
47b) explained that Ruth also embraced the practical commandments (as she
said, for where you go -on Shabbos -I will go, etc.). The Midrash
Ruth Rabbah (2:25) comments that Naomi implored Ruth, "Whatever
commandments and good deeds you can accomplish, do so now in this world,
because death separates between me and you!"
(14) Then they raised their voices and wept again.
Orriah kissed her mother-in-law, while Ruth clung to her.
first word in the verse, vba,u is missing an aleph before the
nun. (n)The word sug seems redundant. (iii)We are informed that
Orpah kissed Naomi. No mention is made of her leaving to return to Moab.
words clung to her dont seem the most appropriate in the circumstances.
More correct would have been remained with her.
Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 2:20) explains the absence of the aleph as
signifying the physical fatigue suffered by the women after their exhausting
journey. It is highly unlikely that the intention is that they became weakened
as a result of their weeping, since Orpah hardly cried at all.
if we calculate the lower numerical value of the word vba,u, we
arrive at the sum of 23, which is equal to the lower value of the words sckc ,ur (Ruth
can also derive from here that when Orpah cried she raised the volume of her
voice to twice the usual level before kissing Naomi (goodbye) and leaving.
Hence, they raised their voices above the usual level and wept
again, i.e., they doubled the volume of their cry. Following that, Orpah
kissed her mother-in-law farewell and left. Ruth on the other hand,
remained there, weeping uncontrollably.
Why Did They Weep?
is also possible that the phrase and wept again indicates their
determination to remain members of Naomis family. They felt sad that they
were left empty-handed after their childless marriages. Until now, their despair
had remained bottled up inside them, but now, after they heard Naomi informing
them explicitly that it was highly unlikely that she would bear more sons for
them to marry, they could no longer control their emotions and burst into
raised their voices and wept again. Earlier, Naomi had said ,ohbc hk
sugv Do I still have sons...? The word sug
here is not redundant as we first thought. It reminds us of the sugv
Naomi said earlier (verse 11). The reason why the daughters-in-law wept now
was because Naomi had said: hufu hk sugv
Do I still have sons to offer you in marriage? Hence the
verse here can be understood thus: They wept on account of sug.
However, Scripture is referring mainly to Ruth and not to Orpah. That explains
why the aleph in vba,u is missing.
Tamar Also Wept
Shimoni (Ruth 601), in reference to this verse remarks: Two women will be
remembered for giving their lives for the sake of the Tribe of Judah: Tamar and
Ruth. Tamar cried, I will not leave this house empty-handed. Ruth wept each
time her mother-in-law told her, Go my daughter.. .as it is written, They
raised their voices...
Midrash requires some thought. What connection does Tamar have here?
Furthermore, the text implies that both Ruth and Orpah wept, but according to
the Yalkut it seems that only Ruth cried!
addition, the Yalkut states that Ruth wept each time Naomi told her to
go. In fact, Naomi only told her Go, my daughter, once, in chapter two
when she allowed Ruth to gather stalks in the fields. There was certainly no
reason to cry then. Besides, that had nothing to do with giving her life for Judah, for she
did not know that she would meet Boaz in the fields.
Rabbis of the Midrash had to overcome three basic difficulties before fully understanding
the passage. (i)The aleph is absent from the word vba,u.
(ii)The word sug seems redundant. (iii)Both girls cried
though one was leaving and the other remained with Naomi.
absence of the aleph implies that there was another woman elsewhere in
the Scriptures who raised her voice and wept. That woman was Tamar. The Sages
also maintained that Ruth cried at this point because Naomi addressed her
together with Orpah as if they were on the same level of piety.
when Naomi told Ruth, follow after your sister-in-law (verse 15), Ruth
also cried. The extra sug indicates that besides crying together
with Orpah, Ruth cried alone, too.
Orpah Takes Leave of Naomi
While Ruth Remains
asked why no mention was made of Orpahs return to her mothers house after she
took leave of Naomi. It is possible that the prophet wished to emphasize the
difference between Ruth and Orpah. The latter was hesitant to leave Naomi only
because she was her mother-in-law. Her strong religious beliefs and convictions
didnt interest Orpah. Thus, we read: Orpah kissed her mother-in-law. She
gave her a goodbye kiss and that was all.
acted differently. She clung to Naomis religious beliefs. She was devoted to
her mother-in-law not merely because of their family relationship but because
Na omi was a woman of valor. For this reason the clause and she (Orpah)
returned home is omitted, as it would distract us from the main point of the
verse, i.e., Ruths sincerity.
this it is clear that the verse distinguishes between the ways in which the
sisters-in-law conducted themselves towards Naomi. Naomi kissed Ruth so that
their spirits could unite in a common bond. Before she accepted Ruth, she had
to determine if she was the good dove that was destined to come from Moab. If she
was, their spirits would cling to each other when they kissed. Through this
kiss, her insides would become hallowed and the spirit of Machlon within her
would also be aroused. She would find herself spiritually attuned to Na omi.
The Two Kisses
the meaning of the verse is clear. After Naomi kissed her daughters-in-law so
that her spirit would combine with theirs, Orpah again kissed her
mother-in-law. However, this was a purely physical kiss and thus, their spirits
were unable to find a common link. Ruth, on the other hand, had received one
kiss from Naomi, and with that, she was spiritually attached to her
mother-in-law. Hence, the point being made here is not Orpahs return home, for
that does not interest us, but that Ruth became attached to Naomi while Orpah
did not. In this way the prophet highlights the righteousness of Ruth.
is another, simpler reason for omitting any mention of Orpahs return. She did not
return immediately. While she was still with them, Naomi turned to Ruth
and said: Look! Your sister-in-law has returned... (see next verse). She
said this to emphasize that Orpah was not only returning to her home but also
was reverting to her old ways and would worship idols as she once did. She
would not adapt to the ways of the Jews or accept the Law of Moses in any way.
Naomi wanted Orpah to hear what she was saying, as earlier it seemed that both
Ruth and Orpah would continue to serve God whatever happened even if they
returned to Moab
their hearts would remain with Naomi wherever she was. Thus, Naomi told them:
Return, my daughters, as if to say, Return to God even if you be in
your own land. Why is it necessary to follow me?
Orpah Returns to Her Old Ways
that Orpah was leaving her, Naomi addressed Ruth, saying: She should not
think that in her own home it will be easy for her to serve God. I admit that
it was I who first suggested that she return, but then I thought it would be a
good idea. She cant blame me though, if she ends up worshiping idols.
deliberately spoke to Ruth while Orpah was still within hearing distance: Now
your sister-in-law is returning to her people and her god. With this she
intended to convey that serving gods was an inevitable consequence of
returning to her people. Naomi hoped that Orpah would get the message that a
return to Moab
meant a return to idol worship. She would be made to understand that if she had
any intention of becoming a Jewess, she should not return to Moab. Now we
can understand why no mention of her return is made in verse 14. The
conversation between Ruth and Naomi quoted in verse 15, precedes Orpahs
return to Moab.
However, it must be made clear that Naomi did not speak directly to Orpah
regarding this matter, for she did not wish to humiliate her by implying that
she would be serving idols. She addressed only Ruth, with the hope that her
message of warning would make an impression on Orpah, too.
(15) So she said,Look! Your
sister-in-law has returned to her people and her god. Follow after
thought that Ruth was too embarrassed to leave her and needed to be persuaded
to follow Orpah. To test her sincerity she said: Look! Your sister-in-law
has returned. By this she intended to say: You need not feel embarrassed
for Orpah has made the first move.
her own way, Naomi was attempting to befriend Ruth.
With these words, she was eliminating the possibility of Ruth voicing a wish to
follow Orpah, with the intention of continuing to serve God in her home in Moab. By
stressing the fact that Orpah was returning to her people and her god
she was indicating that a return to Moab meant no less than a return to
idol worship and her gentile ways. If Ruth wanted to go home, she would have to
do so now, together with her sister-in-law, as there would be no one else to
accompany her later.
it is possible that Naomi was not advising Ruth to follow Orpah in all
respects. Follow her, but not her god. Dont be led astray in the same way
that she is being led astray.
But Ruth said: Dont press me to leave you; to turn back from following after
you. For wherever you go I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your
people are my people and your God, my God.
(17) Where you die I will die and there I will be
buried. So may God do to me and so may He continue, for only death will
separate between me and you.
verse 16, there seems to be an unnecessary repetition of expressions: to leave
you; to turn back...
the text it appears that when Ruth declares: Where you will go, I
will go... she is giving reasons for remaining with her mother-in-law. But,
how appropriate are these reasons? They dont seem to fit in with anything
said previously. As for the clause, your people are my people and your God
my God, this should have been said either at the beginning or at the end of
her statement but not right in the middle.
Where you will die... needs an explanation as does the assertion: There will
I be buried!
this last question our Sages (Ruth Rabbah 2:25) explain that she was referring
to the fact that those executed by order of the court by means of stoning or
burning are not buried together with those who are executed by strangulation or
by the sword. This is somewhat difficult to understand, as we are instructed to
teach a would-be proselyte the hard things that come with Judaism as well as
the easy ones. However, this particular point of law does not have to be taught
to them before they convert.
Ruth Assures Naomi
is possible that Ruth told Naomi the following:
you have been constantly urging me to return to my people. I have no doubt that
you are testing me to see if I am sincere or if I am not really interested and
will eventually return to Moab like Orpah did. Do not press me any longer;
there is no reason to do so, for I am not like Orpah. I am serious about
following in the ways of God. In fact, since I have resolved never to leave
God, your efforts are only serving to distance me from you. That is why I am
adamant that from today, whereuer you go I will go and whereuer you
lodge, I shall lodge. You need not worry about my faith in God, for I
have resolved that your people are my people and your God, my God. A
return to my land would not be tantamount to a return to my nation and my god
as you very well realize.
might wonder why I am insisting on returning with you to your country if I am
convinced that I can remain true to my beliefs in Moab. To this I answer: Whereuer
you will die, I will die. I, too, would like to die in the land of Israel. No doubt she had in mind the
saying later taught to us by our Sages: There is no comparison between giving
our soul back to its mother that is, the Land of Israel and giving it to a
stranger another land (Jerusalem Talmud Kethuboth 12:13; see also a
similar statement in Talmud Kethuboth lila; cf. the Aishich on Numbers 27:6).
will I be buried. Dont think that I will go there without you. So rr~y God
do to me and so may He continue, for nothing but death will separate
Ruth Accepts Mosaic Law
Talmud (Yebamoth 47b) explains the meaning of the text to be a dialogue between
Ruth and Naomi, who tried to dissuade the former from joining the Jewish
people because of the myriad responsibilities incumbent on a Jew.
told her: It is forbidden to walk long distances out of town on Sabbath. Ruth
replied: Whereuer you go, I will go. Naomi said: A private
meeting between man and woman is forbidden. Ruth responded: Where you lodge,
I will lodge.
said: We must keep 613 commandments. Ruth asserted: Your people are my
people. Naomi told her: We must not serve or bow to foreign gods. To
which Ruth declared: Your God is my God.
explained: There are four methods of execution practiced by the Sanhedrin.
Biblical law makes clear which crimes are punishable by each form of execution.
Ruth acknowledged this: Whereuer you will die, I will die.
said: There are two distinct burial places reserved for those executed by the
Sanhedrin. Ruth asserted: There will I be buried.
Ruth Learns about Mitzvoth
did Naomi select these particular mitzuoth and points of law as
examples of Judaic practice? Firstly, only two Sabbath and seclusion are
selected and only then does she tell Ruth that 613 precepts must be kept.
Following that, she tells her of idol worship and the various methods of
execution. Arent these laws contained within the 613? Wouldnt it have been
more appropriate to begin or end with the statement that Jews are required to
keep all 613 commandments? Why is this brought to her attention in the middle
of the dialogue?
is, however, method and logic in Naomis choice of subjects. Besides conveying
to Ruth the importance of both the easy and difficult aspects of Jewish living,
Naomi takes their present location into account, for Ruth was being introduced
into the Jewish nation at that specific time and she had to know how to live as
a Jew from that moment on. Moreover, Naomi felt she had to make known to Ruth
the three crimes which Judaism considers to be the most serious: forbidden
sexual relations, idol worship and bloodshed.
might have questioned Ruth as follows: What would you, as a Jewess, do in
these circumstances? You have left the town and are walking in the countryside
where few people, if any, are in evidence. Indeed, the only people you are
likely to meet are rogues or highwaymen intent on evil. Such people would,
without doubt, attempt to assault you. Indeed, our Sages note (Ruth Rabbah
4:4) that her appearance was so seductive that anyone staring at her would be
sexually aroused to the point of a seminal discharge.
you yet a gentile woman, it would be of no consequence, but being that you are
now Jewish, you have to guard yourself from any forbidden sexual act, and this
may prove difficult on a journey through a remote area where no help can be
expected from other people.
truth is, that by adhering to the Sabbath laws of domains, there is a greater
likelihood that you will be accosted by a stranger since you must acquire a
place of residence before the Sabbath begins and are forbidden to leave a given
area for the duration of the Sabbath. This will make it easier for someone to
trap you and dishonor you. You may find a guide who is willing to escort you
and protect you; but you may be forced to enter his home at night and forget
that remaining in private with him is forbidden.
introduced Ruth to Judaism by concentrating on the laws most likely to affect
her in the immediate future; the laws of Sabbath boundaries and laws of being
alone with a man. Ruth agreed to keep the Sabbath by answering Whereuer you
go I will go. By following you, I shall be sure to keep within the
to private meetings she adds, Wherever you lodge, I will lodge, for there will
be no strange man with us.
Naomi had taught her about forbidden sexual contacts, she also wanted to
impart to Ruth the gravity of worshiping idols but did not want to make it seem
as if she suspected her of practicing pagan customs. Thus, first she informs
Ruth of the number of precepts each Jew is required to keep and only then, as
if by the way, does she mention that idol worship is forbidden. She then goes
on to warn Ruth of the death penalties imposed by the courts for such serious
crimes as bloodshed, as well as idol worship. To impress upon Ruth the gravity
of these deeds she spells out that even after their execution, the sin has not
been entirely obliterated, for the sinners bodies will be buried in separate
plots, each according to the crime committed.
the various death penalties, Ruth says, So shall God do to me and so
shall He continue, and as to the various burial places, she adds, only
death will separate us, for it is known that each righteous person acquires
a home for himself after death, unlike the wicked about whom it is said that
their evil deeds remain evident even after death by the fact that they are
buried away from others.
is another possible way to understand these words, as if they were spoken about
a spiritual process. However, an introduction is necessary.
while a person is in this world, he is in the process of going, as Scripture
says, . . .for man is going to his eternal home... (Ecclesiastes
12:5). In addition, the Mishnah warns Know... .where you are going (Ethics
3:1). In my commentary to that mishnah, I explained that man is constantly on
the move from the day of his birth until the day of his death, as his life is
gradually slipping away.
the Zohar (Volume 2, 98b) remarks that the soul of a proselyte is bound
up with the soul of a righteous man while the soul of a woman convert is bound
up with that of a righteous woman.
the Zohar in its introduction to Parshath Vayechi (Volume 1,
218a; cf. Talmud Kethuboth 104a) tells us that when a man goes to his eternal
home on High, all those who are to be his neighbors in his new home come and
lead him to his place. This concept is derived from the words, And he was
gathered to his people (Deuteronomy 32:50); And you shall
be gathered to your people (Numbers 27:13). Those who share his place of
honor in the next world are called his people. They gather him
and lead him to his appropriate place.
we are taught that God does not attach His name to a righteous man until he has
died (Midrash Tanchuma, Toldoth 7).
as we have mentioned before, our Sages say that even though it is considered
honorable to be buried in the Land of Israel, it is all the more beneficial for
the soul if he actually dies in the Land of Israel, for one cannot compare
giving a soul back to its mother to giving it to a stranger (Jerusalem Talmud
Will Go I Will Go
back to our verse, Ruth says, Dont press me. When a would-be proselyte
is gently dissuaded by being asked, What do you see [in Judaism] that you wish
to convert? (Talmud Yebamoth 47a), the intention is not to dishearten him
totally, but to push him away gently as with a left hand. At the same time he
is drawn closer with the right hand to test his sincerity. We must not push
him away too many times two or three times is enough. If he persists in
wishing to become one of us, we must soften our attitude towards him. Ruth
claimed that she had been constantly rebuffed, presumably to test her
sincerity. However, she had not been rejected outright. Now, she says, if
you continue to urge me to return to my land, I will feel as if I have been
rejected outright and you are not interested in my conversion.
not press me to leave you. Any further attempts to dissuade me on your part
will only serve to indicate that you suspect me of having evil intentions. It
will appear that you think it is not fitting that you aid me in converting,
lest I return to my old ways. However, I am not so inclined, for whereuer
you go, I will go. I am certain that my soul, which is going towards its
eternal home as it says, A man goes to his eternal home (Ecclescaites
12:5) will become attached to your soul, especially since you have the
credit for helping me to convert, and it is reckoned as if you bore me. (A
proselyte is like a newly born babe [Talmud Yebamoth 22a].) I shall follow you
on the path of God that you take towards the World to Come. Thus, in Paradise, where
you shall lodge, I shall lodge, for my soul will be bound up
together with yours; it will not be the soul of a Moabite which has nothing
whatsoever in common with a Jewish soul.
your arrival in Heaven, the neighbors will come and lead your soul to its
rightful place in Paradise. They are called
your people (see Deuteronomy 32:50, Numbers 27:13). Then your people will be
my people, too. They will gather me up after my death, and just as
God shall call His name to you after your death, so shall He attach His name to
me, for your God is my God.
Mother of the Soul
this concerns the soul. As for my physical body, whereuer you die, I shall
die, i.e., in the Land
of Israel rather than in
an unclean land, for there is no comparison between giving the body back to
its mother and giving it to a stranger. It makes no difference to a non-Jewish
woman whether she is buried in Israel
or not, for Israel
is not her mother. But, there I will be buried, for I do not wish that
my soul be hampered by the unclean environment of a foreign country when it
leaves my body. Similarly, I do not wish my body to be buried in the ground of
an unclean country, for then my soul will mourn over my sad fate and will not
be able to attach itself to your soul. If I am righteous and merit to die in
the Land of Israel where you will die, and I am
buried there, my soul will not be deprived of any spiritual benefits, since I
will have gone where you have gone and will have stayed where you have stayed.
Two Souls One Destiny
may God do for me. If this promise is fulfilled and I go where you go,
then He will continue to do for me so that your people will be my
people. Your companions [in Heaven] will be my companions and your
God will be called my God, too, for only death will separate between me
and you. The kiss that united our spirits and bound up our souls has made
us like one. Our lives will have a common destiny. Only in death will we be
separated, for one of us will surely die before the other. Yet, when the second
one dies, the bond between us will once again be restored.
Just as God has done for me, that whereuer you will go I will go, so may He
continue to do for your people will be my people. Deep down
I know that I am righteous and that when death separates us it will be no more
than a physical separation, for we will not be buried in the same grave. Our
souls have been bound together forever
even more so after death since the kiss you gave me forged a common link between
our two spirits. I am not like the wicked who even during their lifetime are
considered as good as dead, while the righteous are alive. Only death itself
will separate us, and not sin.
A Blessing Fulfilled
is possible that the words of this verse refer to the blessing Naomi gave to
Ruth earlier. In verse 8 we explained that when Naomi told Ruth that she would
find contentment, she was alluding to the fact that her marriage would be in
the form of a levirate union, and thus the spirit of Machlon, which had taken
refuge within her, could be placated. Consequently, she would become the source
of the Royal House of David. As we said, this blessing applied only to one
of the sisters-in-law.
Ruth responds to the challenge: I am willing to convert. Dont push me away
for God will do for me, as you yourself said, God will do for you...
(verse 8), and that deed refers to conversion. So will He continue to
do, for you gave me a second blessing, namely, that God will grant me
contentment... (verse 9). This second blessing will be realized when I
marry into a family from which the royal seed of David will issue.
death will separate us. The son which will result from a levirate marriage
will in essence be your son, for he shall be imbued with the spirit of Machlon.
Whether now, while I have the spirit of your son within me, or whether
later, when it will be transferred into my son, there will always be a bond
between us. This would not be possible if I were to marry anyone else, as the
spirit of Machlon would leave me and I would lose my connection with you
even before one of us dies.