Ruth 1:14-17



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Ruth 1:14 kai; ejph'ran th;n fwnh;n aujtw'n kai; e[klausan e[ti kai; katefivlhsen Orfa th;n penqera;n aujth'" kai; ejpevstreyen eij" to;n lao;n aujth'" Rouq de; hjkolouvqhsen aujth'/

Ruth 1:15 kai; ei\pen Nwemin pro;" Rouq ijdou; ajnevstreyen hJ suvnnumfov" sou pro;" lao;n aujth'" kai; pro;" tou;" qeou;" aujth'" ejpistravfhti dh; kai; su; ojpivsw th'" sunnuvmfou sou

Ruth 1:16 ei\pen de; Rouq mh; ajpanthvsai ejmoi; tou' katalipei'n se h] ajpostrevyai o[pisqevn sou o{ti su; o{pou eja;n poreuqh'/" poreuvsomai kai; ou| eja;n aujlisqh'/" aujlisqhvsomai oJ laov" sou laov" mou kai; oJ qeov" sou qeov"


Ruth 1:17 kai; ou| eja;n ajpoqavnh/" ajpoqanou'mai kajkei' tafhvsomai tavde poihvsai moi kuvrio" kai; tavde prosqeivh o{tiqavnato" diastelei' ajna; mevson ejmou' kai; sou'


Ruth 1:14-17 And they raised their voices and wept again; and Orpha kissed her mother-in-law, and returned to her people, but Ruth followed her. 15 And Noemin said to Ruth, Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; now you also turn back after your sister-in-law. 16 But Ruth said: Reply not for me to leave you, or to turn back behind you; for wherever you may go, I will go; and wherever you may lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; 17 and wherever you may die, I will die, and there will I be buried; may the LORD do these to me, and add to these, because death alone will separate you and me.









and they raised




their voice




and they wept








and she kissed








on her mother-in-law




and Ruth




she clung




to her




and she said








she goes back




your sister-in-law








her people




and to




her gods












your sister-in-law




and she replied












you urge




to me




to leave you




to return




from after you
















you go




I will go




and at where




you stay




I will stay




your people




my people




and your God




my God




at where




you die




I will die




and there




I will be buried








may he deal








to me




and so




may he be severe








the death




he separates




between me




and between you






1:14 And they lifted up their voices again and wept; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, and turned back and went away; but Ruth clung to her.


1:15 And her mother-in-law said to her, Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her kinsmen; return also after your sister-in-law.


1:16 And Ruth said to her, Far be it from me to return from following after you, and to leave you; for where you go, I will go; and where you dwell, I will dwell; your people shall be my people, and your God my




1:17 Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried; may the LORD do so to me, and more also, if even death can separate me from you.


Stones Translation


1:14 They raised their voice and wept again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.


1:15 So she said, Look, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.


1:16 But Ruth said, Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back from following you. For where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your God is my God;


1:17 where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may HaShem do to me, and so may He do more, if anything but death separates me from you.




1:14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.


1:15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.


1:16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, [or] to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people [shall be] my people, and thy God my God:


1:17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: HaShem do so to me, and more also, [if ought] but death part thee and me.



Peshat Level:




1:14 Once again they lifted their voices and wept; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung unto her.


1:15 Then said she: "Behold, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and to her gods. Return after your sister-in-law to your people and your gods!"


1:16 But Ruth said: "Do not coax me to leave you, to turn from following you, for I desire to become a proselyte." Said Naomi: "We are commanded to keep the Sabbaths and holidays, not to walk more than two thousand cubits." Said Ruth: "Wheresoever you go I shall go." Said Naomi: "We are commanded not to spend the night together with non-Jews." Said Ruth: "Wherever you lodge I shall lodge." Said Naomi: "We are commanded to keep six hundred thirteen commandments." Said Ruth: "That which your people keep, that I shall keep, as though they had been my people before this." Said Naomi: "We are commanded not to worship idolatry." Said Ruth: "Your God is my God."


1:17 Said Naomi: "We have four methods of capital punishment for the guilty -- stoning, burning with fire, death by the sword, and hanging upon the gallows." Said Ruth: "To whatever death you are subject I shall be subject." Said Naomi: "We have two cemeteries." Said Ruth: "There shall I be buried. And do not continue to speak any further. May the Lord do thus unto me and more if [even] death will separate me from you."




1:15 Behold your sister-in-law has returned This (instance of the word vca has) its accent at the beginning, under the a, since it is the past tense. (However, in Esther 2:14) and in the morning, she would return (vca), its accent is at the end, on the c, since it is the present tense, and likewise, (in) all similar instances.


1:16 Do not urge me Do not press me.


For wherever you go I will go From this our Rabbis, of blessed memory, derived (Yeb. 47b), (If) a (potential) proselyte comes to convert, we inform him of some of the punishments (for transgressing the commandments), so that if he wishes to withdraw from it (i.e., from his intention to convert), he can withdraw, for from the words of Ruth, you can learn what Naomi (must have) said to her. (Naomi said,) We are forbidden to venture forth outside the boundary (of 2,000 cubits beyond the city limits) on the Sabbath. She (Ruth) said to her, Wherever you go, I will go. We are forbidden to seclude ourselves a woman with a man who is not her husband. She (Ruth) said to her, Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Our nation is separated from other nations by 613 commandments, (to which Ruth replied,) Your nation is my nation. We are forbidden idol worship, (to which Ruth replied,) Your God is my God. Four deaths (i.e., types of capital punishment) were delegated to the Beth Din (to punish sinners), (to which she replied,) Where you die, I will die. Two burial plots were delegated to the Beth Din (to bury those executed), one for those stoned and those burned and one for those executed by decapitation and those strangled. She (Ruth) said to her, and there will I be buried.


1:17 Thus may the Lord do to me (I.e.,) as He has begun to afflict me, for His hand has gone forth against me, killing my husband and (causing me) to lose my possession (lit., to descend from my possessions).


And thus may he continue If (anything) shall make a separation between me and you except death.



Gemarah Level:


Talmud Babli


Sotah 42b These four were born to Harafah in Gath; and they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants. Who were they? R. Hisda said: Saph, Madon, Goliath and Ishbi-benob. And they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants, as it is written: And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clave unto her. R. Isaac said: The Holy One, blessed be He, spake, May the sons of the one who kissed come and fall by the hand of the sons of the one who clave.


Raba expounded: As a reward for the four tears which Orpah dropped upon her mother-in-law, she merited that four mighty warriors should issue from her; as it is said: And they lifted up their voice and wept again.


Yevamoth 47b The Master said, If a man desires to become a proselyte . . . he is to be addressed as follows: "What reason have you for desiring to become a proselyte . . ." and he is made acquainted with some of the minor, and with some of the major commandments. What is the reason? In order that if he desire to withdraw let him do so; for R. Helbo said: Proselytes are as hard for Israel [to endure] as a sore, because it is written in Scripture. And the proselyte shall join himself with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.

He is not, however, to be persuaded, or dissuaded too much. R. Eleazar said: What is the Scriptural proof? It is written, And when she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, she left off speaking unto her. We are forbidden, she told her, [to move on the Sabbath beyond the] Sabbath boundaries! Whither thou goest [the other replied] I will go.


We are forbidden private meeting between man and woman! Where thou lodgest. I will lodge


We have been commanded six hundred and thirteen commandments! Thy people shall be my people.


We are forbidden idolatry! And thy God my God.


Four modes of death were entrusted to Beth din! Where thou diest, will I die.


Two graveyards were placed at the disposal of the Beth din! And there will I be buried. Presently she saw that she was steadfastly minded etc.



Midrash Level:


Midrash Rabbah


Ruth II:20 AND THEY LIFTED UP (WATTISENAH) THEIR VOICES AND WEPT (I, 14). There is an alef missing [from WATTISENAH] teaching that they went on their way weeping, with diminishing strength. R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Isaac: Forty paces did Orpah go with her mother-in-law, and [for this reason retribution] was suspended for her descendant4 for forty days, as it is said, And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days (I Sam. XVII, 16). R. Judah said in the name of R. Isaac: Four miles did Orpah proceed with her mother-in-law, and as a reward four mighty men descended from her, as it is said, These four were born to the giant (II Sam. XXI, 22).5 R. Isaac said: The whole of that night when Orpah separated from her mother, a hundred heathens raped her. That is the meaning of the verse, And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion... out of the ranks of the Philistines (l Sam. XVII, 23). The ketib is mimma'arwoth, referring to the hundred men who violated her that night. R. Tanhuma said: And one dog also, as it is written, And the Philistine said unto David: am I a dog (I Sam. XVII, 43).


Ruth II:21 AND ORPAH KISSED HER MOTHER-IN-LAW (I,14). All kissing is folly except on three occasions, the kiss of high office, the kiss of meeting after separation, and the kiss of parting. Of high office, as it is written, Then Samuel took the vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him (I Sam. X, 1). Of meeting, as it is written, And he met him in the mountain of God and kissed him (Exodus IV, 27); of parting, as it is written, AND ORPAH KISSED HER MOTHER-IN-LAW. R. Tanhuma added: Also the kiss of kinship, as it is said, And Jacob kissed Rachel (Genesis XXIX, II): Why? Because she was his relation.


Ruth II:21 AND SHE SAID: BEHOLD, THY SISTER-IN-LAW IS GONE BACK, etc. (I, 15). Once she returned UNTO HER PEOPLE (ib.), she returned UNTO HER GOD (ib.).


Ruth II:22 AND RUTH SAID: ENTREAT ME NOT TO LEAVE THEE, AND TO RETURN FROM FOLLOWING AFTER THEE (I, 16). What is the meaning of ENTREAT ME NOT? She said to her, Do not sin against me; do not turn your misfortunes away from me. TO LEAVE THEE AND TO RETURN PROM FOLLOWING AFTER THEE. I am fully resolved to become converted under any circumstances, but it is better that it should be at your hands than at those of another. When Naomi heard this, she began to unfold to her the laws of conversion, saying: My daughter, it is not the custom of daughters of Israel to frequent Gentile theatres and circuses, to which she replied, WHITHER THOU GOEST, I WILL GO (ib.). She continued: ' My daughter, it is not the custom of daughters of Israel to dwell in a house which has no mezuzah, to which she responded, ' AND WHERE THOU LODGEST, I WILL LODGE (ib.). THY PEOPLE SHALL BE MY PEOPLE (ib.) refers to the penalties and admonitions [of the Torah], AND THY GOD MY GOD (ib.) to the other commandments of the Bible.


Ruth II:23 Another interpretation: WHITHER THOU GOEST I WILL GO: to the tent of testimony, to Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob, Gibeon, and the Permanent Temple. AND WHERE THOU LODGEST I SHALL LODGE: I shall lodge overnight with the sacrifices. THY PEOPLE SHALL BE MY PEOPLE, in that I will destroy all idolatry within me, and then THY GOD SHALL BE MY GOD, to pay me the reward of my labor.


Ruth II:24 WHERE THOU DIEST WILL I DIE (I, 17) refers to the four forms of capital punishment inflicted by the Court, viz. stoning, burning, beheading, and strangulation. AND THERE WILL I BE BURIED; these are the two graves prepared by the Beth din, one for those who have suffered stoning and burning, the other for those decapitated and strangled. THE LORD DO SO TO ME AND MORE ALSO. Naomi said to her: My daughter, whatever good deeds and righteous actions you are able to acquire, acquire in this world, for in the World to Come, DEATH SHALL PART THEE AND ME.


Ruth II:24 WHERE THOU DIEST WILL I DIE (I, 17) refers to the four forms of capital punishment inflicted by the Court, viz. stoning, burning, beheading, and strangulation.5 AND THERE WILL I BE BURIED; these are the two graves prepared by the Beth din, one for those who have suffered stoning and burning, the other for those decapitated and strangled. THE LORD DO SO TO ME AND MORE ALSO. Naomi said to her: My daughter, whatever good deeds and righteous actions you are able to acquire, acquire in this world, for in the World to Come, DEATH SHALL PART THEE AND ME.



Zohar Level:






Other Commentaries:


Meam Loez


VERSE 1:14

1:14 They raised their voice and wept again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth cleaved to her.


When 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 to ha,, 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.


Naomis moving plea (vs. 12-13), full of love and concern for their welfare, evoked fresh tears, and they raised their voice and wept again.


[The 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 vba,u.


Our 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 20ff.).


Ruth 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).


Our 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.).


VERSE 1:15

1:15 She said, Behold, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.


Both 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.


Another 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.


Although 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).


One 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.


However, 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.


VERSE 1:16


1:16 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.


When 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.


Naomi 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 after you.


The 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.


Your sharp words will not turn me away. Even if you tell me black is white, I will follow you and obey you.


Nor 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.


Even if I remarry, I will not leave you. Nothing, not the land, nor differences of nationality, religion, or custom, will separate me from you.


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.


And 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.


Leaving 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.


Naomi 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.


Our 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.


Another 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.


Naomi 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.


Naomi also taught her the code of Torah morality, including the prohibition of yichud (sujh), seclusion with men. And this Ruth accepted: Where you lodge, I will lodge.


According to our sages, when Naomi said to her: We are commanded to fulfill six-hundred and thirteen precepts, Ruth replied:


Your people are my people.


We are forbidden to worship idols.


Your God is my God.


My daughter, a Jew does not reside in a house that lacks a mezuzah.


Where you lodge, I will lodge.


Jewish maidens do not frequent pagan circuses and theaters.


Where you go, I will go.


Ruth 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.


VERSE 1:17


1:17 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.


I 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.


Realizing 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.


Death 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.


Moreover, 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 Temple.


Then, 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.


According 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.


Then she added may God do to me- a prayer that she die a natural death rather than incur the death penalty for her sins.


According 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).


The 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).


Accordingly, Ruth said: Death will separate me from you, affirming her belief in life after death.


Moreover, vf 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).


Ruth 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


TO 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,


and 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.


YOUR PEOPLE SHALL BE MY PEOPLE: I will never forsake the Torah of Israel and the declaration of the unity of God.




14. Orpah 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"[1] , clung to her.

15. Look! 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 sister-in-law ."


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 me!"]


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. ]


For 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."


Where 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 nation."


17. 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."


And 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."


Let the ETERNAL treat me like this. Ruth swore that this indeed was her genuine intention.


If 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.


(i)The 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.

(iv)The words clung to her dont seem the most appropriate in the circumstances. More correct would have been remained with her.


The 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.


Interestingly, 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 alone).


We 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?


It 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 tears.


They 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


The Yalkut 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...


This 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!


In 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.


The 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.


The 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.


Later 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


We 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.


Ruth 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.


From 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


Now 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.


There 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


Now 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.


Naomi 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 your sister-in-law.


Naomi 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.


In her own way, Naomi was attempting to befriend Ruth.[2] 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.


Alternatively, 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.


(16) 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.


(i)ln verse 16, there seems to be an unnecessary repetition of expressions: to leave you; to turn back...

(ii)Froan 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.

(iii) Where you will die... needs an explanation as does the assertion: There will I be buried!


Regarding 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


It is possible that Ruth told Naomi the following:


Look, 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.


You 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).


There 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 us.


Ruth Accepts Mosaic Law


The 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.


Naomi 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.

Naomi 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.


Naomi 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.


Naomi 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


Why 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?


There 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.


Naomi 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.


Were 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.


The 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.


Naomi 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 permitted domain.


As to private meetings she adds, Wherever you lodge, I will lodge, for there will be no strange man with us.


Once 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.


Regarding 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.

There is another possible way to understand these words, as if they were spoken about a spiritual process. However, an introduction is necessary.


Firstly, 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.


Secondly, 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.


Thirdly, 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.


Fourthly, we are taught that God does not attach His name to a righteous man until he has died (Midrash Tanchuma, Toldoth 7).


Finally, 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 Kethuboth 12:3).


Wherever You Will Go I Will Go


Coming 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.


Do 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.


On 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.


Israel: Mother of the Soul


All 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


So 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.


Alternatively, 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


It 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.


Here 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.


Only 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.




[1] The classic medieval commentators (see Moreh Nevuchim 1:2) differentiated between three primary motivations: 1) the "good," that which is intrinsically moral; 2) the "pleasant," which is satisfying to the senses; and 3) the "beneficial," which offers a pragmatic advantage.

[2] According to this it is possible to explain the opinion of Ibn Ezra, who maintains that Ruth and Orpah converted to Judaism before they married Machlon and Kilyon. The Akeidath Yitzchok asks that if this is the case, any attempt by Naomi to persuade Ruth to return would be tantamount to enticing her to idol worship. The Aishich has given us to understand that Naomis words were said so as to prevent Ruth from returning to her mothers house.