SECTION VII

 

Ruth 1:19-21

 

Text:

rh!g7v‘k7ƒ o`‹v2•u o3j3k ,h2c vb7t`c0ƒ h1vh•u o3j7k ,h2c vb„7t`c‘s*g o3vh2}A vb0f8k2•u   yh

:h!n^gb ,t`‚z4v vb}r„*nt`•u i3vh2k4g

:s`t}n h„1k hˆ8*A r‚*n2v‘h1ƒ t7r7n h1k 7 it‹#r0e h!n^gb h„1k vbt‚#r0e!‘k*t i3vh2k4t r#nt`•u   f

h„8*Au h1c vb7g vu`vh•u h!n^gb h1k vbt‹#r0e!, v7Œ7k v׶u`vh hb8ch!A5v o„7eh2ru h!0f8k7v v7t2k}n hb4t   tf

:h1k g*r‚2v

 

Septuagint

Ruth 1:19 ejporeuvqhsan de; ajmfovterai e{w" tou' paragenevsqai aujta;" eij" Baiqleem kai; h[chsen pa'sa hJ povli" ejp! aujtai'" kai; ei\pon au{th ejsti;n Nwemin

Ruth 1:20 kai; ei\pen pro;" aujtav" mh; dh; kalei'tev me Nwemin kalevsatev me Pikravn o{ti ejpikravnqh ejn ejmoi; oJ

iJkano;" sfovdra

Ruth 1:21 ejgw; plhvrh" ejporeuvqhn kai; kenh;n ajpevstreyevn me oJ kuvrio" kai; i{na tiv kalei'tev me Nwemin kai; kuvrio" ejtapeivnwsevn me kai; oJ iJkano;" ejkavkwsevn me

 

Ruth 1:19-21 Thus both of them traversed until they came to Bethlem; and it came to pass, when they arrived in Bethlem, that all the city was buzzing about them; and they said, Is this Noemin? 20 And she said to them, Do not call me Noemin now; call me 'Bitter', for the Mighty One is greatly embittered with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD has brought me back empty; and why do you call me Noemin? For the LORD has humbled me, and the Mighty One has afflicted me?

 

Targum:

 

TANAKH

Translation

SEPTUAGINT

Translation

vb0f8k2•u

and they went on

 

 

o3vh2}A

two of them

 

 

‘s*g

until

 

 

vb„7t`c

they came

 

 

,h2c

house

 

 

o3j7k

bread

 

 

h1vh•u

and he was

 

 

vb7t`c0ƒ

when they arrive

 

 

,h2c

house

 

 

o3j3k

bread

 

 

o`‹v2•u

and she was stirred

 

 

‘k7ƒ

all

 

 

rh!g7v

the town

 

 

i3vh2k4g

because of them

 

 

vb}r„*nt`•u

and they exclaimed

 

 

,t`‚z4v

this

 

 

:h!n^gb

Naomi

 

 

r#nt`•u

and she told

 

 

i3vh2k4t

to them

 

 

‘k*t

not

 

 

vbt‚#r0e!

you call

 

 

h„1k

to me

 

 

h!n^gb

Naomi

 

 

7 it‹#r0e

call

 

 

h1k

to me

 

 

t7r7n

bitter

 

 

‘h1ƒ

because

 

 

r‚*n2v

he made bitter

 

 

hˆ8*A

Almighty

 

 

h„1k

for me

 

 

:s`t}n

very

 

 

hb4t

I

 

 

v7t2k}n

full

 

 

h!0f8k7v

I went away

 

 

o„7eh2ru

and empty

 

 

hb8ch!A5v

He brought me back

 

 

v׶u`vh

HaShem

 

 

v7Œ7k

why

 

 

vbt‹#r0e!,

you call

 

 

h1k

to me

 

 

h!n^gb

Naomi

 

 

vu`vh•u

and HaShem

 

 

vb7g

He afflicted

 

 

h1c

to me

 

 

h„8*Au

and Almighty

 

 

g*r‚2v

He brought misfortune

 

 

:h1k

to me

 

 

 

Peshitta

 

1:19 So they went together until they came to Beth-lehem of Judah. And it came to pass, when they were come to Beth-lehem, the whole city rejoiced over them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

 

1:20 And she said to them, Do not call me Naomi, but call me Bitter of Soul; for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.

 

1:21 For I went forth from here full, and HaShem has brought me back empty; why then call me Naomi, seeing HaShem has humbled me, and has sorely afflicted me?

 

Stones Translation

 

1:19 and the two of them went on until they came to Beth-lehem. And it came to pass, when they arrived in Beth-lehem, the entire city was tumultuous over them, and the women said, Could this be Naomi?

 

1:20 She said to them Do not call me Naomi [pleasant one], call me Mara [embittered one], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

 

1:21 I was full when I went away, but HaShem has brought me back empty. Why shall you call me Naomi; HASHEM has testified against me, the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me!

 

KJV

 

1:19 So they two went until they came to Beth-lehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Beth-lehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, [Is] this Naomi?

 

1:20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.

 

1:21 I went out full, and HaShem hath brought me home again empty: why [then] call ye me Naomi, seeing HaShem hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

 

 

Peshat Level:

 

Targum

 

1:19 The two of them went until they came to Beth Lehem. And it happened that when they came to Beth Lehem all the inhabitants of the city became excited over them and the women said, "Is this Naomi?"

 

1:20 But she said to them: "Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me the bitter of soul, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me indeed.

 

1:21 "I went away full, with my husband and sons, but the Lord has brought me back destitute of them. Why, then, should you call me Naomi, seeing that my guilt has been testified to before the Lord, and the Almighty has brought evil upon me?"

 

Rashi

 

1:19 So they both went Rabbi Abahu said, Come and see how beloved the proselytes are before the Holy One, blessed be He. As soon as she decided (li. Put her mind) to proselytize, the scripture equated her with Naomi (viz., they both).

 

That the entire city was astir The entire city was astir. All of them had gathered to bury the wife of Boaz, who had died that very day.

 

Is this Naomi The v is vowelized (with a) Chataf (,tuv) since this (phrase) is in the interrogative Is this (the same) Naomi who was accustomed to go out with covered wagons and mules? Have you seen what has befallen her because she went abroad?

 

1:21 Went away full (I.e.,) with wealth and sons. Another interpretation (of full is) that she was pregnant (when she left).

 

Has testified against me He testified against me that I had sinned before Him. Another interpretation (of hc vbg is); the Divine Attribute of justice has humbled me, as (in Hosea 5:5), Therefore shall the pride of Israel be humbled.

 

 

Gemarah Level:

 

Talmud Babli

 

Baba Bathra 91a Our Rabbis taught: It is not permitted to go forth from Palestine to a foreign country unless two se'ahs are sold for one sela. R. Simeon said: [This is permitted only] when one cannot find [anything] to buy, but when one is able [to find something] to buy. even if a se'ah cost a sela one must not depart. And so said R. Simeon b. Yohai: Elimelech, Machlon and Chilion were [of the] great men of their generation, and they were [also] leaders of their generation. Why, then, were they punished? Because they left Palestine for a foreign country; for it is written , And all the city was astir concerning them, and the women said: Is this Naomi? What [is meant by] Is this Naomi? R. Isaac said: They said, Did you see what befell Naomi who left Palestine for a foreign country?

 

R. Isaac further stated: On the very day, when Ruth the Moavitess came to Palestine, died the wife of Boaz. This is why people say, Before a person dies, the master of his house is appointed.

 

Yerushalami Ketuvoth 1:1 that the entire city was astir over them Now is it possible that the entire city was astir over this humble one? But [they were astir, for] that day Boazs wife had died, and all had gone to pay their last respects at which time Ruth entered with Naomi, so that this one [Boazs wife] went out as the other [Ruth, who was to become his wife.] came in.

 

 

Midrash Level:

 

Midrash Rabbah

 

Ruth III:5 AND WHEN SHE SAW THAT SHE WAS STEADFASTLY MINDED TO GO WITH HER (I, 18). R. Judah b. Simon commented: Come and see how precious in the eyes of the Omnipresent are converts. Once she decided to become converted, Scripture ranks her equally with Naomi.

 

Ruth III:6 SO THEY TWO WENT (I, 19). R. Samuel b. Simon said: That day was the day of the reaping of the Omer, as we have learnt elsewhere4: All the towns near by assembled together that it might be reaped with great ceremony. Others say that on that day Ibzan married his daughter. R. Tanhuma in the name of R. Azariah and R. Menahema in the name of R. Joshua b. Abin said: It is written, O Lord God of Hosts, who is a mighty one, like unto Thee, O Lord (Psalm LXXXIX, 9), who brings things about in their due season. The wife of Boaz died on that day, and all Israel assembled to pay their respects, and just then Ruth entered with Naomi. Thus one was taken out when the other entered and ALL THE CITY WAS ASTIR CONCERNING THEM, AND THE WOMEN SAID: IS THIS NAOMI? (I, 19). Is this the one whose actions were fitting and pleasant (ne'imim)? In the past she used to go in a litter, and now she walks barefoot, and you say, IS THIS NAOMI? In the past she wore a cloak of fine wool, and now she is clothed in rags, and you say, IS THIS NAOMI? Before her countenance was ruddy from abundance of food and drink, and now it is sickly from hunger, and yet you say, IS THIS NAOMI?

 

Ruth III:6 And she said to them, CALL ME NOT NAOMI, CALL ME MARAH. Bar Kappara said: Her case was like that of an ordinary ox which its owner puts up for sale in the marketplace, saying, It is excellent for ploughing, and drives straight furrows. But, say the bystanders, if it is good for ploughing, what is the meaning of those weals on its back? So said Naomi, WHY CALL YE ME NAOMI (PLEASANT), SEEING THE LORD HATH TESTIFIED AGAINST ME, AND THE ALMIGHTY HATH AFFLICTED ME (I, 21)

 

Ruth III:7 All His concern was with me, for in this world THE LORD HATH AFFLICTED ME, but of the Messianic future it is written, Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good (Jeremiah XXXII, 41)

 

Ruth III:7 I WENT OUT FULL AND THE LORD HATH BROUGHT ME BACK EMPTY (ib.). I went out full with sons and daughters. Another interpretation of I WENT OUT FULL, is, I was pregnant. WHY CALL YE ME NAOMI, SEEING THE LORD HATH AFFLICTED (ANAH) ME, AND THE ALMIGHTY HATH DONE EVIL TO ME. God has afflicted me with His Attribute of Justice, as in the verse, If thou afflict (aneh) him in any wise (Exodus XXII, 22). Another interpretation of anah is ' testified ' against me, as in the verse, He hath testified (anah) falsely against his brother (Deuteronomy XIX, 18). Another interpretation: All His concern was with me, for in this world THE LORD HATH AFFLICTED ME, but of the Messianic future it is written, Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good (Jeremiah XXXII, 41)

 

 

Zohar Level:

 

 

 

 

 

Other Commentaries:

 

Meam Loez

 

VERSE 1:19

 

1:19 The two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass as they came to Bethlehem that the whole city was astir over them. And they said, Is this Naomi?

 

Along the dangerous roads of Moab, where Orpah encountered a j~ hundred Philistines on her way home and may have been raped, the two of them walked alone. They did not even wait for a caravan.

 

For protection, they disguised themselves as men, hence the masculine ending of the word ovh,a instead of ivh,a And miraculously, they encountered no one until they reached Bethlehem.

 

They were now the two of themequal in purpose and determination. Although Ruth was moving farther and farther away from her birthplace and approaching a strange land where she knew people would look strangely at her, she walked with the same eagerness as Naomi, who was returning home.

 

Our sages infer from here how greatly God cherishes the proselyte. Once Ruth had resolved to convert, the scripture holds her to be equal to the righteous and noble Naomi.

 

Since Elimelech and Naomi and their two sons had been prominent citizens of Bethlehem, all the people approached to greet her. To their amazement, the same Naomi who had always gone out attended by a retinue of servants dressed in finery, was now returning home alone and in rags, her once radiant face sallow and haggard. It caused a great commotion, and the people kept saying to one another in wonder, Could this be Naomi?

 

The tragic figure of Naomi evoking the wonder of Bethlehems citizens is also symbolic of the fallen Jerusalem evoking the wonder of the nations. Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, they ask, the joy of the whole earth? (Lamentations 2:15).

 

Bethlehem was astir over them, not merely over Naomi, for Ruths striking beauty, contrasting sharply with Naomis terrible appearance, intensified their amazement. Accordingly, vbrnt,uthe feminine form conveys that the women drew closer to assure themselves that they had identified Naomi correctly. Perhaps not the broken old woman, but the beautiful young one beside her, was really Naomi.

 

Is this Naomi? The question may have been addressed to Ruth. Yet they did not ask Is this your mother-in-law? since they did not know Ruth, or else because they did not want to embarrass Naomi by reminding her that her son had married a Moabite.

 

By coming out to greet Naomi, the Bethlehemites fulfilled the obligation of a society to share in the sorrow of the individual. At the same time, from Naomis present condition they drew the proper lesson for themselves and repented of their own misdeeds.

 

Said R. Yitzchak: Read not hngb ,tzv (Is this Naomi?) but hngb ,tzj (as in ,uzj, seeing)i.e., have you seen Naomi? Look at what happened to Naomi for leaving the Holy Land! they said to one another. But then they added: If this is Naomithe one whose deeds were pleasing to God and to menif it be that same Naomi who is reduced to such straits, then surely God will deal kindly with her now. For His mercies are not exhausted (Lamentations 3:22).

 

According to the Jerusalem Talmud, the people had gathered then for the funeral of the wife of Boaz, who died that day. This is hinted at by the word vayehi, it came to pass, which expresses woe (see verse 1). This explains how they all happened to be on hand when Ruth and Naomi arrived.

 

When the huge crowd following the bier saw these two unattended women coming, they approached them in greeting.

 

One left, the other came, comments the Talmud. As soon as Boaz lost his first wife, God brought him Ruth.

 

Ruths arrival in Bethlehem is a portent that Esau will rule over Jacob until the Messiah comes from Bethlehem. For as the prophet says: And you, Bethlehem, Ephrata, youngest to be among the thousands of Judah, out of you shall come forth for Me that is to be the ruler in Israel (Mica 5:1).

 

read uag (Esau), and vbtuc is an anagram of vtucb (prophecy). This implies that the power of Esau will last until the Messianic prophecy comes true.

 

VERSE 1:20

 

1:20 She said to them, Call me not Naomi (pleasant), call me Mara (bitter); for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

 

Although surrounded by the entire population of Bethlehem, Naomi modestly addressed herself only to the women; hence to them in the feminine form (ivhkt).

 

Call me not Naomi, the pleasant one, she said, but Mara, the bitter one. And to accent the great bitterness with which the Almighty has dealt with me, the word mara ends in an unexpected aleph (t) rather than the letter heh (v). Thus we find, similarly, He left in a great wrath (tnj) (Daniel 11:44) - tnj, for emphasis, instead of the expected vnj.

 

In this regard, the numerical values of the t (=1) and the v (=5) are significant. Of the five souls that left the land of IsraelNaomi, Elimelech, Machlon and Kilyon, and an unborn childonly one returned.

 

That she had been pregnant at the time is conveyed by I went out full (vtkn) (v. 21), as in, the bones [that grow] in a full (vtkn) womb (Ecclesiastes 11:5).

 

Therefore Naomi called herself Mara, Aramaic for hoe, as if to say, I have dug graves for my husband and children.

 

God had dealt bitterly with her by striking down her husband; very bitterly by striking down her two sons.

 

Naomi is also alluding to the fact that at the same time this was happening in Moab, her daughter, brothers, and sisters had died of the pestilence in the land of Israel.

 

Naomi observed that the people were not so much sorrowing over her tragic situation as bemoaning her fall from good fortune and previous situation in life. So she said: So great is my suffering that you could well call me Mara even if I had not been Naomi, but one of the common people. As it is, however, falling from a great height made my suffering all the more bitter.

 

Naomi was like that recalcitrant cow put up for sale in the marketplace, whose owner praised her diligence at plowing and making beautiful furrows.

 

If so, queried a prospective buyer, why does she show all those tell-tale signs of having been beaten!

 

Similarly, when Naomi, who had been famous for her good deeds, saw that the Bethlehemites around her were appalled to see a righteous woman in such straits, she said to them, Call me not Naomi, she whose deeds are pleasing, but Mara, she whose deeds are bitter. Had I been truly righteous, God would not have dealt so bitterly with me.

 

VERSE 1:21

 

1:21 I went out full, and empty has the Lord returned me. Why should you call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?

 

Since no human being ever feels he has enough material possessions, our sages deduce that she was actually saying: When I left the land of Israel, I was pregnant (full) and had sons and daughters, health and wealth.

 

Now the word vbg may connote affliction, and also mean answered. Accordingly she was saying: The Lord had then fulfilled all my wishes and the name Naomi fit me. But now that the Almighty has afflicted me and I have lost everything, why should you still call me Naomi?

 

She was like that rich man who came on hard times, had to sell his house and all his possessions, and was left with only his horse and wagon. Then he was forced to sell these also, and from then on had to carry heavy loads on his back. An old acquaintance who remembered him from his days of wealth met him and asked, Where is all the gold and silver you once had?

 

Gold and silver? he replied. Would that I had a horse and wagon!

 

Similarly, Naomi said: Why remind me of my glorious old days by calling me Naomi? Would that I had what even the lowliest human being has! But the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.

She was now empty of family, health, and possessions, and the fact that she returned at all was only due to divine mercy. The attribute of mercy is denoted by the Tetragrammaton (n~TI); hence empty has the Lord (niir) returned me.

The people of Bethlehem knew Naomi to be righteous, and they ascribed her misfortunes to vcvt ka ohruxh, suffering that God visits upon the righteous in order to increase their reward. She however objected: Why do you call me Naomi, she whose deeds are pleasing, when God is afflicting me for my sins?

 

God is just, and He has punished me measure for measure. Because I went out fullI left the land of Israel during the famine, although I had foodGod has returned me empty. Therefore do not call me Naomi as if my actions were pleasing.

 

Lest the people, however, object that it was her husband who sinned by fleeing from the responsibility of feeding the poor and hungry, Naomi added: The Lord has testified against me. She too was guilty for failing to protest.

 

The term vbg can mean warned, testified, or humbled. The Lord warned me to repent, but I paid no heed; whereupon He punished me, thereby testifying that I had sinned; and He humbled me. Similarly the if prophet says, The glory of Israel shall be humbled (Hosea 5:5).

 

Naomis punishment was inflicted not by the divine Attribute of Justice (Elohim), but by the Attribute of Mercy (the Lord) operating on behalf of the poor. For as the Torah states: If he [a poor man] calls out toMe, I will hear, for I am merciful (Exodus 22:26).

 

The punishment for afflicting the poor is harsh and long-lasting. Naomi asked that she no longer be called Naomi, being convinced that her bitter condition would endure.

 

Although Naomi said, the Almighty has afflicted me, she realized that what she called affliction was only to me, that is, according to her human perception. But in truth, everything God does is good. Thus our sages teach: In this world, for happy events we recite the blessing chynvu cuyv lurc Exalted is He Who is good and does good, and on sad occasions we recite, ,nt ihs lurc, Blessed is the True judge. In the future, however, we will recite only Exalted is He Who is good and does good, for we will realize that our suffering was the source of our good fortune, as it is written: I will rejoice over them to do good for them, and I will plant them in this land in truth with My whole heart and with My whole soul (Jeremiah 32:41).

 

 

Abraham Ibn Ezra

 

1:19 ov,u: From the niphal conjugation of a double ayin verb.

 

IS THIS NAOMI?: For Elimelech and his wife were of the great ones of Israel.

 

1:20 DO NOT CALL NE NAOMI, CALL ME MARA: Although Mara is written with an aleph it behaves in the same way as a word with silent he an the end. The aleph in rn is instead of v, and the word xs is like it. In the opinion of R. Judah and in my opinion, ob is something pleasant, and bitterness is the opposite of pleasantness. ob when applied to food is sweetness.

 

1:21 FULL: With Sons and money.

 

AND THE LORD HAS ANSWERED NE: There are some who say that n/i is from the same root as be humbled before me, but in my opinion it is from the same root as you shall not answer your neighbour, where the meaning is similar to you renew your witnesses against me.

 

AND THE ALMIGHTY HAS TREATED ME BADLY: It is like saying he afflicted, and a similar example is creator of evil Either the meaning is he has treated me badly on account of my rebellion, or the text is to be understood in the way in which the word is normally used, and this is the correct meaning.

 

Malbim

 

19. They both went on. The Midrash Ruth Rabbah (3:5) comments, "once she made up her mind to convert, Scripture equates Ruth with Naomi." (The word ovh,a, they both, is extraneous and is therefore coming to accentuate a relationship of equality.) Alternately, one may suggest that the use of the words they both is to explain the entire city was in turmoil about them -Naomi was always surrounded by many servants and members of her household whenever she left her home, and now she came with only herself and her daughter-in-law; they came like two itinerant beggars.

 

20-22. Questions: When they called her Naomi ("pleasantness"), was it not in reference to her previous status in which she was successful and "pleasant"? If so, why did she say, Do not call me Naomi? Was it not justifiable to refer to her as "pleasantness" in the context of her previous circumstances? Why did she say, Do not call me Naomi...why do you call me Naomi... the ETERNAL has borne witness against me... God has made things bad for me. These all appear to be redundant! Why does verse 22 repeat, Naomi returned... which is unnecessary here?

 

20. Do not call me Naomi [pleasantness}. By way of analogy, a man who possessed wealth as great as that of Achashverosh[1] and lost everything except for 1000 golden coins cannot be described as a "poor person" unless we refer to his previous fortune. If one had not known of his former prosperity, the man who has 1000 golden coins would be considered a" rich man". However, if even such a wealthy man were to lose all his assets to the point where he could not afford bread and water, it would be unnecessary to mention his previous affluence in order to call him a "poor man". When the inhabitants of the city saw Naomi and her daughter-in-law walking (not on horseback or in a carriage) without anyone to serve them or wait on them, they knew that she had lost her great wealth. However, they assumed that she still had a reserve of gold and jewelry that would make even the common man feel "fortunate". As such they exclaimed that the source of their tumult and astonishment was, Is this Naomi?, referring to her former affluence and stature, .relative to which she now appeared lacking.

 

She answered them. She informed them that it was unnecessary to mention her previous name, Naomi ("pleasantness"), in order to call her Mara ("bitterness") [which would imply that her present state of poverty was only relative to her previous wealth], for she had lost everything (behold, Ruth had to go collecting grain for food) and could therefore be called Mara without any allusion to the name Naomi: Do not call me Naomi! Call me Mara, for the All-sufficing God had made things very bitter for me. Even though...

 

21. I left full [of possessions], and the ETERNAL brought me back empty-handed. I have nothing! So you can call me Mara, pauper, and beggar without making reference to my name Naomi which I was called during the time of my success and fame. Naomi now added a new insight to her predicament and claimed that the name Naomi was never applicable -Why do you call me Naomi? That itself is an untruth. We have explained that there are times when, before God wants to mete out a very severe punishment, He first advances the individual to the apex of financial success and fame. Consequently, if God brings him down from there to abject poverty, the individual will feel the pain and grief more intensely and his downfall will be greater. As we find in Iyov (20:6,7): If he will raise his height to the Heaven...like his own excrement will he be destroyed... and in Ovadiah (1:4): "If he [Esav] will rise like an eagle and among the stars will make his nest, from there I will bring you down, " declares God. Likewise, Naomi sensed that her former success and prominence was a pretext to the augmenting of her downfall and impoverishment. If her former greatness was merely a warning that she needed to return to God, and He had elevated her for the purpose of enhancing her calamity [if she would not take heed], she maintained that the name Naomi which she had at that time was unjustified. For her glory was indeed very bitter -" an upward movement for the sake of her downfall."[2] This is what Naomi meant when she said, I left full... in order that the ETERNAL brought me back empty-handed. If so, my original wealth merely increases my present pain and grief. And, if so, Why do you call me Naomi? Even when you formerly called me Naomi it was inappropriate for the ETERNAL has borne witness against me: my earlier accomplishments were His way of warning me to improve my deeds and avoid being cast down from the pinnacle of my success. And so it was, that by my success, the All-sufficing God had made things bad for me: My anguish and ruin have been intensified by the very nature of my former self.

 

The Midrash Ruth Rabbah (3:6) says, "Is this Naomi? In the past she would go with fancy shoes, but now she is barefoot. In the past she would wear clothes of fine linen, but now she is dressed in rags. Is this Naomi? And she said to them, Do not call me Naomi! Call me Mara...[this corresponds to Naomi's claim that any mention of her past was superfluous]. Bar Kapara compared this situation to a cow put on display by its owners, who declared that it was a plowing cow. People said, "If it is a plowing cow, where are the marks (literally: wounds) of the yoke?" So, too, Why do you call me Naomi, when the ETERNAL has borne witness against me... [this corresponds to Naomi's insistence that even her formerly being called Naomi was inappropriate since it was ultimately to result in suffering and poverty].

 

Alshich

 

(19) The two of them went until they arrived in Bethlehem. And [it happened) when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city was in uproar about them and they [the women) said, Could this be Naomi?

(20) She replied to them, Do not call me Naomi [i.e., pleasant) but Morah [i.e., bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

(21) 1 left full but God has returned me empty-handed: why should you call me Naomi since God has testified against me and has dealt very bitterly with me?

 

In verse 19 the obvious difficulty is the word ovh,a, two of them. Why couldnt the prophet write simply, They went? Besides, the word ovh,a has a masculine ending; the correct word is ivh,a.

Indeed, later in the verse, we find the feminine form, ivhkg about them.

 

Also difficult is the repetitious formulation of the verse. First we read that they went to Bethlehem and then we are further informed that they arrived there. The clause And [it happened] when they arrived in Bethlehem could be omitted from the text entirely!

 

Why was the town in such an uproar? Were they surprised to see Ruth with Naomi? They didnt even know who she was!

 

Verses 20 and 21 discuss what Naomis name should or should not have been. How is all this relevant to us? It is not the way of the Scriptures to repeat the gossip of local women! Moreover, Naomi repeats that God has dealt bitterly with her. She bemoans the fact that she left Judah pregnant and returned empty-handed (cf. Ruth Rabbah 3:7), even though she was stricken by even greater misfortunes. She lost two grown sons as well as her husband.

 

The final difficulty we have to contend with is an apparent contradiction. In verse 20, Naomi asks the women not to call her Naomi, while in verse 21 her language is much stronger, as if she were remonstrating against them: What right do you have to call me Naomi?

 

A Measure of Their Greatness

 

A clear look at these verses will reveal Naomis and Ruths courage and enthusiasm in leaving Moab and how God reciprocated by doing great wonders for them.

 

When embarking on their journey, they did not seek the company of other people as normal women would do in such circumstances in order to be safe from attack. God dealt kindly with them and they came to no harm.

 

The two of them went emphasizes that only the two of them traveled no one else was in their company. This explains the masculine ending of ovh,a. It indicates that they acted like men who are not afraid to travel alone. When they arrived in Judah, however, those who witnessed their arrival recognized them as the women they were. Thus, the verse reverts to the feminine ivhkg about them. But the town was in uproar over the fact that two women had traveled all the way from Moab alone. In addition, they were a little surprised to see Naomi back in Judah.

 

A further grammatical peculiarity in verse 19 is the extra v in the words vbtuc (they arriued) and in vbtucf (when they arrived). These words should be spelled vbtuc,, ituc

 

It must be made clear that these women were treading an exceedingly dangerous path. The Talmud (Sotah 42b) relates that Orpah had travelled a distance of two thousand cubits in order to return to the city, but during that short time had been repeatedly assaulted until she was beaten like a bruised corn. Naomi and Ruth had to travel for several days, and it is quite likely that, as a precaution, they wore mens clothes for the duration of their journey. This, too, would explain why the word ovh,a has a masculine ending. Once they reached Bethlehem they no longer had a need for the clothes and discarded them. Thus, all the inhabitants saw them dressed as women. The two words vbtuc and vbtucf each have an extra v, which, when added together, have a numerical value of ten. This indicates that the two women who left Moab and who were referred to as ovh,a were now, on their arrival in Bethlehem, once again ivh,a, for the numerical value of ivh,a (765) is ten greater than the value of ovh,a (755),as n=40 and b=50.

 

No wonder that the city was in an uproar. They saw two attractive women, arriving from a faraway place completely on their own, who had survived unharmed.

 

Naomi Acknowledges Her Guilt

 

Our Sages comment (Ruth Rabbah 3:6): Is this Naomi? She has such pleasant ways but has suffered such great misfortune.

 

According to the Midrash, her address to the people in Bethlehem sounded like this: You must all be wondering how I, Naomi, who was so named because my ways are pleasant, should be left now bereft of my husband and sons. You will no doubt assume that I am indeed righteous and fit to be called Naomi, and that my troubles have befallen me on account of my husband and sons who perished because of their sins.

Typical of her piety, she acknowledges Gods judgment and the fact that she is wholly undeserving. She continues: Dont call me Naomi as if my ways are pleasant, for the Almighty has made me very bitter. It is my fault that these troubles have befallen me, as I do not suspect the Holy One of punishing without justice (cf. Talmud Berachoth 5b). Proof of this can be seen in my history. I left here pregnant. If I was indeed meritorious, though my good deeds may not have been enough to save my husband and sons, surely they would at least have been enough to save my unborn child, who could not have been held guilty for leaving Judah. Yet, he died like my husband and older sons because of my guilt. There is truly no reason for you to call me Naomi, for my deeds are not pleasant.

 

You may challenge me with the following: How can you deny it? We know you are righteous and good-intentioned. How can you declare that God has judged you for your sins? My reply to you is: God has testified against me. He searches a mans inner thoughts. While man has the ability to see only actions, God sees the thought behind every deed. How is it that I survived and was not smitten along with my family? For the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

 

This brings to mind the words in Genesis (43:14), And the Almighty God shall grant you mercy. Jacob said: May the

One Who said to His World (after creation) Enough,*[3] say to my troubles, Cease, thats enough! (Rashi ad bc., Midrash Tanchuma ad bc.; Zohar, Volume 3,251b.)

 

Naomi voices a similar notion here. By using Gods name, hsa, which contains the word hs (enough), she indicates that God called a halt to the suffering which was afflicting her, since he did not kill her along with her husband and children.

 



[1] Persian king of the Megi/1as Esther story known for his vast, enormous wealth.

[2] A homiletical play on the Talmudic legal dictum in Makkos 7b of "descent which is for the sake of ascent."

[3] In Hebrew Almighty is hsa, which Jacob understood to stand for the words hs rnta (Who said, Enough!).