Thus Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who
returned from the Fields of Moab. They came [to] Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley
narrative of Naomi’s return, interrupted to record her acceptance of God’s
judgment, is now resumed. Scripture repeats that “Naomi returned.” For as we
find in Genesis, when the narrative about Joseph is resumed, the scripture
repeats that “Joseph was taken down to Egypt” (Genesis 39:1), making
explicit the link between the earlier events affecting him and those that were
sages teach that she “returned” in more ways than one. She “returned” to God;
she repented. It is stressed once more that she came “to Bethlehem,” the very place she had left to
escape the poor and hungry. She willingly accepted the pain of facing her old
acquaintances for the sake of living in the Holy Land,
thus atoning for having left the land.
also returned to her good deeds. The poor had called her Naomi (the pleasant)
because she collected money for them and dispensed comfort with a pleasant
word. No one had taken her place while she was gone, and now she resumed her
work of charity assisted by Ruth, who cleaved to her in order to learn the ways
account of Ruth, who stayed “with her” and brought her happiness, Naomi began
to rise out of the depths of misery she had reached in Moab, and to
return to her former self. Therefore she continues to be called Naomi, even
though she had asked to be called Mara (the bitter).
Naomi also returned to her original level of righteousness, since she merited
to bring back from Moab
the mother of royalty.
Ruth was now fully a Jewess, she is still called “the Moabite,” reflecting the
fact that her Moabite origin enabled her to guide Naomi safely out of Moab.
scripture provides the extra emphasis that “Ruth . . . returned from the
Fields of Moab,” calling attention to Ruth’s greatness. She had separated
herself from the stinginess and depravity of Moab to cleave to the Jewish
people, even though it meant leaving the life of a royal princess to glean in
the fields. Hence the import of “they came . . . at the beg inning of
the barley harvest.”
God directed Abraham to the land
of Israel, He said lk lk
literally, “Go to yourself,” for Abraham’s soul was rooted in the holiness of
that land. Ruth’s soul likewise stemmed from the holiness of the land of Israel,
but had been diverted into the impurity of Moab. Now it returned to its
strong was the pull to return to her source, that Ruth came to the Holy Land even though her Moabite origin virtually
precluded the possibility of marrying there.
sages comment: “It was she who returned from the Fields of Moab.” God was
waiting for two “pearls” to come from Moab
and Ammon, and for their sake He forbade Israel to war with those nations.
It now became apparent that Ruth was the long-awaited pearl from Moab.
was also the first to “return from the Fields of Moab,” in that she was the
first Moabite to convert. And through her the forgotten law of “a Moabite, not
a Moabitess” was clarified.
it says (v. 19), “until they came [to] Bethlehem”;
that is, Naomi and Ruth had then arrived at the outskirts of the city. Now they
“came to Bethlehem.” They entered the city proper.
arrived “at the beginning of the barley harvest,” that is, when the first-yield
measure (omer, rng) of barley is brought to the cohen-priest, in
fulfillment of “You shall bring an omer of the first of your harvest to the
priest. . . . And bread of parched corn and green ears you shall
not eat until this self-same day, until you have brought the offering
(Leviticus 23:10-14). Thus the omer offering is called “the beginning of
the barley harvest.” Thereafter the new grain may be harvested and eaten.
their eagerness to come to the land
of Israel, Naomi and Ruth
did not wait until the wheat season, but came at the harvest of barley, the
first grain to ripen. And they arrived in time to participate in the omer
offering—a demonstration of the principle that “one mitzvah brings in its wake
them, therefore, applies: “You mighty of strength, who fulfill His word, to
harken to His word” (Psalms 103:20). Because they exerted themselves to fulfill
one mitzvah (“His word”), they also merited to fulfill a second one.
The pause mark (tjp,) over the word ,kj,c (" at the
beginning") is significant, indicating that it was a special beginning,
namely, the first harvest after many years of famine.
According to Targum
Yonathan, they came on the day before Passover, the beginning of the barley
season, when the omer is harvested. This explains why Boaz did not come
out to greet them. As the head of the clan, he was occupied with the Passover
lamb offering and the baking of matzoth.
Thus begins the
account of how it came to pass that Ruth married Boaz. Since "they came to
the beginning of the barley harvest," Ruth went to pick in the fields. ...
Abraham Ibn Ezra
1:22 The v in vcwv, as it is found here, is the definite
article. The reason why it says AND NAOMI RETURNED a second time is to connect
the time of their return with the beginning of the barley harvest, on account
of Ruth’s gleaning.
returned. This is repeated here in order to point out that when she
departed from Bethlehem, she left her properties -it is possible that others
seized possession of the fields when she left [as happened to the Shunamite
woman (Melachim II, 8:1-6) when she departed for the land of the
Philistines so that it was necessary for her to request royal intervention to
obtain the restitution of her house and field] so she contested these until her
inheritance was restored.
Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law. She, too, had an inheritance
through her deceased husband (from his father), which is qualified by who
had returned...from the fields of Moab, implying that if she had remained
in the fields of Moab, she would have forfeited the inheritance (especially,
according to the Midrash Ruth Rabbah 2:14 that she had already
relinquished the marital contract's monetary obligation owed her by Machlon).
However, now, in contrast, returning from the fields of Moab, she had
claim to an allotment of the family estate [see chapter 4].
Ruth Rabbah (4:1,2) interprets the words who had returned...from the
fields of Moab as
referring to Ruth as the first woman ever to approach for conversion from Moab. Until
that time, it had not yet been clarified that the prohibition of a Moabite
marrying into the Jewish people applied only to" a Moabite" and not
came to Bethlehem
at the beginning of the barley harvest. This is a prologue to the telling
of Ruth's going to gather agricultural gifts for the poor.
Even though, as has here been explained, she had land in Israel, they
had come at the time of the harvest season and it was impossible to plow and
plant. They were, therefore, destitute for the immediate present.
(22) Na’omi returned with Ruth the Moabitess her
daughter-in-law with her, who had returned from the fields of Moab. They came
to Bethlehem at
the onset of the barley ha west.
Ruth as Great as Na’omi?
majority of this verse contains information which is not new to us at all. We
know that both Na’omi and Ruth had returned from Moab. We certainly know that Ruth
was a Moabitess and it was in fact a degrading title, for who wishes to be
associated with Moab?
We know, too, that Ruth was Na’omi’s daughter-in-law. We know that they
had arrived in Bethlehem.
Besides this, there is another problem. At first, Na’omi is mentioned before
Ruth, denoting the fact that she is the more prominent of the two. Yet later in
the verse they are mentioned together: They came to Bethlehem.
text is indeed very revealing. It teaches us how much Ruth had gained in
spiritual stature by leaving Moab
and coming to Judah.
Hence, when they left Moab,
Na’omi was the more prominent figure, and she is mentioned first for that
reason. Ruth was still a Moabitess, and her only relationship to Na‘omi
was that she was her daughter-in-law. Once she had converted, she
acquired a new status, and by the time the women reached Bethlehem, she was
considered Na’omi’s equal.
this explanation we are better able to understand the verse: Na’omi
returned... At first Na’omi was considered to be of greater stature. Ruth
was known as a Moabitess and her daughter-in-law; not as a person of
consequence. When they arrived in Bethlehem,
however, Ruth had become a Jewess and thus, she was then considered
equal to Na’omi. Hence, They came — together — to Bethlehem.
is a way to understand the verse as a continuation of the previous theme. The
Divine Spirit testified that Na’omi had survived twice due to God’s kindness,
for she too played a part, first in her husband’s sin and later in the
sin of her children. She admitted her guilt by saying, And God has testified
we are told the reason why she was not destined to die. Na’omi returned. She
did not die like her husband and sons, even though she was guilty to some
extent, as we explained in our commentary to the words, and the women
remained ...and she remained (verses 3 and 8). She was allowed to survive
so that Ruth the Moabitess, who was destined to join the ranks of Israel, could
return with her. Na’omi returned with Ruth the Moabitess... with her, since
the opportunity to perform a good deed is offered to a worthy person so that he
should benefit from its merit. In this case Na’omi was deemed worthy and was
awarded the opportunity to bring Ruth into the Jewish fold.
Three Came to Bethlehem
Ruth, they both arrived in Bethlehem.
Not only did the two women come to Bethlehem, but there was a male with them,
too, and that was Machlon, whose spirit rested inside Ruth. This
explains why the word vnvu, they, is in the masculine. Even
though there were two women, and thus a majority, since their sole purpose of
coming to Bethlehem was in order to perpetuate
the name of Machlon, their arrival in Judah is reckoned as secondary in
importance to the arrival of Machlon’s spirit. Their arrival is thus classed
as vnv in the masculine and not in the feminine,
since in general, where there is a mixture of males and females, the masculine
gender is used for the collective term.
The Passover Connection
may help us to understand the Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 4:3) which explains the
words, Who returned from the fields of Moab,
as follows: “This refers to the one who returned from the fields of Moab.”
first glance, the Midrash appears meaningless, for it does not seem to add
anything to the verse itself. However, the Sages found two difficulties with
the verse. Firstly, why is the word returned used in connection
with Ruth, who had never been there in the first place? Secondly, why is there
a definite article in the word vcav? It seems to imply that that
Ruth was returning. Was there another ‘Ruth’ who did not return with
point being made is that Ruth is the one who, even though she had never
been to Judah,
is reckoned as a returnee because of the spirit of Machlon that lay within her.
He had been to Judah
and was now returning there, albeit only in spirit.
Midrash further teaches: “R. Shmuel bar Nachman said: Each time the term
‘barley harvest’ is mentioned it refers to the reaping of the omer”.
this, the Targum renders the verse: “And they came to Bethlehem on the day preceding Passover; the
day when the Israelites prepare to reap the omer and wave an offering which
consisted of barley.”
question here is, what difference does it make to us whether they
arrived on the eve of Passover? Why is it relevant for us to know that
on that day they prepared to reap the barley harvest?
why does the Targum take pains to tell us that on that day the Israelites
‘prepared’ to reap...? Wouldn’t it have been sufficient to render this: It was
the time of the reaping of the omer?
Midrash (Pesikta d’R. Cahana, Piska 12) remarks: Just as a girl who was
in captivity and a newly converted female proselyte must wait three months before
marrying in order to distinguish
between the unclean and the holy, so, too, Israel had to wait three
months after leaving Egypt before they were able to receive the Torah.
this we can understand the statement of R. Shmuel bar Nachman (Ruth Rabbah
5:11) on the verse, She stayed close to Boaz’s girls, gleaning until the end
of the wheat harvest (2:23):
the beginning of the barley harvest until the end of the wheat harvest ux~s
a period of three months. The uerse then continues, “And she dwelt with her
mother-in-law.” Following that, chapter three begins: “Then Na’om:, her
mother-in-law, said to her, ‘My daughter, shall I seek security for you...
intention of this Midrash is obviously to inform us that the end of the wheat
harvest marked a period of three months since Ruth had converted. Her
mother-in-law told her as follows: “Now that the three months necessary to
distinguish between seed conceived in uncleanliness and seed conceived
in holiness has elapsed, I shall seek security (i.e., marriage) for you.”
R. Shmuel’s remark has a bearing on the verse
under discussion, too. The ‘reaping of the barley harvest’
mentioned is an allusion to the omer. R. Shmuel was perplexed by the
seemingly irrelevant piece of information concerning the onset of the
barley harvest. Furthermore, when Scripture writes They came it does not
have the simpler term utchu And they came, but utc
vnvu which implies that there is a special emphasis on the fact
that they arrived on that particular day.
‘Omer’ Period — Its Purpose and Significance
prophet is conveying to us the idea of having to distinguish between ‘clean’
and ‘unclean.’ When the whole nation of Israel ‘converted,’ so to
speak, a waiting period of three months was necessary until they were on a
level to receive the Two Tablets. So too Ruth, who arrived at the onset
of the barley harvest, which was the time when the omer was
offered, would have to wait three months before she could marry. These
three months elapsed with the end of the wheat harvest. It was then that R.
Shmuel’s second remark is recorded in the Midrash, and the Targum here
alludes to it.
how God wished to purify the faithful of Israel
from the ‘filth’ that had clung to them, first as a result of Adam’s sin of
heeding the serpent’s advice, and later, on account of the idol worship
We were compared to a woman who has had an ‘unclean’ discharge and who must
wait seven days after her blood has stopped flowing before she can purify
herself in a ritual bath and resume relations with her husband. Thus, we were
commanded by God to count a full seven weeks after ‘the uncleanliness’ of Egypt before we
could be reckoned as ‘pure’ (Zohar, Volume 3, 97a and previous
seven weeks began with the omer to remind us that before we became
purified, we were unclean, as an animal that feeds on barley. Once Israel was pure
of this ‘dirt’ they were told to bring two loaves of wheat bread (Leviticus 23:
17ff.) to signify that they had attained the level of ‘man’ whose food is
generally from wheat, a higher grade of grain.
we know, Ruth was a Moabitess, but God had ordained that the glory of the Crown
of Israel would emanate from her. Lest anyone challenge the Divine decision by
wondering how sweet can come forth from the strong (Judges 14:14) and claiming
that it would be far more suitable for a pure daughter of Israel to be the
mother of Israel’s royalty, the Scripture reminds us that the entire nation of
Israel was immersed in the uncleanliness of Egypt’s heathen way of life. God
purified them and converted them into a holy nation just as a woman with a
menstrual flow is purified from her uncleanliness.
should not surprise us if Ruth was deemed suitable to be progenitress of the
stock of Jesse. She was brought to our people at the time of the reaping of the
omer, so that she could begin her process of purification with Na’omi’s
help. Her arrival at this particular time of year will help us remember that
just as barley was reaped before Israel
underwent the process of purification, so too did Ruth undergo a similar
iirocess before she was ready to play her part in the destiny of Israel.
is what R. Shmuel intended to convey in his statement: “This was the time of
the reaping of the omer.” Now we can fully appreciate the Targum’s
rendering of the verse. The addition of the clause: “And on that day Israel was
permitted,” is certainly relevant to us. It reminds us of the fact that Israel had once
converted and, Ruth, after undergoing a process of purification, went through a
similar procedure. So it was that God ordained that she arrive in Judah at that