rose, with her daughters-in-law, and returned from the Fields of Moab. For she
heard in the Fields of Moab that God remembered His people to give them bread.
is made clear that not the women but the men had prevented the family from
returning to the land
of Israel. No sooner had
Machlon and Kilyon died, then their womenfolk rose to go back.
is a significant contrast between the present singular form: she rose. .
.returned...heard (vgna.. . ca,u . . . oe,u) and the
plural form of the following verse: .. . and her two daughters-in-law ... went
At first she and her daughters-in-law went as one, but then it became
apparent that the daughters-in-law were headed in two different directions.
the verse conveys that the decision to return to the land of Israel
was made as soon as they rose, that is, as soon as they had literally risen
from sitting on the ground during the seven days of mourning for the deceased.
Thus we find, similarly, that at the episode of the golden calf, the Israelites
demanded of Aaron, Arise and make for us gods, upon which our sages
elaborate: Aaron was sitting in mourning over the slaying of Chur and the
interpretation is that Naomi rose from the illness that grief had brought on.
decision made, Naomi rose earlier than is customary. She did not want to be
detained by well-meaning neighbors who would insist on a proper send-off, as
befits a great woman. Having heard that the famine was over, she did not want
to lose a minute.
wisely realized that if she discussed her plans with her daughters-in-law, they
would plead with her to remain. So she kept silent until the actual time to
leave had arrived, and then simply rose to go. Her daughters-in-law then
hurriedly joined her.
the present verse says that she . . . returned, does not mean that she
actually returned, for the next verse states that she left the place. At this
point she had only resolved to return. God, however, rewards good intentions as
if they were accomplished deeds, and the verse says she returned.
words (she returned) accent, moreover, that Naomi went back empty-handed. Of
all Elimelechs tents and servants and herds and camels and great wealth,
including the ten fields that he had acquired in Moab (Talmud), nothing was left.
Thus she was to say later, I went out full, and empty has the Lord returned
me (v. 1:21).
prompted her return was the news that the famine had come to an end. We are
informed that she was told, God has remembered His people, which means that
she heard the glad tidings from itinerant peddlers from Eretz Yisrael.
Alternately, she reasoned that if people were once again buying the peddlers
luxury wares, they must already have bread in the house.
to Targum Yonathan, an angel appeared to Naomi in the field to inform her that
the famine was over.
Naomi had just risen from her sickbed and was penniless, she left at once. She
did not wait for her neighbors to provide her with food for the journey, but
placed her trust in God to bring her home safely. Thus she repented for having
despaired of God saving Israel
from the famine.
opinion is that Naomi did not actually hear any news, but on her own understood
that the famine had ended. Moab,
too, had to some extent been affected by the famine, and when she now saw the
fields of Moab newly covered
with lush grass and flowers, she knew that the land of Israel
must be blooming once more.
realized, moreover, that only through the land of Israel
does God bless the other nations with abundance. For she heard . ..
that God remembered His peoplei.e., in the land of Israelto
give themthe Moabitesbread.
is implied that God remembered His people with rain, since the resulting crops
would then give them bread. So it was that by the time Naomi actually
returned, the barley was being harvested.
also indicates that this turn of events was sudden. The famine was to have
lasted longer, but in the merit of the righteous Boaz, it ended at this
had been informed that the people had not yet repented of the injustice and
strife that had precipitated the famine. So the rain came not because Israel deserved
it, but because God in His mercy remembered His people. Armed with this
knowledge, she dared to return to the Holy Land
despite the fact that God was still dealing with her in strict justice rather
than mercy. She trusted that among her own people she, too, would be affected
by the divine mercy that was extended to them for having remained in the Holy Land during the famine.
was like that poor guest at the inn who would not join the crowds that came
there to eat and drink, because he could not afford the lavish food. But one
day the innkeeper made a feast for all his guests for which no payment was
required, whereupon the poor guest, too, ate and drank along with the rest.
Naomi had heard that God ended the famine because the people were worthy of it,
she would not have dared to return. But as He was providing them with bread
out of mercy rather than justice, she came.
another time in the future, in the days of the prophet Joel, Israel
was also stricken with famine. But then the famine ended because God was
zealous for His land, and pitied His people (Joel 2:18). In the days of
the judges, God remembered His people. Although they were not entirely
repentant, He gave them bread because they had remained in the Holy Land during the famine and relied on God to save
them from starvation.
left the place where she had been, and her two daughters-in-law were with her.
They went on the road back to the land
previous verse recounted that Naomi rose, with her daughters-in-law, and
returned from the Fields of Moab. After interjecting, however, that the famine
had ended, the narrative resumes by repeating that she left the place where
she had been.
two verses are similar but not identical. As previously noted, the first verse
indicates that the three women had initially risen as one to return; the
second, that en route her two daughters-in-law turned out to be of two minds.
Orpah accompanied Naomi out of politeness, but Ruth longed to cleave to her.
say that when Naomi rose to return, she assumed that her daughters-in-law were
merely seeing her off. Now that they had crossed the border and still her . .
two daughters-in-law were with her, she realized that they intended to go to
the land of Judah, there to join the Jewish people.
reason for the journey was as much to escape the place of their suffering (she
left the place where she had been) as to see the longed-for Holy
Land (They went .. . back to the land of Judah).
Talmud teaches: The tzaddik (righteous man) of a city is its radiance and
light, its glory and praise. When he departs, the citys radiance and light,
glory and praise, depart with him. For the tzaddik influences the people about
him to become righteous.
the scripture records that Jacob went out of Beersheba (Genesis 28:10), even as it says
here that Naomi left the place where she had been, to indicate that their
departures noticeably affected the places they left behind.
Naomi was living in Moab
the decadent Moabites curbed their immorality. Now that she left, the Moabites
fell back to their previous practices, as evidenced by what later happened to
Orpah. The glory of Moab
departed with Naomi.
all places in the land of Israel, Naomi returned to the land
of Judah Although a person who has
suffered bad fortune is ashamed to return to his hometown, Naomi accepted her
suffering with love and willingly returned to Bethlehem
in order to atone for leaving the Holy Land.
say that Naomi, ashamed to face the people she had deserted during the famine,
would have preferred to go where she was unknown. Nevertheless, she returned to
her hometown because it afforded the best chances of supporting her
three women, anxious to get to the Holy Land,
immediately went on the road. That is, they set out alone on the road,
without waiting to travel in the safety of a caravan.
minimize the danger, they took the road, the main thoroughfare, avoiding
deserted side roads. Moreover, it is indicated that they clung together
to avoid seclusion with men, for they were on their way to the holy land of Judah.
their eagerness to get there, they wentthey walked without stopping to rest.
sages observe that they literally walked on the road. Too poor to buy riding
animal~ or even shoes to protect their feet, they walked barefoot, hurting
their feet on the road. According to one interpretation, they went on foot
because in their eager haste they also traveled on the festival, when riding is
Every step they took was with the specific
intention of going to the land
of Judah. God therefore
rewarded them for every step (Talmud).
they walked, they studied the laws of conversion. For Ruth and Orpah were on
their way to.. Judah also
in another sense, that is, to embrace the faith that derives its name from Judah.
a gentile wishes to convert, teaches the Talmud, he is to be turned away with
the left hand and drawn closer with the right. Naomi thus drew her
daughters-in-law close by teaching them that so precious were converts in Gods
eyes that His Torah warns no less than forty-eight times against distressing a
convert. [On the other hand, she attempted to turn them away, as the following
1:6 AND SHE RETURNED FROM THE FIELD OF MOAB: The
verb expresses intention, as in And Israel began to fight with Balaq.
6-7. Question: Why does the text appear to
repeat itself, saying: she...arose...[to] return, she left the place, and
they went on the road to return?
6. She then arose, with her
daughters-in-law. All three of them resolved to leave because they thought
that their misfortune was the result of residing in that place. As such, in
terms of their decision to leave Moab, they were in total agreement.
However, regarding their destination, only Naomi had made up her mind [to]
return from the fields of Moab
(because "returning" applies only to someone who returns to the
place where he or she had already been). At the outset, only Naomi had this
intention, as is stated, [to] return from the fields of Moab. Orpah
and Ruth did not agree to this while they were still in the fields of Moab but only
later, as will be explained.
she heard in the field of Moab.
The verse emphasizes that Naomi did not go back because of the
"local" misfortunes or fear of her own death. If these had been her
motives, she had merely to migrate to another location in Moab. Rather,
she left because the ETERNAL had taken account of His people to provide them
with food. She had only left the Land
of Israel because of the famine, and only intended to sojourn in Moab until it
would pass. Therefore, when she heard that they would no longer bear the shame
of hunger, she set out to return. The Midrash Ruth Rabbah (2:11) asks,
"From whom did she hear? From itinerant salesmen. What did she hear? That
HaShem had remembered His people. The Midrash then poses the following
Scriptural difficulty: One verse says, For HaShem will not forsake His
people nor will He abandon His inheritance (Tehillim 94:14); another verse
says, HaShem will not forsake His people for the sake of His great name
(Shemuel I, 12:22). How can this be reconciled? When the Jewish people are
meritorious in their own right, then HaShem acts for His nation's sake.
However, when they are not meritorious, HaShem acts for the sake of His great
name." The question of the Midrash is: Who would say, The ETERNAL had
taken account of His people? Surely not the Moabites. Even though they
lived next to the Land
of Israel and were aware
of what went on there, it would be completely out of character for them to say
that The ETERNAL had taken account of His people! They did not believe
in HaShem and certainly not in the special relationship He had with the Jewish
nation! Therefore the Midrash asserts that Naomi heard from the traveling
Jewish merchants who brought goods to sell in Moab. This itself was an indication
that the famine had ended. Furthermore, the Midrash explains that the end of
the famine itself would not have been sufficient reason for Naomi to return.
Naomi knew that the cause of the famine was the failure of the Jewish people to
live up to HaShem's expectations; as it says: It was in the days when the
judges governed...and there was a famine. On this the Midrash comments that
the famine resulted from a lack of justice, the people's "judging"
their judges, and the mere fact that the judges needed to be judged. As such,
as long as the nation had not improved its ways, Naomi was unsure whether
another famine might still occur. Only, when she heard that The ETERNAL had
taken account of His people, meaning that He acted not for the sake
of His own name, but that the people had improved their ways and were worthy of
HaShem's remembrance and constant bestowal of sustenance, did she resolve to
undertake the journey.
left the place where she was [living], with her two daughters-in-law. The
Prophet now elucidates the previous verse in that, relevant to their leaving,
all three of them were in agreement about departing immediately from their
ill-fated location. However, regarding Naomi's decision to return to the land of Judah, they didn't initially concur.
Orpah and Ruth intended to resettle elsewhere in the land of Moab.
went on the road. Only after making the journey to a border of the land of Moab,
which led exclusively to the land of Judah, did they agree to cross into the Land of Israel.
(i) Looking first at the
beginning of verse 6, why is it necessary to write that she arose? Isnt
it enough to say that she and her daughters-in-law returned? What did she
(ii)The singular form oe,u,
she arose, is employed in place of the more correct unue,u,
and they arose, the subjects being Naomi and her daughters-in-law.
Similarly, ca,u she returned, should be ucua,u
and they returned, as all three came to the Land
of Judah from Moab. It can be argued that only
Naomi returned to Judah,
as Ruth had never been there before. The next verse, however, refutes this: And
they set out on the road to return. Here we see that the plural vbfk,u is employed, even though the return to Judah
applies only to Naomi.
For the same reason we find in
Genesis 24:8: Take care not to bring my son back there. The reference is to
Isaac, who had never been to Judah.
Yet the verb ca, return,
is employed. As Ibn Ezra explains, since Abraham would have to follow Isaac
to Haran, the word ca,u essentially refers
to him as
he originated from Haran
not to Isaac.
(iii)ln verse 6 the word ca,u, she returned, is in
the past tense. The next verse seems to go back in time: She left the
place... and set out on the road!
(iv) In verse 6 there are two
apparently contradictory phrases: the fields of Moob (ctun
hsa) in the plural and the field of Moab (ctun
vsa) in the singular.
(v)The prophet seems to speak
derisively of Naomi by indicating that the only reason for her return was that
she heard that there was now food to be had in Judah. The implication is that she
did not return out of love for the Holy Land,
which should have been dear to her even if it did lack the means for providing
In verse 7, we read: She left the place... In order to arrive in Judah she had to leave Moab. What is
the prophet trying to convey?
(vii) They set out on the
road... To reach any destination, one has to set out on the road!
Furthermore, why does the prophet wait until now to inform us that they were
returning to Judah?
Why Was Naomi in a Rush to Leave?
In these verses, Sripture
highlights the wisdom of Naomi. She did not take the time to bid a tearful
farewell to her daughters-in-law as other women would do. It would have been
quite normal to have consoled them about her imminent departure by saying: I
must return to my country and my people. It is very difficult for me to do
this, for you both know how much I love you. But now the time has come to go
our separate ways; you must return to your mothers house.
The prophet takes pains to tell
us: She then arose. Immediately after the death of her two sons she made
preparations for the trip. Wisely, she realized that if she were to tarry and
make a grand farewell party, they would no doubt persuade her to remain by
claiming that they needed her guidance, and that they would be better to her than
even ten sons. They would most likely have told her: We do not dare leave the
confines of your protective influence. Just as an eagle stirs up her nest, so
will you hover over us (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11). Is it worth it for you to be
treated with contempt by the distinguished members of your people when you were
once esteemed as one of the nobles and leaders of the land? How will it be when they see you again those who
had once extolled your honor and the honor of your husband? They will surely
exclaim: Is this really that woman? They will whistle in disbelief and spit
at you with contempt!
Such strong words would no doubt
have left their mark on Naomi, and in this way her daughters-in-law might have
persuaded her to stay in Moab.
It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that she did not wish to face her
daughters-in-law and made haste to leave without too much fanfare. She
hoped to be well on her way by the time they realized what was happening. Once
they noticed she was leaving them, however, they accompanied her as a matter of
course, even though they did not know her destination.
With this we can understand why
the verse speaks only of Naomi arising to leave. Only once she had left did
her daughters-in-law follow suit. Similarly, ca,u, And (she)
returned, is in the singular, for at that time only Naomi was intending to
return. The others did not know where she was going.
This also explains why the past
tense is employed. The Divine Spirit is reminding us of one of Gods greatest
kindnesses to His people, Israel.
He considers a good intention to be an actual deed (Talmud Kiddushin 39b). And
(she) returned teaches us that as soon as she arose with the intention of
returning, it was considered by God as if she had actually returned.
The above-mentioned Talmudic
dictum applies only to a Jew. Hence, in the following verse we read: And
they set out on the road to return. They includes Ruth and Orpah, who
were gentiles, and their intention to return was not combined with an action (Jerusalem Talmud Peah
1:5). This explains why the future tense of to return is employed. (Though
the reference is to Naomi as well, she is in the minority.)
One may be inclined to judge
Naomi unfavorably on two accounts: (1) She realized that she was not
succeeding in her present surroundings and therefore wished to move to a new
locality where her luck might change, following the advice of our Sages (Talmud
Bava Metzia 75b): One who is badly off in one place should seek his fortune
elsewhere. (2) She feared that she would die like her husband and sons for
settling in a foreign land.
One could argue that these
realizations prompted her to return to Judah. She was driven by ulterior
motives and not by love for the land itself. We can even supply proof for the
second reason by pointing out that she did not leave until her family had died.
Then we are told that she immediately prepared to return. Obviously, she was
afraid that the same would happen to her.
To Leave and
Never to Return
To refute these arguments and to
show that her intentions were pure and holy, Scripture informs us that she
returned from the fields of Moab, in the
plural. This indicates that she left all the fields of Moab behind,
never to return. Had her intention been merely to seek her fortune elsewhere,
she would not have been in such a hurry to leave Moab completely. She would have
moved from one area to another or even from one town to another inside Moab.
For she had heard, while in Moab...
This shows that the fact that her husband and children had recently died
had no bearing on her decision to return. She did not fear retribution.
Scripture emphasizes that the reason for her return was because she had
heard. But why did she wait until there was bread to be had in Judah?
Why Did SheWait Until the Famine Was Over?
Naomi understood that if she
were to return during a famine, while she herself was poor and suffering from
hunger and thirst, the people there would find reason to rebuke her: When you
had plenty of food and lived comfortably, then you were worried that you might
have to share your wealth with the poor and you would have too many mouths to
feed. Thus, you fled to avoid helping the hungry (cf. Midrash Ruth Rabbah 1:4).
What right have you to come begging to us when you find yourself in distress so
that we should sustain you?
To avoid such a confrontation,
Naomi did not return until she had heard that the famine was over. Then she
would have been able to survive by the work of her own hands or from alms that
were given generously to the poor once the famine was over.
That God had remembered His
people. The point being made here is that God remembered His people and not
His land. This is in contrast to the times of Joel about which it was written: And
God was jealous for His land and had pity on His people (Joel 2:18).
Though Naomi would not have
remained outside Judah
in any case, she hurried to leave now, for she had heard that God had found
merit in His people. As far as the land was concerned, she felt she had little
or no right to take food from it, since
she had sinned by leaving Judah
to settle in Moab.
Now that the people merited deliverance, she who considered herself part of the
that she would be blessed along with them, in the same way as the righteous
woman told the prophet Elisha, I dwell among my people (II Kings 4:13). And
given them bread. Naomi meant to say: Though God has provided them with
bread and not me, that does not mean that I am excluded from eating it. Their
prosperity will bring me peace, and I will be blessed along with them.
It can be implied further that
she did not wait until they were actually provided with bread. As soon as she
heard that God had remembered them with the intention of relieving the
suffering there, she immediately made plans to leave. This in fact is quite a
common occurrence. After a famine has lasted for a few years, God blesses the
land so that the seeds germinate quickly and the crops grow. The people can see
that God has remembered them even though the produce is not ripe for reaping.
They see the blessing before they actually have food. Naomi heard that they
had been blessed and that a bountiful crop was in the offing, so she
immediately set out on her way. Proof of this is shown later when we read that they
came to Bethlehem
in the beginning of the barley harvest (verse 22). This period of time
marks the onset of the harvesting season. We deduce from there that when she
set out on her way, the crop was still growing in the fields. Thus, the people
were still waiting for their first yield of food. Furthermore, the text
indicates that she was not expecting to live in luxury or eat delicacies, for
she had heard that God had given them only bread and not the many
fruits and vegetables with which Judah is associated. For all this,
she left the fertile fields of Moab,
as she preferred to survive on bread alone as long as she was in the Land of Life.
will now discuss verse 7 in more detail:
Naomi Was Hesitant to Return to Bethlehem
original intention was not to return to Bethlehem, where she would most likely
feel the shame and disgrace of her poverty by having to face all those who knew
her and who would recall the days of her former glory. Consequently, she did
not make plans to return to her hometown but just to the Land of Judah
and to Gods people.
for she had
heard. Her intention was imply to return to Judah. However, once she was well
on the way and she saw that her two daughters-in-law were still with her, she
realized that their intention was not solely to escort her and then return home
but to follow her all the way, as they were some distance from the town by now.
the meaning of the verse is this: She had left the town where she had resided,
but her daughters-in-law were still following along with her. She then
understood that they intended to accompany her all the way to Judah where
they would have to rely on her for guidance and protection, as it was a strange
land for them. So, for their sakes, she had to choose a place which was
familiar to her and where she could enlist the help of kinsmen and
acquaintances in caring for them. It did not matter to her that she herself was
in a desperate situation.
As a result of this, Naomi
changed her mind and decided to go to Bethlehem. Thus, we are informed: They set
out on the road to return to the Land
Alternatively, she did not
reveal her destination to them. She left suddenly, and they accompanied her,
unaware of her intentions. There is no doubt that originally they had planned
only to escort her, for they had an attachment to her. But it was Naomi alone
who elected to leave Moab
behind and return to her people.
Once they had left the city
behind and were well on their way, Naomi revealed her plan to them, and it is
then that the daughters-in-law decided to accompany her all the way, especially
after she had explained her reasons for leaving. Thus, the prophet now adds, They
set out on the road to return to the land
of Judah. Only after
they had gone some way from the town did they decide to go to Judah.