Naomi had a kinsman of her
husband, a mighty man of valor of the family of Elimelech. His,name was
The scripture now begins to reveal how, through
Naomi's efforts, Ruth married Boaz. Thus came true Ruth's words, "With
[i.e., through] you we shall return to your people" (v. 1:10).
His name describes his character. Boaz (zguc)-in him there is strength. He was "a
mighty man of valor (khj)"
who vanquished and abandoned his evil inclination, zgc being an anagram of czg, abandoned; and he was mighty in Torah
wisdom, which is acquired through the forty-eight (numerical value of khj) virtues. To him thus applies, " A wise
man is strong (baoz, uzgc);
a man of knowledge increases strength" (Proverbs 24:5).
Furthermore, he is identified as Ibetzan, one
of the chieftain-judges who protected Israel from her enemies (Judges
12:8). And his prayer saved Israel
from the famine.
He was a descendant of Judah and bore
within him the seeds of the royal dynasty.
The term gsun evidently means “kinsman,” for as Boaz was
later to say to Ruth: "There is also a redeemer closer than I" (v.
3:12). Thus, although Naomi had this wealthy kinsman of noble lineage who would
have readily helped her, she preferred to receive her sustenance through leket,
the gleaning in the field which the Torah awards the poor. By refusing to
accept gifts from a relative, she was true to the teaching that "one who
hates gifts shall live" (Proverbs 15:27).
She did, however, rely on her well-known
kinship to the eminent Boaz to protect her daughter-in-law from being molested
while picking in the fields.
Naomi "had a kinsman of her
husband"; they were, however, also related from her side of the family.
For as she was to say later: "The man is related to us" (v.
20)-both she and Elimelech were related to Boaz.
the Talmud records the tradition that the father of Boaz, Salmon (Ruth 4:21);
Elimelech. Plony Almony (4:1), and Naomi’s father were all sons of Nachshon
son of Aminadav, prince of the tribe of Judah. (An amended text there
reads: Elimelech, Salmon, Boaz, and Naomi’s father were all the sons of
Nachshon son of Aminadav.)
dual kinship is here alluded to in the word gsun (“kinsman”) appearing
between hngbku (“Naomi”) and vatk (“of her husband”). So the verse can
be read “Naomi had a kinsman,” or else “a kinsman of her husband.”
scripture nonetheless calls Boaz “a kinsman of her husband” because once a
woman leaves her father’s house for that of her husband, she is closer to her
husband than to her father. However, Naomi’s name appears first to reflect her
Boaz has been identified as a kinsman of her husband, the phrase “of the family
of Elimelech” would seem to be superfluous. But this accents that even among
the distinguished family of Elimelech, Boaz stood out as “a mighty man of
is mentioned also for another reason—to contrast him with Boaz. Both were
righteous men and both were descendants of Nachshon son of Aminadav, of Peretz
and Judah, but neither
personal worth nor ancestral merit were of any help to him when he abandoned
the land of Israel.
“let kingship come to me”—foresaw that the monarchy would come through Moab, and went
there to seek it. But his ambition was not fulfilled. Boaz on the other hand
made no effort in this direction, indeed, was even willing to give away the
kingship by offering another the opportunity of wedding Ruth. So God awarded
him the privilege of being the forefather of David.
“kinsman,” is spelled with the letter yud (h, numerically
equivalent to 10), rather than with the expected vav (u
to hint to the ten years that Naomi lived in Moab (v. 1:4). For during
this time Boaz had repeatedly sent her messages urging her to return to the land of Israel and fulfill the commandment of
aiding the poor, which is mentioned ten times in the Torah.
letter yud also alludes to the ten generations from Abraham to Boaz. David had
to be the fourteenth generation, so that Solomon [whose reign climaxed Israel’s
splendor as the bearer of God’s glory on earth] would be the fifteenth
generation, corresponding to the full moon on the fifteenth day of the lunar
month. Had Salmon’s brother Tov agreed to wed Ruth, the kingship of David would
have had to wait an additional generation.
unusual spelling of gshn also conveys that Boaz did not behave like a
true kinsman. He knew that Naomi and Ruth had returned to Bethlehem in pitiful condition; for as he
later said to Ruth, “It has been fully related to me all that you have done for
your mother-in-law” (v. 11). Yet he offered them no immediate help,
although they were so poor that Ruth was forced to go pick in the fields and,
when that was not enough to sustain them, Naomi was forced to sell her field,
as it is written: “The portion of field that was our brother Elimelech’s has
Naomi sold” (v. 4:3).
else, Boaz apparently estranged himself in order to test Ruth. How she reacted
to her difficult circumstances would disclose whether she was worthy of
entering his house.
interpretation is that Boaz did not come out to greet Naomi and Ruth upon their
arrival in Bethlehem
because he was in mourning for his wife, who had died that very day. It is
revealing in this regard that when, after the week of mourning, he went out to
his fields, the field-hands did not greet him until he greeted them. This
accords with the halacha that one who is in mourning greets others; others do
not greet him first.
he then saw Ruth gleaning there, he understood that Naomi did not want to
accept help from her relatives. Out of respect for her wishes, he refrained
from offering her gifts [and helped instead through his benevolent treatment of
Ruth while she gleaned in his field.]
he knew that they owned fields and other possessions. For as he was to say
later (v. 4:9). “1 have purchased all that is Elimelech’s and all that is
Kilyon’s and Machlon’s from the hand of Naomi.” It also stands to reason that
[when they left Bethlehem for Moab] Elimelech
and Naomi had not sold any part of their fields, since Torah law forbids
selling a field and hoarding the purchase money.
Abraham Ibn Ezra
2:1 sun’: A
relative who is known, as in and call wisdom
HER HUSBAND: That is, ‘through her husband’. The lamedh is the same as in the verse say with regard to me (hk), “He is my brother”’
Our teachers, of blessed memory, said that he was Ibzan who once judged Israel.
Naomi had a relative through her husband. In light of Naomi's present
indigence, she could have turned to Boaz, her rich relative, for material
assistance. However, she preferred to send Ruth to gather from the agricultural
gifts of the poor (by doing so she felt as if her sustenance was from God in
their time of need), rather than to turn to her relative who had known her when
she was well off. She was embarrassed to disclose to him her present dire
poverty; moreover, Naomi had already envisioned Boaz redeeming the field and
her beloved Ruth and to engage him prematurely might jeopardize her plan. In
order that we should not think that the reason she did not turn to Boaz was the
fear that he would refuse her, the Prophet notes several reasons why Boaz would
have provided for them: Naomi had a relative through her husband Boaz
knew and cherished Naomi and her husband (which is connoted by the word gsunu
which implies that he knew and cherished her, unlike a distant relative); he
was from the family of Elimelech, as well as a man of substance (rucd
khj): (it has been explained [in the Malbim's commentary to Shemos 18:25]
that the description khj rucd, man of substance, includes all good
characteristics -among them generosity and the hatred of greed), and he was a
man of renown, his name was Boaz, and he surely would not neglect his
own flesh and blood.
(1) Na’omi had a relative from her husband, who
was a mighty and influentkzl man from the family of Elimelech. His name was
(i) This verse
seems out of context. The next verse seems to follow on from the final verse in
chapter one. This verse would be better understood if it followed verse 2.
opening clause, vatk gshn hngbku, is only correct if Boaz’s
relationship to Na’omi is being emphasized. However, here, Scripture wishes to
point out Boaz’s relationship to her husband, and thus the correct form should
be gsun hngb ahtku The husband of Na’omi had a relative.
is there an extra yud after the menu in the word gshn?
There should be either a vav (as in the ken) or nothing at
all, as we see later in the word ub,gsn (3:2).
What is so important about the fact that Boaz was a man of influence? Besides,
it is obvious that he is a man. Why do we need the word aht at
(v) Lastly, once we know that Boaz is a
relative of Na’omi’s husband, who is Elimelech, why does the prophet repeat the
obvious fact that he was from the family of Elamelech?
Before Scripture goes on to discuss Ruth’s plan to go to
the fields and Na’omi’s response (verse 2), Samuel, with his Divine
inspiration, introduced this verse to ensure that no one would dare to slander
the great and holy personalities featured in this megillah.
The Field — Not an Ideal Place for Ruth
of all there is Ruth. She declared that she would like to go picking in the
fields. Now as we know, a modest girl’s place is in the home (Psalms 45:14).
The first thing she should have asked Na’omi was, not for permission to gather
gleanings, but where her kinsmen, the leaders of the country, resided so that
they could dwell together with them. Furthermore, the inhabitants of the town
would surely have been shocked to hear Na’omi’s reply to Ruth. They would have
most likely exclaimed: “What is she doing? How could she have allowed that girl
to go into the fields? It shows no less than a lack of judgment and morals for
a woman such as she to send an attractive girl, who causes all those who stare
at her to be aroused (cf. Ruth Rabbah 4:4), into the fields searching for
gleanings! Imagine how many rogues and scoundrels she will have to mingle with
day and night in the fields just so that she can provide Na’omi with food,
while that old woman stays home doing nothing? Wouldn’t it have been better the
other way around? The young girl should remain in the confines of her home so
that she shouldn’t come to any harm in the fields, while the older woman should
go out looking for food to sustain herself.”
would have similarly been castigated: “What does a rich man like him mean by
hiding his face? He should take both the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law
under his wing. They are, after all, widows and need someone to care for them.
In his house, they would be able to eat their fill and dress in stately
clothing” (cf. Isaiah 23:18).
prevent the ignorant from voicing such complaints, the chapter begins with the
statement, Na’omi had a relative... before it continues relating the
sequence of events in Judah.
The Three Alternatives
two women had three options open to them. The first was that they go separate
ways. Na’omi would stay with relatives while Ruth would gather food in the
fields. Alternatively, both women could have gone to the fields together. The
third option was that they remain in Boaz’s house, where they would be taken
care of as their honor demanded.
of them can be faulted for what transpired. The first option was out of the
question, since they had come to Bethlehem
together with the intention of staying together. Besides, Ruth had promised
that only death would separate them.
second option was likewise not feasible, for it is ludicrous to suggest that
both Na’omi and Ruth go collecting in the fields.
relates: Na’omi had a kinsman. There was no need for her to go out
collecting food, for she would be cared for as befits a woman of her standing.
Now we can understand the extra yud in the word gshn. It
signifies that Na’omi found refuge in the house of a relative where she could
live honorably, just as a little yud nestles comfortably between the two
larger letters mem and daled.
reason why the second option was not feasible was because even if Na’omi had
wanted to go with Ruth to the fields, she wouldn’t have been permitted to do
so. Boaz was an important and influential person and would not allow a relative
of his to do such a thing that would undoubtedly bring disgrace to his name.
Ruth in a Quandary
third option was likewise unlikely, for he was from the family of Elimelech,
who had the rights to redeem his field and subsequently to marry Ruth, as it
says, On the day when you acquire... (4:5). Thus, it would not have been
possible for Ruth to have stayed with Boaz at that time lest people gossip and
say that he had taken a liking to her and subsequently married her.
Ruth found herself in a predicament and wondered which course she should take.
She told Na’omi that she would like to go to the fields, and her mother-in-law
responded, “Go, my daughter. Don’t think I don’t care about you
since you are not my daughter. On the contrary, even if you were my very own
daughter, I would allow you to go to the fields, for it is not dishonorable to
sustain yourself in this way. It is perfectly legitimate to accept gifts that
are set aside for the poor and it is preferable to taking from people.” Now it
is clear why no guilt can be attached to Boaz for not insisting that Ruth stay
in his house. Not only would that give rise to gossip but even Na’omi found it
permissible for Ruth to collect gleanings in the fields.
is also worth mentioning that Na’omi kept silent and did not send Ruth to the
fields on her own initative. It was Ruth who first brought up the subject for
discussion. Only then did Na’omi consent and allow her to go.
our commentary to chapter one (verse 8), we explained that Ruth was the ‘good
dove’ appointed by God to be the progenitress of the Davidic dynasty. This,
says the Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 41:4), is derived from the verse, I have
found my servant David (Psalms 89:21). Where is he to be found? In Sodom, for it is written,
And your two daughters who are to be ‘found’ with you (Genesis 19:15.
(See essay on this subject in the appendix.)
Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 2:15) informs us that Na’omi knew of this, as she hinted
in her blessing to Ruth, May God grant... (1:9). She meant to say
that the gifts and blessings destined to be given to Solomon should come
through you. Ruth understood the intention of this blessing but kept it a
Na’omi knew that Ruth was destined for greatness, she did her best to play an
important role in bringing the Divine plan to fruition. As we explained in the
previous chapter, she survived her husband and children specifically for this
purpose, and she had the merit of bringing Ruth to Bethlehem (see commentary on 1:2 1).
the Divine word goes on to explain why they were brought to Bethlehem. The story of Ruth begins to
had a relative. ..who was a mighty and influential man. Through him the Kingdom of David would be realized. He was
a man, a title awarded only to important people in the Scriptures.
addition, Boaz is described as an khj aht, a man of valor or influence,
a title used in connection with monarchs (cf. II Samuel 17:10: And he
(i.e., David) is even valiant (khj ic), indicating
that he was from Judah and a suitable candidate to redeem both the field of
Elimelech and Ruth through levirate marriage.
was Boaz chosen and not a closer relative such as Tov, the brother of
Elimelech? There is an interesting answer to this.
was destined to be the fourteenth generation from Abraham, and Solomon the
fifteenth, which suggests a full moon (visible on the fifteenth day of each
Had Tov, who was a brother of Salmon and belonged only to the tenth generation,
been the one to redeem Ruth, there would have to be four more generations until
David’s era. Since Boaz was the son of Salmon and belonged to the eleventh
generation, only three more generations were needed until David, for Obed was
the father of Jesse. That is why God chose Boaz rather than Tov.
may be an allusion to this in the first verse. We questioned the extra yud in
the word gshn Later (3:2), we find a similar word ub,gsn,
and this shows that a vav is not required after the mem. The
extra yud may stand for God’s name, as if to allude to the fact that
besides a relative, there was God too, for He had chosen Boaz over Tov for the
reason specified. In addition, Boaz was a man of influence, the leader of his
generation and a Torah sage, qualities that Tov lacked.