Ruth 2:14




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and he said




to her








at time of




the meal












and you eat








the bread




and you dip




piece of




in the wine vinegar




and she sat




at side of




the harvesters




and he offered




to her




roasted grain




and she ate




and she was filled




and she had leftover






2:14 And Boaz said to her at meal­time, Come near and eat of the bread; and he set her beside the reapers, and gave her barley-meal, and dipped bread in milk; then he gave her parched wheat, and she did eat and was satisfied, and she had some left over,


Stone’s Translation


2:14 Boaz said to her, “Come over here and partake of the bread, and dip your morsel in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the harvesters. He handed her parched grain, and she ate and was satisfied, and had some left over.




2:14 And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched [corn], and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left.   



Ruth 2:14 kai; ei\pen aujth'/ Boo" h[dh w{ra/ tou' fagei'n provselqe w|de kai; favgesai tw'n a[rtwn kai; bavyei" to;n

ywmovn sou ejn tw'/ o[xei kai; ejkavqisen Rouq ejk plagivwn tw'n qerizovntwn kai; ejbouvnisen aujth'/ Boo"

a[lfiton kai; e[fagen kai; ejneplhvsqh kai; katevlipen


Ruth 2:14 And Boöz said to her, "It is already time to eat; come here and you will eat of the loaves of bread and dip your piece in the vinegar.” And Ruth sat beside the reapers, and Boöz heaped barley-groats for her, and she ate and was filled, and left some. 



Peshat Level:




2:14 At mealtime Boaz said to her: "Come here and eat of the bread, and dip your food in the broth cooked in vinegar." So she sat down beside the reapers, and he handed her some roasted meal. She ate and was satisfied and left some over.




2:14  And dip your morsel in the vinegar  From here (we learn) that vinegar is helpful for the heat.


And he handed her parched grain   (vk-ycmhu means) “and he extended to her”, and there is nothing comparable to this (word) in scripture, but only in the language of the Mishnah (Haggai 3:1): “the bottom and the inside and the handle”.



Gemarah Level:


Talmud Babli


Pesachim 42b R. Nahman [b. Isaac] said: In former times, when they used to bring [wine] libations from Judah, the wine of Judah did not turn vinegar unless barley was put into it, and they used to call it simply vinegar. But now the wine of the Idumeans does not turn vinegar until barley is put into it, and it is called ‘Idumean vinegar’, in fulfillment of what is said, [Tyre hath said against Jerusalem...] I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste: if one is full [flourishing] the other is desolate, and if the other is full the first is desolate. R. Nahman b. Isaac quoted this: and the one people shall be stronger than the other people.


Shabbat 113b And dip thy morsel in vinegar. R. Eleazar said: Hence [it may be deduced] that vinegar is beneficial in hot weather. R. Samuel b. Nahmani said: He intimated to her, A son is destined to come forth from thee whose actions shall be as sharp as vinegar; and who was it, Manasseh — And she sat beside the reapers. R — Eleazar observed: At the side of the reapers, but not in the midst of the reapers: he [Boaz] intimated to her that the Kingdom of the House of David was destined to be divided. And he reached her parched corn, and she did eat [and was sufficed, and left thereof]: Said R. Eleazar: ‘She ate’ in the days of David, ‘she was sufficed’ in the days of Solomon, ‘and she left over’ in the days of Hezekiah. Some there are who interpret, ‘She ate’ in the days of David and Solomon, and ‘she was sufficed’ in the days of Hezekiah, ‘and she left over’ in the days of Rabbi. For a Master said, Rabbi's house steward was wealthier than King Shapur. In a Baraitha it was taught: ‘And she ate’, in this world; ‘and she was sufficed’, in the days of the Messiah: ‘and she left over’, in the future that is to come.


Shabbat 113b And at meal-time Boaz said unto her, Come hither: Said R. Eleazar, He intimated to her, The royal house of David is destined to come forth from thee, [the house] whereof ‘hither’ is written, as it is said, Then David the king went in, and sat before the Lord, — and he said, Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hither?


Barley: a non-Jew's grain: Rosh HaShanah 13a

The date to bring the Flour Offering: Menachoth 65a-b

The Judgment of the world on Pesach for the year's grain is the reason for bringing the Omer-Flour Offering on Pesach: Rosh HaShanah 16a

This offering is brought even if the Omer is impure: Menachoth 72a

Harvesting the grain for the Omer during the Sabbatical Year: Rosh HaShanah 9a; Makkot 8b

Harvesting/Bringing the Omer on Shabbat: Makkot 8b; Menachoth 71a, 72a-b

The more work involved, the greater the glory of the Mitzvah: Menachoth 63b

The more people involved, the greater the glory of the Mitzvah: Menachoth 63b-64a, 65a

Whether the grain must be planted specifically for this Mitzvah: Makkot 8b

Source for using barley for the Omer: Menachoth 68b

The only other flour offering which is barley is that of the Sotah, but that one is less refined: Sotah 14a

A messenger of the Court would bundle the sheaves, still connected to the ground, before the Holiday: Menachoth 65a

Brought from near to Jerusalem, but default is anywhere: Menachoth 64b

The nearby cities would come in for the harvesting: Menachoth 65a

The Grain should be "Karmel" - soft and full: Menachoth 64b, 66b

 [Not] Brought from the valleys and irrigated fields, which produced poorer quality grain: Pesachim 11a, Menachoth 68a

Soaked in water and drained, without fear that it may become leavened during the time used for the process: Pesachim 36a

The harvesting as a Mitzvah unto itself: Menachoth 72a

Whether it must be cut for the Omer specifically: Shabbat 131a; Makkot 8b; Menachoth 71a, 72a

Should be cut from moist grain: Menachoth 71a, 72a

When the cutting is done: Megillah 20b, 21a; Menachoth 66a, 71a, 72a, 72b

Can be cut at any time during the night: Menachoth 72a

Harvested by 3 people, with 3 boxes and 3 scythes: Menachoth 63b, 64a

Number of People, Boxes and Scythes involved if brought on Shabbat: Menachoth 63b, 64a, 72b

Dialogue between the Cutter and the People: Menachoth 65a

Special addition to the dialogue on Shabbat: Menachoth 65a, 72b

Purpose of the extended dialogue was to pointedly refute the Boethusian contention for the date of Harvesting the Omer: Menachoth 65a

Omer is 1 "Isaron" amount, from 3 or 5 "Se’ah" initially cut: Menachoth 63b

3 "Se’ah" are used if it is brought on Shabbat: Menachoth 63b

Grain cut by a non-Jew: Rosh HaShanah 13a

Beating it before Singing it, or no Beating: Menachoth 66a

Singing it: Menachoth 66a-b

How the singing was carried out: Menachoth 66a-b

Left it in the Outer Room of the Temple, exposed to the wind, and then sifted it with 13 sifters down to an "Isaron" amount: Menachoth 66a

The remainder of the grain was Redeemed: Menachoth 66a

The remainder, post-redemption, is permissible for anyone: Menachoth 66a

Whether the remainder requires separation of Dough-Tithe but not of the Initial Tithe: Menachoth 66a, 66b

Anointing, addition of Frankincense, Mixing: Menachoth 67b

The leftover after Collecting the Handful of Flour goes to a Kohen: Menachoth 72b-73a

The Flour Offering is brought during the day: Megillah 21a; Menachoth 66a

Order of Service in Bringing the Flour Offering: Menachoth 67b

The Flour Offering is eaten by the Kohanim: Menachoth 67b

Which Types of Produce are [not] under Sabbatical Year-Rules. Status of produce which isn't ordinarily protected as it grows: Succah 39b

The Sabbatical Year and the need to harvest the Omer-Grain: Rosh HaShanah 9a; Makkot 8b

The Sabbatical Year And Paupers' Tithe, in Ammon and Moav: Chagigah 3b

Animal fodder: Shabbat 68a

The beginning date: Menachoth 65a-66a

Counting begins on the night of the harvesting of the Omer Flour: Menachoth 66a

Counting at night: Megillah 21a

Who Counts Depends on a count by the Court: Menachoth 65b, 66a

Individuals have their own requirement: Menachoth 65b

After the Temple, possibly considering Counting a remembrance of the Temple: Menachoth 66a

Mitzvah to count days: Rosh HaShanah 5a; Menachoth 66a

Mitzvah to count weeks: Rosh HaShanah 5a; Menachoth 66a



Midrash Level:


Midrash Rabbah


Ruth V:6 AND BOAZ SAID UNTO HER AT MEAL TIME: COME HITHER, AND EAT OF THE BREAD, AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR. AND SHE SAT BESIDE THE REAPERS; AND THEY REACHED HER PARCHED CORN, AND SHE DID EAT AND WAS SATISFIED AND LEFT THEREOF (II, 14). R. Jonathan interpreted this verse in six ways. The first refers it to David. COME HITHER means, approach to royal state, as in the verse, That Thou hast brought me hither  (II Sam. VII, 18). AND EAT OF THE BREAD refers to the bread of royalty. AND DIP THY BREAD IN THE VINEGAR refers to his sufferings, as it is said, O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger (Psalm VI, 2). AND SHE SAT BESIDE THE REAPERS. In that the throne was taken from him for a time, as R. Huna said: All these six months that David was in flight from Absalom are not included in his reign and he atoned for his sins with a she-goat, like a commoner. AND THEY REACHED HER PARCHED CORN: [this intimates] that he was restored to the throne, as it is said, Now know I that the Lord saves His anointed  (Psalm XX, 7). AND SHE DID EAT, AND WAS SATISFIED, AND LEFT THEREOF: this indicates that he would eat in this world, and in the Messianic age, and in the World to Come. The second interpretation of COME HITHER. etc., refers it to Solomon. COME HITHER; approach to royal state; AND EAT OF THE BREAD refers to the bread of royalty, as it is said, And Solomon's provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and three score measures of meal (I Kings V, 2)- AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR refers to the stain on his character. AND SHE SAT BESIDE THE REAPERS, in that the throne was taken from him for a time, as R. Yohai b. Hanina said: An angel descended in the likeness of Solomon and sat upon his throne, while he went from door to door throughout Israel saying, I, Koheleth, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes I, 12). What did one of the housewives do? She gave him a plate of pounded beans, and struck him upon the head, saying, ‘Does not Solomon sit upon his throne? And yet you say, " I am Solomon king of Israel ".’ AND THEY REACHED HER PARCHED CORN; this indicates that he was restored to the throne. AND SHE DID EAT AND WAS SATISFIED AND LEFT THEREOF; he would eat in this world, and in the Messianic age, and in the World to Come. The third interpretation of COME HITHER refers it to Hezekiah COME HITHER, approach to royal state. AND EAT OF THE BREAD, the bread of royalty. AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR refers to his sufferings [in illness], as it is said, And Isaiah said: Let them take a cake of figs, etc. (Isaiah XXXVIII, 21). AND SHE SAT BESIDE THE REAPERS, in that the throne was taken from him for a time, as it is said, Thus saith Hezekiah: This day is a day of trouble and rebuke (Isaiah XXXVII, 3). AND THEY REACHED HER PARCHED CORN indicates that he was restored to the throne, as it is said, So that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from thenceforth  (II Chron. XXXII, 23). AND SHE DID EAT AND WAS SATISFIED AND LEFT THEREOF; he would eat in this world, and in the Messianic age, and in the World to Come. The fourth interpretation of COME HITHER. etc., makes it refer to Manasseh. COME HITHER; approach to the royal state. AND EAT OF THE BREAD refers to the bread of royalty. AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR, because his actions were sour as vinegar on account of his evil deeds. AND SHE SAT BESIDE THE REAPERS. In that he was deprived of his throne for a time, as it is said, And the Lord spoke unto Manasseh, and to his people; but they gave no heed. Wherefore the Lord brought them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks (II Chron. XXXIII, 10 f.)… AND THEY REACHED HER PARCHED CORN, i.e. he was restored to the throne, as it is said, And brought him back to Jerusalem to his kingdom (ib.). How did He bring him back? R. Samuel said in the name of R. Aba: He brought him back with a wind, as we say ' who causes the wind to blow. AND SHE DID EAT AND WAS SATISFIED AND LEFT THEREOF: he would eat in this world, and in the Messianic age, and in the World to Come. The fifth interpretation makes it refer to the Messiah. COME HITHER: approach to royal state. AND EAT OF THE BREAD refers to the bread of royalty; AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR refers to his sufferings, as it is said, But he was wounded because of our transgressions  (Isaiah LIII, 5). AND SHE SAT BESIDE THE REAPERS, for he will be deprived of his sovereignty for a time, as it is said, For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken (Zech. XIV, 2). AND THEY REACHED HER PARCHED CORN, means that he will be restored to his throne, as it is said, And he shall smite the land with the rod of his mouth (Isaiah XI, 4). R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Levi: The future Redeemer will be like the former Redeemer. Just as the former Redeemer revealed himself and later was hidden from them            (and how long was he hidden? Three months, as it is said, And they met Moses and Aaron (Exodus V, 20)1), so the future Redeemer will be revealed to them, and then be hidden from them. And how long will he be hidden? R. Tanhuma, in the name of the Rabbis, said: Forty-five days, as it is said, And from the time that the continual burnt offering shall be taken away... there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Happy is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days  (Dan. XII, 11-12).2 What are these extra days? R. Isaac b. Kazarta3 said on behalf of R. Jonah: These are the forty-five days during which Israel shall pluck saltwort and eat it, as it is said, They pluck salt-wort with wormwood  (Job XXX, 4).4 Where will he lead them? From the land of Israel to the wilderness of Judah, as it is said, Behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness (Hos. II, 16); while some say to the wilderness of Sihon and Og, as it is said, I will yet again make thee to dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed season (ib. XII, 10).5 He who believes in him will live, and he who does not believe will depart to the Gentile nations and they will put him to death.6 R. Isaac b. Marion said: Finally the Holy One, blessed be He, will reveal Himself to them, and He will rain down manna upon them, And there is nothing new under the sun  (Ecclesiastes I, 9).7 The sixth interpretation makes COME HITHER. etc., refer to Boaz himself.8 COME HITHER means approach here. AND EAT OF THE BREAD: the bread of the reapers. AND DIP THY MORSEL IN THE VINEGAR, for reapers are wont to dip their bread in vinegar. R. Jonathan said: From this we can infer that dishes prepared with vinegar are brought into the granaries.1 AND SHE SAT BESIDE THE REAPERS, actually at their side.2 AND THEY REACHED HER PARCHED CORN; just a pinch between his two fingers.3 R. Isaac said: From this we can infer one of two things, that a blessing reposed either in the fingers of that righteous man [Boaz] or in the stomach of that righteous woman4 [Ruth]; but since it says, AND SHE DID EAT AND WAS SATISFIED AND LEFT THEREOF, it is more probable that the blessing was in the stomach of that righteous woman. R. Isaac b. Marion said: This verse can teach us that if a man is about to perform a good deed, he should do it with all his heart. For had Reuben known that Scripture would record of him, And Reuben heard it, and delivered him out of their hand  (Genesis XXXVII, 21), he would have borne Joseph on his shoulder to his father; and had Aaron known that Scripture would record of him, And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee (Exodus IV, 14), he would have gone forth to meet him with timbrels and dances. And had Boaz known that Scripture would record of him, AN D HE REACHED HER PARCHED CORN, AND SHE DID EAT AND WAS SATISFIED AND LEFT THEREOF, he would have fed her with fatted calves. R. Cohen and R. Joshua of Siknin said in the name of R. Levi: In the past when a man performed a good deed, the prophet placed it on record; but nowadays when a man performs a good deed, who records it? Elijah records it and the Messiah and the Holy One, blessed be He, subscribe their seal to it. This is the meaning of the verse, Then they that feared the Lord spoke with one another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him (Mal. III, 16).




Zohar Level:



Other Commentaries:


Me’am Lo’ez


2:14 And Boaz said to her at~ealtime, “Approach hither, and eat of the bread and dip your morsel in the vinegar.” So she sat at the side of the reapers. He handed her parched grain, and she ate, and was satisfied, and left over.


How great is the power of gratitude! No sooner had she said, “May I find favor in the eyes of my lord” than he doubled his kindness and began to care for all her needs.


The word vk, “to her,” is curiously missing the usual mapik (dot) in the letter heh (v). Our sages therefore render the word as vk, not. “No,” said Boaz, “you are not of the maidservants, as you have said, but of the matriarchs who built the house of Israel.”


Similarly, the mapik in the heh is missing in the verse, “He called it (vk) Novach in his name” (Numbers 32:42), for the name (Novach) did not last. And here (v. 14), the missing mapik hints likewise that Boaz’s marriage to Ruth would not endure. The night he wed her, he died.


It also conveys that he did not speak directly “to her,” but to all the women gleaning in the field, to keep above suspicion. For the same reason, he spoke to her “at mealtime,” when courtesy demanded that he invite her to join the others in the reapers’ repast; and he gave her only a little. Furthermore, he did not ask her to come “here” (vbv), close to the men, but simply to partake of the meal, hence the unusual term okv, “hither.”


According to a different interpretation, “at mealtime” is part of Boaz’s statement. “Each day at mealtime,” he said, “come here to eat; you need not wait to be invited.”


In the manner of the good host, Boaz urged her to partake, adding that her joining the meal would cause no trouble or expense. Enough bread had already been prepared, and vinegar was inexpensive and abundant. Let her then consider the bread as her own (“your morsel”).


Seeing her hesitate, he added, “If you prefer not to eat of the reapers meal, eat your own bread and dip it in our vinegar.”


The sages remark upon the fact that usually guests are not invited to partake of vinegar. However, Boaz feared that Ruth, a king’s daughter, was unaccustomed to the strong sun and might suffer sunstroke. So he advised her to dip her bread in vinegar, which protects against the heat.


Targum Yonathan translates: “You shall dip your bread in food which has been cooked with vinegar.”


In deference to Boaz’s wishes, Ruth sat “at the side of the reapers.” She did not come near them, or partake of the food, so he graciously handed her some “parched grain” (hke) of his own meal.


Our sages explain hke not as a kind of food but as referring to the quantity. Since he had said, “dip your morsel in vinegar,” yet the verse does not mention that he gave her bread, they render hke as a “pinch,’ cognate of khke a little. He handed her a bit of food.


Rabbi Yitzchak said: Either the fingers of that righteous man or the stomach of that righteous woman were blessed, for he gave her only pinch, but she “was satisfied, and left over.”


The Talmud says: If a person performs a mitzvah, he should perform it wholeheartedly. Had Boaz known that God would write of him, “He offered her a pinch,” he would have served her fatted calves.


The simple meaning of this statement is that a good cause deserves maximum effort; one should not give sparingly, as Boaz did.


On the other hand, the scripture testifies that he gave generously enough so that she “ate, and was satisfied, and left over.” And the only reason Boaz did not serve her fatted calves was to avoid suspicion. Had he known, however, that the scripture would place him above suspicion by recording his deed, fatted calves he would indeed have served her. As it was, he acted wholeheartedly, though imperfectly, and God who “seeks the heart” recorded the deed as if it were perfect.


This is a pattern which recurs in the Holy Scripture. Reuben influenced his brothers with words; Aaron was righteous in thought: he rejoiced in his heart; Boaz accented the deed. And in regard to all three God had to testify to their good intentions.


Reuben said, “Let us go and throw him into the pit” (Genesis 37:22) that swarmed with snakes and scorpions, although his intention was to save Joseph from his brothers’ hands. For he was afraid that if he asked for more, they would kill him as well. Reuben’s deed was flawed, for without a miracle to save him, Joseph would have perished in the pit. But his intention was to save him, and he did not carry him on his shoulders only because he was afraid that he would not succeed. Had he known what the scripture would record, he would have tried to return him to his father in the knowledge that he would succeed. Although the deed was not perfect, being limited to words, the scripture writes, “He saved him from their hands” (Genesis 37:21).


Similarly, Aaron kissed Moses (Exodus 4:27), yet God had to testify to his generous feelings. Aaron did not come out to greet Moses with music and dance because he feared that people would say that it was meant to cover up the jealousy in his heart. Had he known that the scripture would testify to his joy at his brother’s good fortune, he would have done so. Although the deed was flawed, being confined to his thought, the scripture writes of it as if it were perfect. This indicates that purity of motive is most important.


The righteous promise little but do much. Abraham said to the angels who visited him, “Let me take a loaf of bread” (Genesis 18:5), but brought them cream and milk, followed by meat (Talmud). Similarly, Boaz told Ruth to “eat of the bread,” but then “handed her parched grain,” which “she ate,” followed by an array of delicacies, from which she “was satisfied.” Moreover, he served her more than she could eat, so that she “left over.


According to the Midrash, he said, [“Approach to the royalty.” Thus the term okv was later used to refer to kingship: “Who am I. . . that you have brought me okv hither” (2 Samuel 7:18).] “You shall eat of the bread of royalty, dipped in the vinegar of suffering that inevitably accompanies it.”


Thus one of the kings to descend from her would be like harsh vinegar, although the son of wine—Manasseh, the wicked son of the righteous King Chizkiyah.


The unusual word ycmhu, “he handed her,” is seen as being composed of two words, ‘y cmhu “nine stood,” alluding to the nine kings that would descend from her: David, Solomon, Asa, Yehoshafat, Uziah, Yotam, Chizkiyah, Yosiah, and Amatziah (or else the Messiah).


Abraham Ibn Ezra





14: Boaz said to her at mealtime. While this was happening, the food was served and Boaz ate at one table with the harvesters. Boaz certainly sat with them in order that they would say the entire Grace after Meals. [The Talmud in Berachos 16a says that employees are only allowed to say the first two blessings of Birkas HaMazon, the Grace after Meals (their financial responsibility to their employer mitigating, to a certain extent, their religious obligation), whereas, if the employer is eating with them, they may recite the entire prayer because there is an assumption that he permits the extra time necessary for this.] Boaz sat at the head of the table with the harvesters sitting around the table. He said to her, "Come over here," that she should sit at the head of the table near him [the word oukv always connotes a status or position above one's usual standing. Our Sages have said that the word alludes to royalty].


And eat of the bread. Lechem refers to a whole bread, while pas refers to bread which is sliced into pieces [see Malbim's commentary to Vayikra 2:6, HaTorah v'HaMitzvah 124]. He gave her a whole bread (the remainder of which she took home), and told her to eat of any of the bread on the table " and dip your piece of bread, In!), in vinegar." She then sat at the side of the harvesters. She did not sit next to Boaz, but next to the harvesters. He passed her parched grain, and she ate and was satisfied and {even] left {some] over.




(14)Boaz said to her at the mealtime, “Come here and eat bread; dip your piece in vinegar.” She sat beside the reapers. He handed her parched grain. She ate and was so satisfied, that she left some over.


A closer look at the text will reveal some apparent contradictions.


We are told that Ruth sat beside the reapers. This after Boaz had told her to come here. It follows that Boaz was there, too. Why didn’t the prophet make mention of the fact that Boaz was sitting with the workers? Besides, was it right for her to sit next to the men?


Boaz told her to eat bread and dip it in vinegar. Yet, after she took her place at the meal, he offered her parched grain, and no mention is made of her eating the bread!


The Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 5:6) notes that Boaz gave Ruth a little grain with his fingers, but God blessed it so that from that small amount she was satisfied and even left over a bit. From this we can see that she did not have bread or vinegar, since, if she had, her satiety would not have been considered unusual.


The Midrash also tells us: “If Boaz had known that God was going to record that he gave her parched grain he would have given her fattened calves.” Again, no mention is made of him giving her bread and vinegar, which is a higher grade of food than parched grain.


How Did Boaz Avoid Suspicion?


The verse can be explained as follows. Boaz, deep down in his heart, wanted to be as kind as he could possibly be to Ruth. However he was afraid of what others might say. Why was a respectable man like himself showing her so much grace? They would surely suspect him of having his eyes on her. Hence he did not invite her to eat together with him, for it surely would have given rise to gossip, and onlookers would have had reason to suspect him of trying to court her. So, he waited until mealtime and then, in an offhand manner, called her to come here. This would be understood as a simple act of compassion, for it looked as if he called her to sit down only because everyone else had a place and this unfortunate girl was starving for bread. He did not treat her any differently from the others waiting to eat. Note how this is emphasized in the verse, Boaz said to her, ‘at mealtime...’


The Talmud (Shabbath 127b) relates how a certain pious man ransomed a Jewish girl from captivity. He took her to an inn where he made her lie at his feet. The next day, he immersed in a ritual bath and then went to learn with his disciples. He asked them, “When she lay at my feet of what did you suspect me?” They answered, “We thought perhaps there is one of us who is suspect [and she could not be left alone with us].” He asked them, “When I took a ritual bath, of what did you suspect me?” Their reply, “We thought that due to the fatigue of the journey the master suffered a nocturnal pollution.”


“That is exactly what happened!” he exclaimed. “Just as you have judged me favorably, so may God judge you favorably.”


In this story we see that since the disciples were not trustworthy, the teacher looked after the girl himself. He knew he had the strength of mind to lie next to her and not become aroused.


The Table Plan


Boaz found himself in similar circumstances. There is little doubt that the workers would not have dared sit next to a person as noble as Boaz. He would be seated on one side of the table and they on the other, facing him. He figured that if Ruth sat with them, her neighbor at the table would surely become aroused and be led to sin, for Boaz was not familiar with their characters and couldn’t trust any of them. So, he said, Come here, intending that she should sit near him. But, lest anyone suspect him of having a desire for her, he added, Eat from the bread, as if to say, “Do not eat from all the delicacies laid out in front of you, for people might say that I have given them to you to show my fondness of you. Thus, take only bread, but, if you wish to make it tasty, dip it in some vinegar.”


Ruth Changes the Seating Arrangement


Ruth, however, had a plan of her own. “If I do as he says, I will sit facing his laborers and they will surely stare at me and consequently be brought to sin. It is far better that I should sit on their side, facing Boaz. He will not be led to sin, for he knows better than to stare at me. The laborers, though, will be to the side of me, and they will feel embarrassed to turn their heads to look at me, for everyone else will notice. On the other hand, if I were facing them, they would be able to stare at me without attracting any attention. They will not realize that it is detrimental for their spiritual characters.”


Thus, she decided to sit beside the workers, and not next to Boaz, for his advice was not for the best. As a precautionary measure, so as to prevent them from becoming even the slightest bit aroused due to her presence, she kept her distance from them. This explains why the text has smn, literally “on the side,” instead of smc, “by the side.” She was on the same side as the laborers but did not sit by their side.


When Boaz saw what Ruth had done, he had to change his plans accordingly. He said to himself: “If I serve her bread and vinegar as I intended, one of the laborers might come to dip his piece in her bowl, and this may lead to them becoming close to each other. Who knows what evil may result?”


He therefore decided not to serve her the bread and vinegar but to give her parched corn instead, without a dip. The laborers would no doubt wonder why Boax had singled out Ruth to give her a different food and would understand that the intention was that they should avoid coming close to her. He handed her... denotes that he gave her only enough for herself. There was not enough for her to share with anyone else. Even so, she ate and was so satisfied, that she left some over because God had blessed the food.”


Note that the term r,u,u, is used instead of the more correct r,uhu This indicates that it was in her merit that there was food left over, as if she had caused it to be left over with her very own hands. Hence, r,u,u, she caused that there be left over.”


We will now elaborate on the above mentioned Midrash in greater detail.


“Reuben heard and saved him [Joseph) from their [the brothers’) hands” (Genesis 3 7:21). The Torah teaches us how a man should conduct himself while performing a ‘mitzvah’; he should do so with a happy heart. If Reuben had known that God was going to write: Reuben heard and saved him...” he would have taken Joseph on his shoulders and brought him home to their father. If Aaron had known that God would record the words: “And behold he [Aaron) is coming out to meet you [Moses); he will see you and be happy at heart” (Exodus 4:14), he would have greeted Moses with music and dancing. If Boaz had known that it would be written about him that, he handed her parched grain,” he would have serued her fattened calves.


In the past one would perform a ‘mitzvah’ and the prophets would record it. Now that there are no longer any prophets, who records them? Elijah and Messiah record them and God countersigns, as it is written, Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another” (Malachi 3:16).


This Midrash requires some thought. First of all, it has been phrased rather awkwardly. Its main teaching should have been expressed right at the beginning and read as follows: When one performs a mitzvah he should do so with a happy heart, for Reuben carried out his task with joy and God considered it as if he had saved Joseph from their hands.


Secondly, how do we know that Reuben carried out his deed with joy? The fact that the Midrash admits that “had he known. ..he would have done better,” shows that there was something lacking.


We could explain that the Midrash teaches us that we should not act as Reuben did, for his deed was lacking some degree of joy. Had he known that his actions were to be recorded he would have done better.


However, it is highly unlikely that the Midrash would bring this example to highlight Reuben’s failings. Moreover, all the cases quoted by the Midrash were teaching the same concept. Thus, Reuben is compared to both Aaron and Boaz, and in Aaron’s case it is explicitly written that he was happy at heart. In addition, Reuben is praised for saving Joseph from their hands. Had he not acted in the correct manner, God would not have attributed Joseph’s rescue to his efforts.


The wording of the Midrash implies that since Reuben didn’t know that his act would be recorded, he didn’t perform the mitzvah with the proper degree of joy. The same would apply to Aaron and Boaz. This is a rather serious allegation! God forbid that such things be said against the greatest leaders of our people!


An explanation is required as to why these three examples are chosen in particular. How do we know that the Torah intended to teach us a lesson? For all we know, it is simply relating how praiseworthy Reuben is for saving Joseph.


The Midrash further tells us that in the past, a man would perform a mitzvah and the prophets would record it. Why is all this relevant to us? We are interested only in the present time and not what used to be!


What type of ‘writing’ is the Midrash alluding to? If the reference is to deeds that are recorded in Heaven, how do we know that they are not recorded any longer? Indeed, the Mishnah (Ethics 2:1) writes that all our actions and words are recorded in a book before God. If the reference is to writing in this world, did the prophets really write down every mitzvah that was ever performed?


The Midrash further makes it known that since there are no longer prophets, “no one can record them.” Is that really a problem? Is God unable to find anyone else to record them if He so wishes?


Why are Elijah and Messiah singled out from all others as those capable of continuing the work of the prophets? Moreover, why are both of them needed? Finally, what exactly do we derive from the verse in Malachi, Then those who fear the Lord..?


Who Saved Joseph’s Life?


From the words, And he saved him from their hands, our Sages learned that the Torah gave Reuben the credit for saving Joseph’s life, even though he didn’t, but merely prevented the brothers from killing him outright. He convinced them to throw Joseph into a pit where death awaited him, either in the form of poisonous snakes and scorpions (Talmud Shabbath 22a), or by starvation. It was Judah who intervened later to save his life by declaring: What profit is it if slay our brother and conceal his blood? (Genesis 37:26).


The reason Scripture credits Reuben with saving Joseph’s life could only be that he performed this mitzvah with such gladness of heart that it was considered as if he had saved him from death altogether and not only from cold-blooded murder. Had the Torah not repeated the fact that he saved life, I would have said that the intention was only to tell us how praiseworthy Reuben was for his good intentions and not to teach anyone else how to behave in such a case. However, since the Scripture states emphatically: in order to save him from their hands to return him to his father (Genesis 37:22), it must be telling us that we, too, should perform every mitzvah with joy, for the Torah credits Reuben with returning Joseph to his father even though he didn’t. The obvious question is: what is so remarkable about Reuben’s behavior? After all, he did not resist the brothers to the end and seemed quite content to let Joseph die in the pit. Had he argued with more zest and had he felt genuine concern for Joseph, he might have convinced the rest of the brothers to free him altogether. It is precisely for this reason that the Midrash says: Had Reuben known... He could have done better. He could have carried Joseph off on his shoulders and returned him to Jacob had he known that the Torah would credit him with saving Joseph from their hands.


Why Did Reuben Hold Back?


Since he didn’t know, he did not finish the task. There was a good reason for this. He said to himself: “How should I act so that I should not be suspected of impure intentions? If I do my utmost to save Joseph, they will ask how it is that I, who am the firstborn, can fail to be jealous of Joseph, who is preparing to rule over all of us? They will accuse me of believing his dreams which showed all his brothers bowing down to him. That would indeed be good news for me, for I thought that after the incident regarding Bilhah, my father’s concubine (see Genesis 35:22), 1 was to be regarded as an outcast. Joseph’s dream has shown that I still retained my place among the tribes. Thus they will argue that I am going out of my way to save him, because I owe him a favor for his dream. As long as Joseph lives, he will be evidence that I have a legitimate right to be counted amongst the tribes of God.”


Had Reuben known that the Torah would have publicized that his motive was solely to save Joseph’s life, he would have disregarded their allegations, for the Testimony of God is sure (Psalms 19:8), and he could easily refute them. So, it would have been better that he be credited solely with saving Joseph’s life, for this was indeed his intention. Consequently, this episode can teach us an important moral lesson: If Reuben, who did not carry out the mitzvah with the optimum degree of joy, is credited by the Scriptures as if he had done so, all the more so how valuable must one be considered by God who performs a mitzvah to perfection, with happiness of heart.


This too, would explain the clause, in order to deliver him from their hands to restore him to his father (Genesis 37:22). As the language indicates, he did not actually save him, but paved the way for him to be saved later. In the preceding verse, the clause, He saved him from their hands, denotes that he actually was the one to save Joseph. The addition of the words to restore him to his father, in verse 22, explains why the Scripture considers Reuben to be the savior of Joseph: his intentions were pure and it was deemed as if he had actually borne him on his shoulders and restored him to his father.


Was Aaron Jealous of Moses?


Now we will deal with Aaron. When Moses took up his duties as the intermediary between God and the Jewish People, he was afraid that Aaron, his older brother, would have reason to take umbrage over his appointment. Thus he said to God, 0’ Lord, please send [Your messenger) through the one whom You will send (Exodus 4:13). Our Sages (Exodus Rabbah 3:16) explain that he was referring to Aaron, who was to be God’s regular messenger. God answered Moses: “There is no need for concern, for he will not be offended. On the contrary, he will see you and his heart will be filled with joy.”


When the two brothers met, there is no mention of Aaron having rejoiced. The Midrash explains that he didn’t come out openly joyful because he didn’t know that God would record the event. But why was Aaron really reluctant to show his pleasure outwardly? Again, like Reuben, he was worried about the consequences of his actions. If he came out singing and dancing with happiness, people would claim that he was merely putting on a show, and in reality he was highly jealous of his brother and was attempting to flatter him (God forbid). They would think his show of joy was insincere. This led Aaron to refrain from exhibiting his pleasure at seeing Moses.


Had Aaron known that the Torah was going to record this meeting, he would have had no regard for the accusing fingers pointing in his direction. The Torah itself would have attested to his pure intentions, and they would have hidden their heads in shame. Since he did not know what was to be written, he was afraid to do anything that might arouse suspicion, as people would have continued to find fault with anything he did later.


Was Boaz Uncharitable?


As for Boaz, how could he have acted so uncharitably as to give two fingerfuls of grain to so righteous a relative as Ruth, who was also his guest? Even Scripture seems to indicate how little credit he deserves for this by stating exactly how little he gave her. However, a careful study of the text will serve to reveal not his miserliness but his worthy intentions. The key to understanding why he gave her so little is this very Midrash, “Had Boaz known...” Again, we find concern regarding what others might say. Had he served her fattened calves, as he wished to do, people would have exclaimed: “Look how he flatters her! They are both single, and he is obviously courting her to win her affection by giving her such gifts.”


Fear of a scandal held him back. But, had he known that Scripture would record this episode which attested to his righteousness, then he would not have been concerned with local gossip. They would have had to admit that he was acting solely for Heaven’s sake, or else the prophet would never have depicted him as one who had acted with good intentions.


Three Examples: Three Types of ‘Mitzvah’


Why was it necessary for the Midrash to bring all three examples? Simply because each case was singular in a particular respect. One was associated with ‘thought,’ another with ‘speech’ and the third with ‘action.’ All three categories of mitzvoth would be incomplete if performed automatically, without sincerity or joy.


Aaron’s case was the simplest. He only had to think about being happy for his brother’s sake. Feeling good about Moses’achievement was itself a mitzvah.


For ‘speech,’ the Midrash brings the story of Reuben. By declaring, Let us not kill, Reuben was credited with saving Joseph’s life, for he spoke with good intentions.


Finally, Boaz did not ‘think,’ nor did he ‘speak.’ He ‘acted’ by giving parched grains, and this earned him merit. The only reason the Midrash begins with Reuben is because it wishes to work in chronological order.


Three Causes for Concern


There is another reason why all three examples are brought. There are three possible incentives which might cause one to refrain from performing a mitzvah at all or from fulfilling it with sufficient enthusiasm. They are as follows: (1) Other people will claim that one is not doing the mitzvah for the sake of Heaven, but because he is personally gaining from it. (2) People will suggest that certain illegal dealings have been involved. For example, they may claim that the kindness is being done so as to flatter the recipient. This is against Jewish law, for flattery is tantamount to deception. (3) Worst of all, it will be claimed that the intention is actually to sin and the mitzvah is merely a cover-up.


The Midrash tells us that we must not lose heart and use these reasons as an excuse to perform mitzvoth with little or no enthusiasm. One should not be concerned about what others might say about him. If he believes he is doing the right thing, he should go ahead and do it.


To prove this point, the Midrash finds three instances where those involved might have had an excuse for refraining from performing a mitzvah with due enthusiasm.


Reuben was the first example. As we said earlier, he was deriving a personal benefit from Joseph’s dream, for it proved that he was still included among the tribes. Yet, he disregarded his brothers’ allegations and saved Joseph from certain death.


Aaron might have been suspected of flattering Moses and deceiving him by greeting him with a smile. He ignored these accusations and went to meet Moses with his heart full of joy.


Lest one fear that his mitzvah be viewed by others as an act of sin, the Midrash tells us of Boaz, who was not concerned that his actions might be viewed as a way of wooing Ruth with gifts. Even though he was an important person and had to be careful not to desecrate the name of God, he went ahead and did what he thought was right.


All three examples cited teach one basic idea. A mitzvah must be performed with at least some degree of joy. If it is done with the right intentions, the mitzvah will be reckoned as if it had been completed to perfection. These three had refrained from doing their best because they were concerned about the consequences. Each of us must do his utmost and not be put off by fear of gossip or slander.


Who Records Our Deeds?


However, there is a marked difference between our times and theirs. The Midrash declares: “Had Reuben known.. . Had Aaron known...” This was only relevant in the times of the prophets, for they were the ones who recorded the main events of the time, but no one could know for certain if his good deed would be written down for posterity. Thus, a person in doubt would refrain from performing a good deed with too much enthusiasm, for there may have been nothing to attest to his pure intentions. Had these three known for certain, they would have undoubtedly performed their deeds with more zest, as the Midrash says. We, however, live in a time when our actions are recorded only in the Heavenly Court. So, how can a person be sure that his good intentions will be made known, that he should have no cause to fear? Would he not be within his rights to refrain from doing his best for one of the three reasons mentioned?


The Midrash itself supplies the answer: “Elijah and Messiah record them while God countersigns.”


To fully understand this statement, we must turn our attention to a verse in Proverbs: And her works shall praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:31). In our commentary there it was explained that the good deeds of man have the means of manifesting themselves so that they become a source of praise for him. The holiness that emanates from a mitzvah generates a spiritual force that somehow has the ability to transmit to the rest of the world the greatness of the one who performed it.


We see for ourselves how there are many pious people who serve God by secretly toiling in His Torah and are careful to carry out His command to the letter. Yet, strangely, people from all corners of the globe hear of them and their righteous ways. Their deeds alone have the power to make their impact felt throughout the world. A mitzvah done for its own sake will be made known in all three[1]  worlds, as Elijah and Messiah will have recorded it.


How Does a ‘Mitzvah’ Manifest Itself?


The students of kabbalah have taught[2] (Sha’ar Yichudim of the Ari, chapter 2; Nefesh HaChayim, chapter 1, who quotes the Zohar), that a mitzvah performed in this world makes an impression in the upper world. A spiritual ‘light’ ensues, and this is the ‘writing’ which records each mitzvah as it is performed. God then ‘countersigns’ by maintaining those ‘lights.’ Elijah and Messiah are the ones who have the influence to make the effect of a mitzvah manifest so that its impression is felt throughout the world. Consequently, there is no need for any man to fear that if he carries out a precept with a full and joyous heart, others will suspect him of doing it without the proper intentions. There is no excuse for laxity.


A case in point is that of Abraham. He was commanded to offer his only son on an altar. They were the only ones present on the mountain — no one would witness this event, which showed Abraham’s supreme dedication to his Creator. Yet, it became known throughout the world that he had been prepared to slaughter Isaac and that God had prevented him at the last moment. This noble act somehow made itself known to the world!


The Midrash quotes the verse in Malachi 3:l6,Then those that feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Hebrew is

uvgr kt aht, literally, each man to his friend. The ‘man’ refers to Elijah, who is often referred to as in ubh,trek vkg aht, A man came up to meet us (II Kings 1:6), and rga kgc aht a hairy man (II Kings 1:8). Elijah reports the mitzvah to ‘his friend,’ the Messiah. The verse in Malachi continues, Then the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him. It was written by Elijah and Messiah and then signed by God Himself. What is written, and for whom is it written? For those who fear the Lord and revere His name. The good deeds of the righteous are written in a book and thus it is recorded for their sakes.





[1] The Sages of the kabhalah often speak of four worlds. Here, the Aishich is probably referring to the lower world, the world of spheres and the world of angels, as opposed to the ‘upper’ world, the highest of the four in spiritual terms (see Alshich Genesis 1:26).

[2] Here the Aishich embarks on a difficult passage replete with kabbalistic terms and concepts. A shortened version is supplied. The reader is asked to refer to the introductory note on kabhalah (page 17). The complete Hebrew version can be found on page 4l5.