Her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you picked today and where have you
wrought? May your benefactor be blessed.”
told her mother-in-law for whom she had wrought, and she said, “The name of the
man for whom I wrought [by whom I worked] today is Boaz.”
at the amount of clean grain Ruth had brought home, Naomi spoke quickly and
excitedly, the thoughts tumbling out one after another.
did you pick so much grain?” she asked. “What field owner gave you a free hand
to pick, treated you with dignity, and even allowed you the rare privilege of
beating out your grain in his field? Blessed be the one who welcomed you as if
he were lrhfn your friend or relative.”
second question, ,hag vbtu, is generally explained as referring to
Ruth rather than to her benefactor.]
sg)—as in hbumtbh tbt sg, ‘how long will [this people]
despise me?’ (Numbers 14:11)—did it take you to pick all of this?” To which
Ruth replied, ouhv, all day.”
one day it is impossible to gather so much grain through peah, leket, and
shikechah. Did you perhaps work for wages?” And Ruth answered that she had
worked for Boaz, who already had many workers and evidently hired her out of
have garnered much grain! You are truly a woman of valor who eats not the bread
of idleness (Proverbs 31:27), and you will be a blessing to the man who will
take notice of you and become your husband.”
modestly objected, however, that the credit went not to her industriousness but
to the extraordinary generosity of Boaz.
God’s blessing in the abundance of grain, Naomi wondered whether it had come on
account of the righteous Ruth or the generosity of her benefactor. In case the
blessing had come because of Ruth, she asked, “Where have you picked, so that I
may pray that the benefactor be blessed as well?” And if it had been on account
of the owner of the field, she asked “Where have you wrought?” Ruth modestly
replied that it had come on account of Boaz, for “the generous of eye shall be
blessed” (Proverbs 22:9).
else, realizing that Ruth could not have simply picked so much, Naomi concluded
that she must have accepted the gift of lrhfn, a relative, and
Naomi blessed him for his generosity.
named the field owner, but tactfully pretended not to know he was a relative in
order to play down the embarrassing fact that Naomi’s kinsman had seen her
daughter-in-law picking with the paupers.
sages note that instead of saying that Boaz had wrought for her, Ruth spoke of
“the man for whom I wrought” They thus infer that “More than the householder
does for the pauper, the pauper does for the householder.” For in return for
the charity he gives, the householder receives God’s blessing.
from the verse, “Deal your bread to the hungry, and the cast-out poor bring to
your home” (Isaiah 58:7), our sages conclude that if a householder is worthy,
his charity goes to the hungry and saves lives; if not, it goes to the less
poor. Since Naomi and Ruth had arrived in Bethlehem
on the point of starvation, Ruth’s benefactor had acquired the merit of saving
a life, and was sure to be greatly blessed.
therefore Ruth identified Boaz as her benefactor, Naomi exclaimed, “Thank God
that he was the one so privileged!”
Abraham Ibn Ezra
19. Questions: Why did Naomi repeat herself,
asking both, Where did you gather today and where did you work? Ruth's
words, The name of the man for whom I did [this], are seemingly
mother-in-law asked her. The food which Ruth had given to her indicated
that she had done some kind of special work for an individual (and had not
gathered leket) who paid her with bread and parched grain. However, the
amount of leket she brought back attested to her having gleaned the
entire day (and not doing any special work for an individual). Therefore, Naomi
said, Where did you gather today? -that you could have gathered so much
did you work? For you must have been employed by someone who gave you food
as your wage (food was not normally provided for the gleaners of leket). Naomi's
only possible conclusion was that someone had recognized her dire situation and
given her the meal as an act of kindness, for Ruth had found favor in his eyes.
the one who befriended you be blessed." She told her mother-in-law what
she had done for [this man]. Ruth explained to Naomi what she had done
(worked) for [this man]. Boaz had communicated to Ruth that by virtue of
the kindness she had performed for her mother-in-law and her conversion to
Judaism, she had found favor in his eyes. Therefore, he had given her food, for
what she had done for Naomi and for herself [her conversion] were in his eyes as
if she had done him a favor and a meritorious deed. Ruth elucidated her comment
by saying, "The name of the man for whom I did [this] was
Boaz." Since he is a judge of Israel, these actions are
considered by him as a personal tribute and service.
mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you
work? May the one who acknowledged you be blessed!” Ruth then related to her
mother-in-law what she had done. She said, “The name of the man whom I worked
with today is Boaz.”
first question Na’omi asked her, Where have you gleaned today? seems
rather bland, since what good is it to know where she gleaned? A better
question would have been: In whose field did you glean? Is he a righteous
person or not? The second question, Where did you work? is altogether
superfluous. What information is being sought here that has not already been
included in the first question?
Hebrew ,hag vbtu would usually
be translated as “where have you done?” The verb vag seems out of place here where the
subject is gleaning a field.
confusing is the fact that Na’omi asked Ruth questions but blessed her
benefactor before she heard any answers. Ruth’s reply is just as perplexing, as
it does not answer Na‘omi’s question. Instead of telling her where she had
been, she told Na’oani what she had done, and she went further by
supplying the name of her benefactor, although Na’omi didn’t request it.
may be argued that when Na’omi said that his name should be blessed, she was
hinting at her desire to know his identity, but this does not explain why she
ignored the other queries. In addition, since Ruth’s benefactor was the topic
of their conversation, the correct clause should be, “She told her
mother-in-law about how well he had treated her,” vng vag rat ,t
perplexing point is the double mention of the word ouhv, today, first by Naomi and then by Ruth, who had not
been gleaning on any other day. Lastly, there is the apparently redundant
addition of the word rnt,u, she
said. Ruth was in the process of speaking to her mother-in-law, so why the
need to add she said?
we proceed to explain the verse it is necessary to cite two teachings from our
The Best Form of Charity
Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 5:9) points out that instead of the words ung h,hag I have worked with him, the
text shouldt have read, vng vag (he
had worked with her) as we mentioned earlier. The reason why it
prefers the former is to teach us that “more than the householder does for the
poor man, the poor man does for the householder.” In other words, the dispenser
of charity benefits spiritually on account of his good deed, while the poor man
has only material gain from the money he has received.
have further learned (Talmud Ta’anith 23b) that one who stays in the home and
gives bread to the poor which they can enjoy immediately has a greater merit
than one who gives them money to buy food, for the money itself is of no use;
they must trouble themselves to change it for bread. This would explain why the
rains came down on the side where Abba Chilkiya’s wife was praying before they
fell on his side. Obviously, her merit was greater than his, as she fed the
poor. Similarly, the Talmud relates the story of a man and his wife who would
go out stealthily at night to throw money at the gates of the houses of the
poor. One pauper wished to discover the identity of his nocturnal benefactors
and attempted to follow them. However, they became aware of his presence and
fled, with the poor man in hot pursuit. To save themselves from embarrassment,
they jumped into a hot oven, but the man had to put his feet close to his
wife’s feet to prevent them from being singed. Again, we see that the woman had
the greater merit, and it was for her sake that a miracle was performed, because
generally speaking the woman of the house actually feeds the poor while
the man only gives them money.
back to the passage in question, Na’omi took note of two things which seemed
quite unusual. Firstly, Ruth had returned with a whole ephah of barley.
Secondly, Boaz had given her a meager handful of parched grain for a meal. Boaz
gained more by giving her parched grain, which was ready to eat, than by
allowing her to glean, for the ears of grain had to be ground, kneaded and
baked before they became edible.
What Ruth ‘Did’ for Boaz
gained more from Ruth in spiritual terms, for through her he had a charitable
act to his name. All told, Ruth had done more for Boaz than Boaz for
Ruth. Now we should have no problem in understanding why the verse has rat ung h,hag, which ‘I’ have done for
‘him.’ The word vag (to do or
create), is employed because, as a result of the good deed an angel was
might have told Ruth the following: “I have noticed that two strange things
have occurred. You managed to gather an ephah of barley, which is a
large amount for one day’s work. Secondly, you were given parched grain to eat.
My question is twofold. Where did you glean today? How were you able to collect
so much in just one day? Is that field blessed to the extent that a
single stalk that is left amounts to so much, or is there perhaps some other
that the usual Hebrew for ‘where,’ vbt,
is not used. The word vpht denotes
that in her question she was hinting to the ephah of grain Ruth had
gathered, since she thought it to be an unusually large amount.
second question refers to the parched grain Ruth was given. “This was indeed a
meritorious act by your benefactor. Where did you ‘do’ this? Who was the one
who benefited spiritually by providing you with food? If he is righteous and
acted solely for Heaven’s sake, then both of you played a part in this worthy
deed. If, on the other hand, he intended only to find favor in your eyes, and
was attracted by your beauty, you did him a great kindness, for,
by accepting the food from him, he gained much credit. Since his intentions
were not pure, however, he has forgone the opportunity to take advantage of
this and was not able to ‘create’ a holy angel.”
question to Ruth was: “Where did you work? Was it in a suitable place; for a
worthy man, or not? I sincerely hope that your benefactor is a man who is fit
to be blessed and that you did not have to accept food from one whose actions
do not deserve to be blessed.”
told her mother-in-law... Ruth related the whole story of her day in the
fields so that Na’omi’s mind could be put at rest. She would realize that
Ruth’s benefactor was indeed a righteous man whose intentions were for Heaven
and not for personal gain. Thus, Ruth emphasized that she had worked with him
— they had both played a part in effecting this great mitzvah. He began
the deed by offering her food, and she completed it by accepting it, thus
ensuring that Boaz would receive credit for his charitable act. All this was
made known to Na’omi when Ruth told her of Boaz’s gentle manner, piety and
The Origin of the Name ‘Boaz’
consolidate her opinion of Boaz, Ruth sought to demonstrate Boaz’s outstanding
qualities to Na’omi. Before we proceed, let us examine the Targum’s rendering
of a later verse (4:21), Salmon bore Ivtzan. “Ivtzan,” says the Targum,
“was a prince named Boaz, the righteous man in whose merit Israel was
delivered from her enemies.
Targum had a difficulty to contend with. Why was Ivtzan’s name changed to Boaz?
Two reasons are given: (1) He saved Israel from the sword of her
enemies. (2) He saved her from perishing in famine by praying on her behalf. He
was a source of “strength” for Israel
(the word for strength in Hebrew is zg).
The letter c, which has the
numerical value of 2, was added to the word zg
to signify that he had been strong in two ways, as we have seen. Thus, his name
told Na’omi: “I have further proof that my benefactor is righteous and I joined
together with him to effect a great mitzvah. The name of the man whom
I worked with ‘today’ is Boaz, and not Ivtzan as it was previously, as his
name was changed because of the great things he did for Israel. I
therefore assert that I brought about a mitzvah with him and not alone,
since his pure and holy intentions have turned a plain act of giving into a
meritorious act of charity.”
hearing this, Na’omi acknowledged that Boaz was indeed a man who was blessed by
God (see verse 20).
‘Days’ of Substance?
verse can be explained slightly differently, although along similar lines. The Zohar
(Volume 1,99a) explains the verses The days drew near for Israel to die (Genesis
47:29), The days drew near for David... (I Kings 2:1) as follows: “The
‘days’ which have been lived by a righteous person and have been used for Torah
and good deeds become entities of substance so that when man leaves this world
they ‘draw near’to testify on his behalf before God.”
our verse Na’omi alluded to this concept mentioned in the Zohar. Her
question to Ruth was: “Where, in this world, did you gather a ‘day?’ Have your
actions successfully been able to create a tangible ‘day’ that will, in the
next world, testify for you? Were your intentions and those of your benefactor
entirely for Heaven’s sake? Or were both your intentions mundane and devoid of
spiritual value, in which case your ‘day’ of work will not endure eternally?”
the one who acknowledged you be blessed. “If your benefactor was righteous,
and he was kind to you because he saw that you, too, are a pious woman and
worthy of producing holy offspring, then may he be blessed, for he certainly
acted for Heaven’s sake.”
recounted all that had transpired that day, showing that a holy deed had
resulted from their joint efforts, and that Boaz was a great and holy man.
told Na’omi, “Know that the name of the person who helped me to create this
‘day’ is Boaz and this ‘day’ will endure eternally. Moreover, not only part of
the day but the whole ‘day’ was involved in performing good deeds.” In the
morning Boaz spoke gently to her and consoled her. Later, he ensured that she
would be protected from harm by instructing his workers to look after her and
not touch her. At mealtime, he found her a place at his table and provided her
with food. Then he instructed his workers that she be allowed to take even from
the sheaves. Hence, throughout the day, he was being good to her. Since she was
the subject of his benevolence, she, too, played a role in his good deeds.
Thus, she was able to say: Which I did ‘with’ him today.
find a similar concept in the law of a Nazir (see Numbers, chapter 6). A
person who undertakes the Nazirite vow must stay away from unclean sources for
thirty days. If he does come into contact with an unclean object within that
time, he must begin counting again, as Scripture tells us: The previous days
shall be lost because his Naziriteship has been defiled (Numbers 6:12). The
question is: Wouldn’t it have been more correct to say, “The person’s days are
(ucajh tk). However, since he had
shown a willingness to accept the yoke of the Nazirite upon himself, the days
of abstention acquire a unique spiritual greatness. Now that he has come into
contact with uncleanliness, those days have lost their value, and they have
‘fallen’ from the spiritual heights to which they had ascended Since the
‘crown’ (rzb) of holiness had
been defiled, those days lost their value.
in her wisdom, wished to impress upon Na’omi how great was the mitzvah which
had been effected between herself and Boaz. She said, The name of the man
together with whom I made a ‘day’ is Boaz. She meant to say that the two of
them were responsible for giving the ‘day’ a spiritual substance so that it
could endure forever.