2:2 Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi: “I will go
now to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind one in whose eyes I
shall find favor.”
said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
scripture now narrates how it came to pass that Boaz encountered Ruth.
soon as they arrived in Bethlehem,
Ruth set out to provide for herself in order not to burden Naomi. Moreover, she
undertook to support her mother-in-law as well—a great kindness which set her
apart from the Moabite people, who had not greeted Israel with bread and water.
daughter of the king of Moab
proposed to pick in the fields with the paupers. “I will go” —gladly— ”for the
ears of grain I will pick in the fields of Israel are more precious to me than
the diamonds in my father’s palace.”
tactfully spared Naomi’s feelings. Claiming that she, a stranger from Moab, could
glean without embarrassment, she insisted that Naomi stay home while she went
to the fields alone. “I will go”—I and not you.
however, visitors arrive in the meantime to see Naomi’s daughter-in-law leave
for the fields, Ruth left “now”—early in the morning, tired though she was from
the long journey.
their destitution made picking in the fields necessary for survival, Ruth
honored her mother-in-law by asking permission before she went.
plan was to inspect “the field,” that is, the field of Elimelech. On the way
back, she would pick with the poor.
else, “the field” refers to the fields of Boaz, which would mean that he had
welcomed them as soon as they had arrived.
interpretation is that since Ruth had no friend or relative in whose field she
could pick, she would simply try whatever field she chanced upon. If the owner
treated her kindly and generously, she would pick there; if not, she would go
elsewhere, until she found a field whose owner looked upon her favorably.
an ungenerous landowner could prevent the poor from taking what was rightfully
theirs, or else the custom was not to let women pick without permission.)
would select a field whose owner’s eyes had “favor,” that is, looked into the
Torah rather than at women, and looked kindly upon the pickings of the poor.
She would pick only behind a reaper who was righteous.
say that Ruth was ashamed to glean among the poor and preferred to earn her
livelihood by working. She would look for a landowner interested in hiring her
to work in his field. This is indicated by “in whose eyes I shall find favor.”
Merely to partake of what by Torah law she could pick freely, she had no need
to find favor. When therefore Boaz’s manservant later said (v. 7), “She
came and has been on her feet ever since the morning,” he was referring to her
work as a hired field-hand.
hinted that she would not be pursuing young men who might appeal to her, but
would wait to find favor in the eyes of a righteous man.
in the laws that Naomi had taught her regarding giving to the poor, she now
assured Naomi that she would not avail herself of peah—picking in the corner of
the field set aside for the poor (Leviticus 19:9)—because there she would be
competing with other paupers. Nor would she take shikechah—ears that the
reapers forgot to cut (Leviticus 23:22)—because it is difficult to ascertain
which ears are truly forgotten. She would only gather the leket (yek
that fell from the reaper’s hands as he cut (ibid.). And, in observance of the
halacha that more than two ears that fell together at a time are not leket, she
would gather only ohkca ‘c, lit, two ears.
that Ruth’s behavior in the field would be in keeping with modesty, good
manners, and the halacha, Naomi consented. And because Ruth felt lonely and
strange, she added a word of encouragement: “Do not think of yourself as the
Moabite, but as my daughter. I allow you to go only because necessity forces me
to; for I cherish and esteem you like a daughter.”
expression “my daughter” does not necessarily indicate that Ruth was a young
girl. In fact, our sages say she was forty years of age at the time.
extreme poverty that forced Ruth to pick in the fields like any pauper was no
coincidence, but was a foreshadowing of that “poor man, riding on a donkey”
(Zechariah 9:9) who would descend from her—the Messiah.
Abraham Ibn Ezra
2:2 AFTER HIM IN WHOSE EYES I FIND FAVOUR: Some
say that the suffix refers to Boaz who has been mentioned, and the meaning is
‘Perhaps this will be’. But it is my opinion that the suffix refers to the
owner of the field, although he is not mentioned, because it says AND HER
GRANGE HAPPENED, which means ‘this is the way it happened’.
to Naomi. The Prophet relates to us the virtue and caliber of Ruth's
character in that in spite of her being accustomed to fine clothes and luxury
and, according to the Midrash, her being the daughter of a king, she
agreed to glean in the fields like a pauper. She did not want her mother-in-law
to accompany her because Naomi's shame and disgrace would be overwhelming,
since she was formerly known in the city as a wealthy and prominent resident.
She therefore agreed to go by herself, seeing that she was unknown in Bethlehem.
the Moabitess. That is, from a foreign country -and she would not be
humiliated collecting stalks of grain to support herself and her mother-in-law.
me go now to the field. And not to an orchard where it might be dangerous
to climb the trees.
gather [glean] among the stalks. Ruth intended to gather only leket,
which was not in great demand by the poor since there were ample fields to
accommodate all of them, but not pe'ah,
which was "up for grabs" (the Mishnah in Pe'ah 4:1
states that even if 99 poor people say to divide the pe'ah evenly among
them and one person says, "Each one for himself," we listen to the
one). If so, Ruth feared that stronger individuals would forcibly glean, and if
she attempted to glean too, she might be harmed by them. Therefore, she chose
to gather only leket and, even so, only behind one who will regard me
favorably. Ruth meant that if she sensed that the owner of the field looked
upon her disparagingly, she would refrain from gathering there. She would go
only to the field of someone who looked upon her favorably and where she would
avoid harassment from the harvesters and other poor gleaners.
Ruth the Moabitess said to Na’omi: “Let me now go into the field so that I can
glean from the ears of corn after the one in whom I will find favor in
his eyes.” She replied to her: “Go, my daughter.”
the word tb seems redundant. What is its significance?
Secondly, why is she still labelled with the derogatory title of
‘Moabitess’ after having converted with good intentions?
answering these questions shortly, all the difficulties in this passage will be
explained to our satisfaction.
The Significance of ‘The Field’
Na’omi blessed her, Ruth realized that her mother-in-law believed her to be the
one chosen by God from the descendants of Lot to be the forebear of the stock
Now that Orpah was gone, she asked: Let me go to the field.
simple request has more to it than meets the eye. As we know, the story of Lot
and his two daughters took place in rural and not in urban surroundings, as it
is written, And Lot went up from Tzoar and
settled in the mountains (Genesis 19:30). It was there that Lot’s daughter cohabited with her father. Similarly, Judah’s union
with Tamar took place in the fields (see Genesis, chapter 38).
question to Na’omi was: “I am destined to continue this family trait of both Moab and Judah by going to the fields. While
there, I will gather food to sustain us in poverty.” She also uses the word tb,
which is reminiscent of the tb Judah said to Tamar when he asked
her to lie with him (see Genesis 38:16 lhkt tuct tb vcv).
replied: “Go, my daughter. You are indeed qualified for this task. I
consider you to be my daughter since the spirit of my son Machlon resides
can be said that she was actually speaking to the spirit of her son, and the
feminine gender is used, h,c hfk, because the Hebrew for
spirit, jur, is feminine.
we said above, there are two obvious difficulties in this verse: the word tb
and the word vhcutnv. Besides these, there are other interesting
points to be aware of.
Why Only yek?
as we know, there are three categories of produce which must be left for the
poor while one is reaping in the fields. These are yvtpu vjfa, yek.
The first, yek, is alluded to by Ruth in the verse.
The law demands that any stalks that fall down during the reaping process be
left for the poor (see Leviticus 19:9).
second is vjfa. The law stipulates that if a sheaf is forgotten
in the field during a harvest, it is forbidden to return and take it; it must
likewise be left for the poor (cf. Deuteronomy 24:19).
third is known as vtp. During the harvesting of a field, a
corner must be deliberately left so that the poor can take from it (see
we said, Ruth asked permission to take only gleanings left behind. She did not
seem interested in collecting leftover ‘sheaves’ or ‘corners.’
also made it known that she would follow after the one in whose eyes she
finds favor. This is hardly the talk of a modest girl, for the implication
is that she would be attracted to any man, whomever it may be. Instead of
rebuking her, Na’omi, encouraged her by consenting to her request!
us turn our attention for a moment to the next verse: