Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay close to my young men until
they have finished the harvest.”’
first Ruth had refrained from telling Naomi of Boaz’s invitation to stay in the
field, lest Naomi suspect him of dishonorable intentions. But now that Naomi
told her he was a relative, Ruth revealed that he had given her permission to
pick in his field for the entire harvest season. She used the unusual phrase ukf ot
sg, literally, “Until if they have finished,” to express uncertainty,
since one never knows what the future will bring.
from a stingy people, “the Moabite” marveled at the generosity of Boaz, and
when Naomi blessed him for his kindness, Ruth enthusiastically added, “That is
not all—he even assured my safety in his field, where all the workers are
to the view that he had appointed her overseer, this was in keeping with Torah
law, since the prohibition of yichud (seclusion of men and women) does not
apply to two righteous men in the company of a woman. “Stay close to my young
men. . .“ was thus Ruth’s paraphrasing of Boaz’s statement: “Keep your eyes on
the field that they will harvest, and walk after them. Have I not ordered them
not to touch you” (v. 9).
commentators note that Boaz had specifically stressed “Stay here close to my
girls” (v. 8), whereas Ruth reported him as saying, “Stay close to my young
men,” Rabbi Chanan bar Levi said: She is certainly a Moabite, for he said,
“Stay close to my girls,” but she said, “to my young men.
is, since the prohibition of yichud was new to Ruth, coming as she had from the
licentious Moabites, she did not think of emphasizing that the workers with
whom she was to stay were female.
else it was simply a grammatical error by a Moabite for whom Hebrew was a new
language [saying ohrgb instead of ,urgb].
different interpretation is that she deliberately changed his words to avoid giving
Naomi the impression that Boaz had told her to stay with the women because she
had behaved improperly.
Targum resolves the difficulty by translating ohrgb as children reared
in the Torah way of life to keep the mitzvoth. Ruth was to stay with them when
not actually picking grain.
Naomi said to her daughter-in-law Ruth, “It is good, my daughter, that you go
out with his young women, and that you be not molested in another field.”
Ruth told her of Boaz’s invitation to stay with his men, Naomi gently corrected
her by saying, “It is good... that you go out with his young women.”
his men were righteous, and there is no prohibition of yichud with several
righteous men, whom Boaz had moreover specifically instructed not to touch her,
nevertheless it was better for her to remain with his girls. Indeed, had not
Boaz himself told her to remain with his men “until they have finished the
harvest” (v. 2:21), because after that he could no longer guarantee her safety!
particular, Ruth was to “go out” of the field in the girls’ company to avoid
gossip. Not everyone would recognize the men as being Boaz’s righteous workers.
however, agreed that Ruth should stay in Boaz’s field until the end of the
harvest season rather than go to “another field,” where less righteous men
might molest her. Nor would they receive her as graciously as did Boaz, who had
entreated her to remain in his field.
this regard, the term ugdph literally “encounter,” also means to
entreat, as in hc hgdp, kt, “Entreat me not to leave you” (v.
if you are entreated to go elsewhere, do not listen. Stay in the field of Boaz,
where women are also present.”
Abraham Ibn Ezra
the Moabitess. Ruth (because of her origin) did not understand the idea of
levirate marriage, but only that Boaz would bestow his beneficence on them to
provide physical sustenance for his "family."
said to me, "Stay close to my lads." In truth, Boaz had told Ruth
to stay close to his maidens. However, because of her Moabite pagan upbringing
(in which there was no formal separation between the opposite sexes) she did
not comprehend Boaz's request accurately and assumed that he wanted her to
associate with the male workers. For Ruth, the finding of a spouse was
uppermost in her mind and this seemed to be the logical inference. [It is in
the psychological framework that she is referred to here as a Moabitess, for a
Jewess would have understood the implication of Naomi's words, to the dead, and
Boaz's insistence, my girls.] In any case, Ruth brought a proof to
Naomi's assertion by the fact that Boaz had instructed her to gather leket
until they [the harvesters] have completed my entire harvest -for he
would only do this by virtue of her being a close relative.
said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law. However, Naomi understood that it was
not good for Ruth to be together with the male harvesters, that she should be
with the female harvesters. And she said, "It is good, my daughter,
that you go out with his girls" and not with his young men.
that men] do not meet you in another field. That you should not be
suspected of immorality.
Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also told me, stay close to my servants until they
have completed all my harvest.”
is derisively described as a Moabitess even though she was by then a
full-fledged Jewess. The Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 5:1) explains that Scripture
found fault with her because she deliberately misquoted Boaz, who had said that
she should stay close to the young women in the field.
I said earlier, in my humble opinion the prophet is here portraying not an evil
trait, but her positive attributes. I cannot reject the words of our Sages
altogether, but at least I can show that she was not as bad as they made her
out to be.
(ii) A further difficulty is the word hf it could have been left out
Furthermore, it appears as if Ruth put a damper on all the praise she had
previously lavished on Boaz by insinuating that he told her to remain with the
men. Why would Boaz have wanted to do such a thing?
Lastly, why did Ruth mention to Na’omi that she was instructed to remain with
them until the harvest was over? What difference did it make?
first question has already been discussed in verse 2, but I will further
elaborate by pointing out there were three types of people involved here: (1)
The female members of Boaz’s household. (2) His private servants, who lived
with him and were modest and upright. (3) Common laborers hired to work in the
The Women in Boaz’s Household
were the women in the first category? They had been the loyal handmaids of
Boaz’s wife. They had remained in his household with the hope that he would
soon remarry and they would once more have the honor of waiting on the wife of
Sages (Talmud Bava Bathra 91a) tell us that Boaz’s wife died the day Ruth
arrived in Bethlehem.
As we have previously mentioned, the young women who were in Boaz’s household
did not usually go reaping in the fields. They were there only at the beginning
of the harvest season, when the atmosphere was somewhat festive. During that
time, whole families came into the fields and remainied there for a few days
until the first field had been harvested. Then the womenfolk returned home,
leaving only the men to work in the fields. Boaz’s servants oversaw the hired
laborers, either by being appointed to watch a particular field or by
supervising a group of workers. A number of them might have been given the task
of drawing the water or preparing the meals for all the laborers and overseers.
‘With’ the Women But ‘behind’
told Ruth that she should remain with his maidservants in the field. But he
made it clear that the womenfolk would remain in only one field, the first
field to be harvested; “If that does not suffice for you,” he continued, “and
your eyes are on the next field [see verse 91, you need not refrain from
gleaning there, even though the womenfolk will not be present. You should
follow behind the laborers in that field though they are men. Go behind them
and imagine that they are indeed women.”
is for this reason that the text [in verse 9] has ivhrjt ,fkvu and you should go after them, in the
feminine, even though the subject of the verse is ‘men.’ Ruth was to consider
them as women and not fear them at all.
emphasized, however, that she should follow behind them and not mingle
to the problem of what to do if she were confronted by one of them bent on
abusing her, Boaz addressed her as follows: “I have instructed the laborers not
to touch you. I have told the overseer, who is a member of my household, that
he should ensure that my instructions are strictly obeyed. Though you may still
feel safe keeping a distance behind the laborers, you need have no fear of my
personal servants, for they can be trusted not to touch you even if you are
among them. Moreover, they will protect you from anyone who tries to harm you.
then, did not exaggerate when she related those events. She rightly asserted
that Boaz told her to stay with the young women in only one field. As to the
other fields, Boaz did allow her to follow behind the men, as long as
she did not associate with them. And Boaz did permit her to mingle with his
servants, for they were explicitly instructed to leave her alone.
Ruth cannot be condemned for lying. The command to stay close to the girls
applied only to the first field, for in the rest of the fields she was allowed
to follow the men. When he said, stay close to my seruants, he was
permitting her to associate with them, as opposed to the other laborers whom
she was told to follow behind until the end of the harvest season. She
did not misquote Boaz in order to bring his name into disrepute. However, we
cannot vindicate her entirely, for we still have to contend with the statement
made by R. Yochanan (Ruth Rabbah 5:1) that she discredited Boaz by misquoting
him. As we said, it is generally accepted that she erred by saying ohrgb instead of ,urgb, implying that Boaz had instructed
her to stay near the men. We have shown that this is not the case. But, she did
alter Boaz’s words when she related that he had told her to stay close to
his servants. She should have said “go with my servants,” or “stay near my
servants,” but the Hebrew, ihecs,,
has the meaning of ‘close attachment,’ and that would not have been a modest
thing for Ruth to do. For this small but significant alteration she is berated,
but, as we emphasized, she did not change the meaning entirely, as is popularly
Ruth is not totally exonerated from the accusation levelled against her, she
was still extremely righteous, and that is why God deemed her fit to be the
progenitress of the stock of Jesse which stands at the helm of the nation.
Ruth Learns How She Is
Related to Boaz
called Boaz our relative, implying that Ruth was also related,
presumably as a result of Machion’s spirit. She also called him our
redeemer, thus hinting at the possibility that he would take Ruth in
marriage. Ruth was now herself convinced that Boaz believed her to be someone
unique. She told Na’omi: “It is indeed as you have said. In fact, Boaz has on
two occasions verified that your suspicions are true. Firstly, he said that I
should stay close to his servants. Secondly, he stipulated that I should remain
with them until the end of the harvest season.”
also told me... The meaning is: “Boaz would not have used a plural form (ihecs,), unless he was referring to two
people. Obviously, he reckons me as two because of the spirit that resides
within me.” This substantiated Na’omi’s belief that she carried within her the
spirit of Machion.
they have completed all my harvest. These words attest to Na’omi’s claim
that Boaz was our redeemer. As we have said, the period of time between
the beginning of the barley harvest and the end of the wheat harvest was three
months. We have also mentioned that a female convert must wait that same amount
of time before she is permitted to marry a Jew, to ensure that she was
not pregnant from her gentile days, in which case her progeny would be
‘unholy’(Talmud Yebamoth 42a). Boaz knew that if he wished to marry Ruth, he
would have to wait the required three months,which coincided with the harvest
season. So as to be certain that she would be safe from harm, he told her to
stay close to his personal servants until the season was over, and by then she
would be eligible for marriage.
did not attempt to confirm Na’omi’s conviction from the fact that Boaz had told
her to stay close to the girls. For, as we have said, he only meant her
to remain with them in the first field. Later she would have to find other
means of protection, and, consequently, until the end of the harvest, Boaz’s
personal servants were instructed to guard her from harm.
How Could Machion’s Spirit
may be yet another reason why Ruth is branded as a Moabitess here. As we have
said, Ruth was a reincarnated form of Lot’s
elder daughter, who had come into the world again to receive a reward for her
noble deed (see on verse 12).
the prophet tells us how Ruth proved Na’omi’s convictions to be correct, he has
to dispel any reservations we might have harbored about Ruth’s ability to know
about her unique identity, Boaz’s attitude towards her and the marriage he was
contemplating. After all, how could a holy Jewish spirit become lodged in a
gentile body? How can the pure blend with the impure? Hence, the prophet begins
the verse thus: Then Ruth ‘the’ Moabitess. She was not a common
Moabitess. She was the Moabitess, the one from whom the stock of Jesse
was to issue. As the daughter of Lot she had
lain with her father for Heaven’s sake alone, and now she had returned to
receive her reward. It is not difficult to accept that the holy spirit of
Machlon could find respite within her.
She was well aware of this and understood the message behind Boaz’s blessing, May
God recompense you... (verse 14). Following this introduction, it
will come as no surprise to learn that Ruth was able to confirm her mother-in-law’s
hopes about her identity and Boaz’s connection to her.
replied to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out
with his maidservants, so that you will not be harmed in another field.”
Why do we again repeat the fact that Ruth was Na’omi’s daughter-in-law?
Na’omi was pleased that Ruth went to the fields in the company of women.
But Ruth had told her that Boaz had instructed her to stay close to the male
laborers! There must have been a good reason for this. As we have said, it was
not the custom to let the women do the work of harvesting. The season was three
months long, and Boaz did not want his maidservants to be out in the fields
during the heat of the day and the cool of the night for such a longtime.
From Na’omi’s words, it is clear that she did not like the idea of Ruth
wandering from field to field. Moreover, she considered the fields to be an
unsafe place to be, for we see that she voiced her concern over going to another
Ruth and Her Company
we have previously explained, Boaz had told Ruth to stay with the womenfolk
only as long as the first field was being harvested. In the rest of the fields
she was to stay close to his servants, who had been instructed not to bother
did not want the women to guard her for three months. Thus Na’omi deduced two
facts from Ruth’s words: (1) Boaz found that he had no option but to let her
stay near them because he didn’t want the women to remain in the fields for so
long. (2) Boaz eventually intended to marry Ruth.
Na’omi’s response to Ruth was as follows: “I understand
that Boaz intends to marry you. But let me tell you that it may not be such a
good idea for you to associate with his servants, for it can only bring you a
bad reputation, as a result of which he will despise you. Boaz accorded you
much respect and is willing to allow his maidservants to remain with you for
the harvest season. Had he married you immediately, you they would have
accompanied you wherever you went. Sowhy shouldn’t they do so already? In fact,
he is showing you how interested he is in marrying you, since it is not for
anyone that he would allow his maidservants to wander in the fields for so
is good that you go out with his maidseruants. - - “You should
attempt to remain with them, not only in the first field but also in all the
other fields, for there is always the danger that a man might attempt to harm
you, not only between fields, but even in the field itself. If you remain with
other women it is more of a guarantee that you will come to no harm.”