Ruth 2:21-22




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and she said








the Moabitess












he said




to me








the workers








to me




you stay












they finish








all of




the harvest








to me




and she said
















her daughter-in-law








my daughter








you go








his girls




for not




they will harm




to you




in field










2:21 And Ruth said to her mother-in-law, He said to me also, You shall keep close by my servants until all the harvest is finished.


2:22 And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, Happy are you, my daughter, for you have kept close to his maidens, and no man harmed you in the field, whose owner you did not know!


Stone’s Translation


2:21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “What’s more, he even said to me, ‘Stay close to my servants, until they have finished all my harvest.’”


2:22 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law Ruth, “It is fine, my daughter, that you go out with his maidens, so that you will not be annoyed in another field.”




2:21 And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.


2:22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, [It is] good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.    



Ruth 2:21 kai; ei\pen Rouq pro;" th;n penqera;n aujth'" kaiv ge o{ti ei\pen prov" me meta; tw'n paidarivwn mou

proskollhvqhti e{w" a]n televswsin o{lon to;n ajmhtovn o}" uJpavrcei moi


Ruth 2:22 kai; ei\pen Nwemin pro;" Rouq th;n nuvmfhn aujth'" ajgaqovn quvgater o{ti ejporeuvqh" meta; tw'n korasivwn aujtou' kai; oujk ajpanthvsontaiv soi ejn ajgrw'/ eJtevrw/


Ruth 2:21-22 And Ruth said to her mother-in-law, “In-deed, for he also said to me, 'Stick with my young maidens until they have finished all of the harvest which belongs to me.'” 22 And Noemin said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, daughter, that you go out with his young maidens, and that they will not encounter you in another field.” 



Peshat Level:




2:21 "Verily!" said Ruth the Moavitess, "he also said to me, 'Continue with my servants as long as it takes them to finish all my harvests.'"

2:22 Then said Naomi to Ruth her daughter-in-law: "It is well, my daughter, that you should go out with his young women, so that they might not meet you in any other field."



Gemarah Level:



Midrash Level:


Midrash Rabbah


Ruth V:11 AND RUTH THE MOAVITESS SAID: YEA, HE SAID UNTO ME: THOU SHALT KEEP FAST BY MY YOUNG MEN (II, 21). R. Hanin b. Levi said: In truth she was a Moavitess, for Boaz said to her, Abide here fast by my maidens (II, 8), while she said, BY MY YOUNG MEN.



Zohar Level:



Other Commentaries:


Me’am Lo’ez


2:21 Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay close to my young men until they have finished the harvest.”’


At 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.


Coming 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 righteous.


According 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).


Most 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.


That 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.


Or else it was simply a grammatical error by a Moabite for whom Hebrew was a new language [saying ohrgb instead of ,urgb].

A 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.


The 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.


2:22 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.”


When 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.”


Although 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!


In 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.


Naomi, 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.


In this regard, the term ugdph literally “encounter,” also means to entreat, as in hc hgdp, kt, “Entreat me not to leave you” (v. 1:16).


“Even if you are entreated to go elsewhere, do not listen. Stay in the field of Boaz, where women are also present.”


Abraham Ibn Ezra





21. Ruth 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."


He even 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.


22. Naomi 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.


[So that men] do not meet you in another field. That you should not be suspected of immorality.




(21)Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also told me, stay close to my servants until they have completed all my harvest.”


Ruth 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)As 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 altogether.

(iii) 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?

(iv) 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?


The 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 field.


The Women in Boaz’s Household


Who 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 Boaz.


Our 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’ the Men!


Boaz 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.”


It 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.


Boaz emphasized, however, that she should follow behind them and not mingle with them.


As 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.


Ruth, 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.


Thus, 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 believed.


Though 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


Na’omi 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.”


He 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.


Until 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.


Ruth 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 Enter Ruth?


There 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).


Before 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.[1] 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.


(22)Na’omi 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.”


(i) Why do we again repeat the fact that Ruth was Na’omi’s daughter-in-law?

(ii) 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.

(iii) 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 field.


Ruth and Her Company


As 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 her.


Boaz 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 long.”


It 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.”




[1] This concept requires some thought. It would seem that Ruth was the Moabitess destined to lay the foundations of the Davidic dynasty. Nevertheless, from the halachic point of view there was no difference between her and any other gentile woman regarding marriage to a Jew: the marriage was null and void. How could there follow a process of levirate marriage as a result of her union with Machlon? But the Alshich is not by any means mistaken. Of course, levirate marriage as we know it could not have applied to Ruth, for the Torah stipulates that it must take place between the brother of the deceased and the widow, and Machlon had no brothers. The word yibbum is not used in the halachic sense, but in the wider sense. What is the purpose behind the precept of yibbum? As the Zohar explains (see Aishich on 3:1), the soul of a man who has died without progeny can only find peace if his name is perpetuated. As the Ramban says (Genesis 38:1), the secret of yibbum was known to the wise men of Israel even before the Torah was given. In the absence of a brother, they would allow the closest blood relative to marry the widow, and thus the name of the deceased would be perpetuated. An example of this was the union between Judah and Tamar. Ruth then, was different from other gentile women, for she was destined to be the ‘Mother of Royalty,’ and she had a unique soul from the day she was born (see the Alshich on 2:11). That is why the soul of Machlon found the body of Ruth to be a suitable receptacle even though she was not Jewish (see also the Alshich on 1:4).