Ruth 2:4-7




:v¶u`vşh ‚Š0f#r7cşh ¨„k ťr}nt`‚œ•u o×3f7Œ!g v±¶u`vşh  oh„!r0m¨ż8k r#nt`‚œ•u o3jÜ3k ,h±2c!n t7c‰ z*g`ˇc‘v™°1vşu   s

:,t`“8v v‚7r4g•°8v  h„!n0k oh×!r0m¨ż8v‘k*g c„7łĐ°8v ¨Ür4g•b0k «z*g`«c r#nt`‹œ•u   v

v7c‚7ą8v thÜ1v «v¶œ1c4t¨n v‹7r4g•b r×*nt`œ•u oh„!r0m¨ż8v‘k*g c‚7łĐ°8v r*gˆ•°8v i*gˇ•œ•u   u

:c7t¨n v‚2s}Ľ!n h„!n^g¶b‘o!g

«r3e`«c8v z‹7t2n s¨ˇn4g*Ż•u t¨±c7Ż•u  oh×!r0m¨ż8v h„2r4j*t ohÜ!r7n^g7c h±!Ż0p8x7tşu «t¶°‘v7y6e8k4t r#nt`ˇŻ•u   z

:y7g}n ,Đh„8c8v š‚7Ż0c!A vˆŁz v7ŻÜ*g‘s*gşu



Ruth 2:4 kai; ijdou; Boo" h\lqen ejk Baiqleem kai; ei\pen toi'" qerivzousin kuvrio" meq! uJmw'n kai; ei\pon aujtw'/

eujloghvsai se kuvrio"

Ruth 2:5

kai; ei\pen Boo" tw'/ paidarivw/ aujtou' tw'/ ejfestw'ti ejpi; tou;" qerivzonta" tivno" hJ nea'ni" au{th

Ruth 2:6 kai; ajpekrivqh to; paidavrion to; ejfesto;" ejpi; tou;" qerivzonta" kai; ei\pen hJ pai'" hJ Mwabi'tiv" ejstin hJ ajpostrafei'sa meta; Nwemin ejx ajgrou' Mwab

Ruth 2:7 kai; ei\pen sullevxw dh; kai; sunavxw ejn toi'" dravgmasin o[pisqen tw'n qerizovntwn kai; h\lqen kai; e[sth

ajpo; prwivqen kai; e{w" eJspevra" ouj katevpausen ejn tw'/ ajgrw'/ mikrovn


Ruth 2:4-7 And behold, Boöz came from Bethleëm and said to the reapers, “HaShem be with you!” And they said to him, “HaShem bless you!” 5 And Boöz said to his servant boy who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 And the servant boy who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “The young Moabite woman is the one who came back with Noemin from the land of Moab. 7 And she said, ‘Now let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has stood in the field from morning even until evening; she has not stopped even a little.” 









then see












from house








and he said




to the harvesters








with you




and they said




to him




may he bless you








and he asked








to his servant




the foreman








the harvesters




to whom




the woman




the that




and he replied




the servant




the foreman








the harvesters




and he said



« v‹7r4g•b

young woman




the Moabitess








who she returned












from fields of








and she said




let me glean








and let me gather




among the sheaves







« oh×!r0m¨ż8v

the harvesters




and she went




and she worked




from then




the morning




even till












to rest her




the house










2:4 And, behold, Boaz came from Beth-lehem, and said to the reapers, Peace be with you. And they an­swered him, The LORD bless you.


2:5 Then Boaz said to the young man who was in charge of the reapers, Whose damsel is this?


2:6 And the young man answered and said to him, it is the Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the land of Moab;


2:7 And she said, Let me glean the ears of wheat after the reapers; so she has been gleaning from the morn­ing until the time of rest.


Stone’s Translation


2:4 Behold, Boaz arrived from Beth-lehem. He said to the harvesters, ~‘HASHEM be with you!” And they answered him, “May HASHEM bless you!”


2:5 Boaz then said to his servant who was overseeing the harvesters, “To whom does that young woman belong?”


2:6 The servant who was overseeing the harvesters replied, “She is a Moabite girl, the one who returned with Naomi from the fields of Moab;


2:7 and she had said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters. ‘So she came, and has stood since the morning until now; (except for] her resting a little in the hut.”




2:4 And, behold, Boaz came from Beth-lehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD [be] with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.


2:5 Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel [is] this?


2:6 And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It [is] the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house.



Peshat Level:




2:4 And behold! Boaz came from Beth Lehem, and he said to the reapers: "The Word of the Lord be at your assistance!" They replied, "The Lord bless you!"


2:5 Then said Boaz to his servant whom he had appointed overseer of the reapers: "Of what nation is this young woman?"


2:6 The servant who was appointed overseer of the reapers answered thus: "She is a young woman of the people of Moav who returned with Naomi from the field of Moav, and has become a proselyte.


2:7 "She said, 'Please let me gather and glean the ears of grain among the sheaves, that which is left by the reapers.' So she came and has remained since early morning even until now. It is but a short while that she is sitting in the house a little."




2:5  Whose maiden is this Was it Boaz’s practice to inquire about women? Rather, (he was curious about the) acts of modesty and wisdom (which) he saw in her. Two (fallen) ears she would glean; three (ears) she would not glean (cf. Peah 6:5). And (in addition) she would glean upright (stalks) (while) standing and those lying (while) sitting, in order that she should not bend over (immodestly).


2:6  Who returned with Naomi  The accent is at the beginning, under the a, since it is a past tense and it is not a present tense.


2:7  And she said   to herself (lit., in her heart).


Let me glean now  The gleaning of the ears (cf. Leviticus 19:9).


And I will gather among the sheaves  The forgotten (ones) of the sheaves (cf. Deuteronomy 24:19).



Gemarah Level:


Talmud Babli




Berachoth 63a IT WAS LAID DOWN THAT GREETING SHOULD BE GIVEN IN [GOD'S] NAME etc. Why the further citation? — You might think that Boaz spoke thus on his own accord; come and hear, therefore, [the other text] ‘THE LORD IS WITH THEE, THOU MIGHTY MAN OF VALOUR’.


The Talmud [Makkos 23b] adds significance to this event by telling us that they were performing an enactment of the Court of Boaz. Early in Jewish history, it had not been the case that friends would greet each other with the expression "May G-d be with you," using the 'real' name of G-d (rather than the substitute generic name 'HaShem,' meaning 'the Name'). A specific judicial enactment was required to permit this form of greeting. Prior to the time of Boaz people never greeted each other in this way, and subsequent to the time of Boaz we no longer perform this enactment. This was a short- term "emergency" enactment.


Shabbath 113b Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over [he reapers, whose damsel is this? Was it then Boaz's practice to enquire about damsels? — Said R. Eleazar: He perceived a wise dealing in her behavior, two ears of corn she gleaned; three ears of corn she did not glean. It was taught: He perceived modest behavior in her, the standing ears [she gleaned] standing; the fallen [she gleaned] sitting. And cleave here by my maidens: was it then Boaz's practice to cleave to the women? — Said R. Eleazar, As soon as he saw that, ‘and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth cleaved unto her,’ he said, It is permitted to cleave unto her.



Midrash Level:


Midrash Rabbah


Ruth IV:6 THEN BOAZ SAID TO HIS SERVANT THAT WAS SET OVER THE REAPERS (II,5). Over how many was he appointed? R. Eliezer, the son of Miriam, said: He was set over forty-two, as we see from the verse, And Solomon numbered all the strangers that were in the land of Israel... and he set three score and ten thousand of them to bear burdens, and fourscore thousands to be hewers in the mountains, and three thousand and six hundred overseers to set the people at work (II Chron. II, 16 f.). One who adopts this plan is able to go on, and knows what he is about. WHOSE DAMSEL IS THIS? Did he then not recognize her? The meaning is that when he saw how attractive she was, and how modest her attitude, he began to inquire concerning her. All the other women bend down to gather the ears of corn, but she sits and gathers; all the other women hitch up their skirts, and she keeps hers down; all the other women jest with the reapers, while she is reserved; all the other women gather from between the sheaves, while she gathers from that which is already abandoned.


Ruth IV:6 AND THE SERVANT THAT WAS SET OVER THE REAPERS ANSWERED AND SAID: IT IS A MOAVITISH DAMSEL (II, 6), and yet you say that her conduct is praiseworthy and modest? Her mother-in-law had instructed her well.



Zohar Level:






Other Commentaries:


Me’am Lo’ez


2:4 Behold! Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.


Boaz would not usually come out to the field. But on that day, “Behold!”—suddenly, unexpectedly, he came.


Another sudden, unexpected visit is recorded in the Talmud. A poor, hungry man once asked Rava for a meal of fattened chicken and old wine, and just then Rava’s sister, whom he had not seen for years, appeared unexpectedly, bringing with her a gift of fattened chicken and old wine. Realizing that divine providence had arranged the visit so that the pauper would be fed according to his needs, Rava invited him to eat.


Similarly, when Boaz unexpectedly visited his field and saw Ruth, he understood that divine providence had arranged that he had come for her benefit. As soon as he had exchanged greetings with his workers, he therefore immediately inquired, “To whom is this young woman?” (v. 5).


It is a measure of his humility that the eminent Boaz greeted his reapers even before they greeted him.


He blessed them that God should protect them from sunstroke, since the sun’s rays are particularly strong during the harvest season. Thus the Shunamite woman’s son suffered sunstroke in the field during the harvest (2 Kings 4).


At the splendid sight of his grain-filled field and his workers busily harvesting, Boaz exclaimed: “God be in your thoughts always! Do not allow material abundance to make you forget Him. Consider that you are working now so that you can be free for Torah study the rest of the year.


“Remember God Who commanded us to observe the laws connected with the harvest—peah, leket, and shikechah. Welcome the poor gra­ciously and treat them kindly, lest God depart from your midst.”


They replied: “Your good intentions will lead to blessings and abundance.


“We have indeed fulfilled the mitzvoth of the harvest, for which God will bless you (‘v lfrch).” Thus our sages teach: “Separate a tenth-part tithe (rag, rag, Deuteronomy 14:22)—separate the tithe (rag) that you may become rich (rag,,).”


And the reapers blessed Boaz for his generosity to the poor, as it is written, “He who is generous of eye shall be blessed” (Proverbs 22:9).


According to a different interpretation, Boaz had just arisen from the seven days of mourning for his wife. In keeping with the halacha that the mourner does not exchange greetings with others, Boaz now greeted his fellow man for the first time since the death of his wife, and the reapers returned his greeting.


They blessed him with the name “the Lord” (the Tetragrammaton), which denotes the divine attribute of mercy. Since divine justice, which had just struck him, continues to attend the mourner for some time after the tragedy, they prayed that God deal with him henceforth only through the attribute of mercy.


Thus the Talmud (Moed Koton 27b) writes: “The entire first three days, the mourner should imagine a sword poised between his shoul­ders; from the third day until the seventh, as if it were standing drawn against him in a corner; from the seventh to the thirtieth day, as reced­ing.


A man without a wife, say our sages, is without blessing. So the reapers said, “May the Lord bless you,” meaning, “God send you a suitable wife.” They hinted that Ruth was the woman who would restore him to a blessed state.


According to our sages, Boaz was now coming from the House of Study (Beit Midrash), filled with the joy of Torah study. This is con­veyed by the joyful expression “behold.” There, he and his court had just enacted the decree that people use the Holy Name (Tetragrammaton) in greeting one another, so that the name of God would always be on their lips. In a generation when the people judged their judges, the court deemed it necessary to implant the belief in divine providence.


According to the Talmud (Makoth 23b), this was one of the decrees by an earthly court which was ratified by the heavenly Tribunal. Thus we find the angel greeting Gideon: “The Lord be with you, mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12).


(This accords with the view that Boaz lived during the time of Barak and Deborah, who preceded Gideon [see v. 1:1]. According to the opinion that Boaz is the judge Ibetzan, who came after Gideon, the angel had set the precedent, and Boaz and his court put it into practice.)


Coming now from the Beit Midras!t where the decree had just been instituted, Boaz was the first to implement it by greeting his reapers with “The Lord be with you”; and they replied in kind.


Indeed, they blessed him for the decree, making it clear they under­stood that its purpose was to implant the belief that God affects the affairs of this world. Blessing and abundance would result, as it is written: “Every place where My name is mentioned I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:21).


Blessing follows whenever God’s name is mentioned in connection with the performance of a mitzvah. And since inclusion of God’s name in greeting was now made a mitzvah by answering as they did, they were in effect blessing him with abundance.


Our sages conclude that [the converse is also true]. If God’s name is mentioned in vain, poverty follows.


The harvesters returned Boaz’s greeting in two brief words—‘v lfrch—because an employee should refrain from conversation during work hours. Thus the Talmud relates that when Abba Chilkiyah would work for an employer, he did not even return the greeting of the sages.


Similarly, when one is preoccupied with the performance of any mitzvah, such as teaching Torah to children, or making burial arrange­ments, he should be brief in replying to others.


Moreover, the reaper’s brief blessing conveys that one should prefer­ably use a form of blessing that explicitly appears in the scripture. Their blessing, appropriate for the season, is contained in, “Blessed are you in the city; blessed are you in the field” (Deuteronomy 28:3).


Boaz began his greeting with God’s name and the reapers ended theirs with it, in order to begin and end with the divine name. This is the source of the custom that people greet one another with “Shalom Aleichem” and reply with “Aleichem Shalom” [so as to begin and end with Shalom, peace, which is also one of God’s names].


Another interpretation is that when Boaz saw a beautiful woman in the field, he feared that the Shechinah had left them, for God’s presence cannot dwell where there is impropriety. He therefore inquired: “Is God with you?”



2:5 Boaz said to his servant who stood over the reapers: “To whom is this young woman?”


When he saw a woman picking in the field, Boaz assumed that one of the reapers had brought her. “To whom is this young woman?” he asked.


Or else, when he noticed that she was obviously of a different people, he reprimanded his overseer for allowing her to enter.


According to a different interpretation, Boaz inquired about her in response to the reapers’ hint that this virtuous and modest woman would make him a suitable wife.


He perceived that she was no ordinary pauper, but a person of breeding and distinction. In contrast to the common pauper who greedi­ly seizes whatever comes his way, she ate with restraint even after going hungry for a long time; moreover, she was embarrassed to accept charity. He therefore expressed his surprise that this fine woman was not married.


Our sages note that he saw in her signs of wisdom and modesty. In observance of the halacha, she picked two ears of corn but not three, and was careful to take only sheaves that were definitely abandoned. She picked the uncut ears while standing and the already plucked while sitting; she did not bend over. She went “behind the reapers” (v. 3) rather than among or beside them. And upon seeing Boaz, she modestly turned away.


“All the other women flirt with the reapers,” remarked Boaz, “and this one keeps to herself; all the other women pick among the sheaves, and this one picks only what is abandoned” (Midrash).


The Zohar states that this judge of Israel saw that she possessed humility, divine insight (ruach hakodesh, asuev jur), and a “benevolent eye” which brought blessing to whatever she gazed upon.


He therefore asked, “To whom does she belong? For whom is she gathering?” Without asking directly, he would thus ascertain whether she was single or married.



2:6 The man who was standing over the reapers answered and said: “A Moabite young woman is she, who returned with Naomi from the Fields of Moab.”


The overseer whom Boaz addressed was “standing over the reapers” in a high, prominent place so that his voice would carry far. Our sages point out that he was supervising forty-two harvesters. This is the maximum number of workers that one person can oversee, as we learn from Solomon, who appointed 3,600 to oversee 150,000 (2 Chronicles 2:1).


“The man answered” (va’ya’an, ighu of the root vbg). The word vbg can mean “answered” as well as “raised his voice.” The overseer under­stood from Boaz’s discreet inquiry that he might be interested in marry­ing Ruth, and in excited anger he raised his voice when replying. “She has just returned with Naomi from Moab and converted,” he said.


According to this interpretation, he hinted that the marriage was unsuitable for several reasons. First, she was an extraordinarily beautiful young woman” of forty, Boaz a very old man; and our sages oppose wedding young to old. Second, she was a Moabite.


The distinction in halacha of “a Moabite, not a Moabitess” was not yet well known, and the overseer was ignorant of it. Or else, even if he did know it, he still thought it improper for a man like Boaz to marry her. Indeed, even Plony Almony (v. 4:1) later refused to rely on this halachic distinction, and so should Boaz, who was a greater sage. Were there not enough Israelite girls, conceived and born in holiness, for him to wed?


Third, he implied that she converted only because she wanted to be “with Naomi.” Fourth, she came from “the Fields of Moab” where the people were miserly and evil. And she may have been raped by them along the way.


Other commentaries explain that the overseer was in fact praising her to Boaz. This woman was young enough, he intimated, to bear him children and replace his sons who had all died (Talmud, Baba Bathra 91a). Moreover, being a Moabite woman, not a man, she was permitted to marry a Jew. Her conversion was purely for the sake of heaven, con­sidering that she had abandoned the life of a princess to return with the destitute Naomi. And although she was born and bred in Moab, such was her purity of character that she lived in peace even with her mother-in-law.


Some early commentators perceive a difficulty here; for the verse says that she “returned from the Fields of Moab,” yet she had never before been in Bethlehem. This suggests that she had gone back to Moab in order to convert others of her family, and not succeeding, returned.



2:7 “She said, ‘Please let me glean and I will gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ ‘So she came and has been on her feet ever since the morning until now, having sat in a house a little.”


The overseer praised Ruth for her industriousness. After arriving in Bethlehem she had risen early in the morning and had been on her feet picking ever since, save for a brief rest at home. Because she was modest, went only where the reapers were righteous, and took no more than Torah law permits, the picking took her all day. By the words “having sat in the house a little,” he intimated that at home, too, she tended dili­gently to the house, allowing herself little time to rest.


Perhaps he was also suggesting that Boaz hire her to work in his home.


According to a different interpretation, Ruth politely asked permis­sion to glean the leket, even though the Torah rightfully assigns it to the poor. Furthermore, she asked that the leket she picked be in exchange for helping to gather the harvested sheaves. And because she then worked all day collecting sheaves, she managed to gather only a little for her mother-in-law.


Accordingly, “having sat in the house a little” suggests that Ruth was now resting briefly in the women’s hut adjacent to the field, before returning to work.


From the extra letter vav (u) in sung,u (“was on her feet”), it is inferred that six hours (vav equals 6) had passed from the time she came in the morning until now, the hour of the midday meal.


Some however interpret his remarks as derogatory. The overseer was hinting that at first she had humbly asked permission to pick, but then remained to garner the entire day.


According to the Midrash, he said: “She has been with us a few days, but she is so modest and reserved that we know nothing about her, not even whether she is a widow.”


Unknowingly, he prophesied (“having sat in a house a little”) that she would remain in her own house for but a short time before marrying Boaz.


Abraham Ibn Ezra


2:4  THE LORD BE WITH YOU: To help you. He said this because they were toiling.


THE LORD BLESS YOU: May he give his blessing on the harvest.


2:5  WHOSE IS THIS YOUNG WOMAN?: He thought she was someone’s wife. Perhaps he asked the young man because he saw that she was dressed in the dress of her own land. Appearances also differed on account of the differences in climate. The midrashic exegesis is well known.


2:7  AND SHE CANE AND HAS REMAINED: She occupied herself continuously with her needs and not with anything else, so that he should not distrust her on account of her beauty.


 ,n ,hcv v,ca vz  :  ,n means ‘a short time’


It says ‘her sitting’ because she sat down, and the meaning of ‘house’ is ‘booth’.




4. Just then, Boaz was coming from Bethlehem. Everywhere that it says, vbvu, -"just then," it indicates something novel and new -Boaz was unaccustomed to visiting his own fields (this was also an act of Providence).


He said to the harvesters, "May the ETERNAL be with you. " The Sages have noted that Boaz and his court of Jewish law enacted that one should greet his friend using the name of God. This was ratified by the Sanhedrin (see Berachos 63a: "If you might think that Boaz acted on his own accord..." for one should not mention the name of HaShem for naught [see Sifra section 14]). However, when he saw the degree of injustice and moral turpitude among the general populace and their unwillingness to respect their judges (as it says, It was in the days when the judges governed); Boaz, upon appointment as judge, enacted that one should greet his friend using God's name. The purpose of this was to awaken their consciousness to God's scrutiny and involvement in their day-to-day well being as well as societal well being, and that God's Providence encompasses the welfare of each individual's interpersonal relationships. Another purpose was to intensify their sense of the Divine presence in their lives so that it would permeate the nature of their fellowship with each other. On this last point the words Just then, Boaz was coming from Bethlehem indicate that something new happened in Bethlehem in the court of the Elders. When Boaz arrived, He said to the harvesters, "May the ETERNAL be with you. " They responded in kind by mentioning God's name: "May the ETERNAL bless you. "


5. Boaz then asked his lad. When Boaz saw Ruth gathering in the field by herself (while in her possession there were many sheaves, as is proven by the fact that until the evening she had gathered an eiphah[1] of grain), he thought her to be either the wife or a daughter of one of the harvesters and that either her husband or father had driven away the other poor people in order that she would be able to glean alone. Consequently, he asked his servant who was overseeing the harvesters, "Whose young girl is this?" implying that she was related to one of the harvesters in the field.


6-9. Questions: Why did the servant speak at length about things he was not asked and that seemingly were of no import? Why did Boaz repeat, Do not go to gather in another field, and do not even leave here? What magnanimity was expressed by Boaz's offering Ruth water to drink?


6. [The lad who was in charge of the harvesters] responded, [saying]. He replied to his questions, but also said things about what he was not asked. In response to the question, "Whose young girl is this?" he answered that she was not from the harvesters. Rather, "She is a Moabite girl. " And in order to avoid censure for allowing a non-Jew to gather from the agricultural gifts for the Jewish poor, he added, "who returned with Naomi from the fields of Moab," that she had converted to Judaism and was rightfully entitled to glean.


7. "She said. " This portion of his response was unsolicited -she had not taken from either pe'ah or shich'cha[2] but only from leket, I shall now gather {stalks] and collect sheaves, behind the harvesters. " Ruth meant to say that after most of the poor had taken their portion from the pe'ah they went to another field (because there were as many fields as there were poor people). If they saw there even one person gathering, they went to a different field where they could work alone. Ruth, on the other hand, stayed in Boaz's field to gather after the harvesters (not after the other gleaners -because there was no one else but herself), and requested, [May I] gather [stalks] and collect the sheaves...meaning that she would gather stalks [and make her own sheaves]. Don't suspect that she took sheaves from the field. The servant commented that she had gathered close to the harvesters, who supervised her work and saw that she had done nothing dishonest. And, in order that Boaz should not be incredulous as to the large number of sheaves which she had gathered, he remarked, "And she came and stood {here] from before morning until now": Until this very moment she did not rest -She has [only] been sitting in the hut now for a short while. Only as Boaz arrived did she pause to rest in the small hut that was built for the workers to eat and relax in and was thus able to have collected sheaves.




(4) Behold! &xiz came from Bethlehem and he said to the r&zpers, “May God be with you.” They answered him, “May God bless you.”


The first few words of this verse have been explained above as being a direct consequence of the event outlined in the previous verse.


We will now explain the rest of the verse.


What Can Be Learned from Boaz and His Workers?


The Talmud (Ta’anith 23b) relates the story of Abba Chilkiya who was working as a hired hand in a field. When greeted, he did not reply. Later he was asked the reason for his silence. His answer was: “I was a laborer hired by the day, and I was not allowed to relax from my work.”


In this instance, Boaz was the employer. He greeted them with the words: God be with you, and they replied, saying: May God bless you. Since he had asked after their welfare, he was not particular about their taking time off to answer him. Had someone else spoken to them, however, they would have had to remain silent, as in the case of Abba Chilkiya.


Hence, Scripture has, They answered ‘him,’ indicating that they were allowed to greet him alone. Moreover, they answered him very briefly so as not to waste time.


Boaz took note of their diligence and, not wanting to disturb them, turned to the foreman who was watching them and was available to answer his questions.


We also learn from this that one who is greeted must reply with an even greater blessing. Boaz blessed the workers that God be with them. Their reply was: “Not only should God be with you but may God bless you too!”


Or, along similar lines, their reply was as follows: “You are worthy of blessing us. This, your greeting, May God be with you, is tantamount to an actual blessing. We, however, are not worthy of blessing you. Thus, our reply is, May God bless you, for He is the Father of all blessings.”


Their reply might have also intended the following: “You have said that God be with us, but we are not worthy of such a blessing. However, if He be with us, it is only so that He can bless you through the work of our hands in your fields.”


How does all this fit into the story of Ruth? It is possible that Boaz did not want to make it appear as if he were  pursuing Ruth and eyeing her beauty by asking, “Where is this girl from?” Thus, he began his conversation with the workers by asking after their welfare. Only after they replied did he turn his attention to Ruth.


It is also of note that he did not ask after the welfare of his personal servants or the foreman, but just the reapers. This is unusual, as it is the custom to ask about everybody present. However, he did not want his workers to suspect that he was interested in Ruth, so he merely greeted them. He made them the subject of his greeting and ignored the foreman who was a member of his own household. Then, he turned away from them and questioned the foreman about Ruth because he thought he could be trusted.


We learn yet another thing from this. A man does not greet a woman even if she is among men, for Ruth was following behind the reapers, yet Boaz greeted only them.[3]


(5)Boaz said to his servant who was overseeing the reapers, “To whom does this young woman belong?”

(6)The serwnt who was in charge of the reapers replied saying: “She is a Moabite girl who returned with Na’omi from the fields of Moab.”

(7)“She had said, ‘Allow me to glean and gather from among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ She came and stood here from the morning until now and has been in the house for only a short time.”

(8)Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Did you not hear, my daughter? Do not go to gather in another field and don’t move from this one. Stay here, close to my girls.”


In verse 5, Boaz does not ask simply, “Who is this girl?” He wants to know with whom she is associated! Verse 6 should read “He answered, ‘She is a Moabute girl.’” Why is it necessary to emphasize that the one who answered is the servant who was overseeing the reapers? Isn’t it obvious? In addition, why the necessity for a double expression  ighu, (He)... replied saying? And why did he repeat the fact that she is ‘a girl’ after Boaz had himself asked to wrnthu...honi the ‘young woman’ belonged? The word thv, she, is likewise redundant.


Why did the overseer stress that she had returned with Na’omi from the fields of Moab? Couldn’t he simply have saud that Ruth was her daughter-in-law?


Turning to verse 7, the overseer continued to supply information about Ruth even though it was not requested. Here again the word tb requires explanation.


The overseer deliberately altered the facts by insinuating that Ruth wished to gather from the sheaves (vjfa see earlier), when she explicitly asserted that she was only going to glean from leftover grains (yek) Moreover, our Sages (Midrash Ruth Rabbah 4:9) note that Boaz observed how she only picked ears of grain that were ownerless and that she wouldn’t pick up more than two stalks at a time (see also Talmud Shabbath 113b), or from the sheaves themselves.


The overseer also remarked that she followed behind the workers in the field, a fact that Boaz himself had noted. What was his intention? If he was trying to harm Ruth’s reputation by pointing out how immodest she was because she walked behind men, couldn’t Boaz see all this for himself? What did the youth add that Boaz didn’t know? Besides, she had acted no differently from the other female gleaners. On the contrary, she had behaved very modestly and stood out from among the others in this respect. The Midrash remarks that Boaz noticed all the other young women flirting with the male workers. Only Ruth kept to herself. We have also noted that the word hrjt denotes a distance further back rather than immediately behind. She made sure to keep away from the men, though the law of yek, stipulates that one is allowed to take stalks which fall directly from the harvester’s hands.


She came and stood here... Here again there are redundant words. tc,u is not needed. If she was there, then obviously, she had come! Furthermore, why does he have to discredit her by reporting that she tarried in the field and hardly rested in the house at all?


Why is there emphasis on the fact that she rested indoors for only a short time during the day? Furthermore, the Hebrew word vz hardly seems appropriate in the context. The word hf would have been more suitable.


In verse 8 Ruth was asked if she had heard all that the lad said about her. Then Boaz instructed her to remain in his field. If the overseer had praised Ruth, this would make sense, but as it was, he had attempted to degrade her. Why should she want to stay in that field with such a wicked man? It is likely that she told Boaz: “I wish to move to another field to avoid facing that man again.”


It could be that Boaz intended the following: “You may have heard what that lad has said about you. Still, I want you to stay here. Stay close to my girls and don’t be afraid of him.”


If that were the case, however, the correct Hebrew expression should be ,gn hf instead of ,gna tkv, as the meaning is: “Even though you have heard.. .I would like you to stay.” Moreover, instead of the phrase iuecs, vfu, and [in addition] you shall stay close..., which implies that this instruction has no connection with Boaz’s previous one, the text should have stated iuecs, vf hf, (for you shall stay close...), since Boaz was attempting to keep her from leaving by ensuring her that his girls would care for her. This would be a good reason why vzn hrucg, tk you should not leave this one (field).


Besides this, the words vzn hrucg, tk odu seem altogether redundant, for once Boaz had petitioned Ruth not to glean in another field, it foilows that he did not wish her to leave this one!


Boaz Discovers Ruth’s Uniqueness


It seems that Boaz was very wary about asking his servant for details about Ruth. Anyone overhearing their conversation would go away with the impression that Boaz had his eyes on her. Indeed, it is for this reason that Boaz did not ask the reapers or any of the workers for information, but went straight to the one in charge, who was a member of his household. His question was not simply, “Who is this girl?” but, “To whom does this girl belong?” which indicated to the lad that he had no personal interest in her; his words implied that she belonged to someone already, either a master or a husband. In this way, he hoped the lad would not suspect that he intended to take Ruth for himself, since he would never, of course, consort with a married woman. Later I noticed that R. Yitzchak Arama (author of Akeidath Yitzchak) preceded me in explaining the verse in this way.


Our Sages (Midrash, Ruth Rabbah 4:9) remark that Boaz took note of how modest Ruth was and how she stood out among the other women in this respect:


All the others would bend over to pick up the fallen stalks, while she would sit down [modestly]. The others would raise their dresses while she let hers down. They flirted with the men, while she kept to herself. They would gather stalks from among the sheaves, while she took only from those that were definitely ownerless.


The Yalkut Shimoni Ruth 601 (and Talmud Shabbath 113b) adds that the others would gather up three stalks at a time, while she conformed with the law that only two are allowed but not three (cf. Mishnah Pe’ah 5:6).


Boaz spoke only to the foreman, whom he felt could be trusted: “To whom does this young woman belong? I admire the extremely modest way in which she behaves.”


The meaning is thus: “Who can be worthy enough to marry her? She has exceptional qualities and is a rare find.” He stresses vrgbv, this young woman, as if to indicate how outstanding she was in her modesty. It surprised him that a girl still single could behave so humbly, so he said: “Is she really still a girl? Who is destined to marry her?”


Boaz Is Suspicious


Boaz knew that a ‘good dove’ from Moab was to be the progenitress of the Royal House of David. He didn’t know who this was to be, but when he noticed Ruth’s impeccable character, he figured that she might be the one chosen by God. He kept it in mind, however, that she might not have displayed such perfect behavior before he had arrived; she might have had some flaw in her character which he had not noticed but which would have rendered her unsuitable for the prestigious title of ‘good dove.’ He tried to think of some way he could learn of how she had behaved prior to his arrival, for he was sure that people would try to cover up for a poor unfortunate girl like Ruth. His intuition led him to approach the one in charge, whose keen eye noticed everything that went on in the field while the harvesters were engrossed in their work. Moreover, he was afraid that if he were to ask in a roundabout way, which would suggest that he had no personal interest in her good qualities, the truth might be hidden from him.


Ruth’s True Worth Stands Out


He decided on the following tactic: He asked the foreman, “Who is this girl, who acts so modestly, suitable for?” The lad would no doubt have thought: “Oh, how embarrassing it is that my master, the most noble of princes in Israel, has his eyes on a Moabite girl.” In order to preserve the honor of Boaz, he made an attempt to slander Ruth so that Boaz would lose interest in her. This entailed making known every piece of degrading information he knew. Indeed, he let loose a fierce diatribe aimed at denouncing Ruth, so that Boaz would turn his attention away from her once and for all.


His plan backfired, and from the negative information supplied to him, Boaz learned her true worth, for, try as he might, there was nothing inherently evil the foreman could say about Ruth.


He could find nothing immodest in her behavior. The only thing he could find to say was that she had been a Moabite girl who returned with Na’omi. He was hinting at how unbecoming it would be for Boaz to marry her. But these words merely showed that she was not evil in herself but merely an unsuitable mate for Boaz.


He further told Boaz that Ruth had said, Allow me to glean and gather from the sheaves.. .Again, this did not show her to be immodest, as we shall explain in more detail later. Boaz realized that there was nothing bad about her at all, for, had there been, his servant would surely have revealed it to him.


Returning to verse 6, we will now discuss the task of Boaz’s servant who oversaw those working in the field.


The Task of the Foreman


It was common for the owners of fields to have their foremen stand on high pedestals so that they could efficiently supervise the workers and ensure that they were working diligently. The person chosen for this task had to ‘have a loud voice, so that those farthest away from him could hear his commands. Boaz, being wealthy, employed many reapers, and his overseer would have to have had an unusally loud voice, so that he could be heard by all of them.


When the overseer answered Boaz, he raised his voice in order to speak degradingly of Ruth. The prophet uses the double expression rnthu...ighu He answered, saying. The Hebrew ighu is generally added to demonstrate a loud retort as in ,rntu ,hbgu You shall speak and you shall say (Deuteronomy 26:5), or rnthu cuht ighu Job answered saying (Job 3:2). The cantillation sign revia on the word ighu lends credence to this theory. Furthermore, the repetition of the words ohrmuev kg cmbv rgb, the servant who was in charge of the reapers, is justified, for it emphasizes that the overseer was in his appointed place — on a high pedestal where his voice could be heard by all those in the field. This would also explain why the text has: And the servant answered, instead of ‘his’ servant, as in the previous verse. Boaz’s servant would not suspect his own master of doing anything evil. This servant, however, did not act as if Boaz was his master, for he tried to twist the facts and hide the truth from him. Thus, he is called simply, the servant.


Boaz and Ruth a Suitable Match?


It should be made clear that this servant had nothing against Ruth. He loved his master and wanted to protect his honor. Boaz was a widower, while Ruth was unmarried and very attractive. His first impression was that his master had become infatuated with her and wished to marry her. This did not seem right to him, for even if there is nothing unlawful in a Jew marrying a Moabitess (cf. Talmud Yebamoth 69a), it is still beneath the dignity of a person such as Boaz who, according to our Sages (Talmud Bava Bathra 91a), was Ivtzan, the Judge of Israel and leader of the people. Furthermore, he was no youngster, so how could his age permit him to marry a young girl like Ruth?


The servant decided to do as much as he could to prevent Boaz from associating with Ruth. He deliberately raised his voice while answering Boaz, so that all the people around him could hear his report on Ruth. He highlighted her lowly origins and slandered Ruth by relating events in a bad light, so that the truth would be distorted and she would appear despicable to Boaz.


The Cunning Overseer


Leaving no stone unturned, he added spice to his tale by conjuring up purely fictional details which would make Ruth appear more evil than ever. A closer look at the verse will show how each and every word was intended to portray her as one undeserving of Boaz’s attention.


A Moabite girl. He calls Ruth vrgb, a girl, implying that she would have no interest in an old man like him. The title of Moabitess alone might not have been enough to divert Boaz’s interest from her. After all, she had converted and was a full-fledged Jewess, following the saying, “one who has converted is like a newly born babe” (Talmud Yebamoth 22a). Boaz knew that a Moabitess was permitted to marry a Jew. So, the servant emphasized that she is a Moabitess, as if to say; “She still acts like a Moabitess and has not adopted a Jewish way of life according to Mosaic law.”


Who returned with Na’omi. Lest Boaz assume that she left her father’s home and her country so that she could follow the true God, he adds this clause to stress that she had not returned for the sake of God but had only tagged along with her mother-in-law. He also intended to convey that she had returned with Na’omi alone. Her husband Machlon and brother-in-law Kilyon had died in Moab because they had married Moabite girls. He wanted Boaz to understand that the same fate awaited him if he married a Moabitess.


From the fields of Moab. With these words he hoped to point out to Boaz that she and Na’omi returned alone,without the company of males. Thus, one may questionRuth’s chastity, for it is likely that two women traveling alone to Judah would have been assaulted somewhere along the road. Indeed, our Sages (Talmud Sotah 42b) remark that Orpah, who had hardly ventured far from Moab, was repeatedly raped on her trip back to town. To press the point further he said: fields of Moab, in the plural. As we learned in verse 1 of the first chapter, a “field” corresponds to a town in Moab. Hence, they traveled alone through many towns in Moab before reaching Judah a journey fraught with danger. Indeed, earlier we noted how astonished the people of Bethlehem had been when they saw them arrive without escorts. Thus, it would not have surprised anyone had they been abused during their journey, especially considering what happened to Orpah on her short walk back home.


One may ask how the servant could have hoped to besmirch Ruth’s name if her modest behavior were obvious to all. As we have said, she picked up only two stalks at a time not three — and kept a safe distance from the male workers.


A Distortion of the Truth


The overseer slyly and maliciously altered the facts. He claimed that she had attempted to glean from the sheaves themselves. He branded her as a swindler who, in attempting to cover up her acts of thievery, appeared to behave modestly. He tried to convey the idea that in order to prevent anyone from suspecting her, she collected only two stalks at a time, so that they could see how honest she was and feel no need to keep a watchful eye on her. Thus, when no one was looking, she gathered from the sheaves themselves, a deed forbidden by law.


The overseer tried to give the impression that she kept her distance from the reapers, not out of modesty, but so that they could not see her when she stole from the sheaves! Thus he said: She said I will glean (now), so that I can collect from among the sheaves. He added the word tb, now, to indicate that she intended to glean only now, in order that later, while no one was looking, she could unobtrusively steal from the sheaves.


She came and stood here from morning to now.. .This was said to show how little self-respect she had, standing around in the field all day!


Boaz might have seen through his servant’s plan and shown him to be a liar. He may have retorted: “If she really wanted to cheat, she could have done so in a very short time. As for the fact that she has been here since the morning, that is proof of her innocence, for she needed the time to ensure that she had not taken one more stalk than is permitted.”


The servant was clever enough not to get caught in his lies, and he added: and has been in the house for only a short while. With this he meant to say: “The reason you gave for her remaining out of doors is no proof at all of her innocence. On the contrary, though it could have taken her a short time to steal, she deliberately lingered because she likes to be outdoors. She only went indoors for a short while, and this shows how immoral she really is.”


This was not his only intention. He also wished to convey how she deliberately waited until sundown before returning home: “Obviously she is not concerned about losing her way at night or that a miscreant might chance upon her. She was prepared to give herself over to such a person and this reflects her true character!”


Earlier (verse 3), we derived from the text that Ruth had come to the field, returned to the town and then gone back to the field so as to make sure that she knew the way and would not get lost. The servant attempted to give the lie to this by claiming that she came and stood, as if to say: “As soon as she arrived here she remained here. She never returned to the town to learn the route.” This was a deliberate falsification of the facts!


Boaz Is Not Deceived


Boaz listened to this vile talk without interrupting him, and then, for the first time, he turned his attention to Ruth and spoke kindly to her so as to extinguish the flame of zeal which had been kindled by his scheming servant. He chose his words wisely, for he wished to make it clear that he had not accepted the slanderous remarks of his servant. Her main cause for embarrassment was not those remarks, for the servant was but a young lad who did not know her. She was more concerned about Boaz’s reaction to what he had heard.


Boaz began by saying: “Did you hear what the servant said?” He could have comforted her by saying: “Don’t worry, I did not believe anything he said.” But then, she might have suspected that he really did believe it and was merely trying to placate her and allay her fears. So, he decided on a different approach.


“Have you heard what the servant said? It is clear from what he has said that you are fit to be my very own daughter!”


Ruth Shows Restraint


She had shown herself to be an especially virtuous young woman. After hearing such an outburst she could have snapped back angrily at the overseer by retorting: “Who are you to open your mouth and make me out to be a good-for-nothing? Have you no shame? Who do you think you are, slandering me like that? How dare you raise your voice at me! Do you think I am as low as you with your evil tongue, that you have the impudence to speak such lies? I am a princess, while you are but a common laborer! Nevertheless, I do not hold it against you, for you are only a servant. I hold your master, that old man, to blame, for he has failed to chastise you for your effrontery.”


Of course Ruth did not say anything of the sort, but remained silent. Her righteousness made a profound impression on Boaz, and he said to her: “You have heard what has been said about you, yet you remained silent. You are truly like a daughter to me, for you act so righteously. Please don’t go to another field, for here in my field you will be treated like my daughter in all respects. I did not pay heed to the wild rantings of my servant and do not believe anything he said about you. But if you go to a different field, it is quite likely that the people there would believe his story.”


To sum up, the meaning of the verse is as follows: “Have you not heard what has been said? You are worthy to be my daughter, but don’t go to gather in another field, for it is quite likely that someone will disparage you as my servant has done, and you will be put to shame.”


‘My Daughter’


Boaz called Ruth his daughter, for he wished to show how highly he thought of her and that he believed her intentions to be pure. She was expected to conclude that it was inadvisable for her to go to another field where they might accept any story they heard about her, especially if it portrayed her in a negative light. It was also obvious now that he believed her to be innocent of the charges leveled against her, and he did not find it necessary to say outright that he did not believe his servant. He hoped that she would deduce this from his words.


Although he had put Ruth’s mind at ease somewhat, she still might have been inclined to move to a different area of that same field. So Boaz found it necessary to add, Don’t leave here. This indicated that he was not even the slightest bit impressed by the boy’s words.


Alternatively, the words Do not move from here mean the following: “It is preferable not to move to a place where you will find favor in a man’s eyes, for he will no doubt attempt to win your heart with smooth talk. Consequently, you will be seen by others to be promiscuous. If you remain here, you should stay near my girls, who will watch over you and guard you from harm.”


Or, Boaz means to say that only in this field will Ruth have the opportunity of enjoying the company of his girls, but elsewhere she would be subject to derision and evil gossip.


The word ihecs, in verse 8 is a plural form, as is denoted by the nun at the end of the word. It comes to include the spirit of Machlon which was resident within her.


The words, Stay here, close to my girls, portray Boaz as a righteous man who attempted to protect Ruth from shame and disgrace. The problem here is Ruth’s reaction. How could she have been so ungrateful as to alter his words by reporting to Na’omi (verse 21) that he had told her to stay close to his male workers, so making him appear licentious instead of modest? With her outright lie she could have besmirched the good name of this prince and leader of all Israel!


Why the Sages Condemned Ruth


The Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 4:11) notes that when Boaz said with my girls, he actually referred to righteous men who are elsewhere in the Scriptures called ‘maidens’ (see Job 40:29: Will you bind him for your maidens?) With this, the problem is to some extent resolved, as Boaz was indeed referring to men and not women. But this is only according to the hidden meaning of the text. The simple meaning still requires some thought.


Our Sages held that Ruth was taken to task for what she said to Na’omi (in verse 21), and that explains why she is called a Moabitess. Boaz told her to stay close to the ‘girls’ in the fields, but she reported that he had told her to stay near the ‘men’ only a Moabitess is capable of such loose talk.


However, there is a way to explain her action so that it is consistent with the righteous woman we know she was.


Let us first concentrate on verse 9.



[1] An eiphah equals three se'ahs. An eiphah contains approxi- mately ten omers. An omer is a day's food for one person (see Shemos 17.36).

[2] Devarim 24:19, "When you reap your harvest in your field, and you forget a bundle in the field, you shall not turn back to take it; it shal1 be for the proselyte, the orphan, and the widow."

[3] Our Sages (Talmud Shabbath 1 13b) maintain that he did ask about Ruth. They are of the opinion that he asked after her on account of her virtuous behavior. It is possible that, in their view, as soon as he asked after them he asked the foreman where she came from. Thus, in fact it is for this reason that the Scripture recounts that he greeted them; he wished to begin a conversation that would lead to enquiring after Ruth.