Boaz said to Ruth: “Have you not heard, my daughter? Go not to glean in another
field; neither pass from here, but stay here close to my girls.”
had offered Ruth gifts of money and clothing, which she refused, insisting she
would take only what God gave her. Whereupon Boaz urged her at least not to go
to any other field—not even one owned by him—but to “stay here,” where he would
look after her and protect her.
you not heard my overseer praise you?” he asked. “Why go to another field where
you may be unwelcome or unappreciated? Stay where you are, on the women’s side
of my field.”
“Having heard me ask the overseer about you, perhaps you think I begrudge you
your picking. On the contrary—I insist that you stay in my field and continue
to pick behind the reapers, or, if you like, among the girls.”
expression tukv, “have you not,” contains an extra letter vav (u,
numerically equivalent to 6), to reflect the six times that the Torah speaks of
the harvest (katzir, rhme) and warns us to fulfill the harvest laws.
you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corner of your
field, neither shall you gather the gleaning of your harvest (Leviticus 19:9).
When you reap the harvest of your land, you s!iall not wholly reap the corner
of your field, neither s!iall you gather the gleanings of your harvest; you
shall leave them for t!ie poor, and for t!ie stranger: ! am the Lord your God
(Leviticus 23:22). That which grows of itself of your harvest you shall not
reap, and the grapes of your undressed vine you s!iall not gather (Leviticus
25:5). When you reap your harvest in the field, and have forgotten a sheaf in
the field, you s!iall not go back to fetch it; it shall be for the stranger,
for the fatherless, and for the widow (Deuteronomy 24:19).
other words, Boaz said to her: “Have you not heard that six times the Torah
declares that peah, leket, and shikechah belong to the poor?”
to a different interpretation, Boaz asked Ruth whether she could hear him, for
he spoke to her from a distance out of propriety. He also addressed her as “my
daughter,” to avoid any semblance of impure thought towards her. Hence his name
Boaz—”in him there is strength.”
saintly conduct reflects the general practice among our sages to address every
woman as “my daughter” as a ruse against the evil inclination.
means “understand” as well as “hear.” And Boaz is thus also perceived as saying
to Ruth: “Even if you understand the overseer’s remark about you as being
derogatory, nevertheless do not go to another field. If you did not so
understand it, then surely you must not pass from here.”
else: “Have you heard him criticize you for leaving your house too often
(“having sat in the house a little”—v. 7)? Then to prevent any more evil talk,
do not go to a different field, but stay here and pick with my girls.”
according to the view that the overseer tried to discourage Boaz from marrying
Ruth, by describing her as a poor Moabite who returned with Naomi, his remarks
in fact highlighted her virtue. For he could find nothing to criticize about
her character or conduct. On the contrary, Boaz foresaw that the royal dynasty
would come from her, and he told her “not to glean in another field.” He asked
her not to “pass from here” even after she had picked her fill, thereby hinting
that she would find her destiny with him.
“Keep your eyes on the field that they will harvest, and walk after them. Have
I not ordered my men not to touch you? When you grow thirsty, go to the vessels
and drink from that which the men draw.”
told Ruth to look the field over and pick wherever she liked; and he had
instructed his men not to stop her. If the reapers finished harvesting this
field, she was welcome to follow them to the next one. And he gave her
permission not only to draw water, but even to drink of the water drawn by the
her protection, he instructed her to walk “after them,” that is, only behind
the reapers. so that they would not gaze at her and come to sinful thoughts. In
addition, he took the precaution of instructing his men not to touch her. When
she became thirsty, she was not to accept water from any of the men, but to
take only from the vessels, in order to keep herself above suspicion.
to one interpretation, Ruth was not to follow the reapers but first to check
the field; if they had already left it, she could then go in alone and
pick. No one would harm her, since he had already forewarned his men.
commentators draw the opposite conclusion. She was not to go alone, but only
“after them”—where there were many reapers.
the terms iurmeh, “they will harvest,” and ivhrjt, “after
them,” end with the letter nun (i), the feminine form,
implying that Boaz instructed her to follow his girls.
say that Boaz appointed her overseer—hence “keep your eyes on the field.”
Although she would have to mingle with the fieldhands in order to observe their
work, this was not contrary to Torah law, for they were righteous men, and the
halacha is that one woman may be alone with two or more righteous men. Nor
would they harm her Out of jealousy, for he had taken the precaution of warning
overseer, she would not have to draw water for herself, but drink from what the
men would draw for her.
else, Boaz asked her to keep her eyes on his field in order to increase its
blessing, for he recognized that Ruth’s “benevolent eye” brought blessing upon
whatever fell under her gaze.
expression ,nmr, “you will become thirsty,” is missing a letter yud (h,
equivalent to 10), to hint that ten wicked kings—including the infamous
Manasseh (2 Kings 20,21)—would descend from her. Accordingly, he said to her
later (v. 14), “and dip your morsel in the vinegar.”
Abraham Ibn Ezra
then said to Ruth, "Now, my daughter, listen." You are judged
here favorably and therefore, Do not go to gather in another field, where
the owner may not disp1ay good will, and do not even leave here: even to
my own fields (for Boaz had many parcels of land). Do not go to another field
where the harvesters and their supervisor might disdain you. Not only that, but
stay here close to my girls: even in this field, on one side were young
male harvesters and on the other were young female workers. Boaz advised Ruth
to stay with his maidens and not to go near the male workers.
9. Keep your eyes on the field where they [the
girls] are harvesting and follow them. Do not be afraid that the young
men will be angry because of your avoiding them. I have [already] instructed
the lads not to disturb you. Furthermore, "And [in you are thirsty,
you may go to the [drinking] vessels and drink from them where the lads draw
[water]." In Divrei Hayamim I, 11:17, King David said, "Who
can bring me water from the well at the gates of Bethlehem?" It would seem that the
waters of those wells were outstanding. However, since the local Sanhedrin was
located at the " gates" of the city, they did not allow women to draw from the
adjacent well -a task reserved for the young men. Since it required much effort
to bring the water all the way from the "gate" well, the poor people
were normally given water drawn from wells close to the fields. In this
context, Boaz informed Ruth that she could drink from the water drawn by
the young men from the gates of Bethlehem
and no one would protest.
your eyes on the field which they are harvesting and follow after them. Haven’t
I commanded the laborers to refrain from molesting you? If you become thirsty,
you should go to the jugs to drink from what the laborers have drawn.”
does Boaz urge Ruth to follow behind? He has just told her to stay close to the
girls, so if the reference is to them, why repeat it?
we mentioned that the Hebrew hrjt means “far behind.” This
compounds the difficulty, as she was previously told to stay as close as
possible to them! Besides, what difference does it make if she was among them
or behind them? In fact, later (verse 23), we see that she stayed close to
the girls in the fields. It does not state that she walked after them!
could interpret iehcs,, stay close, as being parallel
in meaning to ivhrjt, after them. But why isn’t
the text consistent? Why does it use one word here and an entirely
different word later? There must be some difference between them.
I commanded the laborers... Is this relevant? If she was in the company of
females, how could they come to molest her? Later (verse 22), Na’omi told Ruth:
It is good, my daughter, that you go out in the company of his young women. Why
does she use the word htm,, go out, instead
of ihecs,, stay close, the term used by Boaz?
is a practical problem, too. Were the girls so diligent that they followed Ruth
everywhere she went in Boaz’s fields until the end of the barley and wheat
harvest? It was not the practice of young women to go harvesting in the fields
each day, especially those of Boaz’s household. They generally went once
or twice at the onset of the harvest season, and even during that time they
built huts to shade themselves from the heat of the sun, venturing out only in
the early morning or late evening when it was cooler. Then after a few days,
they would all return to town as modest girls should, leaving only the men and
boys in the fields. But, the verses imply that the womenfolk stayed with Ruth
throughout the season, a period of three months (Midrash Ruth Rabbah 5:11).
further ahead, what did Na’omi mean by saying, Now, Boaz, our
relative, with whose girls you have been...? (3:2). What purpose is there
in adding these words uh,urgb og ,hhv rat, With whose
girls you have been?
Who Reaped the Fields?
we said, lingering in the fields was not the practice of such modest girls as
those members of the household of Boaz, who was a great leader of Israel. (See
Ruth Rabbah 5:10: R. Shmuel bar Nachman says that Boaz was the leader of his
generation.) They only left the confines of the town to go to the fields
for a few days at the most, when they joined the celebrations marking the
opening of harvest season. A canopy would be erected in one of the fields and
there they would pass the time.
the first day of harvest, Ruth went out to the fields. The womenfolk were only
in one field, where Boaz was based. They had not volunteered to do work in
other fields belonging to Boaz. Thus, Boaz told her, “Don’t go gathering in
other fields; in this field you will be safe as you can remain in the company
of the girls. If you feel you must go to other fields, by all means you
are free to do so, but I cannot assure you absolute security. However, if you
stay close behind my workers you should be safe, for I have explicitly ordered
them not to touch you. Be careful not to flirt with them; keep your eyes only
on the fields where they reap.”
helps us to understand the differences between verses 8 and 9. In verse 8 Boaz
was speaking of the field where the women and girls stayed. Since they would be
company for Ruth, Boaz did not feel it necessary to warn the male laborers of
her presence. But verse 9 speaks of the ‘other’ fields. Even there, Ruth would
not be hampered if she stayed close to his reapers and kept her eyes on
the field. It mattered not if she had left the field where the rest of the
women were, for Boaz had commanded the laborers in the other fields to leave
Ruth alone. Hence, even though she was told to stay close to the girls at the
beginning of the harvest season, she was still protected when she wandered off
to the other fields, for all Boaz’s employees were under strict instructions
not to molest her.
Ruth informed Na’omi (verse 21) that she had stayed close to the men, she
was merely relating that she had followed Boaz’s advice. It was only during the
first few days she was told to stay close to the girls, as that was only
possible in one field. For the remainder of the season she was told to stay
behind Boaz’s harvesters and this is, indeed, exactly what she reported to Na
Did Ruth Deserve the Title of ‘Moabitess’?
question remains: Why was Ruth given the title ‘Moabitess’ in verse 21? A
closer look at the text will reveal that she did indeed alter the words of
Boaz. He had told her to walk behind the workers: ivhrjt
,fkvu, and you should follow after them. Yet, when she reported
to Na’omi, she said: hk rat ohrgbv og hkt rnt hf od, Also, he said
to me ‘Stay close’ to my laborers. There is a vast difference between
‘following after’ and ‘staying close to.’ Na’omi’s answer to Ruth reflects
this: It is good... that you go out... (verse 22). She meant to say: “He
has told you to remain with the girls in the field. He did not tell you to go
out picking with them in the fields. I, however, feel it would be a good idea
if you went out with them in the fields, since you wouldn’t be left alone with
the young men.
was neither their, nor Boaz’s, original plan that the womenfolk should go
harvesting in the fields. But in verse 23 we read that Ruth in fact
stayed in the company of the girls for the duration of the harvest season,
indicating that Boaz did not, in this case, prevent them from wandering through
the fields. This was rather unusual, since girls did not generally do this sort
only way to explain this deviation from the normal rules is by realizing that
Ruth was no ordinary woman. Her exemplary modesty and her family connection to
Boaz led the latter to believe that he was destined to redeem her, even though
there were others who were more closely related to her. To ensure that this
remained a possibility, he took the unusual step of allowing the female members
of his household to venture out of their usual bounds so as to watch over Ruth
and protect her from harm.
Boaz’s Concern for Ruth
we can appreciate Na’omi’s words in the next chapter (3:2): Now Boaz, our
relative, with whose girls you have been... It was then that she
felt she could unashamedly tell Ruth to lie at the feet of Boaz. She had no
fear of embarrassing Ruth, as the Midrash says (Ruth Rabbah 6:1):
David offered praise and thanks to God for the fact at Boaz had not cursed Ruth
but had blessed her.”
reasoned that if Boaz had no interest in her, why he allowed his womenfolk to
follow Ruth for three whole months, climbing hills and descending into valleys
to keep her company?
Boaz’s wife been alive, she would not have dared to do such a thing. Boaz
wouldn’t have allowed it either. As it was, however, there was good reason for
Na’omi to send her, as we shall see later. She convinced Ruth of the
necessity to go by stressing with whose girls you have been. This
indicated that Boaz certainly was interested in her, as otherwise he would
never have allowed his girls to accompany her for such a long period of time.
The Laborers: Were They Male or Female?
verse 9 there is a grammatical inconsistency. Though the subject is masculine (ohrgb,
laborers), the text which relates to them has ivhrjt ,fkvu, and you
should follow after them, in the feminine. The correct form of the word is ovhrjt.
Indeed, during the course of this Megillah, many such inconsistencies
will be found, especially concerning genders. To name but a few:
In chapter one, verse 13, we read vbdg, ivkv vbrca, ivkv, Would
you Would you wait for them until they are grown up? Would you shut yourselves off...
The subject is husbands, but the feminine form ivkv is used
instead of the masculine ovkv.
In chapter one, verse 19, we read ovh,a vbfk,u, and they both went. Again
the word ovh,a has a masculine ending. Since the verse refers to Na’omi
and Ruth, the correct word here should be the feminine form: ivh,a!
The text in chapter four, verse 11, has ubc rat vtku kjrf, Like
Rachel and like Leah both of whom built.. .Since the subjects are feminine,
the word should be ivh,a, not ovh,a
one of those irregularities has an explanation. I have heard it said that the
feminine gender was used by Na’omi to hint at the possibility that she may have
given birth to girls and not boys. Any hopes of Ruth and Orpab marrying her
future sons would certainly have been dashed! (This suggestion can be found in Shoresh
Yishai by R. Shlomoh Alkabetz on Ruth 1:13). The second case has been
explained in chapter one. The masculine gender was employed to denote that they
felt as strong as men, as they traveled from Moab
alone. Once it had been reported that they had arrived, however, the text
reverts to the feminine —ivhkg rhgv kf ov,u, The whole city was
in an uproar over them — as the people of the town saw that they
were really women and not men.
our case, the feminine gender is used in connection with the reapers, for Boaz
wished Ruth to feel as if she were walking behind women, and thus she would
have no fear of going to the fields to gather gleanings.
third case will be discussed in the appropriate place.
How to Ask for a Drink!
you become thirsty.. .Boaz meant to say as follows: “My orders to the workers
to leave you alone apply only if you take precautions not to mingle with them,
for if you do you will be ‘putting a stumbling block in the path of the blind,’
by bringing them to sin.
you feel thirsty, you may come to ask one of them to give you a drink. If it
happens that they do not have water with them, you may be tempted to request
one of them to draw water from the well. While this is going on, you will no
doubt strike up a conversation with him, and his passion for a girl as
beautiful as you will be aroused, which may lead to undesirable consequences.
Better that you should go to the water jugs yourself. Don’t even ask if there
is water available, but rather go and see for yourself. If they are
empty, wait there until water is drawn up from the well by them, and then you
that the text does not say, “drink that which is in the jugs,” or “drink from
what has been drawn.” The future tense is supplied: from that which ‘will
be’ drawn by the laborers.
attempt to draw the water yourself, for one of them might rush over to help you
or offer to do it for you and take the rope from you. You will undoubtedly
refuse, and you will both be left holding the rope. This scene will be noticed
by others, and they will immediately suspect that something is going on between
you. You may even get caught up in a conversation with him. My advice to you
is: Don’t draw water at all; drink only from what they draw.”
words also implied that she should drink only if she was thirsty and not merely
to cool herself down: “Only if you become thirsty should you ask to
drink, for this will lessen the chances of your becoming involved with the
opening words of the verse, Keep your eyes on the field... were a
warning about how Ruth should behave: “Don’t watch them so as to follow them to
a different field, for they will assume that you have an interest in them, and
consequently they will look for an opportunity to get closer to you. No good
can come of this. Better to wait until they reach the other field and only then
look to see where they have gone. Then, wait until they have begun their work
after their rest time. Keep your eyes on the field ‘which they are reaping,’
i.e., while they are busy at their work and have no time for you, you can
follow behind them.
this, Boaz intended to convey to Ruth that her eyes should be on the field constantly.
Even from afar she should refrain from looking at them, but only at the field
itself, and thus she would be able to discern where they had just harvested.
after them, in the plural, indicates that Boaz warned her to follow a
group of reapers and not a single worker lest people suspect her of remaining
alone with a man.