Ruth 1:8-13



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Ruth 1:8-13 And Noemin said to her two daughters-in-law, Go now, return, each to her mothers house; the LORD act mercifully with you, as you have acted with the dead and with me. 9 May the LORD grant that you also find rest, each in the house of her husband! and she kissed them, and they raised their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, We are returning with you to your people. 11 And Noemin said, Turn back now, my daughters; to what end are you going with me? Are there still sons in my womb perhaps, that they will be husbands for you? Judah. 12 Turn back now, my daughters, for have I not grown too old to be with a husband; for if I say, that there is confidence for me to be with a husband and I shall bear sons, 13 will you perhaps wait for them till they mature? Or will you restrain yourselves for them, not to be with a man? No indeed, my daughters; for I am embittered for you, that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!









and she said

kai; ei\pen

and said






to two of




her daughters-in-law









poreuvesqe dh; ajpostravfhte

return and go back






to house of

eij" oi\kon

to house


her mother

mhtro;" aujth'"

her mother


may he show


may he make










to you

meq! uJmw'n

with you






just as


according as


you showed


you showed






the dead ones

tw'n teqnhkovtwn

with the dead


and to me

kai; met! ejmou'

and with me


may he grant


may he give






to you


to you

7 it3m}n

and find

kai; eu{roite

and find








every one


house of

ejn oi[kw/

in house of


her husband

ajndro;" aujth'"

her husband


then she kissed

kai; katefivlhsen

and she kissed again and again


on them




and they raised

kai; ejph'ran

and they raised


voice of them

th;n fwnh;n aujtw'n

their voice herself


and they wept

kai; e[klausan

and they wept


and they said

kai; ei\pan

and they said


to her


to her






with you

meta; sou'

with you


we will go back


we will be converted


to people of you

eij" to;n laovn sou

to your people


and she said

kai; ei\pen

and she said










daughters of me

dhv qugatevre" mou

daughters of me



kai; i{na

and in order


would you come

tiv poreuvesqe

would you walk


with me

met! ejmou'

after me


any more




to me

; e[ti




moi uiJoi;

my sons


inside of me

ejn th'/ koiliva/ mou

in my womb


that they could become

kai; e[sontai

and happen


for you

uJmi'n eij"

for you


as husbands






turn again


my daughters

dhv qugatevre" mou

daughters of me

7 i0f2k









I am too old

geghvraka tou'

I am old


than to be

mh; ei\nai

than to be


to husband





o{ti ei\pa



I thought





there was


I am


for me












I was


it came to pass


the night




to husband

me ajndri;

my husband


and also




I bore


bring forth





| i2v7k4v

for them

mh; aujtou;"

not yourselves


would you wait


wait for










they grew up


they grew up


for them

h] aujtoi'"

for them


would you remain


would you hold back






to become

mh; genevsqai

me married


to husband



to husband






my daughters

dhv qugatevre" mou

my daughters










to me








than you








she went out


she went out


against me

ejn ejmoi;

against me


hand of


hand of








1:8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, Return, go back to your own country and to the house of your kinsmen; may the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with me and with both of my sons who now are dead.


1:9 The Lord grant you favor so that you may find rest in the house of your parents. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voices and wept.


1:10 And they said to her, No, we will return with you to your land and to your people.


1:11 But Naomi said to them, Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Will I bear sons again that they may be your husbands?


1:12 Turn back, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope. and even if I should have a husband. and should also bear sons;


1:13 Would you wait for them until they were grown? Would you stay for them from having husbands? No, my daughters; for I am greatly grieved for your sakes, and it grieves me more than it does you, because the hand of the LORD is gone forth against me.


Stones Translation


1:8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, Go, return, each of you to her widows mothers house. May HASHEM deal kindly with you, as you have dealt kindly with the dead and with me!


1:9 May HASHEM grant that you may find security, each in the home of her husband. She kissed them, and they raised their voice and wept.


1:10 And they said to her, No, we will return with you to your people.


1:11 But Naomi said, Turn back, my daughters. Why should you come with me? Have I more sons in my womb who could become husbands to you?


1:12 Turn back, my daughters, go, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if! were to say, There Is hope for me! and even if I were to have a husband tonight and even bear sons


1:13 would you wait for them until they were grown up? Would you tie yourselves down for them, not to marry anyone else? No, my daughters! I am very embittered on account of you, for the hand of HASHEM has gone forth against me.




1:8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.


1:9 The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each [of you] in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.


1:10 And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.


1:11 And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? [are] there yet [any more] sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?


1:12 Turn again, my daughters, go [your way]; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, [if] I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons;


1:13 Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me.



Peshat Level:




1:8 Said Naomi to her daughters-in-law: "Go, return each to her mother's house. May the Lord do kindness unto you, just as you have done unto your deceased husbands, refusing to marry [literally to take a man] after their death, and unto me, whom you have provided for and sustained.


1:9 "May the Lord reward you fully for the kindness which you have shown to me, and by virtue of that reward may each of you find rest in the house of her husband." Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.


1:10 Said they unto her: "We will not return to our people and our gods, but with you will we return to your people, to become proselytes."


1:11 Then said Naomi: "Return, O my daughters. Why should you go with me? Do I still have children in my womb that they might be husbands unto you?


1:12 "Return, my daughters, from following me. Go unto your people, for I am too old to be married. Should I say: 'Now, if I were a young woman, having hope, verily! should I be married this very night and should I bear sons,'


1:13 "Would you wait for them until they grew up, like a woman who waits for a small brother-in-law to marry her? Because of them would you sit tied down, not marrying? Pray, my daughters, do not grieve me, for I am more embittered than you, because a stroke from the Lord has come forth against me."




1:12 For I have become too old from belonging to a man (I.e.,) that I should marry him and bear sons, and you would (then) marry them, for they (such sons) would not be forbidden to you (as husbands), and you would not be forbidden them by dint of (the prohibition against a man marrying) the wife of his (older) brother who was not in his world (i.e., who died before he was born), who (i.e., the widow) is not bound to the levirate, since Machlon and Chilion were not Halachically married to them, for they were Gentiles (and therefore would not be considered their brothers wives), and they had not converted (at marriage), and (only) now were they coming to convert, as it is stated (verse 10), (No,) but with you we will return to your nation. Henceforth, we will become one nation.


(Even) if I were to say (that) there is hope for me (I.e.,) for even if my heart were to tell me (that) there is hope for me to marry again and to bear sons.


Even (if) I were to marry this very night And moreover, even if I were to conceive male offspring this (very) night.


Or had I even borne sons Or even if I had already borne sons.


1:13 Would you wait in hope for them (The v denotes a question posed) in wonder, Would you perhaps wait (in hope) for them until they grow up? (Cf.) the expression of (Psalms 146:5), whose hope (urca) is in the Lord his God.


Tie yourself down (This is) an expression of being restricted and confined, (from the root dug) as in (Taanith 23a), He drew a (confining) circle and stood within it. And some interpret (vbdg, as stemming from the root Idg), an expression denoting anchoring, but this is not possible, for if so, the b should have been punctuated with a dagesh (forti to replace the missing b) or written (with) two bs (one as the radical and the other for the feminine plural).


For there has gone forth against me the hand of the Lord Rabbi Levi said (Ruth Rabbah), Wherever is mentioned the hand of the Lord, it is (a reference to) a plague of pestilence, and the precedent for all of them is (Exodus 9:3), Behold, the hand of the Lord is (upon thy cattle a very heavy pestilence).



Gemarah Level:



Midrash Level:


Midrash Rabbah


Ruth II:13 AND NAOMI SAID UNTO HER TWO DAUGHTERS-I N-LAW: GO, RETURN EACH OF YOU TO HER MOTHER S HOUSE (1, 8)-i.e. to her peoples house. The mother of Abnimos of Gadara died, and R. Meir went up to condole with him and he found them sitting in mourning. Some time later his father died, and R. Meir again went up to condole with him, and found them engaged in their normal occupations. He said to him: It appears to me that your mother was more dear to you than your father! He answered him: Is it not then written, TO HER MOTHER'S HOUSE, but not "to her father's house"? R. Meir answered him: Thou hast spoken well, for a heathen indeed has no father.


Ruth II:14 THE LORD DEAL KINDLY WITH YOU (ib.). R. Hanina b. Adda said: The ketib is ya'aseh. He certainly will deal kindly with you. AS YE HAVE DEALT WITH THE DEAD, in that ye busied yourselves with their shrouds; AND WITH ME, in that they renounced their marriage settlement. R. Ze'ira said: This scroll [of Ruth] tells us nothing either of cleanliness or of uncleanliness, either of prohibition or permission. For what purpose then was it written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness.



TURN BACK, MY DAUGHTERS, GO YOUR WAY (I,12). R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Judah b. Hanina: Three times is it written here [1:8, 1:11, and 1:12] ' turn back, corresponding to the three times that a would-be proselyte is repulsed [A would-be proselyte is not accepted with open arms, but first repulsed, being warned of the difficulties of Judaism, to make sure of the sincerity of his convictions.]


Ruth II:15 THE LORD GRANT YOU (I, 9). R. Jose said: All the boons and all the consolations which the Holy One, blessed be He, is destined to bestow on Solomon, as it is written, And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding (I Kings V, 9), shall come from you. THAT YE MAY FIND REST (I, 9). The ketib is u mzen. One of you will find rest, not both. EACH OF YOU IN THE HOUSE OF HER HUSBAND (ib.). From this we see that a woman has no contentment except in her husband's house. THEN SHE KISSED THEM, AND THEY LIFTED UP THEIR VOICE AND WEPT. AND THEY SAID TO HER... AND NAOMI SAID: TURN BACK, MY DAUGHTERS, WHY WILL YE GO WITH ME? HAVE I YET SONS IN MY WOMB, THAT THEY MAY BE YOUR HUSBANDS (I, 9-11)? Can then a man marry the widow of his brother [who became widowed] before he was born?


Ruth II:16 TURN BACK, MY DAUGHTERS, GO YOUR WAY (I,12). R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Judah b. Hanina: Three times is it written here [1:8, 1:11, and 1:12] ' turn back, corresponding to the three times that a would-be proselyte is repulsed; but if he persists after that, he is accepted. R. Isaac said: [It is written,] The stranger did not lodge in the street (Job XXXI, 32): A man should rebuff with his left hand, but bring near with the right.


Ruth II:16 TURN BACK, MY DAUGHTERS, GO YOUR WAY (I,12). R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Judah b. Hanina: Three times is it written here [1:8, 1:11, and 1:12] ' turn back, corresponding to the three times that a would-be proselyte is repulsed; but if he persists after that, he is accepted. R. Isaac said: [It is written,] The stranger did not lodge in the street (Job XXXI, 32): A man should rebuff with his left hand, but bring near with the right. FOR I AM TOO OLD TO HAVE A HUSBAND, etc. SHOULD I EVEN HAVE A HUSBAND TO - NIGHT (I, 12). R. Johanan said: The Torah teaches us a lesson of decency, that intercourse should take place not by day but by night. That is the meaning of what is written, In the evening, she went in [to the king], and on the morrow she returned (Est. II, 14). While it is written here SHOULD I EVEN HAVE A HUSBAND TO-NIGHT.


Ruth II:17 SHOULD I EVEN HAVE A HUSBAND AND ALSO BEAR SONS (I, 12). Thus if I had had a husband this night, I might have borne sons; but even in this case, WOULD YE TARRY FOR THEM TILL THEY WERE GROWN (I, 13)? Can ye then sit and wait until they are grown? WOULD YE SHUT YOURSELVES OFF FOR THEM AND HAVE NO HUSBANDS (ib.)? You might remain agunahs without ever marrying. NAY, MY DAUGHTERS (ib.): [translate] woe is me, my daughters, FOR IT GRIEVETH ME MUCH FOR YOUR SAKES. meaning on account of you, FOR THE HAND OF THE LORD IS GONE FORTH AGAINST ME: against me, against my sons, and against my husband.


Ruth II:19 R. Levi said: Wherever the hand of the Lord is mentioned, it refers to the pestilence, and the locus classicus is the verse, Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle (Exodus IX, 3). Bar Kappara said: They asked for the hand, and the hand smote them with pestilence. R. Simon said: The pestilence smote those that went out, but not those who remained [at home]. The disciples of R. Nehemiah deduced this fact from the verse, Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil (Judges II, 15). The pestilence smote those that went out, but not those who remained. R. Reuben said: Even their children were anxious for [their death] and said, When will they die, that we may enter the land!


Ruth II:18 R. Hanina, the son of R. Abbahu, interpreted this verse4 to refer to Moses. Moses said to the Holy One, blessed be He: ' Lord of the Universe! With the word hen (behold) I uttered thy praise, as it is said, Behold, unto the Lord thy God belongeth the heaven, and the heaven of heavens (Deuteronomy X, 14), and I did hope that thou wouldest give me preferment,5 but alas! With hen Thou hast wearied me.6 Thou hast wearied me with the Angel of Death, Thou hast abandoned the hen in my favour,7 and said unto me, Hen! (behold) Thy days approach that thou must die (Deuteronomy XXXI, 14). And he then turns to Israel and says, NAY, MY DAUGHTERS: Woe unto me! my children, FOR IT GRIEVETH ME MUCH FOR YOUR SAKES. It is on account of you that THE HAND OF THE LORD




Zohar Level:



Other Commentaries:


Meam Loez




Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law: Go, return each to her mothers house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the deceased and with me.


Even after their husbands died, Ruth and Orpah continued to relate to Naomi as their mother-in-law, and she still saw in them her . . . daughters-in-law.


The three of them were already on the road back to the land of Judah (v. 7), when Naomi turned to Ruth and Orpah and told them to return. She had waited until then because only then did she realize that they intended to travel with her the whole way.


At first she had thought that her two daughters-in-law were with her (v. 6) only to see her off. But when they reached the road that led back to Judah (v. 7), Ruth and Orpah showed no signs of turning back. Instead, they adjusted their clothing [in keeping with standards of modesty in Judah]. thus revealing their intentions.


Another interpretation is that Naomi had thought they were coming with her to the land of Israel to collect the marriage settlements (kethuboth, ,ucu,f) to which as widows they were entitled. When, however, they renounced their claims, as our sages reveal, she understood that they wanted to join the Jewish people, and she tried to dissuade them.


To test their determination, Naomi let them taste the hardships of the journey before telling them to Go, return.


The test revealed the difference between her two daughters-in3 law. Ruth remained steadfast and Orpah returned.


Even before testing them, Naomi had perceived Ruths purity of heart and felt closer to her than to Orpah. For the sake of peace, however, she spoke to the two equally and urged them both to go back. Preferential treatment was therefore not a factor in Ruth staying and Orpah leaving.


The form go, return is significant in this regard. To Orpah, who did not truly wish to convert, she said simply go, that is, go back to Moab. To Ruth, who ardently desired to join the Jewish people, Naomi said returngo back to your decision.


Return to your mothers houses, she advised, for I have no house and no means of supporting you. I may have been like a mother to you; but a real mother will treat you better than a good mother-in-law.


Nor be afraid that your mothers will reject you for marrying Jews. God will deal kindly with you and see that you are welcome.


Naomi told them to go each to her mothers house, rather than the fathers, for a number of reasons:

(1) Gentiles then traced their descent through their mothers.


(2) If Ruth and Orpah had displeased their parents by marrying out of their people, their mothers, being by nature more merciful, would more readily forgive and accept them.


(3) Generally it is the mother who stays home, while the father goes out to work. And it is the mother who would care for a widowed daughter and prepare her dowry.


According to our sages, Ruth and Orpah were daughters of Eglon, king of Moab, evidently by differently wives, for Naomi told each to return to her mothers house.

By telling them go, return, Naomi was in fact offering various options. One was that they accompany her to Bethlehem and then return.


Then again [according to the opinion that before marrying Machlon and Kilyon, Ruth and Orpah had converted]they could go to Moab as Jews or return to the idolatry of their mothers homes. [This she said in order to test them.] In either case, she told them, God would repay them for the kindness they had extended to the deceased and to her.


However, Gods kindness would be fuller if they remained faithful than if they returned to idolatry. This is conveyed by the expression may [He] deal. Although the Hebrew original is written in full (yaase, vagh), in pronunciation it is truncated (yaas, agh) [as if the letter heh v, (numerical value 5) was missing. God would deal differently with them if they remained faithful to the Five Books of Moses, than if they did not.]


If they turned back, God would reward them in full for the forty paces they had accompanied Naomi thus far. This is conveyed by the unexpected masculine ending of with you (ofng instead of the grammatically proper ifng). The numerical value of the final letter (o) is forty.


And if they cleaved to the Jewish people, Gods kindness would culminate five generations later, in the golden era of Ruths great-great-grandson King Solomon. This is likewise alluded to by the letter v in the written form vagh. The five generations are Boaz, Obed, Ishai, David, Solomon.


The reward for cleaving to Naomi is further hinted at in the word hsng (with me), an acronym of Obed (g of scg), the Messiah (n of jhan), David (s of sus), Ishai (h of hah)all of whom would descend from Ruth.


Naomi continued: Do not fear that by leaving me now you will forfeit the merit of your past kindness. Your reward will remain intact; God will deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the deceased and with me.


Nor would they lose their reward by being far away from Naomi. God, Who is desirous of kindness (Micah 7:18), would requite their kindness wherever they went. For kindness [by man is imitative of the divine attribute of kindnesschesed, and] is one of the pillars that hold up the world, as it is written: The world is build on kindness (Psalms 89:3).


Naomi prayed, May the Lord deal kindly with you, because the converts lot in this world is not a happy one, since he must atone for his past sins.


Here, too, Naomi tested their determination to convert. By pronouncing the term, vagh as if it were written with one letter missing, she hinted that a convert is shown less kindness than a born Jew. If they replied: We know, and we are not worthy of that other kindness their sincerity would be made evident.


In her bitterness, Naomi likened kindness to her with kindness to the dead as you have dealt with the deceased and with me. Both could rightly be termed true kindness (,nt ka sxj), that is, kindness without hope of reciprocation. So poor am I, she said, that I can no more repay your kindness than can the dead.


But, she added, God will pay you back by giving you rest, each in the home of her husband (v. 9).


Naomi praised Ruth and Orpah for dealing kindly with the deceased by being good wives to Machlon and Kilyon and, according to the Targum, by refusing to remarry after they died.


Our sages say that they provided the shrouds and paid for the burials, although widows are not legally obligated to do so. Naomi therefore blessed them: May God deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the deceased. Just as you clothed the deceased in clean shrouds, so in the World to Come will God clothe you in the pure souls of tzaddikim, to enable you to appear and bow down before Him.


Naomi praised them for their kindness to her also after her sons diedwith the deceased and [afterwards] with me. They had mourned for them, says the Midrash, and they cried with me.


Moreover, they gave up their marriage settlements, which they were entitled to collect from the familys fields in Bethlehem. In a magnificent act of kindness, they left all the family property to Naomi.


An alternate interpretation is that Naomi had co-signed their kethuboth. Yet, when her sons died, they did not collect from her, but lived with her until their money ran out. Then they left Moab.


By continuing to deal kindly with me even after my sons died, said Naomi, you showed that your kindness to me while they were living was always sincere, and not because of your husbands.


Naomi addressed them in the masculine form (ofng, with you) to commend their manly determination and strength of character. Hence they could not be suspected of ulterior motives. The acts of kindness they had done for the living and the dead testified to their purity of heart and their love of God and man.




After Naomi assured her daughters-in-law that their kindness would be requited in full by God dealing kindly with you as you have dealt with the deceased and with me (v. 8), she added: In return for giving up your marriage settlements, may God grant you wealth. And in return for bringing to rest your deceased husbands, may each of you find rest in the house of her new husband.


Proper burial is an act of kindness that affords repose to the body and peace to the soul, as it is written: He will come in peace, they will rest on their couches (Isaiah 57:2).


Recall in this regard Jacobs bitter lamentA wild beast has devoured him! Joseph has been torn apart! (Genesis 37:33)when he thought that Joseph had died without burial.


And it is fitting that in return for properly burying the dead, Ruth and Orpah would find personal tranquility in remarriage.


According to the Targum, Naomi said, May God grant you wealth in the full measure of your kindness. Your wealth will attract distinguished suitors, and among them you will select husbands to make you happy.


Naomi said, God grant. She wished them prosperity from the bounteous hand of God rather than from the niggardly hands of mortals.


To Naomis words, You will find rest, each in the house of her husband, our sages relate the teaching that a woman is never content except in her husbands home. The wealthy widow living in a palace and the pampered daughter in her fathers house may enjoy material comfort. But only in her husband and children does a woman find fulfillment and peace of mind.


In wishing them rest, each in the house of her husband, Naomi was also praying that they have the peace and security of owning their own homes, instead of living in rented dwellings together with their in-laws. For rarely do a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law live peacefully under one roof as Naomi had lived with Ruth and Orpah.


Another in Naomis position would have blamed her suffering on her daughters-in-law. She, however, grieved over their sufferingtheir poverty, their childlessness, and their widowhood. And she wholeheartedly prayed that God would bless them with wealth, happy marriages, and children, and spare them further tragedy.


If your first marriages were ill-fated because my sons married you to suit their whims, she said to them, may your second marriages be ordained by God. You will then find contentment.


Although our sages teach that first rather than second marriages are ordained before birth, second marriages are decreed according to a persons deeds. And on account of their kindness with the deceased and with me, Naomi assured them that their second marriages would be happy ones.

She prayed that her barren daughters-in-law would succeed in raising a familythe mark of the mainstay of the home, as it is written: e sets up the mainstay of the house; the mother of the children is happy (Psalms 113:9).


At the mention of marriage, however, Ruth and Orpah recalled their dead husbands, and they raised their voice and wept.


On another level of meaning, Naomis blessings were prophetic regarding each of her daughters-in-law.


In the merit of the forty steps that Orpah had accompanied Naomi, her descendant Goliath would be spared for forty days before being slain by David. This is conveyed by the masculine form of (to) you (ofk rather than ifl). The letter mem (o) corresponds to the number forty.


Ruth would live to see her descendants David and Solomon sitting on the throne of Israel. The letters of ofk may be rearranged to spell lkn - king.


This indicates, accordingly, that Ruth, who derived her [spiritual] descent from Judahs wife Tamar, would find rest in the house of Judah s descendant Boaz. It would only be a momentary haven, however, as hinted at by the missing final letter v of it,nu Boaz died the very night of their wedding.


From Ruth and Boaz would descend Solomon, of whom God said, He will be a man of rest, and I shall give him rest from all his enemies around him.. He will build a House for My name(1Chronicles 22:9-10). And the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) is the resting place of the Divine Presence.


From Ruth and Boaz, too, would descend the Messiah. He will usher in an era when the Jewish people will be gathered, never to be exiled again. Israel will thus find rest in the land of God, even as a woman finds rest... in the house of her husband. Thus the prophet says: At that time you will call Me my Husband; you will no longer call Me my Master (Hosea 2:18).


Moreover, it is indicated that since the Third Temple will be built by God Himself, it will aptly be called His House, hence the house of her husband.


Ruth would be the mother of prophets as well as kings, and this, too, is conveyed by the word rest. Thus our sages deduce from the verse, Seraiah (v-h ra, prince of God), the prince of rest (Jeremiah 51:59), that Baruch ben Neriyah attained prophecy.


Having blessed her daughters-in-law. she kissed them, just as Isaac had kissed his son Jacob upon blessing him (Genesis 27:27). The kiss symbolizes transfer of the blessing by binding together the souls of the one giving and the one receiving the blessing.


Some authorities write that the kiss of a tzaddik awakens the soul of a pure person from its slumber. But if the person is impure, the kiss draws the sparks of holiness out of him, and he remains without a basis of existence. After Naomis kiss, accordingly, they raised their voice (singular) and wept. (They did not weep together, i.e., for the same reason; each wept separately.] Ruth wept out of longing for God, Naomis kiss having aroused her desire to cleave to Him. And Orpah wept over her downfall, for she realized that she had lost her sparks of holiness.


VERSE 1:10


They said to her, No, with you shall we return to your people.


When Naomi kissed them farewell, Ruth and Orpah protested that they would not forsake her, but with you . .. return to your people.


Although they had never been there, they spoke of returning to Judah. So strong is our love of Israel, they said, that going to Judah is like returning home.


Although you prayed that God should deal kindly with us if we returned to our mothers home, we trust He will treat us just as kindly if we come with you.


According to the Targum, they were replying to Naomis advice to Go, return each to her mothers house (v. 8). No, we will not go back to the idols of Moab; we will return with you to the God of Israel.


Although Naomi had warned them that the life of a convert was full of suffering and sadness, they nevertheless insisted on converting.


Their motivations, however, differed. Both Ruth and Orpah had raised their voice and wept (v. 9), and both now said, with you we will return to your people. But Orpah stressed the word l,t with you; her wish was to be with Naomi, and to that end she was willing to convert; and Ruth said lngk to your people. Her primary motive was conversion to Judaism; being with Naomi was secondary.


Furthermore, they insisted on going with Naomi because with you we shall return to your people. That is, only from her could they receive the necessary instruction preparatory to their conversion.


They also needed Naomi to testify to their sincerity. For if they were suspected of converting because of Israels new prosperity they would be turned away, as all would-be converts were later turned away during the golden age of King Solomon.


VERSE 1:11


Naomi said, Return, my daughters. Why go with me? Have I more sons in my womb who might be husbands for you?


Now that Ruth and Orpah had expressed a desire to convert, Naomi tenderly called them my daughters. She tried to dissuade them, however, suspecting that their desire to convert stemmed from love of her, not love of God. And she pleaded that remaining with her was impossible. The bonds of marriage which had united them were now dissolved by death and could not be renewed, for she had no more sons to give them.


Why go with me if you insist on converting? Go to a different city in Israel and spare me the pain of seeing my sons wives married to strangers. And if you want to become Jews because you are like daughters to mereturn. I cannot accept such self-sacrifice.


Nor is it even advisable for you to go with me, if your intention purely is to join the Jewish people. Go to Judah alone, lest you be suspected of converting on my account. For then you would not be accepted as converts.


Go back to Moab and marry there, she further argued, for no Israelite men will want to be your husbands. The law permitting marriage with women converts from Moab is not commonly known, and the few who know of it may be afraid to rely on it. Nor will they want to marry women who were childless in a previous marriage.


And you cannot rely on me. Machlon and Kilyon are dead, my unborn child is dead. Even if I were carrying sons now, after you will have grown old waiting for them to come of age, they might not want to be your husbands.


Nor could they be your husbands, according to Torah law. Marrying a brothers widow is forbidden except in levirate marriage (yabum, ouch) for the sake of perpetuating the name of the deceased through offspring. Since yibum applies, however, only if brothers dwell together (Deuteronomy 25:5), that is, if the two brothers were in this world at the same time, a man born after his brothers death is ineligible for yibum, and forbidden to marry his brothers widow.


Naomi therefore said that even if she had sons in her womb now, they could not be husbands for you.


VERSE 1:12


Return, my daughters, go. For I am too old to have a husband. For were I even to say there is hope for me or even if I were to have a husband tonight and I also bore sons..


For the third time now, Naomi told her daughters-in-law to return. in keeping with the teaching of our sages that a would-be convert should be turned away three times. If he nevertheless persists, he is then accepted.


Rabbi Yitzchak expounded: A would-be convert is kept away with his left hand and drawn near with the right, as it is written: My door to the wayfarer I will open; outside a stranger shall not sleep (Job 31:32). That is, I do not open my door to a strangera gentile who comes to convertas readily as to a wayfarer; but if the stranger persists in knocking, I will not close the door to him.


If we could all continue to live together, she now urged, it would be reasonable for you to come with me. But why do so, when ultimately you must marry out of the family and leave me?


Naomi again called them my daughters. She felt towards them like a mother who is anxious to see her widowed daughters find husbands, not like a mother-in-law who is angry if her sons widows remarry.


It was inevitable that they would marry out of the family, she said. She had no other sons for them to marry; I am too old to have a husband and bear more children. And it was ludicrous to imagine that in the land of Israel she would suddenly become rejuvenated, immediately find a husband, marry, conceive, and bear not daughters, but sons for both of them to marry.


Even if I were to become young again, she pursued, and I married this very night and bore sons, why should you languish in widowhood waiting for them to reach marriageable age?


According to the opinion that Ruth and Orpah had not converted before marrying Machlon and Kilyon, they could marry Naomis future sons, as their first marriages were then void by Torah law and the prohibition of marrying a brothers widow would not apply.


It is significant and prophetic that Naomi said, Return . . . go. For one would in fact return to Judah with her, and the other would go back to Moab.


VERSE 1:13


Would you wait for them until they are grown? Would you shut yourselves off for them and have no husbands? No, my daughters, for I am very bitter for you [alt: I am more bitter than you]. For the hand of God has gone out against me.



If you are coming with me in the hope of marrying sons I may yet bear, turn back. For even if you are willing to remain widows until they are of age to marry, by then you will be far too old, and they will not marry you. Besides, ever since Abraham married Sarah, men have married younger women.


By her use of the feminine form (ivk instead of ovk), Naomi further reminded them that even if she did bear children, they might, after all, be girls.


Ruth and Orpah might, however, be content to remain widows out of respect to their dead husbands, so she pleaded against it. I am bitter enough over your past misfortunes. Do not add to my grief by living the rest of your lives in the miseries of widowhood.


If I myself refuse to remarry, it is because I am broken over the loss of my whole family and all my possessions. My suffering is far more bitter than yours. There is no soundness in my flesh because of Gods anger; there is no health in my bones because of my sin (Psalms 38:4). But you are still youthful and vigorous, and can still recover what you have lost.


Naomi thus assured her daughters-in-law that she was not sending them away because she blamed them for her sons deaths. She blamed only her sins for her misfortunes. Just as Jeremiah was later to proclaim, The crown is fallen from our heads; woe to us for we have sinned (Jeremiah 5:16), Naomi declared: The hand of God has gone out against me.


This also indicates that her sons had died of the pestilence, the plague the Egyptians called the hand of God (Exodus 9:3). Remarkably, although the disease is extremely contagious, it was restricted to her family aloneclear evidence that it was a divine punishment.


Indeed, her suffering had gone out of the ordinary. She was smitten not by the finger of God but by His hand, five blows in all: the deaths of her husband, her two sons, and the unborn child, and her extreme destitution. So much misfortune could be due only to her sins.


By being with me, you, too, have suffered because of the hand of God that has stricken me, said Naomi. Therefore leave me and go back to Moab, where you will find happiness in remarriage.


Abraham Ibn Ezra


1:8 WITH THE DEAD: These are her sons.


1:9 MAY THE LORD GRANT YOU: A husband.


1:11 HAVE I YET SONS?: Many of our colleagues have thought that this is an argument against those who deny, but they did not know that our fathers limited the duty of levirate marriage to brothers who have the same father, and not to those who have the same mother only. She said to them, If there were sons in my womb, I would have given them to you instead of the dead. But this would have been done out of love and not as levirate marriage.


1:13 WOULD YOU WAIT FOR THEM?: The nun (in ivkv) is instead of men. The converse is found in VERY BITTER TO ME ON ACCOUNT OF YOU (ofn), and in THEY (vnv) CAME TO BETHLEHEM. The word vbrca, means attachment when used with the letter lamedh or with the word ‘l, as in urcah fhkkf hbh

vbd, belongs to the niphal conjugation, and there is no other example of the verb.


NOT TO BELONG TO A MAN: That is, each one of them to her own man, as in the two of them were hanged on a tree


NO, MY DAUGHTERS: That is to say, Do not go with me


FOR THERE HAS GONE OUT AGAINST ME: The decree of God which goes out from his presence or which has been delivered and has gone out against me until it has been seen.


THE HAND OF THE LORD: This means a blow, for in using the word hand the text is speaking metaphorically.




8. Naomi then said. Naomi thought in the beginning that their going with her on the road to the land of Judah was only to accompany her so she would not be alone and that afterwards they would return to Moab. Hence she said to them, Go -go on your way to a destination within the land of Moab. She did not require them to accompany her. Since they could choose to relocate in the land of Moab, either to go to another city or to return each to her mother's house, Naomi suggested, Return, each to [your] mother's house. That is to say, just as you held fast to me because I treated you like a mother, it would be even better for you to be with your real mother. Now she explains her previous word of Go, that they should not exert themselves on her behalf in order to accompany her. About this she said, May the ETERNAL treat you kindly, just as you treated the deceased and [treated] me as we", since when their husbands were alive they were good to them. The Midrash Ruth Rabbah (2:14) explains the deceased: that Orpah and Ruth provided them with burial shrouds; and me: that they relinquished the marital contracts, monetary obligation owed them by Machlon and Kilyon. This was an act of kindness because, according to the civil law of Moab, the burial and all its accoutrements were the responsibility of the deceased's estate and Naomi was required to pay the posthumous marital compensation. Purely out of their own goodness they voluntarily forfeited any claim on their deceased husbands' estates. Naomi felt that they had surely done more than enough to merit HaShem's beneficence in kind, because HaShem would not disallow the reward that was rightfully theirs by virtue of their magnanimity. Naomi was confident that HaShem would act in accordance with His attribute of relating to each person in accordance with his deeds.


9. May the ETERNAL grant. Besides that which HaShem should bestow upon you in accordance with your munificence, may He give you a gift (something which is not a reward for a previous deed) that each find contentment in her husband's home. This corresponds to what Naomi had said: Return, each to [your] mother's house. For it was customary in those times that a widow who did not desire to remarry would take up separate residence as a statement of her self-determination and independence. But a widow who desired to remarry would go back to her father's house, or in the case of non-Jews (who do not have the status of genealogical descent from the father[1]), to her mother's house until she would be wed. In this regard, Naomi blessed them, that each find contentment in her husband's home; that they suffer no more bereavement or grief; and that they encounter only a delightful sense of security which is truly the gift of HaShem.


She then kissed them. A kiss of separation and farewell.


10. They said to her. At this point they revealed to her that their intention was not just to accompany Naomi until the land of Judah and to return to Moab. [No,] for we will return with you to your people. That is to say, it is our desire to remain among your people. They did not say, "to your Lord" which would have implied an intention to convert, only to your people, that is, to live among your nation.


11. Naomi answered [them]. To this Naomi advised, Return, my daughters. Why do you [wish to] go with me? By this she meant that her people would not marry them and it was a vain hope for Naomi once again to provide them with spouses: Do I have any more sons in my womb {who] could become your husbands? It has already been explained (HaTorah v'HaMitzvah, Parashas Tazria, Note 4) that the literal usage of the noun sons applies only to children already born, not those still in their mother's womb. If so, how could Naomi say, Do I have any more sons in my womb? Obviously; Naomi was speaking ironically. First she intimated, Do I have any more sons old enough to marry you right away? Then, to exaggerate even more, Naomi contended, "Do I have sons old enough for you to wed, and do I conceal them in my womb -who might propose to you today!?" Surely this verse should be understood as clearly an exaggeration. For no one could seriously suggest that Orpah and Ruth would be willing to wait for Naomi to marry, have children, and raise them to a marriageable age. By then, Orpah and Ruth would be much older and thus inappropriate as brides for men so many years younger than themselves.


12. Return. Naomi adds a second rationale for them not to continue with her: Even if one could possibly entertain the notion that you would be willing to wait...there are two problems: [1 for I am too old to marry a man, and [2] would you wait...until they grow up. The Midrash Ruth Rabbah (2:17) comments, Even it.., if I were to have a husband tonight, could I have children? The Midrash explains the verses this way, according to the Talmudic dictum (Yevamos 34b), " A woman who remains a widow for ten years will no longer bear children." The Talmud asks, "Was not the daughter of Rav Chisda a widow for ten years before she remarried and had children?" The Talmud replies that she always hoped to remarry and, under that condition, she could still have children even after ten years. If so, it says here, Elimelech...died...and they lived there about ten years. As such, Naomi was a widow for ten years and it was only possible for her to have more children under one of two conditions: [1] if during the period of her widowhood she did not despair of remarrying, she would be able to give birth even after ten years; or [2] if she did not intend to remarry, only if she would wed tonight -the last night of the ten years. According to this, Naomi said, Return, my daughters, go [marry], for I am too old to marry a man, a widow after ten years can no longer bear children to her spouse. Only if she had maintained, there is hope for me that during the entire ten years she had never despaired of remarrying and always said...There is hope for me, would she be able to give birth even after ten years. And, even if I were to have a husband tonight, only if I would wed tonight the last night of the ten years -could I still have children? Therefore, I ask you, Would you wait?


13. Would you wait. The definition of tesaberna (vbrca,), waiting, is the hope for something distinct which logic dictates will be fulfilled in its appropriate time; as it says, His hope is in HaShem, his Lord (Tehillim 146:5); On the day the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the upper hand over them (Megillas Esther 9:1); and The eyes of all look to You with hope and You give them their food in its proper time (Tehillim 145:15). Naomi admonished her daughters-in-law that, even if sons were born, could you be sure they would grow up? Perhaps they would die in their adolescence! And, even if they would mature, would you tie yourselves down for them and not marry anyone else? No, my daughters! The Midrash Ruth Rabbah (2:17) interprets the word Al ('II) as in, Woe like unto a virgin (Yoel1:8) and, Woe unto me (Michah 7:1), meaning woe unto me even more than for you!


For the ETERNAL's [plague] has affected me [literally, ...the hand of the ETERNAL has gone forth against me]. The hand of HaShem, which normally connotes a blow or plague, is not found in Tanach together with the words gone forth (vtmh) but rather with the words it was (v,hv): Your hand was against me (Shemuel II, 24:17); The hand of HaShem was against them (Shofetim 2:15). The language gone forth used here indicates that HaShem had already expended all of His chastisements against her and would not visit any more punishment upon her. On this, the Midrash Ruth Rabbah (2:17) remarks: gone forth against me -against me, my children, and my husband. Naomi's message was that HaShem had punished her completely, but regarding Orpah and Ruth, HaShem's hand was against them but had not yet gone forth (implying that their continued relationship with Naomi might still bring them misfortune).



(8) And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, Go back, return each of you to her mothers house. May God deal kindly with you as you dealt with the dead and with me.

(9)May God grant that you find peace, each one in your husbands home. She kissed them and they cried loudly.


Looking closely at these two verses, there are many difficulties which demand explanation.


(i) Why is there a need to emphasize that there were two daughters-in-law if we are well aware of that fact already?

(ii) In verse 8 she tells them: Go back, return, yet later in verse 12 she telis them, return alone. This is further complicated when we note that in verse 11 the order is reversed: return, go back!

(iii) It seems strange that she asked them to return to their mothers homes instead of to their fathers homes which is the norm, as we find in Leviticus 22:13: And she shall return to her fathers house...

(iv) In verse 8 she urges them to return, each of them, to her mothers house but in verse 9 she blesses each of them that she finds peace in her husbands home!

(v) A further contradiction: In verse 8 her blessing is that hj agh May God deal..., while in verse 9 it is hj i,h, May God give...

(vi) Why is the letter v in the word vagh silent? (It is read as agh.)

(vii) The word ofng with you, is in the masculine instead of the feminine form ifng Similarly, in verse 9, ofk, to you, should be ifk.

(viii) The clause hufu o,hag ratf as you have done..., should have been inserted after the second blessing in verse 9 and not between the two blessings.

(ix) In the word itmnu (and you shall find) the letter v is missing, as the correct word in this instance is vbtmnu.

(x)Why did Naomi kiss them? For the moment, even Orpah had not made the decision to turn back, so it could not have been a farewell kiss.


Naomi did not want to appear in a hurry to convert them, as she did not want Judaism to seem cheap in their eyes. On the contrary, any gentile wishing to convert must first be gently dissuaded. Naomi might have asked: What is so attractive about Judaism that makes you want to join the Jewish people? She made it seem obvious that she was expecting them to return and that she thought they had come only to see her off on her journey.


Why Not Fathers House?


Naomi told her daughters-in-law, Go, return! Had you both converted to Judaism, it would have been out of place to return to your fathers houses, for once converted, you are no longer part of the family as our Sages say (Talmud Yebamoth 22a): One who becomes a proselyte is like a newly born child. How could you be expected to return to your parents homes once you are Jewish if you are no longer related to them? Besides, the atmosphere in such a house would prove to be alien to your new beliefs. Thus, even if you return, it would only be to the town, for you would have no parents or siblings to turn to. Since you have not converted, there is no reason why you cannot both return to your mothers house, br you still belong to your respective families.


Naomi deliberately used the term mothers house and not fathers house, (or she wished lo show her distaste for male Moabites, who had been excluded by God from marrying into the Jewish people. A Moabitess, however, is permitted to marry a Jew (Talmud Yebamoth 69a).


There may be another reason why a fathers house is not mentioned. It is based on two factors which made it difficult for the sisters-in-law to part from Naomi. First of all, she had been like a mother to them. Secondly, if she left them, they would be like trees that have shed their leaves. Each of them would return to her mothers home lonesome and dejected with little appetite for food. They would feel like birds wandering to and fro, seeking tidbits. Even if their father were to provide them with sustenance, it would be the bread of affliction. Instead of being treated like princesses in their husbands homes, they would be overcome with misery. They would feel as if they were relying on someone elses charity even if they were in their own homes. The neighbors would no doubt reproach them by saying: This is your reward for leaving your own people to marry Hebrews. You deserve no better than this.


Naomi had all this in mind, and she wisely knew exactly how to arrange her words to put the girls at ease.


Regarding the first factor she says: True, I treated you like my very own daughters, but surely the mothers who bore you will treat you many times better than I. For this reason she stresses mothers house instead of fathers house, as only a real mother can take her place.


As to the second reason for their reluctance to return, Naomi adds: There is no purpose in feeling like beggars. God does not withhold the reward of any creature (cf. Talmud Pesachim 118a). I am certain that God will deal kindly with you and ensure that you will not have to rely solely on your mothers for survival.


A Reward for Her Kindnesses


As you dealt with the dead and with me. The Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 2:13) relates that Ruth and Orpah prepared the burial shrouds of their husbands and relinquished their claims to the entitlements that were due to them upon their husbands deaths in favor of their mother-in-law a most pious and charitable act. Thus, they had dealt kindly with the dead.


On account of this, said Naomi, God will surely deal equally kindly with you. He alone will reward you and care for you; you will not need to be blessed by me. However, I request of God that He grant you a gift that is greater than the reward you have earned: you should find peace and tranquility, each woman in her husbands home. As the Midrash says (Ruth Rabbah 2:15), A woman can find happiness only in her husbands home.


All in all, Naomi wished two things for them. Firstly, she wished that they find happiness by remarrying rather than having to remain in their mothers houses. Secondly, since no pleasure or tranquility is complete unless it can be shared with the companion of ones youth, as our Sages say (Talmud Sanhedrin 22b), A woman only concludes a covenant with one who transforms her from a shapeless lump into a useful vessel.


Naomi asked of God that they be granted a privilege not often enjoyed by other women. She asked that they be happy and content in the homes of their second husbands, even though these men would not transform them into vessels.


In order that they should not suffer humiliation when separating from her, she kissed them as if she were bidding them farewell. Later, when they told her they wished to convert, she did not kiss them, as it might appear that she was rejecting them by kissing them goodbye. Instead, she pushed them away lightly as if with her left hand while bringing them closer to her with her right hand. In fact, we see later that it was Orpah who took leave of Naomi by kissing her (verse 14). Nowhere is it recorded that Naomi kissed Orpah.


There is another further way to understand these verses. First it is necessary to quote from the writings of our Sages.


In the Merit of Na omi


Naomi was known to be a great and righteous woman. Her name, hngb is derived from the word ogb, which means pleasing, for her actions pleased everyone (Ruth Rabbah 2:5). She told Ruth: You need not fear suffering embarrassment by lying at the feet of Boaz, as my merit will accompany you. Thus we read, Then go down to the threshing floor (3:3). The keri is irdv ,srhu. However, the kethib has h,srhu in the first person, as if to say: my merit will go with you (Ruth Rabbah 5:12). Naomi must have known that her merit was great; otherwise, she would never have made such a promise.


Naomi was blessed with Divine intuition. The Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 2:15) relates that she knew that a certain good dove was due to emerge from Moab in the merit of Lots daughter, whose intentions were entirely for Heavens sake, and that consequently, the Royal House of David would be descended from her. Moreover, we learn that even as Lots daughter lay with her father, the eventual outcome of her deed was revealed to her. R. Tanchuma said in the name of R. Shmuel: It is written: That we may preserve seed from our father (Genesis 19:32). It does not say, preserve a child but, preserve seed. This is a reference to the seed that will come from elsewhere and that is the Messiah (Midrash Genesis Rabbah 51:8). Thus, we see that not only was she aware of the fact that David and Solomon would issue from her, but she knew that from this union the Kingdom of David and ultimately the Messiah would result. Hence, when Naomi spoke to Ruth and Orpah she bore these facts in mind.


Which Dove Was Blessed?


Naomi said: May God grant you. In the Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 2:15), R. Yose says on this verse: All the benefits and the consolations that God would offer to Solomon as it is written, And God gave wisdom to Solomon will derive from you.


Naomi was aware that a dove was to emerge from Moab and that the Royal House of Solomon would be descended from that dove. The problem is, she gave both her daughters-in-law a blessing even though she knew that only one was destined to benefit from it.


Naomis words contain a great deal more than is obvious at first. Our Sages[2] have revealed that her words, May God deal kindly with you, refer to conversion. Thus, they maintain that the Hebrew (v)agh has a silent v to signify that a proselyte undergoes many tribulations and much suffering.


They further revealed to us (Ruth Rabbah 2:15) that the words God will grant you refer to the Kingdom of David. She blessed them by promising benefits to King Solomon, as we said earlier.


Now we can explain the verse in more detail.


Go, return. The meaning is as follows: Go to your homes. However, if you wish to convert and come with me, then return. To convey the concept of conversion she adds the term mothers house instead of fathers house, as according to law a Moabite cannot enter the Jewish fold, and conversion would apply only to the female members of Moab.[3]


However, continued Naomi, that hardly suffices, for as converts, you will find it difficult to lead a Jewish life in a Moabite household that is based on ideas contrary to your beliefs. She spoke to both of them, blessing them that they be repaid for the kindness they did in providing shrouds for their husbands burials at their own expense. In addition, they gave up their entitlements in order to help her: May you be repaid for the kindness you did for me.


Ruth Is Singled Out for a Blessing


Note that the Hebrew word o,hag you dealt, is in the masculine form. Naomi was indicating that what they did was essentially a mans task. Thus, they understood that she was referring to their having provided burial shrouds for their husbands.


At this stage, Orpah also intended to convert. Only later did she change her mind. The letter v in the word vagh is silent, signifying that at first both sisters-in-law were willing to convert, but in the outcome only one of them did.


In verse 9, Naomi continued to address them: Until now I have blessed you both equally. However, I wish to give another blessing an even greater one that will be directed at only one of you: May God grant that you find... May only one of you find peace... The word itmnu is lacking a v, signifying that the blessing was directed at only one of the daughters-in-law (cf. Ruth Rabbah 2:15, where the Midrash interprets the word in a different way). It is interesting to note that while in verse 8 the v in vagh is kethib but not keri, here, the v is absent altogether. In the previous verse the blessing was addressed to both sisters-in-law, but only one of them took advantage of it by converting. This blessing, on the other hand, was directed at only one of them to begin with; hence, the v is omitted altogether.


Found in Sodom


The blessing itself promises the contentment associated with royalty. This is called vthmn, literally, a valuable find. A word originating from the same root tmn appears in the passage dealing with Lots daughter.


The Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 41:4) on the verse, I have found my servant David (Psalms 89:21), remarks: Where did God find him? In Sodom, for it is written, and your two daughters who are to be found... (Genesisl9:15). We learn from here that God found David in Lots daughters, so to speak. David was descended from one of them. Thus, the words vjubn itmnu and you shall find contentment, refer to David, who, as we said, will be found, for it was predestined that David was to be descended from a Moabitess.


The Significance of vjubn


What is the significance of the word vjubn? It is an allusion to the concept of levirate marriage. Naomi indicated that one of the sisters-in-law would marry a relative of her dead husband, thus perpetuating his name. One of them would convert and become the wife of a nobleman in Judah. From their progeny would emerge a man who would succeed in establishing a royal kingdom either through his grandson or great grandson. But how could a common proselyte who had her origins in impurity qualify to become the mother of such a man, even if she were extremely righteous?


Ruth, however, was different. Her deceased husband Machlon left her a spark of his holy Jewish soul. This spirit remained pulsating within her until her union with a redeemer. Then, his spirit entered her and joined with the spirit of Machlon. Together they united with her spirit, and this threesome imbued the child with a holiness that rendered him eligible for to become the progenitor of kings. All this was necessary so that offshoots would emerge from the stock of Jesse in the form of David and Solomon.


This spirit, which had been pulsating restlessly inside her, would settle down only when she married a redeemer from whom the future King of Israel would issue. We can now appreciate how appropriate Naomis words were: And you shall find contentment. David would come into the world as a direct consequence of the state of contentment enjoyed by Machlons spirit when Ruth married Boaz.


Now we can understand why the masculine plural ofk (to) you, is employed here even though, as we explained earlier, Naomi was addressing only one of the sisters-in-law. Ruth was counted as two people since she carried the identity of her husband Machlon, too. This accounts for the masculine grammatical form, because the collective term for a man and a woman is generally the masculine form ofk the man being considered the more important of the two.


Whats in a Kiss?


She kissed them and they cried loudly. Naomi was wise as well as righteous, and she had good reason for kissing them. The Zohar (Volume 2, 254a) explains that kissing mouth to mouth is not merely a physical show of love. It enables the souls of the two people to become attached to one another.


Naomi knew that one of her daughters-in-law would have the privilege of being the source of the splendor of Israel. Though they both stood by silently while she was talking to them, she knew that one of them contained the spirit of her husband, which would form the basis for a holy progeny. By kissing them she hoped to arouse this spirit so that it could unite with her own (spirit), and in this way their conversion to Judaism would come into effect. This being accomplished, one of her daughters-in-law would become eligible to mother the holy seed that would result in the Royal Family of David. The other daughter-in-law, who in the event was Orpah, was in no way affected by the kiss, since the pure and the impure cannot combine into one unit.


The sisters-in-law realized that Naomi was about to take leave of them and they wept loudly. The kiss, as we said, was purely physical for Orpah. As for Ruth, since she was the destined one, her spirit found a common link with Naomis and was aroused, together with the spirit of Machlon contained within her.


Later (verse 14), we see that Orpah kissed her mother-in-law again. Still, their spirits could not unite as there was no spiritual attraction between them, just as straw has little in common with wheat. Ruth, on the other hand, had chosen to remain in Naomis company, as she felt that their two spirits had been linked together as one. Hence, it is written Ruth clung to her (verse 14).



(10) And they said to her: For we will return with you to your people.

(11) But Naomi said, Turn back, my daughters, why should you go with me? Do I have more sons in my womb who can become husbands for you?

(12) Turn back, my daughters, go on your way, for I am too old to have a husband even if I had hope that I could marry a man tonight and I could bear sons.

(13) Would you wait until they grew up? Would you shut yourselves off and refuse to marry a man? No, my daughters, it grieves me much for your sakes, but the hand of God has gone out against me.


First we will concentrate on verse 10.

(i)The word hf, for, does not seem appropriate in the context.

(ii)Furthermore, what are the sisters-in-law adding? They knew that Naomi was aware of their intentions to accompany her to Judah.

(iii) ln verse 11 we find that for the first time Naomi addresses them as my daughters. Why only now and not earlier?

(iv) Naomi asked, Why should you. go with me? What kind of question is this? She knew they wanted to convert to Judaism.

(v) Naomis rhetoric in verses 12 and 13 seems confusing. What purpose was there in asking all these questions if she knew it was not possible? Is it conceivable that they should have the slightest intention of waiting until she married again so that they could marry sons who would only be born in her old age?

(vi) Naomi repeated her argument thrice over: Do I have more sons.. .I am too old to have a husband... even if I had hope that I could marry...

All this is really a repetition of the same idea, and it was practically impossible at her age in any case.

(vii) Why did she interrupt herself by adding, in verse 12: Turn back, my daughters. She could have simply said, Do I have more sons.. .1 am too old to have a husband.

(viii) In verse 13 she used two expressions which convey similar ideas: Will you wait.. .will you shut yourselves off? Why did she choose these particular words: vbdg, vbrca, ?

(ix) Besides that, her words would have made more sense had she arranged them as follows: Will you wait for them? Will you shut yourselves off for them until they have grown up? Note that I have inserted the latter clause after the second question rather than after the first. What did Naomi intend by saying it the way she did?

(x) What did Naomi mean by saying, It grieves me much for your sakes? Is she attempting to supply a reason as to why they should not want to marry? If so, couldnt she have simply said, for you will grow old?

(xi)The final words in verse 13 are equally perplexing, for it seems that Naomi was complaining against God. The Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 2:17) suggests that she was sorry about their having married her sons in the first place. This is difficult to understand. Here she was trying to console them, but these words could only have served to cause them distress.


Was Naomi Mistaken?


In order to fully understand these verses, we must discover the true intentions of Ruth and Orpah. They were informing Naomi that she was mistaken about their resolve: Your request that we should leave you and return indicates that you have misunderstood us when we asked to accompany you to Judah. You assumed that we wished to go with you to your hometown but not to convert and live as Jews. In fact, our words to return with you to the Land of Judah were not simply a wish to follow you to wherever you should go, but a sincere desire to become a part of your people and their faith.


Hence they declared.. .No! For we will return with you to your people not just to your land. Now we can see how appropriate the word hf (for) is here. Previously, it had been assumed that they wished only to return to the Land of Judah (verse 7). Now they made it clear that they wished to return to the people of Israel and not just to Judah.


Following this, Naomi felt a motherly love for them and called them my daughters, a title she had never previously accorded them. Still, we should take note that the word h,bc my daughters, lacks a vav after the nun. This is to signify that she meant to address only one of them as a daughter.


Naomi was still unsure of their exact intentions. She said: You have told me that you wish to return with me to my people, for you wish to convert. However, since you have stressed to your people and not to your land, I presume that you wish to accompany me to Judah, and only there will you join my faith with the help of my people. Or, you may wish to become Jewish without going to the Land of the Jews, as you will return home once you have converted.


If your intention is indeed to accompany me to Judah and become proselytes there, then: Return to my God, my daughters, and convert with the aid of my people. But why should you want to accompany me? Do you benefit from being in my company? Are you attempting to emulate Tamar, who, wishing to retain her association with the House of Jacob, gave birth to Jacobs child (Genesis, Chapter 38)? But how can you achieve this by remaining with your mother-in-law? Even if you had been married to your husbands according to Jewish law, it is of no use, for I have no children in my womb. Ironically, since your marriages to my sons were not valid, you are eligible to marry any future sons I might bear after the deaths of Machlon and Kilyon, for according to the law, a woman is forbidden to marry her late husbands brother who was not his contemporary if their marriage was legal. Since you are Moabitesses, you are not excluded from marrying my future sons. All this, however, is purely hypothetical, for even if I do bear more sons, who says that they will agree to marry you?


Orpah Is Persuaded to Return


This explains the Hebrew ohabtk ofk uhvu, who can become husbands for you. Though Naomi didnt expect them to wait and see if she would bear more children, as it would hardly be natural for her to do so at her age, she still added this clause in an attempt to dissuade them from converting and to note their reactions to her questions. They might well have answered that the only reason they wished to remain with her was to learn from her righteous ways. On the other hand, if they were not sincere, they would not have accepted her arguments and might have used them as an excuse to return to Moab.


It is here that we notice a significant difference between Ruth and Orpah. Naomis ploy worked and Orpahs reaction indicated that these arguments were sufficient to remove any vestige of shame she might have felt over leaving Naomi to return home. Hence we read that she kissed her mother-in-law and returned to her people and her god.


Ruth, on the other hand, ignored Naomis remarks and indicated that she had no intention of marrying one of her sons again. She had resolved to remain with her and begged her to refrain from forcing her to return to Moab.


Naomi continued by saying: If your intention in telling me that you will return with me to my people is to become a member of my faith with my help, but that then you wish to return to your land and home, then I say: Return to God with my help and then go to your land, for there you will be able to serve God, too.


Dont Wait for Me!


Naomi spoke gently to them so it would not appear as if she were pushing them away forcefully, for she knew that once they returned home, they would revert to their old habits and serve idols with the rest of their families.


Naomi said: When I asked, Do I have more sons? it provided sufficient excuse for you to change your minds and go back home, especially since there is no future for me. I am too old to get married again and am unable to bear any more children. Even if I do have any chance of bearing a child and get married tonight so that I can give birth as soon as possible -and bear two sons, one for each of you, it is highly unlikely that you will marry them. How can you be expected to wait until they grow up? You will both be too old to get married by the time they come of age.


Perhaps you think that you are obligated to bide your time and refrain from marrying, because of your relationship with my sons. No, my daughters, there is no reason for you to remain single for their sakes. Even if you had converted to Judaism while you were still married, the law states that the widow of a man whose younger brother was not his contemporary is not only excluded from the obligation of levirate marriage (Talmud Yebamoth 17b), but she is forbidden to marry him. No, the Torah does not require you to wait until I bear sons, for, whatever the case, you wont marry them. If you had already been converted then, you would have been prohibited from marrying them, as I have said. Therefore, I would never permit such a marriage to take place, even if it means that you will remain single for a long time to come.


We can now understand the Midrash which explains the words, it grieves me..., to mean that Naomi was sorry that they had ever married her sons. She meant to say that she was distressed over the trouble caused to them through her sons: If, on the other hand, you had not converted, your marriages to my sons were never legally binding, and you would be permitted to marry any of my future sons according to the law. Still I say, No, my daughters, for I am deeply grieved that I did not prevent them from marrying you. Even though the marriages were invalid, I feel that the hand of God has gone out against me and I should have been condemned to death. I am fortunate to have survived thus far, but at any moment the hand of God will strike me down. How can I contemplate sanctioning a union which will have come about as a direct consequence of your relationship to my sons? It would give the impression that I had not repented of my sin. One further transgression, however light, would be sufficient reason to destroy me.


The Hand of God and Its Five Fingers


The Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 2:18) explains: The hand of God has gone out against me, my sons and my husband. This seems to contradict the simple meaning of the text which has only against me. How did the Sages know that she is referring to her sons and husband, too? Furthermore, although they quote the last phrase in the verse, the hand of God, they do not explain its meaning at all!


Apparently, they had difficulty in explaining the word vtmh, has gone out, since in the context a more suitable phrase would have been hc vtc (come unto me), or hc vgdb (affected me). Furthermore, what does the hand of God signify?


In the opinion of the Sages, the hand of God had already gone forth against her. Later (verse 21) she says, I went out full. The Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 3:7) comments: This teaches us that she left Judah pregnant and the resultant child died, too.


We must also take note of the Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 5:14) which comments on the words, And Israel saw the great hand (Exodus 14:31) as follows: In what way were they [the Egyptians] smitten by the finger [of God]? With the ten plagues, as it is written: Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, This is the finger of God (Exodus 8:15). Concerning the miracles wrought by the sea it says, the great hand. Since there are five fingers on each hand and each finger denotes ten plagues, it follows that by the sea, where they were smitten by a whole hand, there were fifty plagues.


From this Midrash it is clear that the hand of God signifies five different plagues or afflictions, corresponding to the five fingers of a hand. Here, too, when Naomi said that the hand of God has gone out against me, she was alluding to five individual misfortunes that had befallen her. The Sages concluded that these concerned herself, her children and her husband.


Later (verse 20) Naomi testified: For the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. She had become very depressed and forlorn; this was the last of the five misfortunes to strike her. Previously, she had suffered on four separate occasions. She had lost three sons one by one Machlon, Kilyon and the son she carried while leaving Judah. In addition, she had become a widow. All told, this amounts to the five fingers which make up the hand of God.


Hence, the verse reads as follows: The hand of God has gone out against me. Since I have suffered as a result of these four misfortunes, the hand of God has now completed its work.


Naomis Spiritual Link with Ruth


From the context it appears as if Naomi addressed both daughters-in-law. Samuel the prophet, with his Divine inspiration, hints that Naomi was endowed with a Divine intuition. In verse 8 the word vbfk, go, is written in full, while later, in verse 12, ifk is lacking the letter heh at the end of the word. Furthermore, as we pointed out earlier, the words vbca and h,bc in verse 12 are both missing the letter vav. These discrepancies can be explained as follows.


When Naomi kissed them in order that their spirits should unite with hers, she noticed a significant difference between the two sisters-in-law. While the kiss brought Ruth spiritually closer to her, it had no effect whatsoever on Orpah. Thus, the word h,bc (my daughters) is lacking a vav, indicating that Naomi was addressing only one of the sisters-in-law.


The word vbca (return), is likewise missing a vav, indicating that only one of them would return with Naomi to her people. It transpired that her command was directed solely at Ruth.


Similarly when Naomi said ifk, go, the final letter heh was missing, as here the reference was to Orpah, the one who would return to Moab.


To sum up, the words h,bc vbca, return, my daughters, are directed only at Ruth (despite the plural form), whom Naomi considered as dear to her as a daughter. She then turned to Orpah and said, ifk, go back! Note that she does not add h,bc (my daughters) when addressing Orpah.


Both words vbca and ifk are in the plural, as Naomi wanted them to believe that she was addressing both of them at once. She didnt want to hurt Orpahs feelings by making it obvious that she intended that only Ruth accompany her.





Verse 13, in the Hebrew, contains a pesik |.


[1] See Yevamos 61b-62a and the Yerushalmi Yevamos 2:6 in accordance with the opinion of R. shimon ben Lakish.

[2] See Midrash Lekach Tov on this verse: May God deal kindly with you. This teaches us that a proselyte does not find happiness in this world. Similarly our Sages ask (Talmud Yebamoth 48b): Why do the proselytes suffer? Because they waited before converting so that their former iniquities would be cancelled out. Therefore the kethib is vagh and the ken is agh.

[3] See Talmud Yebamoth 69a. Although a Moabite can convert to Judaism if he so wishes, he cannot marry into the Jewish people, as can a Moabitess.