On Shavuos we have the custom to read the Megillas Ruth. The Talmud [Bava Basra 14b] declares that its author was the prophet Samuel, Shmuel HaNavi, who anointed David the shepherd to become King of Israel. Why is the Megillah of Ruth read on Shavuos, what is the correlation between both? There are many explanations, some mention the fact that King David was deceased of that day. Thus, this would explain the custom to read the entire Tehilim, but not the Megillah. In fact, the Megillah main message is the reward of Ruth’s tremendous act of kindness. Kindness never goes unpaid. It also underlines the decision of Elimelech, the head of the Sanhedrin to expatriate himself to an enemy country. About the latter reason, the Verse states: “In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land”. However, this translation does not make justice to the true message, the literal translation is “it was, when Judges were judged there was a famine in the land.” The Zohar points out, since the Verse starts with the word “Vayehi”, which usually is a foreboder of bad news. As whenever people judge or bad mouth the Judges, famine and exile come to the world. Contrary to common knowledge, Elimelech acted then correctly, as a leader of the Sanhedrin, he took the exile upon himself. And in order that his descendants do not settle there, he purposely chose to settle in an unwelcoming place. Though, he was punished, he lost his fortune and his life almost immediately. The Talmud [Bava Basra 91a] reveals that his severe punishment was due to the fact he exited Eretz Yisrael. But what that story has to do with the Holiday of Shavuos? The Midrash Rabbah [Ruth 2:14] mentions that Rav Zaeira questioned the purpose of the reading of the Megillah as it does not even teach any Halacha? And even more so why is it part of the scriptures? A little background is necessary to appreciate the historical context of the Halacha issues they were then confronted to. Generally, the Torah authorizes gentiles to join the Nation of Israel through conversion. However, certain nations are explicitly excluded. The Torah states “No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of the Hashem; none of their descendants, even in the tenth generation, shall ever be admitted into the congregation of the Hashem.” Ruth was a Moabite princess, how was she then allowed to convert and marry into the family of Elimelech, the Leader of the Sanhedrin? Later, Ruth went on to marry Boaz who became the Head of the Sanhedrin after Elimelech’s death. Orpah was an Ammonite princess and she too converted. Isn’t the Torah forbidding converts from those nations? The answer lies in the very words of the Verse which specifically states “Moavi” and “Amoni”. In other words, the Pasuk is specific about the gender banned from converting, only men from these nations are excluded, but not the women. Therefore, Ruth and Orpah conversion and marriage presented no Halachic problem. This Halachic ruling was the source of many conflicts and tensions amongst the different fractions. Some argued the Pasuk’s language is informal, hence the ban includes the women too. The fundamental reason men were penalized was due to their ingratitude towards the Bnei Yisrael after the Egypt exodus. A nation that is impervious to generosity cannot join our nation. The women are too an intrinsic part of their nation and share the same values. Hence, the ban should apply to them for the same reason. This ruling has remained controversial for generations after. Boaz was accused to blatantly transgress a Torah commandment. They even translated his sudden death, days after his wedding, as a Divine punishment for his public desecrating of the Torah. Some, at David’s crowning were raising identical doubts about his “kosher lineage” as he was Ruth’s great grandson. Interestingly, it was King David’s detractors’ constant go to line even in the hall of study. Who were those people who acted with total disregard to the pain and shame they were inflicting to a fellow Jew? Is this the nation that a Moavi and Amoni are forbidden to join, as supposedly the Jewish nation’s cornerstone is generosity and compassion? On a larger scale the question is even more potent. Shmuel Hanavi was among the greatest prophets, as stated, “Moshe and Aaron among His priests, and Shmuel among those who call on His name,” (Psalms 99:6) and the Talmud [Brachos 31b] declares that Shmuel was equivalent to both, Moshe and Aaron, together. Hence, he was accepted by the entire nation, and was recognized as a pious and humble man that only acted upon Hashem mandate. Since, he raised no concern while writing the Megillah about anything being improper, was that not sufficient to validate the Halachic ruling that Ruth was indeed rightfully converted. On the order of Hashem, he went to anoint David, was that not enough to certify his lineage? How did some scholars allowed themselves to fall in the pitfall of hatred and jealousy? Obviously, their only motives were lowly and without any true concern about the Torah. On the other hand, Ruth who had the right to complain according to the Halacha, showed marvelous “Midos” and accepted her difficult fate without protest, but only with joy. She recognized the opportunity to do an exceptional act of Chessed with an “Almana.” Afterall, she was a young and beautiful princess that all princes were coveting, her future was secured. Though, despite her young age and her dreams she acted selflessly, and joyfully chose a life of poverty and potentially no husband to help a poor widow. Her incredible sacrifice and act of kindness added a new dimension to the Torah. As King Salomon states in Proverbs (31:26): “Her mouth is full of wisdom, Her tongue with Torah teachings of kindness.” She made the ultimate sacrifice and in return became the cornerstone of the Nation of Israel. Her reward was to become the eternal mother of Israel’s Kingship, and of the Mashiach. Why is this new dimension so important to be mentioned in Shavuos? The Zohar says that on Sinai we received the Written and Oral Torah, but the Torah of kindness we must conquer it ourselves. An act of kindness, Chessed, is not giving $1 or even $20 to a poor person, this is an obligation and does not raise to the level of Chessed. However, when one makes the difficult decision to accept a loss in order to help and does it joyfully, this characterizes as Chessed. The reach of Chessed is beyond human scope. As it is an ultimate recognition that Hashem rules the world and all our “belongings” are truly “His”. It is also the recognition of the omnipresence of Hashem, as it is not a coincidence that the needy crossed my path. One then can acknowledge Hashem’s commandment that it is his duty to take care of this situation. It is a herculean task to accomplish in this generation of self-empowerment and selfgratification. Children are taught from a young age to self-indulge and that life is a race to self-success. Obviously, the Yetzer Hara’s reply is: “one must be wealthy to afford to help”. No, nothing is more untrue, look at Ruth. This is the reason her Megillah became an intrinsic component of Shavuos. It emphasizes the paradox between the pitfall of jealousy and the Divine reward of kindness. All the above is hinted in the words “ תּ וֹ רת ח סד ” as its numerical value is “ א ח וה שלוֹם ו רעוּת ”. As “Brotherhood, Peace and Friendship” are the only path to access the Torah of Kindness. It is the will of Hashem that one should pursue that goal as it is also the Gematria of “ צ דק צ דק תּ רדוֹף ”, “Justice, Justice you shall pursue”. Indeed, Hashem’s justice is that one should elevate himself to become Godly by acting with kindness and goodness. It is the true purpose of this life as stated in Psalms (89:3) “As I declared, the world can only be built with kindness”. Namely, one’s future can only be built through acts of kindness. Its reward is also hinted in its numerical value: “ ל כ פר על כל עוֹנוֹ תינוּ ”, The complete absolution of all our sins. The reason being, that a sincere act of kindness, represents the genuine “korban”, instead of pursuing a futile life of self-gratification one is chasing higher motives, a life of self-sacrifice for the ultimate purpose to accomplish what Hashem loves above all. Finally, it is also the numerical value of “ ש פע ב רכוֹת ”, an abundance of blessings. Ruth almost immediately became very wealthy after marrying Boaz, the Gadol Hador, the greatest of the generation. Her children and grandchildren were so righteous and pious that they are counted among those who never sinned. They were all very wealthy too, as they followed their mother and grandmother path, which ultimately benefitted them in this world and the next. This Shavuos let us accept the Written and Oral Torah together with the Torah of Chessed and deserve to welcome Ruth’s descendant, the Mashiach!
By Rabbi Fridmann * email@example.com * 305.985.3461
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