“Give to the wise one and he will become wiser; let the righteous one know and he will learn more.”
Ruth makes a cameo appearance in today’s Daf Yomi. Ruth was said to be exceptionally loyal to her mother-in-law Naomi after her husband died. Ruth converted to Judaism and is often characterized as a role model for someone who becomes Jewish as an adult. But after her husband and the husbands of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law died, they were left in dire straits. Her mother-in-law Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem and urged her two daughter-in-laws to return to their hometowns and remarry. Ruth famously responded to Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.”
Ruth moved Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, while her sister-in-law, Orpah returned to her family. Ruth supported the two women threshing wheat, which involved separating the wheat from the chaff. It was hard work and Naomi had a plan for a better life. Naomi encouraged Ruth to dress a little nicer one day on her way to work and she must have had the idea that she would attract the attention of Boaz, who was a family friend. We are told that Ruth was rather modest and brought her nicer clothes to work so that she could change into them later on, rather than walking on the path all dressed up. The Talmud says that she did this “so that people would not meet her on the way there and suspect her of immorality.”
And of course, Naomi was very shrewd and knew that Ruth would attract the attention of Boaz in her nicer garments. In today’s reading he inquires as to who this young woman is, although I suspect the encounter was prearranged by Naomi. We are told that it is not customary for Boaz to notice the women who harvested the wheat. He is said to have been impressed with how Ruth collected the stalks and watched her from behind as she gathered them. She is said to have gathered two stalks at a time rather than three, because three stalks gathered together are not considered appropriate offerings to the poor and remain in the possession of the landlord.
Boaz is not just attracted to Ruth’s modesty, but also to her “matter of wisdom and Torah” and we are told “that is why he asked about her.” I imagine that like the marriage of Yalta and Rabbi Nahman, the marriage of Ruth and Boaz was a “marriage of true minds.” Bound in the story of Ruth and her devotion to Naomi, and the modesty she displayed that impressed the Rabbis in today’s text, was the respect Boaz had for her knowledge and wisdom. What comes to mind is the marriage of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, which was a partnership between two learned and accomplished people. Leonard created a safe environment for Virginia so that she could create her brilliant novels and supported her throughout her devastating illness. I imagine that is the kind of marriage that Ruth and Boaz entered into – a marriage of true minds.