The Book of Ruth – Chesed, Learning, Leadership
This past Shabbat, our Eilat seminar participants had the fantastic privelege of learning all of Megillat Ruth with our dear friend Rabbi Leonid Feldman.
We saw how both Boaz and Ruth’s ancestors were born of incest – beginning with Tamar and Yehuda and the daughters of Lot – but they themselves became leaders who changed the course of Jewish history, through their personal devotion to God and outstanding love and kindness – Chesed – towards others.
Boaz’s first strengthening, comforting words to everyone he greets are “God is with you!”
“וַיֹּאמֶר לַקּוֹצְרִים יְהוָה עִמָּכֶם!” (רות ב:ד)
He leads his People through the famine and immediately recognizes Ruth’s goodness – “You are blessed by Hashem, my daughter!” “בְּרוּכָ֨ה אַ֤תְּ לַֽיהֹוָה֙ בִּתִּ֔י” because this quality exists in him as well.
It takes one to know one!
Ruth’s kindness towards Naomi and earthshaking declaration of “Your People is my People, your God is my God” transforms both halacha – the permission for Jews to marry Moabite women and the spirit of conversion Law – and paves the way for the birth of King David and the future Mashiach.
And so each of us, no matter how humble or distant our backgrounds, have the power to grow, choose good, and lead!
This is how a group of young Russian-speaking Olim – some only a few months in Israel – were able to delve into Torah and the nuances of Jewish text together, in the best of our traditions.
Am Yisrael Hai!
And a final pearl which I learned recently from the book “Kedushat Ruth”, by Rabbi Gershon Kitsis:
On the pasuk “Orpha kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her”
“וַתִּשַּׁ֤ק עׇרְפָּה֙ לַחֲמוֹתָ֔הּ וְר֖וּת דָּ֥בְקָה בָּֽהּ׃” (רות א:יד)
Rabbi . Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev writes that the Hebrew “Davka ba” means also “Ruth clung to ה’ – to God.”
And the letters of Ruth’s name turned around plus the name of God – ‘ה – spell “תורה” – Torah!
To a joyful Shavuot of Chesed, Torah learning, and embracing community!