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The Weekly Torah Portion:
Rabbi Davis gives his commentary and insight
|Bamidbar - Ruth 5761 Summary
The This week we begin reading the book of Bamidbar. The sedra of Bamidbar gives an account of the census taken of the Israelites; their arrangements for the order of travelling as they prepare to leave Mount Sinai for the Land of Israel and a listing of the duties of the Levites.
With the close proximity of Shavuot to this Shabbat, I would like to devote this week's Points to Ponder to the book of Ruth, which we read on the second day. I will first set out a summary of the story, then dwell on a few of the salient points.
The story of Ruth takes place in the time-period of the Judges, between the time of the arrival of the Israelites into the Land of Israel in the days of Joshua, and the period of the Kings, about 3000 years ago.
There was a famine in the Land, and a certain family left Bet Lechem (Bethlehem) for the fields of Moab. Their names were Elimelech, Naomi, with their two sons, Machlon and Kilyon. After a short time, Elimelech died, and the two sons married Moabite ladies. Ten years later, Machlon and Kilyon also died, leaving their mother with two Moabite daughters-in-law.
At this point, Naomi decided to return to Bet Lechem. It was clear that she wanted to return alone, and while Orpah, Kilyon's widow agreed to stay behind, Ruth, Machlon's wife insisted on going with. She knew that she would be going to an alien society and religion, but she was determined to stand by her mother-in-law. At this point she made her famous declaration of intent to convert to Judaism.
On their arrival in Bet Lechem, Ruth went to the fields to glean with the poor. According to Jewish Law, the farmer had to leave a corner of the field unharvested, so that the poor could help themselves. He also had to leave behind any gleanings which were dropped, or any sheaves which had been forgotten and left behind.
Ruth worked hard, and was noticed by the owner of the field, a man named Boaz, who happened to be Elimelech's cousin. He was very impressed by Ruth's generosity to her mother-in-law and ordered his workers to see that she was able to glean a substantial amount of grain.
Naomi was very encouraged. It had been hard for her to return, given that her family had basically deserted the people in times of trouble. She had suffered the loss of her husband and sons and had the indignity of returning penniless, together with the embarrassment of a Moabite daughter-in-law. But with Boaz' kindness to Ruth, she summoned the courage to suggest to Ruth that she should ask Boaz to marry her, using the law of the Levirite marriage. Boaz, being a close relative could marry Ruth, redeem the family's property, which had been sold due to poverty, and rear a child in the name of the deceased Machlon.
Boaz was very moved by Ruth's self sacrifice. He agreed, but said that there was a closer relative who had more of an obligation - and first refusal. But in a ceremony at the gates of the city, the relative - who is not named in the Megillah, refused, as he did not want to sully his family by marrying the Moabite lady - even though she had converted. So Boaz married Ruth. They had a son Oved who had a son Jesse, whose son was King David.
Points to Ponder
Many reasons are given as to why we read the book of Ruth on Shavuot. Here are a few of them:
Shabbat Shalom & Hag S'meach!