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March 30, 1984 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-03-30

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The Book of Ruth

World Zionist Press Service
the most charming and sig-
nificant short stories in the
Bible is that of Ruth, the
Moabite. We read the Book
of Ruth at Shavuot, the
Feast of Weeks because the
festival celebrates the in-
gathering of the harvest
and the acceptance of the
Law at Sinai and the Reve-
lation of God. Ruth's story is
involved with both.
Ruth is bound up with the
incidents of the grain har-
vest in Israel and with ac-
ceptance of the religion of
Israel and her recognition of
the God under whose wings
she came to trust.
We learn of the virtues of
this remarkable woman
from the Book of Ruth itself
as well as from the Aggada
and Midrash Zuta. The
story is simple, set in - the
days of the Judges.
Elimelech of Bethlehem in
Judah migrated with his
wife Naomi and two sons to
Moab because of a famine.
He died, as did the two sons,
both of whom had married
Moabite women, Orpah and
His widow, bereft of both
husband and sons, decides
to return to Bethlehem.
Both her daughters-in-law
love her and wish to return
with her, but she dissuades
them explaining that they
might be treated contemp-
tuously as foreigners.
Orpah remains behind but
Ruth clings to her mother-
in-law, even when told of
the strictures of Jewish law.
Naomi tells her gently
that there are places of
ribald amusement — cir-
cuses and theaters --, where
Jewish daughters do not go,
but Ruth, a daughter of the
King of Moab, replies sim-
ply: "Whither thou goest, I
will go." Naomi explains
further that Jewish daugh-
ters only dwell in houses
sanctified by "mezuzot,"
only to be met with: "Where
thou lodgest, I will lodge."
Ruth reassures her
further: "Thy people shall
be my people," implying
that she was willing to de-
stroy all the idolatry within
her, and finally: "Thy God
shall be my God," the ulti-
mate acceptance of Judaism
and all that it entailed.
So Ruth accompanied
Naomi, now a sad old lady,
back to Bethlehem. Her re-
spect and love for her
mother-in-law engendered
a reciprocal affection in
Naomi for this loyal and
gentle woman. Determined
that her virtue would be re-
warded, Naomi used all
kinds of strategems to
ensure that Ruth's beauty
and goodness came to the
notice of Boaz, a prosperous
farmer and her dead hus-
band's kinsman.
Indeed he did notice Ruth,
and was impressed by her
piety when he saw that she
did not glean the fields if
reapers accidentally let
more than two ears of barley
fall, since the gleanings
allotted to the poor referred
only to two ears inadver-

tently dropped at one time.
Also he admired her grace,
decorum and modest de-
Although Ruth scrupul-
ously followed Naomi's ad-
vice as to laying herself at
Boaz's feet while he slept on
the threshing floor, she did
not wash, anoint or finely
clothe herself until she ar-
rived at her destination "so
as not to attract the atten-
tion of the lustful" (Shab.
113b). The next day she was
taken in marriage by Boaz,
aged 80. Ruth herself was
40-years-old at the time and
barren, so it was against all
expectations that their
union would be blessed with
But the story of Ruth pre-
sents events in such a way
that what looks like a chain
of natural happenings re-
veal themselves in the end
as the outcome of a divine
plan. Ruth seems to choose
Boaz's field to glean in at
random, but this choice is a
decisive act for the birth of
David, illustrious king of Is-
Naomi also attributes the
success of her plan to God
"who did not withhold His
kindness from the living
and the dead."
The Book of Ruth reflects
the aristocratic manners
and behavior of the time,
abounding with expressions
of grace and the unselfish
love of Naomi and Ruth. All
the characters are courte-
ous and unassuming, show-
ing how a religious spirit
may pervade the conduct of
daily life. The story of Ruth
the Moabite also serves to
illustrate that the principle
of divine reward for good
deeds is not confined to one
people but valid for all
Naomi also received her
reward. When a son was
born to Ruth and Boaz, the
woman said, "Blessed be the
Lord who has not left you
this day without a kinsman.
May the boy's name be re-
nowned in Israel. He will
renew your life and nourish
your old age for he is the
child of your daughter-in-
law who loves you and is
better than seven sons to
Ruth's great-grandson
was King:David. Ruth the
Moabite is therefore part of
the dynasty which begot one
of the most illustrious fig-
ures in Jewish history.
The story of unselfish af-
fection between Ruth and
Naomi is very inspiring,
and Ruth — Judaism's most
famous and righteous con-
vert — will always be hon-
ored as the epitome of loy-
alty, modesty, decorum and
grace; a fitting woman to be
linked within a few genera-
tions with David, King of Is-





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(In Hamilton Place)

Falashas gift

Chicago (JTA) — The
American Association of
Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) re-
ceived a gift of $25,000 from
the Jewish Federation. of
Metropolitan Chicago re-
cently for its efforts in re-
scuing the Falashas.

Friday, March 30, 1984

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