Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Little Drash on Ruth

First QuestionWhy was there a famine in the opening of the story of Ruth?
"He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD," Deuteronomy 8:3
And what proceeds out of the mouth of G-d?  The Word (i.e. the Memra, the Torah, etc)

Interesting that when the famine ended, Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem which literally means "House of Bread".  But the drash here, the deeper meaning, is that the real "Bread" is Yeshua, the Davidic Messiah.  And this bread is the Word of G-d.  And so it is also interesting that a Targum of Ruth says:  
"4 Just then, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Memra of the Lord be your sustenance.” And they said [to him], “The Lord bless you,'" (Ruth 2:4).
Second QuestionWhat Initiated Ruth into the Covenant of Israel?
  • The answer from Rabbinic Judaism:  formal procedures and/or through marriage.
  • My answer:  Ruth was initiated by faith into Israel regardless of human marriage.

She had the choice to "return" (Hebrew:  shoov) to Moabite gods, or "return" along with Naomi to Israel.  If we look at the deeper meaning of "return", the Bible associates it with covenant.  Ruth had the faith to choose covenant with the G-d of Israel.

But was Ruth's choice recognized by HaShem?
"May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge,'" Ruth 2:12
She had already come under the "wing" of HaShem; later she comes under the "wing" of Boaz:
""Who are you?" he asked. "I am your servant Ruth," she said. "Spread the corner of your garment (Heb: "wing") over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family."" (Ruth 3:9).
Both verses use the Hebrew word "kanaph" (wing).  And this word is loaded with meaning:
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp [yahaziqu] the garment [kanaph] of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you,'" Zechariah 8:23
Just as Ruth's grasping the "wing" of Boaz was a metaphor for her grasping the "wing" of HaShem, so also is Ruth's "cleaving" (note: davaq is also a covenantal term--there are so many in Ruth!) to Naomi a metaphor for cleaving to HaShem:
"...but Ruth clave [davqa] unto her," (Ruth 1:14)
"6 Therefore, be very strong [vehazaqtem] to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left,so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. But you are to cling [debaqu] to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day," Joshua 23:6-8  
If Ruth had not been converted, she never would've done the things she did.  She wouldn't have cleaved to Naomi, showing chesed (over-abounding love and kindness).  She wouldn't have "turned" from the Moabite gods and her family there and "returned" to Israel along with Naomi.  She wouldn't have invoked death upon herself if she should ever violate this covenant (see Ruth 1:16-17, also note the formulary similarity with Ittai's oath in 2 Sam 15:19-22).

Ruth's conversion was by faith.  

And it was this faith (not anything else!) that motivated all her future actions and earned her the merit to be an ancestor of Messiah Yeshua.


  1. Very interesting. I decided for my Shavuot project I would read the Book of Ruth in Hebrew and look up the words I didn't know. So, I am going to work on an article based upon what I learned. Rabbi David Fohrman of Aleph-Beta also has an excellent 10 minute video midrash on Ruth where he compares her story to the story of Abraham, and both were pagan outsiders who entered into a relationship with the Holy One by emuna.

    There were a couple of highlights:

    Orpah cried and kissed, but Ruth clung (dabaq.) Dabaq also can mean, "to follow." Does this offer a symbolic representation of those who like Orpah, spend many years in proximity to the covenant and the ways of the Holy One, and certainly have an emotional attachment, but choose to go back when they are required to make a hard, faith-based choice? The name Ruth means, "companion," and the name Orpah means, "gazelle." So, I suppose Ruth was a companion/friend while Orpah ran like a gazelle?

  2. I'm interested now exactly what "Ruth" means. I thought the root was more related to "satiated" (ravah, as in Isa 55:10b; Ps 23:5b; Ps 36:8). But "companion" also makes a lot of sense.