Shavuot, Megilat Ruth & The 10 Sefirot Part Nine
Transcribed by Daniel Goldman from a lecture recorded on 4 May 1999: The next morning, he goes to a Beit Din, a Jewish court, and makes sure that everyone understands that this is the way it must be. (“I must be the one to marry Ruth. Miracle or not, I want it done within the law.”) This is Gevurah. The power that Boaz and Ruth had that night. That power of self-control is Gevurah, strength. Positive Chesed is to give out, negative Chesed is to give in. Positive Gevurah is to control one’s self, negative Gevurah is to control nothing.
Boaz and Ruth controlled themselves in the most powerful and difficult way. That is something a king has to have. Because while a king has absolute power – he can confiscate your field, your money, draft you into the army – the only way it can work is if the king has self-control. Otherwise the power will crush the people. We know this from David’s grandson, Rechavam. When the people ask for a break, he responds, “I’ll give you a break, but I’m going to teach you who’s boss!” A real king has to have Gevurah so that the king’s power is never seen as an assertion of himself, but only as an expression of his kingdom.
For example, when David was cursed by Shim’i ben Gerah, Shim’i thinks, “It’s over for me!” (The penalty for cursing the king is death. In addition, the king takes your wife, children, and property.) However, David responds, “No, no…don’t worry, I love you….you’re my friend,” and he doesn’t do anything to Shim’i. But he makes sure that he gets killed – only after it is established that Shim’i’s problem is not with David as an individual, but with the monarchy as an institution. So King Solomon says to the older Shim’i, “I won’t kill you either, but just never leave Jerusalem. If you leave Jerusalem, you will die.” Right away, Shim’i leaves Jerusalem, and he was killed. Shim’i’s problem wasn’t with David being king; it was with every king. That’s Gevurah.
Where is Tiferet, balance, in the story of Ruth? Ruth could have married any one of those young men in the field. Why does she want to marry the elderly Boaz? Because she wants to restore the estates of her deceased husband. She wants to restore balance. A king, too, needs balance. A king needs to act forcefully. A king sometimes needs to act in a way that people will see as a negative. But is it really? With a fuller picture, people will see how it all fits together.
Netzach – Ruth understood that whatever was happening to her, she was not in charge. God was. At the beginning of chapter two, when Ruth went out to look for a field (there are a million examples of each one, but I’m trying to give you ones that you are familiar with), it says that “she happened upon the field of Boaz.” By chance. The opposite is, on purpose. This refers to Netzach – eternity. Everything is predetermined to a certain extent from the beginning.
So you see how each one of these midot have been restored by Ruth. We have to understand what Ruth is doing to take advantage of the holiday of Shavuot. On Shavuot, the Jews stood at Mount Sinai having completed the 49 sefirot, as hopefully we will complete as well. On each day of counting Sefirah, we work on one sefirah. On Shavuot we have the same opportunity to break hold of the yetzer hara, and to make it external to us once again. So much so, we are prepared to eventually receive the second tablets, which are light.
The second tablets were put into the Ark behind the broken pieces of the first. God didn’t throw them out. That light of the first tablets is now broken and fragmented. It is jumbled up and hidden. Pieces of that light are hidden all over the Torah. Some of it is hidden in story, and understanding as it really is brings out the light. Some of the light is in the introduction of a law, in the words to present the law, or actually veiled, covering over the truth of the law. This is why the Zohar refers to the words of the Bible as clothing. The words are hiding the fragments of the hidden light of the world that once was, which we call the future world. This is a world of total spirituality, a world in which we experience the Oneness of God as it really is.
So by understanding Ruth and her mission by reading the text carefully, and by understanding the steps that she took, we will be uncovering more of the light of the Torah. In developing those skills, we will prepare ourselves for Shavuot to accept the Torah. And by accepting the Torah, we are accepting it with all of the light, beauty, and truth hidden within.