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Thoughts on Ruth Part Eleven

Transcribed by Daniel Goldman from a shiur delivered on 27 April 1999: “God should do with you chesed as you did with those who have died, and me.” (1:7)


What was the chesed that they did with Machlon and Kilyon?  They’re dead!  But if you look at the words, it reads, Ya’as Chesed.  But the words are written, Ya’aseh Chesed, with a heh at the end.  What is the difference between ya’as and ya’asehYa’aseh is future tense and ya’as is present tense.  In other words, God will do chesed for you now and in the future. Why?  Because now they are going along with Naomi.  But the process of cutting themselves off from Moab is not yet complete.  Naomi is still trying to convince them to break away from her.  And both these actions are a chesed to Machlon and Kilyon.  This is important to keep in mind.  They are righting a sin done by their late husbands.

“God should give to you and you should find peace in the house of her husband.” (1:8)

In other words, each of you should remarry.

“And she kissed them, and they raised their voices and they cried.”

What is going on here?  She makes this speech and they don’t answer.  She grabs them, she kisses them but its only when she kissed them that they raise their voices and cry.   But it’s not just crying.  They lift their voices and cry out.  What does this mean?  What kind of crying is it?  It’s not just sadness.  If it were, the verse would have read, they cried.

It’s important when you’re learning Nach to picture the story in your mind so that you feel it.  It’s especially so here, where every word is detailing for us what it is that a king has to be and how a king has to develop.  So picture the scene:  You have a woman.  She’s destitute.  Broken.  Her husband is dead.  Her children are dead.  She left Israel a wealthy woman, lived in Moab as a stranger, and now has nothing.  Imagine what she is thinking about returning to Israel.  I presume she is not looking forward to it with great anticipation.  She knows she is going to be dependent on other people.  Yes, her husband owned property, but all that’s been sold.  She’ll have to accept charity.  She is alone in the world, and has no reason to expect Ruth and Orpah to come along.  And yet, Ruth and Orpah do come along because of their late husbands and for her.

Here is a woman who knows she is going back to humiliation.  She is all alone and the only two women who are sticking by her, her only support, are two gentile women.  What’s going to be?  She’ll go back to Israel, and people will ask, “Who are those? Your maids?”  “No,” she’ll reply, “they are my daughters-in-law.”  On the one had she wants Ruth and Orpah to come along.  She needs their emotional support.  But then, she wants them to be happy.  How difficult it is for them.  They will want to run to their mothers.  They too, are in tough situation.  Even at this early stage, you can see the sweetness of Naomi.

Everyone here is in a horrible situation.  Ruth and Orpah also have mixed feelings to break off completely from their parents’ house to go to live in Israel as strangers.  And what kind of strangers?  Broke!  Who’s going to care for them?  Their mother-in-law?  They are going to be an embarrassment to her.  So Naomi says to them, “leave me, cut off from me.” What does this mean?  Is she saying I don’t want anything to do with you?  Or is she saying that  you must cut off from me for your own sake?

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