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Thoughts on Ruth Part Seven

Transcribed by Daniel Goldman from a lecture recorded 19 April 1999: “And they married for themselves Moabite women. The name of one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth.  And they lived there for about ten years.” (1:4)


They became Moabites; princes, in fact.  Ruth and Orpah were princesses.  But who married whom?  Does it say?  What did we say about the two sons?  Did the verse say the names (plural) or name (singular)?  At this point it doesn’t matter. We will find out more about that later.  However, in this verse, Orpah is more prominent.  Who is her son? Goliath, and a lesser known enemy, Yishbi.  He ends up trying to kill David.  That was a child from a different husband.  From a dog, actually.  Yes, it is in the verse.

“And they lived there for about ten years.” Who lived there?

But look at this transition.  They were prominent Ephratim, and now Naomi’s sons are marrying non-Jews.  As King David says many years later when Saul is killed, “How the mighty have fallen…”  That’s one of the most beautiful verses in Tanach.

“And the two of them also died, Machlon and Kilyon, and the woman was left from her two sons and her husband.” (1:5)

Why does the verse say “also?”  Whenever you see this word in Tanach, the Torah is telling us that this event took place for the same reason.  Therefore, Machlon and Kilyon died for the same sin as Elimelech, their father.  They didn’t die because they married Moabite women.  Why does the verse repeat their names?  It could have said, “they both died.”  The answer is that they are both functioning as one unit.

This is an unbelievable story.  Two brothers – that one marries a Moabite woman, I can understand – but two of them both?  With the two of them marrying Moabite women, they become two.  Something in their marriage changed them from being one to being two.  It has to be Ruth or Orpah.

“…and the woman was left from her two sons and her husband.”

The verse doesn’t say that she remarried.  She was left. Alone.  But again, why does the verse have to tell us this?  It means that when she lost her two sons she re-experienced the death of her husband.  (See how the verse works?)  Why is it here that Samuel, the prophet who wrote the book of Ruth, needs to tell us that no one experiences the loss of a husband like a woman?  Why does the Gemara want to teach us here that when a woman loses children, it is to a degree like losing her husband?

Remember, we are speaking about the development of kingship.  A king must know to look at the bigger picture.  It wasn’t just that her children had died.  It  was as if her husband died all over again.  A king must have sensitivity.  Ruth understands all this.

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