Thoughts on Ruth Part Thirteen
Transcribed by Daniel Goldman from a shiur delivered on 27 April 1999: “And they said to her: But we, with you, will return to your nation.”
That is, when we go with you, we will be returning. But they were never there. This means, “When we will go with you, we will feel whatever you are feeling.” So what is their driving motivation? – Naomi. They are connected to her. You can’t blame them; she is an incredibly sweet woman.
“And Naomi said: Go back, my daughters…”
Isn’t it interesting! She hasn’t referred to them as “my daughters” before. But now that she is trying to convince them to finally go back, she calls them ‘daughters.’ Talk about mixed messages.
“Why would you go? Do you think that there are any children left in my womb who would be husbands for you?”
What are you talking about? She thinks that they are coming only so they could marry her not-yet-born children? Obviously, she has picked up somewhere that they have a tremendous commitment to their late husbands and they want to keep the names of their husbands alive. She also understands that when they say, “we will go back with you,” they are saying that they want to rebuild her family.
“Go back my daughters. Break off from me.”
Again, ‘my daughters.’ But here the order is different. Last time she said to break off from her and then return. There it was because they need to break off before they can return. Here, she is telling them to go back, and then to cut themselves off from her. The order has changed for some reason.
“I am too old to be with a man. Even if I said I have hop, even if I would be with a man tonight, and even if I would have children from him, would you wait for them? Until they grow up? Would you remain agunot? No, my daughters! Don’t! Because my lot is bitterer than yours, for the hand of God has gone out against me.”
Ahh! A typical Jewish mother! (“You think you’ve got it bad? Mine’s worse!”) What’s happening here? She goes on and on, and for some reason,
“And they lifted up their voices, and they cried more, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, and Ruth attached herself to her.”
The Gemara says, Orpah kissed Naomi? It is clear from here that she became an idol-worshipper. That night, she slept with 100 men and a dog. We don’t take that literally, except that Orpah goes on to have some children. Four of them. And all four turn out to be giants. One of them is Goliath, who goes out to kill David. Another child, Yishti Beno, also tries to kill David.
How long did Goliath intimidate the Jewish camp before David came to fight him? – 40 days. Why? – Because of the 40 tears that Orpah shed. Her tears were real. And listen to this. Naomi kissed them before, yet we don’t hear that Naomi became an idol-worshipper. But if Orpah kissed Naomi, then she must be an idol worshipper. What does the Gemara mean? What is the difference between the kiss of Orpah and that of Naomi?
We have to understand that Orpah wasn’t a terrible woman. She cared very much for Naomi. But inside she is torn. Remember that she cries first, and then she kisses. She cries because she is torn, and she kisses to say good-bye. This suggests that after being torn, she walked away from a relationship. That is what the Gemara means when it said that she slept with 100 men and a dog. Her sin of commitment was that if you’re so torn and you don’t know what to do, you cry and then walk away with a kiss. You know she still loves her. It means that she is incapable of forming a relationship. So she sleeps with one man, two men, three men. That’s what it means. She has no real relationships. To put it in terms of godliness, if you don’t have a real relationship, you are an idol-worshipper. It is self-delusion. You are not serving God. You are only protecting your own identity. Orpah is torn. She could have said, “OK, I’m gone. Goodbye!”
Question: But she does exactly what Naomi tells her to do.
RSW: Then why did she cry first? What did Naomi do when she wanted to say goodbye? She kissed them right away! You don’t cry without letting on what is happening.
RSW: I also think so, but the real pain comes after you say goodbye. If she is crying, the crying is from the pain of being torn. The kissing is making the decision to go. In other words, Naomi made her decision, and then she makes it clear what she wants to do. Orpah is so confused that she is ripped apart inside. Whatever her motivations, they are good because she receives tremendous reward later on. She gives birth to four giants, one of whom tries to destroy the Jews.
Question: I’m not sure I understand what you mean by ‘reward.’
RSW: I think ‘reward’ is the wrong word. No, it’s not merit. Do you remember what Naomi said to them? “God should do with you as you have…done with me.”
In other words, whatever you do creates a reality. So what she is saying is that you have created a powerful reality. If you think about Goliath, then you realize that he is exactly what Orpah is. Did we speak about this? Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (RAMCHaL) says that wherever we find an evil character in Tanach, if you look at the strategies of that person, you can infer the strategies of the Yetzer Hara. (For explanation, see lecture on the Viddui for the Yom Kippur Service)
You can see this with every evil personality in the Bible. In this case, all of that comes from Orpah, because she was torn or tormented. That’s the only reason why the Yetzer Hara has any power over us. We’re torn. We don’t have clarity. But look at what the verse says. It doesn’t say that Ruth ‘stayed.’ It says that Ruth “cleaved to her.” She attached herself to Naomi. Ruth had total clarity. She knew exactly what she wanted.
Therefore, the only one who can fight Goliath is David, because he had the clarity of mind to do it. Any time we fall to the Yetzer Hara, it is simply because of a lack of clarity. We are torn inside. Does it make sense that the Jews made the Golden Calf? They were tormented. They were devastated that Moses might be dead, and that’s why he wasn’t coming down from the mountain. They’re scared. But do they really think that God made all those miracles for them, and brought them out to the desert only to let them die there?
The minute you’re not sure, you’re out. The best thing for the Yetzer Hara to do is to say, “You know, you have your issues with God, and God needs you to be honest. It’s important that you be honest with God.” And then, all of a sudden, the torment begins. You begin to think, “It’s impossible to make such a commitment! How can I keep this relationship? How can I keep this mitzvah?”
Ruth has total commitment. And that is what David succeeded in having, as well.