Thoughts on Ruth Part Two
Transcribed by Daniel Goldman from a lecture recorded 19 April 1999: We have to understand some ideas that are fundamental to the book of Ruth. Ruth comes from Moab. A Moabite man who converts can never marry a Jewish woman. That is, a Jewish woman from birth. He can marry a Mamzeret, or a convert, etc. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a grandson of a Moabite convert, a great-grandson, or 20 generations later. The reason is as the verse says, “That when you were travelling in the desert, they didn’t run to greet you with bread and water, and say, ‘Cousins! Cousins! Here, let us give you something eat and drink.” In other words, they are lacking in Chesed. Moab is a descendent of Lot, being both the son and grandson of Lot. Lot ran away from Abraham, the paradigm of Chesed to go and live in Sodom, the home of anti-Abrahamitic philosophy. On the other hand, Ruth is a descendent of Lot, and yet is a mistress of Ba’alat Chesed. One may say even higher than that of Abraham.
It’s interesting that the Jews of this story are notoriously lacking in the Midah of Chesed. The first husband of Naomi is a man by the name of Elimelech. We will see that he runs away from Israel during a famine because he is tired of giving Tzedaka. Ruth ultimately marries Boaz, who is also known in Tanach as Ivtzan.
Ivtzan had 30 sons and 30 daughters. They all died. This was because he had a neighbor by the name of Manoach. His wife was named Tzelafonot. They were childless. Whenever one of Ivtzan’s 60 children would marry, he would never invite Manoach and his wife because he figured that they would never be able to reciprocate.
Another interesting issue is how Moab came into being in the first place. With the destruction of Sodom, Lot’s daughters got Lot very drunk and they had him supply the seed that was necessary to provide them with a child. They had thought that the entire world had been destroyed, and they tried to start a new generation through their father.
Boaz is a descendant from Judah. Judah fathered children through Tamar, thinking she was a prostitute. Boaz consistently refers to Ruth as “my daughter.” Though it is a very paternalistic relationship, he marries her in the end. So we have some very strange relationships in the development of the family that will eventually produce King David.