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MAY 16-18, 2002 6-7 SIVAN 5762

Pop Quiz: Who wrote Megillat Rut?


We have a beautiful custom of reading Megillat Ruth on Shabuot. One reason is that Shabuot is the yahrtzeit of King David, and the story of Ruth tells the events leading to the conversion of Ruth, his great-grandmother. We know that many times, there is a deeper reason for any custom. This is no exception.

The Megillah relates how Ruth returned to the land of Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and by returning to Israel and not going back to her family in the land of Moab, demonstrated her sincerity to convert to Judaism. As was the custom in those days, it was now up to one of her late husband's relatives to marry her and continue the family line. Boaz was a first cousin to Ruth's late husband, but there was an uncle who was first in line to perform the misvah. Boaz agrees to marry Ruth if the uncle declines.

The next day, Boaz convened the Sanhedrin and made the offer to the uncle. There was an opportunity to redeem (purchase) the field of Ruth's late husband, which the uncle was very interested in doing. However, as soon as he heard that he must also marry Ruth, he backs out of the deal. He passes the option to Boaz, who marries Ruth, leading to the birth of David whose scion, the Mashiah, will lead us out of this long exile. Why was the uncle so reluctant to marry Ruth?

Rabbi M. Kimelman explains that there was a very great reason. Ruth was a descendant of Eglon, the King of Moab. The Torah (Debarim 23:14) prohibits a Moabite convert from marrying into the congregation of Israel. Were the uncle to marry Ruth, he would be transgressing an explicit prohibition of the Torah, and would be in spiritual ruin. He therefore declined. However, there was a question whether the prohibition applied only to male converts, or also to females. This point was contested on the day that Boaz made his offer to the uncle. First, Boaz presented the matter to the Sanhedrin so that the matter would be clearly decided. The Sanhedrin ruled that Ruth was permitted, and that the prohibition only applied to male converts from Moab. Despite this, the uncle refused to marry Ruth, and it was up to Boaz to marry her.

If we study the books of Tanach, we will find that there remained a doubt despite the ruling of the Sanhedrin. Even in the days of King David himself, there was talk that perhaps the marriage of Ruth and Boaz was wrong. Can we really blame the uncle for not wanting to take a chance? He was afraid that perhaps the Sanhedrin was wrong. What's wrong with being extra religious and not taking any chances?

Now we can understand why we read Megillat Ruth on Shabuot, and why Boaz is such a hero. The Torah is made up of two parts: the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. Both were given at Mt. Sinai. The Oral Torah is the explanation of the Written Torah as handed down orally by Moshe Rabenu, and safeguarded by the great Rabbis of each generation. The name Boaz is made up of the words Bo-Az - "in him, there is strength." Once the Rabbis of the Sanhedrin ruled that Ruth was permitted, as far as Boaz was concerned, there was nothing more to discuss. They are the repository of the Torah, and Boaz showed great courage to rely on them. In fact, some say that part of Boaz's reason for marrying Ruth was to demonstrate that once the hachamim had ruled, the matter was unequivocally decided.

The Written Torah was given to us over thirty-three centuries ago on Shabuot. Boaz demonstrated that the Oral Torah is a crucial part of the Torah, and makes the Written Torah complete. The only way to show this is the way Boaz did it - with absolute faith in the hachamim. This led to the birth of King David, and will ultimately bring the Mashiah. Happy holiday. Rabbi Reuven Semah

One of the unique differences about Shabuot is the fact that we eat dairy in one or more of the meals. Among the reasons given is the fact that Torah is compared to milk and honey which is both sweet and beneficial.

There is another resemblance of Torah to milk. Just as a baby nurses from his mother and gets the best nourishment possible, so too is the Torah the best influence in our lives. When a baby nurses a little, there is only a little milk produced, but if he tries to drink a lot from his mother, the supply will increase accordingly. So too, when a person learns a little Torah, there will be a little connection between him and the Torah, but the more he learns, the more the flow of Torah will increase and he in turn will want to have more, which will continue to produce even more.

On this holiday of Shabuot, let us realize that Torah is our sustenance, just like a little baby, and let us learn a little more each day, thereby increasing the "supply" from Hashem. Tizku Leshanim Rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Answer to pop quiz: The prophet, Shemuel.

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