Halacha for Tuesday 5 Sivan 5784 June 11 2024

The Shavuot Holiday

Based on the Teachings of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l
Compiled by his Grandson, Harav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a

There are those who read the Megillat Ruth on Shavuot. This Megillah serves as the written lineage of King David and was written by Shmuel Ha’Navi. Although this Megillah does not contain many laws, he wrote this Megillah for the generations through Ruach Ha’Kodesh primarily to warn about leaving the Land of Israel. There are those who enjoy traveling to London, Paris, and the like, not to learn Torah, but only for leisure. This is incorrect, for there are many stunning places to sightsee in Israel.

The Megillah states: “And it was in the days the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Yehuda went to live in the fields of Moab, he, and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Machlon and Chilyon; they arrived in the fields of Moab, and they remained there.” Our Sages taught in the Talmud that Elimelech, Machlon, and Chilyon were the leaders of the generation and the reason they were struck by the attribute of judgment and died was because they left the Land of Israel and went abroad.

The Midrash states that Elimelech was an extremely wealthy man who possessed many flocks of sheep and cattle. Because there was a famine in the Land of Israel, he was concerned that everyone would come to him for sustenance, and he would be left with nothing. He therefore decided to flee Israel with his wife and sons to settle in the fields of Moab. Once there, Hashem began by exacting punishment from his wealth by killing all his livestock, for Hashem strikes one’s wealth before one’s life. When they did not take notice and return to Israel, they all perished.

It is for this reason that the verse states, “And a man from Bethlehem in Judah went” and did not mention his name, for the attribute of mercy concealed his name. As soon as the attribute of judgment heard this, it prosecuted against him, and the verse therefore continues, “The name of the man was Elimelech,” and his name was recorded for all generations. Eventually, “Elimelech, husband of Naomi, died.”

Elimelech was the son of Nachshon ben Aminadav, price of the tribe of Yehuda. Elimelech had two brothers, Tov and Salmon. Boaz was the son of Salmon. Boaz and Naomi were also first cousins, as their fathers were sons of Nachshon. It is for this reason that Boaz exclaimed “I am redeeming kinsman,” for he was related to Naomi, mother-in-law of Ruth.

Naomi, daughter of Elimelech’s brother, married her uncle, Elimelech. She suffered tremendously in her life. She was well aware that her husband and sons were acting improperly by leaving Israel, but she could do nothing to stop them. She was therefore forced to relocate to Moab with them. The verse states: “Both of them died, Machlon and Chilyon, and the woman remained without her two children and her husband; she and her daughters-in-law arose and returned from the fields of Moab.” When the verse states that Naomi “arose” this means immediately following the Shiva for her last son, she arose and decided to return to the Land of Israel, for she realized that this was the sin that caused her husband and children to die.

When they left the fields of Moab, “Naomi told her two daughters-in-law (Ruth and Orpah), ‘Go, return, each woman to her mother’s house etc.’ And she kissed them, and they raised their voices and cried. They said, ‘No, for we shall return with you to your nation.’ And Naomi said, ‘Go, return, my daughters, for why should you come with me?’ And they raised their voices and cried more. Orpah then kissed her mother-in-law while Ruth clung to her. She said, ‘Behold, your sister-in-law has returned to her nation and her gods, go follow your sister-in-law!’ But Ruth replied, ‘Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you, for wherever you go I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d. Where you die, I will die, and there shall I be buried. Thus and more may Hashem do unto me if anything but death separates me from you!’” When Naomi saw Ruth’s conviction to convert to Judaism and move to Israel, the verse states, “When she saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased arguing with her.”

The Poskim disagree whether Machlon and Chilyon married Moabite women who had converted or whether they married them as gentiles. The Zohar Chadash states that it cannot be that Machlon and Chilyon, luminaries of the generation, married non-Jewish women. Rather, they converted Ruth and Orpah before they married them.

If that was truly the case though, why would Naomi try to distance and dissuade Ruth from coming back with her and only after proving her determination did she agree? This would be understandable if Ruth were a non-Jew, for the procedure is that when a non-Jew comes to convert, we do not accept him/her immediately. Rather, we try to dissuade them. Only after proving their commitment do we accept them. However, if Ruth and Orpah had already converted to Judaism, why would Naomi act the way she did? She should have accepted them immediately and encouraged them to come back with her to Israel!

The answer is that indeed, Ruth and Orpah did convert before their marriage to Machlon and Chilyon, however, their conversion was halachically flawed. The Gemara (Yevamot 46a) states that at the time of conversion, three valid rabbinic judges must be present. Their conversion happened in the fields of Moab where there were not three judges present at all. However, the Tosafot rule that if everyone sees the convert acting in line with the laws of the Torah, i.e., she immerses and then continues to behave like all Jewish women, there is no need for three judges to be present. Machlon and Chilyon adopted Tosafot’s view and relied on their wives’ conversion although three judges were not present.

Nevertheless, Halacha does not follow the opinion of the Tosafot, for the Rif and Rambam disagree with them and rule that a conversion held not in the presence of three judges is completely invalid. Naomi knew this was the true Halacha and with this knowledge, she treated Ruth and Orpah and gentiles and therefore decided to distance them. Only once Ruth proved her dedication did Naomi agree for her to accompany her back to Israel.

The verse states, “When she saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased arguing with her.” We must analyze this. At this point in time, Naomi was an elderly woman, and Ruth still young and vivacious. How could it be that Ruth was determined to stick to Naomi, when, in general, the elderly are determined to go at their own pace, not being able to keep up with the youngsters? Rather, we must say that after Ruth had whole-heartedly accepted the Torah, she became weak, for Torah weakens one’s strength (see Ta’anit 8a), and this ultimately slowed her down. In this way, Naomi understood that Ruth’s commitment to the Torah was truly iron-clad, and she agreed to go with her.

Ultimately, Ruth was one of the most unique women in the Jewish nation’s history, truly the “Mother of Royalty,” as she merited bearing the entire Davidic dynasty. Boaz exclaimed to her: “May Hashem pay your reward and may your reward be completely repaid by Hashem, G-d of Israel, for you have come to seek refuge under His wings.” The double mention of reward being repaid seems redundant. However, it seems that Boaz was pointing out that she was the daughter of Eglon, King of Moab, and she went to the field picking wheat like a pauper. She was willing to leave everything behind to live as a Jew and he blessed her that she merit double reward from Hashem for her commitment!

Boaz and Ruth bore Oved, Oved bore Yishai, and Yishai bore David. It is not for naught that Ruth merited raising this great kingdom and eventually saw King Solomon sitting on his throne (Baba Batra 91b)!

Fortunate is one who always remains dedicated to Hashem and keeps the Torah constantly, day and night. May all our Torah study cause our prayers to be accepted by Hashem so that there be no decrees hovering over the Jewish nation. May Hashem protect all the Yeshiva and Kollel students who study Torah day and night, for they are the ones who hold up the world with their Torah study.

Chag Sameach!

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