SECTION III

 

INTRODUCTION

 

In this series of documents I will be translating Megillat Ruth in four separate ways to produce a Pshat translation, a Remez translation, a Drash translation, and a Sod translation. I will be building these four translations by examining how Chazal translated the words in the oral and written Torah. For all four levels I will examine the Torah. For the Pshat I will draw from the text of Ruth, sefer Mordechai, the Mishna, Rashi, and Ibn Ezra. For the Remez I will draw from the Gemara, sefer Luqas, Meam Loez, and sefer Baal HaTurim. For the Drash I will draw from the Midrash, sefer Matityahu, Alshich, and the Malbim. Finally, for the Sod I will draw from the Zohar and sefer Yochanan. I will also, on occasion, use logical arguments (sevarah) to justify a particular translation.

 

I will be presenting the Hebrew, Greek, and english translations in order to see the traditional understanding of the text. I will then build the PaRDeS translation for the key words. Finally, I will retranslate the pasukim to bring out the PaRDeS translation. This is the goal of this work. To bring to the English speaking audience a glimpse of the richness of the text ans seen through the eyes of Chazal in the four levels of PaRDeS.

 

Ruth 1:19-22

 

Text:

 

וַתֵּלַכְנָה שְׁתֵּיהֶם עַד־בֹּאָנָה בֵּית לָחֶם וַיְהִי כְּבֹאָנָה בֵּית לֶחֶם וַתֵּהֹם כָּל־הָעִיר עֲלֵיהֶן וַתֹּאמַרְנָה הֲזֹאת נָעֳמִֽי׃

יט

וַתֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶן אַל־תִּקְרֶאנָה לִי נָעֳמִי קְרֶאןָ לִי מָרָא כִּי־הֵמַר שַׁדַּי לִי מְאֹֽד׃

כ

אֲנִי מְלֵאָה הָלַכְתִּי וְרֵיקָם הֱשִׁיבַנִי יְהוָה לָמָּה תִקְרֶאנָה לִי נָעֳמִי וַֽיהוָה עָנָה בִי וְשַׁדַּי הֵרַֽע לִֽי׃

כא

וַתָּשָׁב נָעֳמִי וְרוּת הַמֹּואֲבִיָּה כַלָּתָהּ עִמָּהּ הַשָּׁבָה מִשְּׂדֵי מֹואָב וְהֵמָּה בָּאוּ בֵּית לֶחֶם בִּתְחִלַּת קְצִיר שְׂעֹרִֽים׃

כב

 

Septuagint:

 

Ruth 1:19-22 19 The two of them went until they came to Beth Lehem. And it happened that when they came to Beth Lehem all the inhabitants of the city became excited over them and the women said, "Is this Naomi?"

20- But she said to them: "Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me the bitter of soul, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me indeed.

21- "I went away full, with my husband and sons, but the Lord has brought me back destitute of them. Why, then, should you call me Naomi, seeing that my guilt has been testified to before the Lord, and the Almighty has brought evil upon me?"

22- So Naomi returned, and with her was Ruth, the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the field of Moab. And they came to Beth Lehem on the eve of the Passover, and on that very day the Israelites began to harvest the Omer of the heave-offering which was of barley.

 

 

TANAKH

Translation

SEPTUAGINT

Translation

וַתֵּלַכְנָה

and they went on

ἐπορεύθησαν  δὲ

 Thus

שְׁתֵּיהֶם

two of them

ἀμφότεραι

both of them traversed

עַד

until

ἕως

until

בֹאָנָה

they came

τοῦ παραγενέσθαι αὐτὰς

they came to

בֵּית

house

εἰς  βαιθλεεμ

Bethleëm

לָחֶם

bread

 

 

וַיְהִי

and he was

 

and it came to pass

כְּבֹאָנָה

when they arrive

 

when they arrived

בֵּית

house

εἰς  βαιθλεεμ

in Bethleëm

לֶחֶם

bread

 

 

וַתֵּהֹם

and she was stirred

καὶ ἤχησεν

And buzzing

כָּל

all

πᾶσα

all

הָעִיר

the town

ἡ πόλις

The city

עֲלֵיהֶן

because of them

ἐπʼ αὐταῖς

about them

וַתֹּאמַרְנָה

and they exclaimed

καὶ εἶπον

and they said

הֲזֹאת

this

αὕτη ἐστὶν

Is this

נָעֳמִי

Naomi

νωεμιν

Noemin

וַתֹּאמֶר

and she told

καὶ εἶπεν

And she said

אֲלֵיהֶן

to them

πρὸς αὐτάς

to them

אַל

not

μὴ

Do not

תִּקְרֶאנָה

you call    תּקראנה

καλεῖτέ δὴ

call

לִי

to me

με

me

נָעֳמִי

Naomi

νωεμιν

Noemin

קְרֶאןָ

call

καλέσατέ

call

לִי

to me

με

me

מָרָא

bitter

πικράν

bitter

כִּי

because

ὅτι

for

הֵמַר

he made bitter

ἐπικράνθη

embittered

שַׁדַּי

Almighty

ἐν ἐμοὶ

the Mighty One

לִי

for me

ὁ ἱκανὸς

with me

מְאֹֽד

very

σφόδρα

greatly

אֲנִי

I

ἐγὼ

I

מְלֵאָה

full

πλήρης

full

הָלַכְתִּי

I walked away

ἐπορεύθην

went out

וְרֵיקָם

and empty

καὶ κενὴν

And empty

הֱשִׁיבַנִי

He brought me back

ἀπέστρεψέν με

has brought me back

יְהוָה

HaShem

ὁ κύριος

the LORD

לָמָּה

why

καὶ ἵνα τί

and why

תִקְרֶאנָה

you call

καλεῖτέ

do you call

לִי

to me

με

me

נָעֳמִי

Naomi

νωεμιν

Noemin

וַיהוָה

and HaShem

καὶ κύριος

And the LORD

עָנָה

He afflicted

ἐταπείνωσέν

has humbled

בִי

to me

με

me

וְשַׁדַּי

and Almighty

καὶ ὁ ἱκανὸς

and the Mighty One

הֵרַע

He brought evil

ἐκάκωσέν

has afflicted

לִי

to me

με

me

וַתָּשָׁב

and she returned

καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν

And she returned

נָעֳמִי

Naomi

νωεμιν

Noemin

וְרוּת

and Ruth

καὶ ρουθ

and Ruth

הַמּואֲבִיָּה

the Moabitess

ἡ μωαβῖτις

the Moabitess

כַלָּתָהּ

her daughter-in-law

ἡ νύμφη αὐτῆς

her daughter-in-law

עִמָּהּ

with her

 

 

הַשָּׁבָה

who she returned

ἐπιστρέφουσα

who returned

מִשְּׂדֵי

from the fields of

ἐξ ἀγροῦ

from the land of

מֹואָב

Moav

μωαβ

Moab

וְהֵמָּה

and they

αὐταὶ  δὲ

so they

בָּאוּ

arrived

παρεγενήθησαν εἰς

arrived

בֵּית

house

βαιθλεεμ

Bethleëm

לֶחֶם

bread

 

 

בִּתְחִלַּת

in the beginning of

ἐν ἀρχῇ

at the beginning

קְצִיר

harvest of

θερισμοῦ

harvest

שְׂעֹרִים

barley

κριθῶν

barley

 

Peshitta

 

1:19 So they went together until they came to Beth-lehem of Judah. And it came to pass, when they were come to Beth-lehem, the whole city rejoiced over them, and they said, Is this Naomi?

 

1:20 And she said to them, Do not call me Naomi, but call me Bitter of Soul; for the Almighty has dealt bit­terly with me.

 

1:21 For I went forth from here full, and HaShem has brought me back empty; why then call me Naomi, see­ing HaShem has humbled me, and has sorely afflicted me?

 

1:22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, for she was wholeheartedly willing to return with her, and they came from the land of Moab at the beginning of the barley harvest.

 

Stone’s Translation

 

1:19 and the two of them went on until they came to Beth-lehem. And it came to pass, when they arrived in Beth-lehem, the entire city was tumultuous over them, and the women said, “Could this be Naomi?”

 

1:20 She said to them “Do not call me Naomi [pleasant one], call me Mara [embittered one], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

 

1:21 I was full when I went away, but HaShem has brought me back empty. Why shall you call me Naomi; HASHEM has testified against me, the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me!”

 

1:22 And so Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, with her who returned from the fields of Moab. They came to Beth-lehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

 

KJV

 

1:19 So they two went until they came to Beth-lehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Beth-lehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, [Is] this Naomi?

 

1:20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.

 

1:21 I went out full, and HaShem hath brought me home again empty: why [then] call ye me Naomi, seeing HaShem hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?           

 

1:22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Beth-lehem in the beginning of barley harvest.        

 

Symbols and their Meaning

פשאת Pshat

simple meaning

רמס Remez

Hinted / allegorical meaning

דרש    Drush

Metaphoric Meaning

סוד Sod

Symbolic meaning

Bethlehem: “Bread House” or ‘House of War”

Bethlehem: The House of Torah.

Bethlehem: “Royal House”.

Bethlehem: The universal capital of the world.

Town[1]: City (05892 - feminine) – a place guarded by a watcher. (also see 5894 – a watcher) – root – ‘to wake up’

Town: Jerusalem

Town: Teacher (a watcher in study)

Town: divine faith

Naomi: My delight

Naomi: Ami – (my people)

Naomi: Pleasant and sweet [the Torah]

Naomi: Chava

Call: to draw down

Call:

Call:

Call:

Bitter: bitter

Bitter: rebellious

Bitter: awesome

Bitter: Talmud

Almighty: Despoiler, Vanquisher [of constellations]

Almighty: dayenu – enough (suffering)

Almighty: Guardian of the doors of Israel

Almighty:manipulate

Full: with wealth and sons

Full: pregnant

Full: with sons and daughters and pregnant.

Full: full with Torah and goodness

I walked away: I walked away

I walked away: I went off the path of life

I walked away: I left the way of the righteous

I walked away: I took the path to gehinnom

Empty: without wealth and sons

Empty: barren

Empty: without children and pregnancy.

Empty: empty of Torah and goodness

Brought me back

 

 

 

HaShem: The Name of Existence

HaShem: Loving-Kindness

HaShem: Mercy / ruthlessness

HaShem: Shekinah

Afflicted:

Afflicted:

Afflicted: Testified against me (in this world) / with the attribute of justice

Afflicted:

evil

 

 

 

Returned: turn back

Returned: Shabbat [sitting]

Returned: tikkun – key to redemption

Returned: Covering nakedness [in Eden]

Ruth: Friend or companion.

Ruth: To saturate or replenish.

Ruth: Considered well. (‘she saw’) [Israel]

Ruth: Turtle dove (faithful spouse)

Moabitess

 

 

 

Daughters-in-law: completion / perfect

Daughters-in-law:  bride

Daughters-in-law: shabbat

Daughters-in-law: Israel / Mashiach

Field: A working place for nourishment.

Field:  A place where Torah Scholars work.

Field: A city (Edom) / the world.

Field: A woman.

Moab: “by my father”.

Moab: The forty-ninth level of impurity.

Field of Moab: Beit din of Moav.

Moab: Place of Lions, of the Temple.

harvest

 

 

 

barley

 

 

 

 

 

Peshat Level:

 

Targum

 

1:19 The two of them went until they came to Beth Lehem. And it happened that when they came to Beth Lehem all the inhabitants of the city became excited over them and the women said, "Is this Naomi?"

 

1:20 But she said to them: "Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me the bitter of soul, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me indeed.

 

1:21 "I went away full, with my husband and sons, but the Lord has brought me back destitute of them. Why, then, should you call me Naomi, seeing that my guilt has been testified to before the Lord, and the Almighty has brought evil upon me?"

 

1:22 So Naomi returned, and with her was Ruth, the Moavitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the field of Moav. And they came to Beth Lehem on the eve of the Passover, and on that very day the Israelites began to harvest the Omer of the heave-offering which was of barley.

 

Rashi

 

1:19  So they both went  Rabbi Abahu said, “Come and see how beloved the proselytes are before the Holy One, blessed be He. As soon as she decided (li. Put her mind) to proselytize, the scripture equated her with Naomi (viz., “they both”).”

 

That the entire city was astir  The entire city was astir. All of them had gathered to bury the wife of Boaz, who had died that very day.

 

Is this Naomi  The v is vowelized (with a) Chataf (,tuv) since this (phrase) is in the interrogative – “Is this (the same) Naomi who was accustomed to go out with covered wagons and mules? Have you seen what has befallen her because she went abroad?”

 

1:21 Went away full  (I.e.,) with wealth and sons. Another interpretation (of “full” is) that she was pregnant (when she left).

 

Has testified against me  He testified against me that I had sinned before Him. Another interpretation (of hc vbg is); the Divine Attribute of justice has humbled me, as (in Hosea 5:5), “Therefore shall the pride of Israel be humbled.”

 

R.Ibn Ezra says that ‘Shaddai’ is derived from the same root as שדד - ‘Despoiler’, ‘Vanquisher’ – meanining that He triumphs over and vanquishes the Heavenly constellations that normally dictates man’s fate.

 

As the Kabbalistic Master, Rabbi Isaac Luria indicates, this Name has the power

to protect a person from all harm, including the harm that comes from one’s own

subconscious.

In this sense, the Name Shaddai can be read as an acrostic for “Shomer Daltot

Yisrael” which means “Guardian of Israel’s Doors”or “Shomer Darchei Yisrael”

meaning “Guardian of Israel’s Paths”

 

 

Gemarah Level:

 

Talmud Babli

 

Baba Bathra 91a Our Rabbis taught: It is not permitted to go forth from Palestine to a foreign country unless two se'ahs are sold for one sela’. R. Simeon said: [This is permitted only] when one cannot find [anything] to buy, but when one is able [to find something] to buy. even if a se'ah cost a sela’ one must not depart. And so said R. Simeon b. Yohai: Elimelech, Machlon and Chilion were [of the] great men of their generation, and they were [also] leaders of their generation. Why, then, were they punished? Because they left Palestine for a foreign country; for it is written , And all the city was astir concerning them, and the women said: ‘Is this Naomi?’ What [is meant by] ‘Is this Naomi?’ — R. Isaac said: They said, ‘Did you see what befell Naomi who left Palestine for a foreign country?’

 

R. Isaac further stated: On the very day, when Ruth the Moavitess came to Palestine, died the wife of Boaz. This is why people say, ‘Before a person dies, the master of his house is appointed’.

 

Yerushalami Ketuvoth 1:1  that the entire city was astir over them – Now is it possible that the entire city was astir over this humble one? But [they were astir, for] that day Boaz’s wife had died, and all had gone to pay their last respects at which time Ruth entered with Naomi, so that this one [Boaz’s wife] went out as the other [Ruth, who was to become his wife.] came in.

 

Pesachim 42b R. Nahman [b. Isaac] said: In former times, when they used to bring [wine] libations from Judah, the wine of Judah did not turn vinegar unless barley was put into it, and they used to call it simply vinegar. But now the wine of the Idumeans does not turn vinegar until barley is put into it, and it is called ‘Idumean vinegar’, in fulfillment of what is said, [Tyre hath said against Jerusalem...] I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste: if one is full [flourishing] the other is desolate, and if the other is full the first is desolate. R. Nahman b. Isaac quoted this: and the one people shall be stronger than the other people.

 

Sotah 14a, Mishna 11 All other meal-offerings consist of wheat, but this consists of barley. The meal-offering of the Omer, although consisting of barley, was in the form of groats; but this was in the form of coarse flour. Rabban Gamaliel says: as her actions were the actions of an animal, so her offering [consisted of] animal’s fodder.

 

Yerushalami Yevamoth 8:3 [What is the intent of: “Who returned”?] This was the first who returned [as a proselyte] from the fields of Moav.

 

Yevamoth 63a  R. Eleazar further stated: What is meant by the text, And in thee shall the families of the earth be blessed? The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Abraham, ‘I have two goodly shoots to engraft on you: Ruth the Moabitess and Naamah the Ammonitess’. All the families of the earth, even the other families who live on the earth are blessed only for Israel's sake. All the nations of the earth, even the ships that go from Gaul to Spain are blessed only for Israel's sake.

 

Yevamoth 77a Raba made the following exposition: What was meant by, Thou hast loosed my bonds! David said to the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘O Master of the world! Two bonds were fastened on me, and you loosed them: Ruth the Moabitess and Naamah the Ammonitess.

 

Baba Kama 38b When R. Samuel b. Judah lost a daughter the Rabbis said to ‘Ulla: ‘Let us go in and console him.’ But he answered them: ‘What have I to do with the consolation of the Babylonians, which is [almost tantamount to] blasphemy? For they say "What could have been done," which implies that were it possible to do anything they would have done it.’ He therefore went alone to the mourner and said to him: [Scripture says,] And the Lord spake unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle. Now [we may well ask], could it have entered the mind of Moses to wage war without [divine] sanction? [We must suppose] therefore that Moses of himself reasoned a fortiori as follows: If in the case of the Midianites who came only to assist the Moabites the Torah commanded ‘Vex the Midianites and smite them,’ in the case of the Moabites [themselves] should not the same injunction apply even more strongly? But the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: The idea you have in your mind is not the idea I have in My mind. Two doves have I to bring forth from them;1 Ruth the Moabitess and Naamah the Ammonitess. Now cannot we base on this an a fortiori argument as follows: If for the sake of two virtuous descendants the Holy One, blessed be He, showed pity to two great nations so that they were not destroyed, may we not be assured that if your honour's daughter had indeed been righteous and worthy to have goodly issue, she would have continued to live?

 

Sanhedrin 15b A WHOLE TRIBE MUST NOT BE JUDGED etc. What sin was committed by the tribe? Shall I say, that it is a case of a tribe that desecrated the Sabbath? But27 if the Divine Law made a distinction between individual sinners and a multitude, it was only in cases of idolatry; did it then differentiate in cases [of the transgression] of other commandments? — It must therefore refer to a tribe that was beguiled [into idolatry]. Is it to imply that it must be tried like a multitude? [If so,] this coincides with the opinion of neither R. Josiah nor R. Jonathan. For it has been taught: How many inhabitants must a town have that it may be proclaimed condemned? Not less than ten and not more than a hundred:28 this is the view of R. Josiah. R. Jonathan says: From a hundred to the majority of the tribe in question. And even R. Jonathan admits only the majority of a tribe, but not the whole of it.

 

Kethuboth 111b R. Hiyya b. Joseph said: A time will come when the just will break through [the soil] and rise up in Jerusalem, for it is said in Scripture, And they will blossom out of the city like grass of the earth, and by ‘city’ only Jerusalem can be meant for it is said in Scripture, For I will defend this city.

 

Eiruvin 19a For Resh Lakish stated: The fire of Gehenna has no power over the transgressors in Israel, as may be inferred a minori ad majus from the golden altar: If the golden altar [the layer] on which was only of the thickness of a denar lasted for many years and the fire had no power over it, how much more would that be the case with the transgressors in Israel who are as full of good deeds as a pomegranate [with seed], as it is said in Scripture: Thy temples are like a pomegranate, and R. Simeon b. Lakish remarked, ‘Read not, "Thy temples" but "Thy empty ones" [signifying] that even the worthless among you are as full of good deeds as a pomegranate [with seed]’.

 

Marah: Bamidbar 20:10  And Moses <04872> and Aaron <0175> gathered <06950> (8686) the congregation <06951> together before <06440> the rock <05553>, and he said <0559> (8799) unto them, Hear <08085> (8798) now, ye rebels <04784> Marah (8802); must we fetch <03318> (8686) you water <04325> out of this rock <05553>?

 

Chagiga 12a Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world, it was expanding farther and farther like two unwound clues of warp until the Holy One, blessed be He, rebuked it and caused it to stand. As it is stated: "The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof" (Iyyov 26:11). This is what Resh Lakish said: What is that which is written: "I am El Shaddai"? I said to the world, 'Enough.' Resh Lakish said: When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the sea, it was expanding farther and farther until the Holy One, blessed be He, rebuked it and made it dry. As it is stated: "He rebukes the sea, and makes it dry, and dries up all the rivers" (Nachum 1:4).

 

Midrash Level:

 

Midrash Rabbah

 

Midrash Rabbah Ruth III:5 AND WHEN SHE SAW THAT SHE WAS STEADFASTLY MINDED TO GO WITH HER (I, 18). R. Judah b. Simon commented: Come and see how precious in the eyes of the Omnipresent are converts. Once she decided to become converted, Scripture ranks her equally with Naomi.

 

Midrash Rabbah Ruth III:6 SO THEY TWO WENT (I, 19). R. Samuel b. Simon said: That day was the day of the reaping of the Omer, as we have learnt elsewhere4: All the towns near by assembled together that it might be reaped with great ceremony. Others say that on that day Ibzan married his daughter. R. Tanhuma in the name of R. ‘Azariah and R. Menahema in the name of R. Joshua b. Abin said: It is written, O Lord God of Hosts, who is a mighty one, like unto Thee, O Lord  (Psalm LXXXIX, 9), who brings things about in their due season. The wife of Boaz died on that day, and all Israel assembled to pay their respects, and just then Ruth entered with Naomi. Thus one was taken out when the other entered and ALL THE CITY WAS ASTIR CONCERNING THEM, AND THE WOMEN SAID: IS THIS NAOMI? (I, 19). Is this the one whose actions were fitting and pleasant (ne'imim)? In the past she used to go in a litter, and now she walks barefoot, and you say, IS THIS NAOMI? In the past she wore a cloak of fine wool, and now she is clothed in rags, and you say, IS THIS NAOMI? Before her countenance was ruddy from abundance of food and drink, and now it is sickly from hunger, and yet you say, IS THIS NAOMI?

 

Midrash Rabbah Ruth III:6  And she said to them, CALL ME NOT NAOMI, CALL ME MARAH. Bar Kappara said: Her case was like that of an ordinary ox which its owner puts up for sale in the marketplace, saying, ‘It is excellent for ploughing, and drives straight furrows.’ ‘But,’ say the bystanders, ‘if it is good for ploughing, what is the meaning of those weals on its back?  So said Naomi, WHY CALL YE ME NAOMI (PLEASANT), SEEING THE LORD HATH TESTIFIED AGAINST ME, AND THE ALMIGHTY HATH AFFLICTED ME (I, 21)

 

Midrash Rabbah Ruth III:7 All His concern was with me, for in this world THE LORD HATH AFFLICTED ME, but of the Messianic future it is written, Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good (Jeremiah XXXII, 41)           

 

Midrash Rabbah Ruth III:7 I WENT OUT FULL AND THE LORD HATH BROUGHT ME BACK EMPTY (ib.). I went out full with sons and daughters. Another interpretation of I WENT OUT FULL, is, I was pregnant. WHY CALL YE ME NAOMI, SEEING THE LORD HATH AFFLICTED (‘ANAH) ME, AND THE ALMIGHTY HATH DONE EVIL TO ME. God has afflicted me with His Attribute of Justice, as in the verse, If thou afflict  (‘aneh) him in any wise  (Exodus XXII, 22). Another interpretation of ’anah is ' testified ' against me, as in the verse, He hath testified  (‘anah) falsely against his brother (Deuteronomy XIX, 18). Another interpretation: All His concern was with me, for in this world THE LORD HATH AFFLICTED ME, but of the Messianic future it is written, Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good (Jeremiah XXXII, 41)

 

Midrash Rabbah Ruth IV:2 SO NAOMI RETURNED, AND RUTH THE MOAVITESS HER DAUGHTER-IN- LAW WITH HER, WHO RETURNED OUT OF THE FIELD OF MOAV (I, 22). [People pointed to her saying] ‘This is the one who returned from the field of Moav!’ AND THEY CAME TO BETHLEHEM IN THE BEGINNING OF THE BARLEY- HARVEST (ib.). R. Samuel b. Nahman said: Wherever the words barley-harvest occur in Scripture, they refer to the harvest of the Omer. Wherever the words wheat- harvest occur, it refers to the Two Loaves. If it states simply harvest it may be applied to both.

 

Midrash Rabbah Ruth V:1 Lentils are human food and barley fodder for animals. On the other hand, lentils are not used for bringing the ’Omer, whereas barley is. challah is not separated from lentils, but it is from barley.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Esther I:9 R Levi said: Wherever you find the word ' field '  (sadeh) in Scripture, it implies a city; wherever you find ' city '  (‘ir) it implies a metropolis; wherever you find metropolis  (medinah) it implies a province.’ Whence do we know that ' field ' implies ' city ‘? Because it says,  Get thee to Anathoth, unto thine own fields (I Kings II, 26). Whence do we know that ' city ' implies metropolis? Because it says,  Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem (Ezek. IX, 4).2 Whence do we know that metropolis implies a province? Becau se it says, A HUNDRED AND SEVEN AND TWENTY PROVINCES (MEDINAH).

 

Midrash Rabbah - Ecclesiastes X:16 THE LABOUR OF FOOLS WEARIETH EVERY ONE OF THEM (X, 15): i.e. a disciple who stands [without making progress] in his study. FOR HE KNOWETH NOT HOW TO GO TO THE CITY: should he not go to his teacher[2] who will restore his learning to him?

 

Midrash Rabbah - Ruth VII:5 AND SHE SAID: THESE SIX MEASURES OF BARLEY GAVE HE TO ME (III, 17). R. Alexander said: Wherever the children of Israel went, they did not depart there from empty-handed. From the spoil of Egypt they did not depart empty-handed, nor did they leave empty handed the spoil of Sihon and Og, nor did they depart empty-handed from the spoil of the thirty-one kings. The word rekam (empty-handed) occurs in connection with Egypt, as it is said, And it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty-handed-rekam (Ex. III, 21). And in connection with the Festival pilgrims, as it is said, And none shall appear before Me empty-handed-rekam (ib. XXIII, 15); and in connection with the righteous, as it is said, FOR HE SAID UNTO ME: GO NOT EMPTY-HANDED UNTO THY MOTHER-IN-LAW (III, 17). The word ’rekam‘ which occurs in connection with the righteous is to be compared not to that of Egypt, but to that of the Festival Pilgrims, as we have learnt: The re'iyyah-offering must be not less than two pieces of silver in value, and the Festival-offering not less than one ma'ah of silver.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Ruth III:7 I WENT OUT FULL AND THE LORD HATH BROUGHT ME BACK EMPTY (ib.). I went out full with sons and daughters. Another interpretation of I WENT OUT FULL, is, I was pregnant.

 

Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs IV:12 [With regard to] the mount of Moriah, R. Hiyya the Great and R. Jannai explained this name differently. One said it was so called because from it issued bitterness (marah) to [the rest of] the world; the other said, because from it issued religious awe (mora) to the rest of the world.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XLVI:3 R. Nathan said in R. Aha's name, and R. Berekiah said in R. Isaacs name: I AM EL SHADDAI (GOD ALMIGHTY): It is I who said to My world, ’day’ (enough)! And had I not said ’day!’ to My world, the heaven would still have been spreading and the earth would have gone on expanding to this very day. It was taught in the name of R. Eliezer b. Jacob: It is I whose Godhead outweighs the world and the fulness thereof. Akilas translated it: Sufficient and incomparable.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Ruth III:7 I WENT OUT FULL AND THE LORD HATH BROUGHT ME BACK EMPTY (ib.). I went out full with sons and daughters. Another interpretation of I WENT OUT FULL, is, I was pregnant. WHY CALL YE ME NAOMI, SEEING THE LORD HATH AFFLICTED (‘ANAH) ME, AND THE ALMIGHTY HATH DONE EVIL TO ME. God has afflicted me with His Attribute of Justice, as in the verse, If thou afflict  (‘aneh) him in any wise  (Ex. XXII, 22). Another interpretation of ’anah is 'testified' against me, as in the verse, He hath testified  (‘anah) falsely against his brother (Deut. XIX, 18). Another interpretation: All His concern3 was with me, for in this world THE LORD HATH AFFLICTED ME, but of the Messianic future it is written, Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good (Jer. XXXII, 41)

 

Midrash Rabbah - Leviticus XXIX:5 R. Berekiah in the name of R. Jeremiah opened his discourse with the text, The path of life goeth upward for the wise (Prov. XV, 24). The expression, ‘The path of life’ denotes none other than the Torah; as is prosed by the citation, She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her (ib. III, 18).  

 

Zohar Level:

 

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 224a ‘The term ne'arim (youths)’, he said, ‘has been expounded to mean empty, [Tr. note: The root, N'R has this meaning only in post-Biblical Hebrew.] that is, empty of any words of the Torah and of any observance of the precepts of the Torah: “little ones”,

 

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 224b to wit, of little faith, and such as were doomed in this world and in the world to come; “came forth out of the city” (Ibid.), that is, they abandoned the mystery of Divine Faith, the term “city” having the same implication here as in the passage, “and I will not enter the city” (Hos. XI, 9). [Tr. note: Al. the Divine Faith, which is called “city”, as in the passage, “in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God” (Ps. XLVIII, 9)].

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 163a Said R. Eleazar: ‘There are sinners who either neglect altogether the words of the Torah, or if they do cast an eye on them, think them mere foolishness. But in truth the foolishness is in their own minds, since all the words of the Torah are sublime and precious, and of every word it is written: “She is more precious than rubies; and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared with her” (Prov. III, 15). Woe to all these foolish and senseless people, when the Holy One, blessed be He, will demand an account from them for the insult done to the Torah and they will be punished for having rebelled against their Master. So Scripture says: “For it is no empty thing for you” (Deut. XXXII, 47), implying that if it is an empty thing, its emptiness is from you yourselves, seeing that all the things one can desire are not to be compared with her. How can they say that the Torah is an empty thing seeing that Solomon said: ‘ ‘ If thou art wise, thou art wise for thyself” (Prov. IX, 12), implying that whoever becomes wise in the Torah benefits himself thereby? Thus the Torah is filled with all riches and no one can add thereto even one letter.

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 27a But if he transgresses the law, they are watered from the bitterness of the tree of evil, which is the evil inclination, and all his limbs are full of bitterness; but when the members of the body are kept holy from the side of good, it may be said of them that “they came to Marah and were not able to drink waters from Marah, for they were bitter” (Ex. XV, 23). Similarly, the study of the Talmud is bitter compared with that of the esoteric wisdom, of which it is said, “And God showed him a tree” (Ibid.); this is a tree of life, and through it “the waters were sweetened”.

 

In the first verse of Genesis 17, G-d is referred to as El-Shaddai in Torah for the first time.  Although there are various understandings of El-Shaddai, according to Ramban, Shaddai is related to the word shoded (both having the shoresh shin-dalet-dalet), which means “manipulate”. Therefore El Shaddai alludes to G-d as one who manipulates the entire world. Manipulation related to shoded is not in the miraculous sense (such as splitting the sea) which involves a suspension of nature itself.  Instead shoded means a manipulation of the natural world through subduing of it, or a manipulating of the world within nature and not apart from it.

 

Midrash HaNe’elam of the Zohar to the book of Ruth "When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city buzzed with excitement over them. The women said, 'Can this be Naomi?"' (Ruth 1:19). For she left this place [the spiritual world] full of goodness, replete with Torah. A pillar of cloud was at her head by day, and a pillar of fire by night. And a candle shone in her presence. She was shown the Garden of Eden, the place of the good reward of the righteous; and she was shown Gehenna, the place of the punishment of the wicked, where they are judged for their sins, as Scripture states, "When his candle shone upon my head" (Job 29:3).29. At that moment, the Neshamah-Soul said, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara" (Ruth 1:20). "1 went away full" (v. 21) as you have said, "but the Eternal has brought me back empty" (ibid.). While I was in this place I was full of Torah, full of goodness. But now "the Eternal has brought me back empty" to that world.

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 59b R. Eleazar said: ‘The term “These are”, as we have learnt, always implies that something spoken of before in the text is now of no account. Now it is written above in the account of the Creation [Tr. note: Where also we find the expression ‘these are the generations, (Gen. II, 4).] that “A river went out from Eden to water the garden and from thence it was parted, etc.” (Gen. II, 10).

 

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 65b For when a man departs from this world, and goes to give an account to his Master of all his actions in this world while body and soul were still joined together, he sees many strange things on his way, and at length meets Adam, the first man, sitting at the gate of the Garden of Eden, ready to welcome with joy all those who have observed the commands of their Master. Round him are many righteous men, those who in this life have kept clear of the path to Gehinnom and followed the path to the Garden of Eden. It is these who are here called “inhabitants of the world’.

 

 

Other Commentaries:

 

Me’am Lo’ez

 

VERSE 1:19

 

1:19 The two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass as they came to Bethlehem that the whole city was astir over them. And they said, “Is this Naomi?”

 

Along the dangerous roads of Moab, where Orpah encountered a j~ hundred Philistines on her way home and may have been raped, “the two of them” walked alone. They did not even wait for a caravan.

 

For protection, they disguised themselves as men, hence the mascu­line ending of the word ovh,a instead of ivh,a And miraculously, they encountered no one until they reached Bethlehem.

 

They were now “the two of them”—equal in purpose and determina­tion. Although Ruth was moving farther and farther away from her birthplace and approaching a strange land where she knew people would look strangely at her, she walked with the same eagerness as Naomi, who was returning home.

 

Our sages infer from here how greatly God cherishes the proselyte. Once Ruth had resolved to convert, the scripture holds her to be equal to the righteous and noble Naomi.

 

Since Elimelech and Naomi and their two sons had been prominent citizens of Bethlehem, all the people approached to greet her. To their amazement, the same Naomi who had always gone out attended by a retinue of servants dressed in finery, was now returning home alone and in rags, her once radiant face sallow and haggard. It caused a great commotion, and the people kept saying to one another in wonder, “Could this be Naomi?”

 

The tragic figure of Naomi evoking the wonder of Bethlehem’s citi­zens is also symbolic of the fallen Jerusalem evoking the wonder of the nations. “Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty,” they ask, “the joy of the whole earth?” (Lamentations 2:15).

 

Bethlehem was astir “over them,” not merely over Naomi, for Ruth’s striking beauty, contrasting sharply with Naomi’s terrible appearance, intensified their amazement. Accordingly, vbrnt,u—the feminine form— conveys that the women drew closer to assure themselves that they had identified Naomi correctly. Perhaps not the broken old woman, but the beautiful young one beside her, was really Naomi.

 

“Is this Naomi?” The question may have been addressed to Ruth. Yet they did not ask “Is this your mother-in-law?” since they did not know Ruth, or else because they did not want to embarrass Naomi by reminding her that her son had married a Moabite.

 

By coming out to greet Naomi, the Bethlehemites fulfilled the obliga­tion of a society to share in the sorrow of the individual. At the same time, from Naomi’s present condition they drew the proper lesson for themselves and repented of their own misdeeds.

 

Said R. Yitzchak: Read not hngb ,tzv (“Is this Naomi?”) but hngb ,tzj (as in ,uzj, seeing)—i.e., “have you seen Naomi?” “Look at what hap­pened to Naomi for leaving the Holy Land!” they said to one another. But then they added: “If this is Naomi—the one whose deeds were pleas­ing to God and to men—if it be that same Naomi who is reduced to such straits, then surely God will deal kindly with her now. For His mercies are not exhausted (Lamentations 3:22).”

 

According to the Jerusalem Talmud, the people had gathered then for the funeral of the wife of Boaz, who died that day. This is hinted at by the word vay’ehi, “it came to pass,” which expresses woe (see verse 1). This explains how they all happened to be on hand when Ruth and Naomi arrived.

 

When the huge crowd following the bier saw these two unattended women coming, they approached them in greeting.

 

“One left, the other came,” comments the Talmud. As soon as Boaz lost his first wife, God brought him Ruth.

 

Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem is a portent that Esau will rule over Jacob until the Messiah comes from Bethlehem. For as the prophet says: “And you, Bethlehem, Ephrata, youngest to be among the thousands of Judah, out of you shall come forth for Me that is to be the ruler in Israel” (Mica 5:1).

 

read uag (Esau), and vbtuc is an anagram of vtucb (prophecy). This implies that the power of Esau will last until the Messianic prophecy comes true.

 

VERSE 1:20

 

1:20 She said to them, “Call me not Naomi (pleasant), call me Mara (bitter); for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

 

Although surrounded by the entire population of Bethlehem, Naomi modestly addressed herself only to the women; hence “to them” in the feminine form (ivhkt).

 

“Call me not Naomi, the pleasant one,” she said, “but Mara, the bitter one.” And to accent the great bitterness with which “the Almighty has dealt with me,” the word mara ends in an unexpected aleph (t) rather than the letter heh (v). Thus we find, similarly, “He left in a great wrath (tnj)” (Daniel 11:44) - tnj, for emphasis, instead of the expected vnj.

 

In this regard, the numerical values of the t (=1) and the v (=5) are significant. Of the five souls that left the land of Israel—Naomi, Eli­melech, Machlon and Kilyon, and an unborn child—only one returned.

 

That she had been pregnant at the time is conveyed by “I went out full (vtkn)” (v. 21), as in, “the bones [that grow] in a full (vtkn) womb” (Ecclesiastes 11:5).

 

Therefore Naomi called herself Mara, Aramaic for “hoe,” as if to say, ‘I have dug graves for my husband and children.”

 

God had dealt “bitterly” with her by striking down her husband; “very” bitterly by striking down her two sons.

 

Naomi is also alluding to the fact that at the same time this was happening in Moab, her daughter, brothers, and sisters had died of the pestilence in the land of Israel.

 

Naomi observed that the people were not so much sorrowing over her tragic situation as bemoaning her fall from good fortune and pre­vious situation in life. So she said: “So great is my suffering that you could well call me Mara even if I had not been Naomi, but one of the common people. As it is, however, falling from a great height made my suffering all the more bitter.”

 

Naomi was like that recalcitrant cow put up for sale in the marketplace, whose owner praised her diligence at plowing and making beauti­ful furrows.

 

“If so,” queried a prospective buyer, “why does she show all those tell-tale signs of having been beaten!”

 

Similarly, when Naomi, who had been famous for her good deeds, saw that the Bethlehemites around her were appalled to see a righteous woman in such straits, she said to them, “Call me not Naomi, she whose deeds are pleasing, but Mara, she whose deeds are bitter. Had I been truly righteous, God would not have dealt so bitterly with me.”

 

VERSE 1:21

 

1:21 “I went out full, and empty has the Lord returned me. Why should you call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

 

Since no human being ever feels he has enough material possessions, our sages deduce that she was actually saying: “When I left the land of Israel, I was pregnant (“full”) and had sons and daughters, health and wealth.”

 

Now the word vbg may connote affliction, and also mean an­swered.” Accordingly she was saying: “The Lord had then fulfilled all my wishes and the name Naomi fit me. But now that the Almighty has afflicted me and I have lost everything, why should you still call me Naomi?”

 

She was like that rich man who came on hard times, had to sell his house and all his possessions, and was left with only his horse and wagon. Then he was forced to sell these also, and from then on had to carry heavy loads on his back. An old acquaintance who remembered him from his days of wealth met him and asked, “Where is all the gold and silver you once had?”

 

“Gold and silver?” he replied. “Would that I had a horse and wagon!”

 

Similarly, Naomi said: “Why remind me of my glorious old days by calling me Naomi? Would that I had what even the lowliest human being has! But the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.”

 

She was now “empty” of family, health, and possessions, and the fact that she returned at all was only due to divine mercy. The attribute of mercy is denoted by the Tetragrammaton (‘n’~’TI”); hence “empty has the Lord (niir’) returned me.”

 

 The people of Bethlehem knew Naomi to be righteous, and they ascribed her misfortunes to vcvt ka ohruxh, suffering that God visits upon the righteous in order to increase their reward. She however objected: “Why do you call me Naomi, she whose deeds are pleasing, when God is afflicting me for my sins?

 

“God is just, and He has punished me measure for measure. Because I went out full—I left the land of Israel during the famine, although I had food—God has returned me empty. Therefore do not call me Naomi as if my actions were pleasing.”

 

Lest the people, however, object that it was her husband who sinned by fleeing from the responsibility of feeding the poor and hungry, Naomi added: “The Lord has testified against me.” She too was guilty for failing to protest.

 

The term vbg can mean warned, testified, or humbled. “The Lord  warned me to repent, but I paid no heed; whereupon He punished me, thereby testifying that I had sinned; and He humbled me.” Similarly the if prophet says, “The glory of Israel shall be humbled” (Hosea 5:5).      

 

Naomi’s punishment was inflicted not by the divine Attribute of Justice (Elohim), but by the Attribute of Mercy (“the Lord”) operating on behalf of the poor. For as the Torah states: “If he [a poor man] calls out toMe, I will hear, for I am merciful” (Exodus 22:26).

 

The punishment for afflicting the poor is harsh and long-lasting. Naomi asked that she no longer be called Naomi, being convinced that her bitter condition would endure.                

 

Although Naomi said, “the Almighty has afflicted me,” she realized that what she called affliction was only to “me,” that is, according to her human perception. But in truth, everything God does is good. Thus our sages teach: “In this world, for happy events we recite the blessing chynvu cuyv lurc “Exalted is He Who is good and does good,” and on sad occa­sions we recite, ,nt ihs lurc, “Blessed is the True judge.” In the future, however, we will recite only “Exalted is He Who is good and does good,”    for we will realize that our suffering was the source of our good fortune, as it is written: “I will rejoice over them to do good for them, and I will plant them in this land in truth with My whole heart and with My whole soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).

 

VERSE 1:22

 

1:22 Thus Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the Fields of Moab. They came [to] Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

 

The narrative of Naomi’s return, interrupted to record her accep­tance of God’s judgment, is now resumed. Scripture repeats that “Naomi returned.” For as we find in Genesis, when the narrative about Joseph is resumed, the scripture repeats that “Joseph was taken down to Egypt” (Genesis 39:1), making explicit the link between the earlier events affecting him and those that were to follow.

 

Our sages teach that she “returned” in more ways than one. She “returned” to God; she repented. It is stressed once more that she came “to Bethlehem,” the very place she had left to escape the poor and hungry. She willingly accepted the pain of facing her old acquaintances for the sake of living in the Holy Land, thus atoning for having left the land.

 

She also returned to her good deeds. The poor had called her Naomi (the pleasant) because she collected money for them and dispensed comfort with a pleasant word. No one had taken her place while she was gone, and now she resumed her work of charity assisted by Ruth, who cleaved to her in order to learn the ways of righteousness.

 

On account of Ruth, who stayed “with her” and brought her hap­piness, Naomi began to rise out of the depths of misery she had reached in Moab, and to return to her former self. Therefore she continues to be called Naomi, even though she had asked to be called Mara (the bitter).

 

Evidently Naomi also returned to her original level of righteousness, since she merited to bring back from Moab the mother of royalty.

 

Although Ruth was now fully a Jewess, she is still called “the Moabite,” reflecting the fact that her Moabite origin enabled her to guide Naomi safely out of Moab.

 

The scripture provides the extra emphasis that “Ruth . . . returned from the Fields of Moab,” calling attention to Ruth’s greatness. She had separated herself from the stinginess and depravity of Moab to cleave to the Jewish people, even though it meant leaving the life of a royal prin­cess to glean in the fields. Hence the import of “they came . . . at the beg inning of the barley harvest.”

 

When God directed Abraham to the land of Israel, He said lk lk literally, “Go to yourself,” for Abraham’s soul was rooted in the holiness of that land. Ruth’s soul likewise stemmed from the holiness of the land of Israel, but had been diverted into the impurity of Moab. Now it returned to its source.

 

So strong was the pull to return to her source, that Ruth came to the Holy Land even though her Moabite origin virtually precluded the possibility of marrying there.

 

Our sages comment: “It was she who returned from the Fields of Moab.” God was waiting for two “pearls” to come from Moab and Ammon, and for their sake He forbade Israel to war with those nations. It now became apparent that Ruth was the long-awaited pearl from Moab.

 

She was also the first to “return from the Fields of Moab,” in that she was the first Moabite to convert. And through her the forgotten law of “a Moabite, not a Moabitess” was clarified.

 

Previously it says (v. 19), “until they came [to] Bethlehem”; that is, Naomi and Ruth had then arrived at the outskirts of the city. Now they  “came to Bethlehem.” They entered the city proper.

 

They arrived “at the beginning of the barley harvest,” that is, when the first-yield measure (omer, rng) of barley is brought to the cohen-priest, in fulfillment of “You shall bring an omer of the first of your harvest to the priest. . . . And bread of parched corn and green ears you shall not eat until this self-same day, until you have brought the offer­ing (Leviticus 23:10-14). Thus the omer offering is called “the beginning of the barley harvest.” Thereafter the new grain may be harvested and eaten.

 

In their eagerness to come to the land of Israel, Naomi and Ruth did not wait until the wheat season, but came at the harvest of barley, the first grain to ripen. And they arrived in time to participate in the omer offering—a demonstration of the principle that “one mitzvah brings in its wake another mitzvah.”

 

To them, therefore, applies: “You mighty of strength, who fulfill His word, to harken to His word” (Psalms 103:20). Because they exerted themselves to fulfill one mitzvah (“His word”), they also merited to fulfill a second one.

 

The pause mark (tjp,) over the word ,kj,c (" at the beginning") is significant, indicating that it was a special beginning, namely, the first harvest after many years of famine.

 

According to Targum Yonathan, they came on the day before Passover, the beginning of the barley season, when the omer is harvested. This explains why Boaz did not come out to greet them. As the head of the clan, he was occupied with the Passover lamb offering and the baking of matzoth.

 

Thus begins the account of how it came to pass that Ruth married Boaz. Since "they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest," Ruth went to pick in the fields. ...

 

 

Abraham Ibn Ezra

 

1:19  ov,u: From the niphal conjugation of a double ‘ayin verb.

 

IS THIS NAOMI?: For Elimelech and his wife were of the great ones of Israel.

 

1:20  DO NOT CALL NE NAOMI, CALL ME MARA: Although Mara is written with an aleph it behaves in the same way as a word with silent he an the end. The aleph in rnis instead of v, and the word xs is like it. In the opinion of R. Judah and in my opinion, ob is something pleasant, and bitterness is the opposite of pleasantness. ob when applied to food is sweetness.

 

1:21  FULL: With Sons and money.

 

AND THE LORD HAS ANSWERED NE: There are some who say that ‘n/i is from the same root as be humbled before me’, but in my opinion it is from the same root as ‘you shall not answer your neighbour’, where the meaning is similar to ‘you renew your witnesses against me’.

 

AND THE ALMIGHTY HAS TREATED ME BADLY: It is like saying ‘he afflicted’, and a similar example is ‘creator of evil’ Either the meaning is ‘he has treated me badly on account of my rebellion’, or the text is to be understood in the way in which the word is normally used, and this is the correct meaning.

 

1:22  The v in vcwv, as it is found here, is the definite article. The reason why it says AND NAOMI RETURNED a second time is to connect the time of their return with the beginning of the barley harvest, on account of Ruth’s gleaning.

 

Malbim

 

19. They both went on. The Midrash Ruth Rabbah (3:5) comments, "once she made up her mind to convert, Scripture equates Ruth with Naomi." (The word ovh,a, they both, is extraneous and is therefore coming to accentuate a relationship of equality.) Alternately, one may suggest that the use of the words they both is to explain the entire city was in turmoil about them -Naomi was always surrounded by many servants and members of her household whenever she left her home, and now she came with only herself and her daughter-in-law; they came like two itinerant beggars.

 

20-22. Questions: When they called her Naomi ("pleasantness"), was it not in reference to her previous status in which she was successful and "pleasant"? If so, why did she say, Do not call me Naomi? Was it not justifiable to refer to her as "pleasantness" in the context of her previous circumstances? Why did she say, Do not call me Naomi...why do you call me Naomi... the ETERNAL has borne witness against me... God has made things bad for me. These all appear to be redundant! Why does verse 22 repeat, Naomi returned... which is unnecessary here?

 

20. Do not call me Naomi [pleasantness}. By way of analogy, a man who possessed wealth as great as that of Achashverosh[3] and lost everything except for 1000 golden coins cannot be described as a "poor person" unless we refer to his previous fortune. If one had not known of his former prosperity, the man who has 1000 golden coins would be considered a" rich man". However, if even such a wealthy man were to lose all his assets to the point where he could not afford bread and water, it would be unnecessary to mention his previous affluence in order to call him a "poor man". When the inhabitants of the city saw Naomi and her daughter-in-law walking (not on horseback or in a carriage) without anyone to serve them or wait on them, they knew that she had lost her great wealth. However, they assumed that she still had a reserve of gold and jewelry that would make even the common man feel "fortunate". As such they exclaimed that the source of their tumult and astonishment was, Is this Naomi?, referring to her former affluence and stature, .relative to which she now appeared lacking.

 

She answered them. She informed them that it was unnecessary to mention her previous name, Naomi ("pleasantness"), in order to call her Mara ("bitterness") [which would imply that her present state of poverty was only relative to her previous wealth], for she had lost everything (behold, Ruth had to go collecting grain for food) and could therefore be called Mara without any allusion to the name Naomi: Do not call me Naomi! Call me Mara, for the All-sufficing God had made things very bitter for me. Even though...

 

21. I left full [of possessions], and the ETERNAL brought me back empty-handed. I have nothing! So you can call me Mara, pauper, and beggar without making reference to my name Naomi which I was called during the time of my success and fame. Naomi now added a new insight to her predicament and claimed that the name Naomi was never applicable -Why do you call me Naomi? That itself is an untruth. We have explained that there are times when, before God wants to mete out a very severe punishment, He first advances the individual to the apex of financial success and fame. Consequently, if God brings him down from there to abject poverty, the individual will feel the pain and grief more intensely and his downfall will be greater. As we find in Iyov (20:6,7): If he will raise his height to the Heaven...like his own excrement will he be destroyed... and in Ovadiah  (1:4): "If he [Esav] will rise like an eagle and among the stars will make his nest, from there I will bring you down, " declares God. Likewise, Naomi sensed that her former success and prominence was a pretext to the augmenting of her downfall and impoverishment. If her former greatness was merely a warning that she needed to return to God, and He had elevated her for the purpose of enhancing her calamity [if she would not take heed], she maintained that the name Naomi which she had at that time was unjustified. For her glory was indeed very bitter -" an upward movement for the sake of her downfall."[4] This is what Naomi meant when she said, I left full... in order that the ETERNAL brought me back empty-handed. If so, my original wealth merely increases my present pain and grief. And, if so, Why do you call me Naomi? Even when you formerly called me Naomi it was inappropriate for the ETERNAL has borne witness against me: my earlier accomplishments were His way of warning me to improve my deeds and avoid being cast down from the pinnacle of my success. And so it was, that by my success, the All-sufficing God had made things bad for me: My anguish and ruin have been intensified by the very nature of my former self.

 

The Midrash Ruth Rabbah (3:6) says, "Is this Naomi? In the past she would go with fancy shoes, but now she is barefoot. In the past she would wear clothes of fine linen, but now she is dressed in rags. Is this Naomi? And she said to them, Do not call me Naomi! Call me Mara...[this corresponds to Naomi's claim that any mention of her past was superfluous]. Bar Kapara compared this situation to a cow put on display by its owners, who declared that it was a plowing cow. People said, "If it is a plowing cow, where are the marks (literally: wounds) of the yoke?" So, too, Why do you call me Naomi, when the ETERNAL has borne witness against me... [this corresponds to Naomi's insistence that even her formerly being called Naomi was inappropriate since it was ultimately to result in suffering and poverty].

 

22. Naomi returned. This is repeated here in order to point out that when she departed from Bethlehem, she left her properties -it is possible that others seized possession of the fields when she left [as happened to the Shunamite woman (Melachim II, 8:1-6) when she departed for the land of the Philistines so that it was necessary for her to request royal intervention to obtain the restitution of her house and field] so she contested these until her inheritance was restored.

 

With Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law. She, too, had an inheritance through her deceased husband (from his father), which is qualified by who had returned...from the fields of Moab, implying that if she had remained in the fields of Moab, she would have forfeited the inheritance (especially, according to the Midrash Ruth Rabbah 2:14 that she had already relinquished the marital contract's monetary obligation owed her by Machlon). However, now, in contrast, returning from the fields of Moab, she had claim to an allotment of the family estate [see chapter 4].

 

The Midrash Ruth Rabbah (4:1,2) interprets the words who had returned...from the fields of Moab as referring to Ruth as the first woman ever to approach for conversion from Moab. Until that time, it had not yet been clarified that the prohibition of a Moabite marrying into the Jewish people applied only to" a Moabite" and not "a Moabitess".[5] 

 

They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. This is a prologue to the telling of Ruth's going to gather agricultural gifts for the poor.[6] Even though, as has here been explained, she had land in Israel, they had come at the time of the harvest season and it was impossible to plow and plant. They were, therefore, destitute for the immediate present.

 

Alshich

 

(19)   The two of them went until they arrived in Bethlehem. And [it happened) when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city was in uproar about them and they [the women) said, “Could this be Na’omi?”

(20)   She replied to them, “Do not call me Na’omi [i.e., pleasant) but ‘Morah’ [i.e., bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

(21)   “1 left full but God has returned me empty-handed: why should you call me Na’omi since God has testified against me and has dealt very bitterly with me?”

 

In verse 19 the obvious difficulty is the word ovh,a, two of them. Why couldn’t the prophet write simply, “They went?” Besides, the word ovh,a has a masculine ending; the correct word is ivh,a.

Indeed, later in the verse, we find the feminine form, ivhkg about them.

 

Also difficult is the repetitious formulation of the verse. First we read that they went to Bethlehem and then we are further informed that they arrived there. The clause And [it happened] when they arrived in Bethlehem could be omitted from the text entirely!

 

Why was the town in such an uproar? Were they surprised to see Ruth with Na’omi? They didn’t even know who she was!

 

Verses 20 and 21 discuss what Na’omi’s name should or should not have been. How is all this relevant to us? It is not the way of the Scriptures to repeat the gossip of local women! Moreover, Na’omi repeats that God has dealt bitterly with her. She bemoans the fact that she left Judah pregnant and returned empty-handed (cf. Ruth Rabbah 3:7), even though she was stricken by even greater misfortunes. She lost two grown sons as well as her husband.

 

The final difficulty we have to contend with is an apparent contradiction. In verse 20, Na’omi asks the women not to call her Na’omi, while in verse 21 her language is much stronger, as if she were remonstrating against them: What right do you have to call me Na’omi?

 

A Measure of Their Greatness

 

A clear look at these verses will reveal Na’omi’s and Ruth’s courage and enthusiasm in leaving Moab and how God reciprocated by doing great wonders for them.

 

When embarking on their journey, they did not seek the company of other people as normal women would do in such circumstances in order to be safe from attack. God dealt kindly with them and they came to no harm.

 

The two of them went emphasizes that only the two of them traveled — no one else was in their company. This explains the masculine ending of ovh,a. It indicates that they acted like men who are not afraid to travel alone. When they arrived in Judah, however, those who witnessed their arrival recognized them as the women they were. Thus, the verse reverts to the feminine ivhkg about them. But the town was in uproar over the fact that two women had traveled all the way from Moab alone. In addition, they were a little surprised to see Na’omi back in Judah.

 

A further grammatical peculiarity in verse 19 is the extra v in the words vbtuc (they arriued) and in vbtucf (when they arrived). These words should be spelled vbtuc,, ituc

 

It must be made clear that these women were treading an exceedingly dangerous path. The Talmud (Sotah 42b) relates that Orpah had travelled a distance of two thousand cubits in order to return to the city, but during that short time had been repeatedly assaulted until she was ‘beaten like a bruised corn.’ Na’omi and Ruth had to travel for several days, and it is quite likely that, as a precaution, they wore men’s clothes for the duration of their journey. This, too, would explain why the word ovh,a has a masculine ending. Once they reached Bethlehem they no longer had a need for the clothes and discarded them. Thus, all the inhabitants saw them dressed as women. The two words vbtuc and vbtucf each have an extra v, which, when added together, have a numerical value of ten. This indicates that the two women who left Moab and who were referred to as ovh,a were now, on their arrival in Bethlehem, once again ivh,a, for the numerical value of ivh,a (765) is ten greater than the value of ovh,a (755),as n=40 and b=50.

 

No wonder that the city was in an uproar. They saw two attractive women, arriving from a faraway place completely on their own, who had survived unharmed.

 

Na’omi Acknowledges Her Guilt

 

Our Sages comment (Ruth Rabbah 3:6): “Is this Na’omi? She has such pleasant ways but has suffered such great misfortune.”

 

According to the Midrash, her address to the people in Bethlehem sounded like this: “You must all be wondering how I, Na’omi, who was so named because my ways are pleasant, should be left now bereft of my husband and sons. You will no doubt assume that I am indeed righteous and fit to be called ‘Na’omi,’ and that my troubles have befallen me on account of my husband and sons who perished because of their sins.”

  

Typical of her piety, she acknowledges God’s judgment and the fact that she is wholly undeserving. She continues:  “Don’t call me Na’omi as if my ways are pleasant, for the Almighty has made me very bitter. It is my fault that these troubles have befallen me, as I do not suspect the Holy One of punishing without justice (cf. Talmud Berachoth 5b). Proof of this can be seen in my history. I left here pregnant. If I was indeed meritorious, though my good deeds may not have been enough to save my husband and sons, surely they would at least have been enough to save my unborn child, who could not have been held guilty for leaving Judah. Yet, he died like my husband and older sons because of my guilt. There is truly no reason for you to call me Na’omi, for my deeds are not ‘pleasant.’

 

“You may challenge me with the following: ‘How can you deny it? We know you are righteous and good-intentioned. How can you declare that God has judged you for your sins?’  “My reply to you is: God has testified against me. He searches a man’s inner thoughts. While man has the ability to see only actions, God sees the thought behind every deed. How is it that I survived and was not smitten along with my family? For the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

 

This brings to mind the words in Genesis (43:14), And the Almighty God shall grant you mercy. Jacob said: “May the

One Who said to His World (after creation) ‘Enough,’*[7] say to my troubles, ‘Cease, that’s enough!’” (Rashi ad bc., Midrash Tanchuma ad bc.; Zohar, Volume 3,251b.)

 

Na’omi voices a similar notion here. By using God’s name, hsa, which contains the word hs (enough), she indicates that God called a halt to the suffering which was afflicting her, since he did not kill her along with her husband and children.

 

(22)   Na’omi returned with Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who had returned from the fields of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the onset of the barley ha west.

 

Ruth as Great as Na’omi?

 

The majority of this verse contains information which is not new to us at all. We know that both Na’omi and Ruth had returned from Moab. We certainly know that Ruth was a Moabitess and it was in fact a degrading title, for who wishes to be associated with Moab? We know, too, that Ruth was Na’omi’s daughter-in-law. We know that they had arrived in Bethlehem. Besides this, there is another problem. At first, Na’omi is mentioned before Ruth, denoting the fact that she is the more prominent of the two. Yet later in the verse they are mentioned together: They came to Bethlehem.

 

The text is indeed very revealing. It teaches us how much Ruth had gained in spiritual stature by leaving Moab and coming to Judah. Hence, when they left Moab, Na’omi was the more prominent figure, and she is mentioned first for that reason. Ruth was still a Moabitess, and her only relationship to Na‘omi was that she was her daughter-in-law. Once she had converted, she acquired a new status, and by the time the women reached Bethlehem, she was considered Na’omi’s equal.

 

With this explanation we are better able to understand the verse: Na’omi returned... At first Na’omi was considered to be of greater stature. Ruth was known as a Moabitess and her daughter-in-law; not as a person of consequence. When they arrived in Bethlehem, however, Ruth had become a Jewess and thus, she was then considered equal to Na’omi. Hence, They came — together — to Bethlehem.[8]

 

There is a way to understand the verse as a continuation of the previous theme. The Divine Spirit testified that Na’omi had survived twice due to God’s kindness, for she too played a part, first in her husband’s sin and later in the sin of her children. She admitted her guilt by saying, And God has testified against me.

 

Now we are told the reason why she was not destined to die. Na’omi returned. She did not die like her husband and sons, even though she was guilty to some extent, as we explained in our commentary to the words, and the women remained ...and she remained (verses 3 and 8). She was allowed to survive so that Ruth the Moabitess, who was destined to join the ranks of Israel, could return with her. Na’omi returned with Ruth the Moabitess... with her, since the opportunity to perform a good deed is offered to a worthy person so that he should benefit from its merit. In this case Na’omi was deemed worthy and was awarded the opportunity to bring Ruth into the Jewish fold.

 

Three Came to Bethlehem

 

Through Ruth, they both arrived in Bethlehem. Not only did the two women come to Bethlehem, but there was a male with them, too, and that was Machlon, whose spirit rested inside Ruth. This explains why the word vnvu, they, is in the masculine. Even though there were two women, and thus a majority, since their sole purpose of coming to Bethlehem was in order to perpetuate the name of Machlon, their arrival in Judah is reckoned as secondary in importance to the arrival of Machlon’s spirit. Their arrival is thus classed as vnv in the masculine and not in the feminine, since in general, where there is a mixture of males and females, the masculine gender is used for the collective term.

 

The Passover Connection

 

This may help us to understand the Midrash (Ruth Rabbah 4:3) which explains the words, Who returned from the fields of Moab, as follows: “This refers to the one who returned from the fields of Moab.”

 

At first glance, the Midrash appears meaningless, for it does not seem to add anything to the verse itself. However, the Sages found two difficulties with the verse. Firstly, why is the word returned used in connection with Ruth, who had never been there in the first place? Secondly, why is there a definite article in the word vcav? It seems to imply that that Ruth was returning. Was there another ‘Ruth’ who did not return with Na’omi?

 

The point being made is that Ruth is the one who, even though she had never been to Judah, is reckoned as a returnee because of the spirit of Machlon that lay within her. He had been to Judah and was now returning there, albeit only in spirit.

 

The Midrash further teaches: “R. Shmuel bar Nachman said: Each time the term ‘barley harvest’ is mentioned it refers to the reaping of the omer”.[9] 

 

Following this, the Targum renders the verse: “And they came to Bethlehem on the day preceding Passover; the day when the Israelites prepare to reap the omer and wave an offering which consisted of barley.”

 

The question here is, what difference does it make to us whether they arrived on the eve of Passover? Why is it relevant for us to know that on that day they prepared to reap the barley harvest?

 

Finally, why does the Targum take pains to tell us that on that day the Israelites ‘prepared’ to reap...? Wouldn’t it have been sufficient to render this: It was the time of the reaping of   the omer?              

 

The Midrash (Pesikta d’R. Cahana, Piska 12) remarks: Just as a girl who was in captivity and a newly converted female proselyte must wait three months before marrying in         order to distinguish between the unclean and the holy, so, too, Israel had to wait three months after leaving Egypt before they were able to receive the Torah.[10]

 

With this we can understand the statement of R. Shmuel bar Nachman (Ruth Rabbah 5:11) on the verse, She stayed close to Boaz’s girls, gleaning until the end of the wheat harvest (2:23):

 

From the beginning of the barley harvest until the end of the wheat harvest ux~s a period of three months. The uerse then continues, “And she dwelt with her mother-in-law.” Following that, chapter three begins: “Then Na’om:, her mother-in-law, said to her, ‘My daughter, shall I seek security for you...

 

The intention of this Midrash is obviously to inform us that the end of the wheat harvest marked a period of three months since Ruth had converted. Her mother-in-law told her as follows: “Now that the three months necessary to distinguish between seed conceived in uncleanliness and seed conceived in holiness has elapsed, I shall seek security (i.e., marriage) for you.”

 

R. Shmuel’s remark has a bearing on the verse under discussion, too. The ‘reaping of the barley harvest’ mentioned is an allusion to the omer. R. Shmuel was perplexed by the seemingly irrelevant piece of information concerning the onset of the barley harvest. Furthermore, when Scripture writes They came it does not have the simpler term utchu And they came, but utc vnvu which implies that there is a special emphasis on the fact that they arrived on that particular day.

 

The ‘Omer’ Period — Its Purpose and Significance

 

The prophet is conveying to us the idea of having to distinguish between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean.’ When the whole nation of Israel ‘converted,’ so to speak, a waiting period of three months was necessary until they were on a level to receive the Two Tablets. So too Ruth, who arrived at the onset of the barley harvest, which was the time when the omer was offered, would have to wait three months before she could marry. These three months elapsed with the end of the wheat harvest. It was then that R. Shmuel’s second remark is recorded in the Midrash, and the Targum here alludes to it.

 

We see how God wished to purify the faithful of Israel from the ‘filth’ that had clung to them, first as a result of Adam’s sin of heeding the serpent’s advice, and later, on account of the idol worship in Egypt. We were compared to a woman who has had an ‘unclean’ discharge and who must wait seven days after her blood has stopped flowing before she can purify herself in a ritual bath and resume relations with her husband. Thus, we were commanded by God to count a full seven weeks after ‘the uncleanliness’ of Egypt before we could be reckoned as ‘pure’ (Zohar, Volume 3, 97a and previous footnote).

 

The seven weeks began with the omer to remind us that before we became purified, we were unclean, as an animal that feeds on barley. Once Israel was pure of this ‘dirt’ they were told to bring two loaves of wheat bread (Leviticus 23: 17ff.) to signify that they had attained the level of ‘man’ whose food is generally from wheat, a higher grade of grain.

 

As we know, Ruth was a Moabitess, but God had ordained that the glory of the Crown of Israel would emanate from her. Lest anyone challenge the Divine decision by wondering how sweet can come forth from the strong (Judges 14:14) and claiming that it would be far more suitable for a pure daughter of Israel to be the mother of Israel’s royalty, the Scripture reminds us that the entire nation of Israel was immersed in the uncleanliness of Egypt’s heathen way of life. God purified them and converted them into a holy nation just as a woman with a menstrual flow is purified from her uncleanliness.

 

It should not surprise us if Ruth was deemed suitable to be progenitress of the stock of Jesse. She was brought to our people at the time of the reaping of the omer, so that she could begin her process of purification with Na’omi’s help. Her arrival at this particular time of year will help us remember that just as barley was reaped before Israel underwent the process of purification, so too did Ruth undergo a similar process before she was ready to play her part in the destiny of Israel.

 

This is what R. Shmuel intended to convey in his statement: “This was the time of the reaping of the omer.” Now we can fully appreciate the Targum’s rendering of the verse. The addition of the clause: “And on that day Israel was permitted,” is certainly relevant to us. It reminds us of the fact that Israel had once converted and, Ruth, after undergoing a process of purification, went through a similar procedure. So it was that God ordained that she arrive in Judah at that particular time.

 

 



[1] Only a town, referred to as ‘ir (v. Deut. XIII, 14) can be condemned. R. Josiah holds that a community of less than ten is a village (kefar) and one of more than a hundred is an entire community, of which the ‘city’ is only a part.

[2] Ir (city) is read as ’ar (watcher) [in study], i.e. a teacher.

[3] Persian king of the Megi/1as Esther story known for his vast, enormous wealth.

[4] A homiletical play on the Talmudic legal dictum in Makkos 7b of "descent which is for the sake of ascent."

[5] See Yevamos 76b-77a that according to the opinion of R. Shimon (the final ruling is in accordance with his opinion), only the Moabite men were prohibited to marry into the Jewish people since the Torah explicitly states (Devarim 23:5): Hbecause of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Egypt.H Itwas not expected of the Moabite women to Hgreet" the Jewish nation.

[6] See Vayikra 19:9-10 regarding pe'ah and leket, Devarim 24:19 regarding shich'cha.

[7] In Hebrew “Almighty” is hsa, which Jacob understood to stand for the words hs rnta (Who said, “Enough!”).

 

[8] See Yalkut Shimoni, 601, on verse 19: R. Abohu said: See how the proselytes are dear to God. Once Ruth had made up her mind to convert, Scripture ranked her as Na’omi’s equal, for it is written, They both went...

 

[9] On the second day of Passover a sheaf of barley is waved on the altar and a burnt offering is sacrificed before the new season’s grain can be eaten. See Leviticus 23:9ff.

[10] Since it cannot be ascertained whether a girl had sexual relations with a non-Jewish man during her days of captivity or before she converted to Judaism, the law stipulates that a period of three months must elapse before she is allowed to marry a Jew, so that we can be sure that the resultant offspring was conceived from holy rather than unclean seed(cf. Talmud Yebamoth 42a).

In his commentary to Exodus (19:1), the Alshich points out that the opinion of the Midrash — that Israel waited three months so as to be free of the uncleanliness of Egypt — conflicts with that of the Zohar, (Volume 3, 97a), which maintains that a period of seven weeks was sufficient. The Alshich answers that the Zohar refers to the time Israel stood at Mount Sinai, when they became betrothed to God as a means of purifying their souls. Seven weeks was enough to attain this spiritual level. The Midrash, on the other hand, alludes to the date when Israel received the Two Tablets of stone, a time when they became bound to God in matrimony. Then there was a need to purify their bodies from the impurities of Egypt, and that was only possible after a waiting period of three months.