Parashas Behaalosecha

I present here an essay by the Maggid that links a passage in Megillas Ruth (which we read this week on Shavuos) to a passage in this week’s Torah parashah. In the parashah, the Torah records how the Jewish People bemoaned their life in the wilderness (Bamidbar 11:10): “And Moshe heard the people crying in their family groups, each one at the entrance of his tent ….” The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 15:24 tells us that they were not just crying in family groups: they were actually crying over their family groups. Specifically, they were crying over the laws in Vayikra 18 prohibiting marriages among certain relatives – marriages that previously were common. The people were troubled that marrying outside the family would weaken family ties.
If two relatives – a brother and sister, for example – would marry each other, the family ties would remain intact. Though the couple would be bound together in the special bond of marriage, this would not disrupt the family’s relationship with either of them. But when a man and a woman from different families get married, the bond of marriage between the two of them inevitably weakens the ties that each of them has with his or her family. Indeed, the Torah declares (Bereishis 2:24): “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become as one flesh.” The Torah is saying that a man must loosen his ties with his parents so that his love for his wife will be complete. In the wilderness, each man cried at the entrance of his tent. Our Sages note that the word tent refers to a person’s wife. When a man would take leave of his family on his wedding day, he would weep.
We now turn to the passage in Megillas Ruth. After Boaz arranged his marriage with Ruth, the elders and the people at the gate said (Ruth 4:11): “May Hashem grant that the woman who is coming into your house be like Rachel and like Leah, who both together built the House of Yisrael.” They were trying to lead Boaz to truly cherish Ruth. The fact that Ruth was a Moabite convert was liable to reduce her appeal as a wife. Indeed, Elimelech’s closer relative, who had priority as redeemer, declined to marry Ruth for this reason. Hence all the people joined together to encourage Boaz by casting this apparent flaw as a point in Ruth’s favor.
The people reasoned with Boaz: “Hashem has done you a kindness by putting this woman into your hands. She is a convert, with no family ties to worry about. And so she will cleave to you totally.” The same logic surfaces in an episode involving Yaakov and his wives Rachel and Leah. When Yaakov was preparing to leave the house of his father-in-law Lavan to return to his own family, he was concerned that his wives would be uncomfortable with the move. Therefore he took them to the field to discuss the matter at length, as the Torah relates (Bereishis 31:4-13). Rachel and Leah replied (ibid. 31:14-15): “Have we any longer a share or inheritance in our father’s house? Behold, we are like strangers to him ….” They reassured Yaakov by telling him that they had no qualms about leaving their father’s house to cleave to him; there was no problem of disrupted family ties. Hence, when the elders and the people at the gate encouraged Boaz about his marriage to Ruth, they alluded to this episode: “May Hashem grant that the woman who is coming into your house be like Rachel and like Leah ….”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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