Shabbos Parashas Bamidbar – The Book of Ruth

With Shavuos coming right after this Shabbos, I present here a selection from the Maggid’s commentary on the Book of Ruth, which we read on Shavuos. Naomi, Elimelech’s widow, and her daughter-in-law Ruth return from Moab destitute, and Ruth sets out to glean in the field behind the harvesters. We are told (Ruth 2:3‑5):
And her fate made her happen upon a plot of land that belonged to Boaz, who was of Elimelech’s family. And, behold, Boaz came down from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers: “May Hashem be with you.” And they said to him: “May Hashem bless you.” And Boaz said to the young man he had appointed over the reapers: “To whom does that young woman belong?”
Now, the main theme of the Book of Ruth is the great kindness Hashem showers upon those who come to take shelter in Him by converting to the Jewish faith – how He raises them up from lowliness. The Maggid remarks that the initial exchange of greetings between Boaz and his workers seems to have nothing to do with this theme. He then proceeds to explain how it actually helps to bring this theme out.
The key is to realize that the Hashem carefully guided all the events that the Book of Ruth records, with every event designed as a kindness to Ruth, who revered Hashem and placed her hopes on His compassion. Boaz’s query about Ruth might appear to be a mere natural occurrence, for it is common for someone who sees something new to ask about it. But in fact Hashem staged this event, just as He led Ruth to “happen upon” one of Boaz’s fields in the first place and led Boaz to come to this specific field precisely when Ruth was there. The whole chain of events was directed by Hashem for Ruth’s benefit. Hashem watched over Ruth with loving care, and led her to glean in the field of a righteous man, where the workers would not disturb her.
Our passage shows this strikingly. Let us think about how Boaz acted here. Usually, when an owner comes to inspect his property, he plans out what he wants to examine. His visit typically will be prompted by certain matters of major importance. While there he will also check on lesser matters that would not call for a special trip, but still are of concern to him. He might also ask, by the way, about some side matters that are of no special consequence to him.
But clearly not everything gets the same attention. The matters he made the trip for take first priority; he will deal with them right away. The lesser matters he will turn to later. And then, after he has taken care of all his business, he might chat over some inconsequential matters.
Thus, when Boaz came from Bethlehem to check on his field, we would have expected him to begin by asking about matters related to the reaping. But instead, the very first question Boaz asks, after greeting his workers, is a seemingly tangential one: “To whom does that young woman belong?”
This shows that, in Hashem’s plan, Ruth was actually the main reason for Boaz’s visit to the field. Hashem led Boaz to visit the field to take note of Ruth and show kindness to her. Thus, Boaz began by asking about Ruth, just as anyone on a business visit begins by asking about the matter for which he made the trip. The other matters were set aside for later, as being of lesser importance. Boaz’s greeting is recorded to show that the first thing Boaz asked about, right after greeting his workers, was Ruth. This proves that Hashem directed the whole episode. Hashem, the Master Planner, reversed the natural order of things for the benefit of Ruth, who had taken shelter in Him.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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