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GENERAL INTRODUCTION

According to the sages of rabbinic Judaism1, the book of Ruth has another purpose besides that of recording Davids ancestry. It narrates the story of Ruth to teach us how God rewards those who practice esed2. The theme of esed is central to the book of Ruth. esed is indeed one of the key words controlling the book of Ruth. The word occurs three times: at the beginning, in the middle, and in the last part of the story (Ruth 1:8; 2:20; 3:10). R. Ze'ira 3 stresses this major theme of the narrative when he says the following in Ruth Rabbah4:
R. Ze'ira said: This scroll [of Ruth] tells nothing either of cleanliness or of uncleanliness, either of prohibition or permission. For what purpose then was it written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness.5
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I take the references mainly from the following translations: (1) L. J. RABINOWITZ, Midrash Ruth Rabbah. Translated into English with Notes, Glossary and Indices under the Editorship of Rabbi H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, (in Midrash Rabbah VIII, Soncino Press; London 1961) and (2) The Schottenstein Edition Talmud Bavli. The Gemara: The Classic Vilna Edition; with an Annotated Interpretative Elucidation as Aid to the Talmud Study (Mesorah Publication, Ltd., New York 1993).

esed: A Hebrew word which is usually translated as kindness or loyalty.

J. Levy gives the following meanings for esed: , m. (bh.) 1) Liebe, Gte. 2) Chesed personificirt als Name eines wohlwollenden Engels. See J. Levy, Wrterbuch ber die Talmudim und Midraschim (Benjamin Harz Verlag; Berlin 1924) 86. R. Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed says that the concept of esed includes two notions, one of them consisting in the exercise of beneficence toward one who deserves it, but in a greater measure than he deserves it. In most cases, the prophetic books and the book of Ruth use the word esed in the sense of practicing beneficence toward one who has no right at all to claim this from you. Now it is known that beneficence includes two notions, one of them consisting in exercise of beneficence toward one who has no right at all to claim this for you and the other consisting in the exercise of beneficence toward one who deserve it, but in greater measure than he deserve it. In most cases the prophetic books use the word esed in the sense of practicing beneficence toward one who has no right at all to claim this for you. The Guide of the Perplexed: Moses Maimonides. Translated with Introduction and Notes by Shlomo Pines. Vol. II (The University of Chicago Press; Chicago 1963) 630-631.
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ds,x,

R. Ze'ira was a Babylonian amora but later immigrated to the Land of Israel. He studied in the academy of Sura under Huna and in Pumbedita under Judah b. Ezekiel. R. Ze'ira occupies a prominent place in the Halakah as well as in the Haggadah; with regard to the former he is especially distinguished for the correctness and knowledge with which he transmits older maxims. On account of his lofty morals and piety R. Zeira was honored with the name "the pious Babylonian." His name is frequently mentioned both in Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. (See Z. KAPLAN, Ze'eira, in EJ XVI, 966-967)
4 5

Aggadic Midrash on the book of Ruth, the product of Palestinian Amoraim. Ruth Rabbah II, 14.

I think that this universal message of Gmilut Hassadim (which in Hebrew means deeds of loving-kindness) which makes the book of Ruth appealing to everyone. My aim in this seminar paper is to study this purpose of the book in such a way that we might reflect on Gods esed and that we might become people of esed. In the first chapter my attempt is to give an introductory background about Midrash Ruth Rabbah which is the source for our study and to explain R. Zeiras statement briefly. In the second chapter, I would like to read the book of Ruth as a story of esed and see how the sages of Judaism interpret the three crucial passages where the word esed appears in the book of Ruth. In the concluding remarks, I try to bring out the relevance of Rabbi Ze'iras vision of the book of Ruth for us today in building up a community of esed.

CHAPTER ONE RUTH RABBAH AND ITS POSITION IN MIDRASHIC LITERATURE

In this chapter, I try to explain the meaning and divisions of Midrashic literature in order to understand Midrash Ruth Rabbah better. Then I give an introduction to Ruth Rabbah and explain its status and relationship with other Midrashim. Finally with this basic background in mind, I attempt an analysis of R. Ze'iras statement regarding the purpose of the book of Ruth6.

1.1 MIDRASHIC LITERATURE The name Midrash derives from the root vrd which in the Bible means mainly "to search", "to seek" or "to examine". The noun Midrash occurs only twice in the Bible. 7 Midrash designates a particular genre of rabbinic literature constituting an anthology and compilation of homilies, consisting of both biblical exegesis and sermons delivered in public and forming a running aggadic commentary on specific books of the Bible. 8 Midrash refers to method of interpreting scripture to elucidate legal points (Midrash Halakhah) or to bring out lessons by stories or homiletics (Midrash Aggadah). Usually such collections seek to reinterpret or actualize a given text of the past for present circumstances. Early, Middle and Late Midrashim From the point of view of the period of the arrangement and collection, the Aggadic Midrashim have been divided into three groups: early, middle and late.9 This division is based on various factors. The best and probably the most reliable method for determining priority or lateness among Midrashim is the relationship between the various Midrashim, the use one makes of another as well as their relationship to other sources. There are also other additional indications for this kind of comparison like the literary forms, language and style. In the case of Ruth Rabbah it is apparent that all these features are linked to a certain
6 7

Cf. Ruth Rabbah II, 14. II Chron. 13:22; 24:27. 8 J. DAN, Midrash, in EJ XI, 1507. 9 Ibid., 1507-1514

early period. This group of Midrash differs clearly from those of the middle period. Sometimes they are called "Classical Amoraic Midrashim". These seven early Midrashim are: Genesis Rabbah; Leviticus Rabbah; Lamentations Rabbah; Esther Rabbah I; Pesikta deRav Kahana; Song of Songs Rabbah and Ruth Rabbah.

It seems that these early Midrashim, which are not mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, were edited in the Land of Israel in the fifth and sixth centuries C.E. Two types can be distinguished: exegetical and homiletical. Exegetical Midrashim like Genesis Rabbah or Lamentations Rabbah and Ruth Rabbah are interpreting only one book of the Bible. They contain comments on the whole book, each chapter and every verse, and at times even on every word in the verse. We are explaining the reason to it when we are dealing with the methods of Midrash. The homiletical Midrash takes usually only the first verses in the weekly portions of Torah or prophetic readings expounding its practical meaning.

The middle period between 640 - 900 C.E. consists of more than 20 different Midrash compilations. Characteristic to them is the role of private compilers. All these are homiletical by nature.

The late period of Midrashim has a great practical value for every Torah student of modern times. This school between 1000 and 1200 C.E. and especially the series related to Moshe ha-Darshan means a turning-point in Midrashic compilations. In these Midrashim there is hardly a trace or even an imitation of the classical proem and the Hebrew is completely of medieval times.

1.2 RUTH RABBAH Ruth Rabbah points to the category of the earliest Midrashim (400-640 C.E.) being written in rabbinic Hebrew and having pure classical proems and a typical use of the Scriptures. The position of Ruth Rabbah in Midrashic literature has to be seen in this factual connection. It represents exegetical Midrashim commenting upon the whole book of Ruth,

each chapter and almost every word and verse. And it has all the Midrashic stylish features typical for the earlier period. This aggadic Midrash is the product of Palestinian Amoraim. 10

1.2.1 Name The editio principes was called Midrash Ruth. The name Ruth Rabbah was derived from later editions in which the work was put together with Midrash on the other scrolls and the five on the Pentateuch, the whole beginning with Genesis Rabbah.11 1.2.2 The Content and Division of Ruth Rabbah Ruth Rabbah is rich in content but it has not yet arisen enough interest among scholars. Perhaps the most condensed picture of the content of Ruth Rabbah is given by Jacob Neusner as follows:
Ruth Rabbah has only one message, expressed in a variety of components but single and cogent. It concerns the outsider who becomes the principal, the Messiah out of Moab, and this miracle is accomplished through mastery of the Torah. The main points of the document are these: 1. Israel's fate depends upon its proper conduct toward its leaders. 2. The leaders must not be arrogant. 3. The admission of the outsider depends upon the rules of Torah. 4. The proselyte is accepted because the Torah makes it possible to do so, and the condition of acceptance is complete and total submission to the Torah. 5. Those proselytes who are accepted are respected by God and are completely equal to all Israelites." The Torah "makes the outsider into an insider, the Moabite into Israelite, the offspring of the outsider into the Messiah.12

According to Ruth Rabbah, however, only the female member of Moabites was accepted according to Torah to become an Israelite, not the males. And even this was due to Ruth's complete and total submission to the Torah.

Ruth Rabbah covers the whole of the biblical text. The only exception concerns the IV Chapter where the verses 16 and 17 are passed by. As in all the classical Aggadic Midrashim it contains numerous proems. The division of Ruth Rabbah is as follows: Parashah I covers the Book of Ruth from the verses I: 1 - 2, Parashah II from I:3 - I:17, III

10 11

Cf. M. D. HERR, Ruth Rabbah, in EJ XIV, 524. Ibid. 12 N. JACOB, The Midrash Compilations of the Sixth and Seventh Centuries. An Introduction to the Rhetorical, Logical and Topical Program, Volume III. Ruth Rabbah (Scholars Press; Atlanta 1989) 148-149.

from I:18 - I:21, IV from I:22 - II:9, V from II:10 - III:7, VI from III:8 - III:13, VII from III:14 - IV:15 and the last and the shortest Parashah VIII only two verses IV:18 - 19. 1.2.3 Language Ruth Rabbah is written mainly in Mishnaic Hebrew and to a certain extent in Galilean Aramaic. It also contains many Greek words. 1.2.4. Redaction The redaction drew upon tannaitic literature, the Jerusalem Talmud, Genesis Rabbah, Leviticus Rabbah, Lamentations Rabbah, Pesikta de-Rav Kahana.13 The sages mentioned in the Midrash flourished not later than the end of the fourth century C.E. 1.3 THE TOTAL LACK OF HALAKHIC PURIFICATION RULES IN RUTH RABBAH Risto Santala in his analysis on the Ruth Rabbah says the following: Ruth Rabbah has no regulations of purification of any kind. This total lack of religious ceremonies raises the question about the purpose of this compilation.14 The answer would probably be very simple. It is revealed by means of the words from the statement of R. Ze'ira found in Ruth Rabbah: "For what purpose then was it written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness."15 This explains the emphasize of Midrash Ruth concerning the good deeds. In fact the importance of G'milut Hassadim is discussed in detail in the rabbinic literature. 1.4 IMPORTANCE OF GMILUT HASSADIM IN RUTH RABBAH AND JUDAISM
R. Simlai expounded: Torah begins with an act of G'milut Hassadim and ends with an act of benevolence. It begins with an act of G'milut Hassadim, for it is written: And Hashem God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skin, and clothed them; and it ends with an act of G'milut Hassadim, for it is written: And He buried him in the valley. 16
13

Cf. M. D. HERR, Ruth Rabbah, in EJ XIV, 524.

14

R. SANTALA, The Midrash of the Messiah. The Messiah and His Meal in Midrash Ruth Chapters V, VII and VIII and its Roots and Reflections in Corresponding Jewish Literature (Tummavuoren Kirjapaino Oy; Finland 2002) 72.
15 16

Ruth Rabbah II, 14. B.T. Sotah 14a.

Gmilut Hassadim, literally means the giving of loving-kindness. It is a fundamental social value in the everyday lives of Jews. It is a mitzwah17 that an individual completes Gmilut Hassadim without the anticipation of receiving something in return. There is no fixed measure of Gmilut Hassadim, which is one reason why rabbinic teachers articulate the importance of doing it all the time. Some examples of Gmilut Hassadim include clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, burying the dead, and visiting the sick. The Talmud18 teaches that Gmilut Hassadim is more important than tzedakah (charity) for three distinct reasons: Our Masters taught: loving-kindness is greater than charity in three ways. Charity is done with ones money, while loving-kindness may be done with ones money or with ones person. Charity is given only to the poor, while loving -kindness may be given both to poor and to the rich. Charity is given only to the living, while lovingkindness may be shown to both the living and the dead.19 The highest level of Gmilut Hassadim, is to attend a funeral service. This is because the dead have no future opportunity to repay the kindness. It was God who first illustrated the significance of burying the dead; it is written in the Torah that, [God] buried [Moses] in the valley in the land of Moab (Deut. 34:6). Kindness done towards the dead is the truest kindness as it can anticipate no return. According to the Talmud there are three characteristics which distinguish the Jewish people they are merciful, they are bashful and they are performers of acts of kindness.
(David) said, There are bashful and they do acts is worthy to cleave to extension-whoever does joining this nation.20 three identifying works of this nation: -they are merciful, of kindnessWhoever has these three identifying marks this nation of Israel through intermarriage. And by not have these three identifying marks is unworthy of

17

Mitzwah is a word used to refer the 613 commandments in Torah and the 7 rabbinic commandments instituted later for a total of 620 commandments. 18 Talmud, teaching, means compendium of discussions on the Mishnah by generations of scholars and jurists in many academies over a period of several centuries. The Jerusalem Talmud mainly contains the discussions of the Palestinian sages. The Babylonian Talmud incorporates the parallel discussions in the Babylonian academies. In short, Talmud is a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs and history. 19 B.T. Sukkah 49b. 20 B.T. Yevamot 79a.

One of the main themes in Ruth Rabbah is the strong emphasis on proper moral conduct and the importance of Gmilut Hassadim. Only by the merits of their high ethical standard Boaz and Ruth were accepted to be the ancestors for the Messiah. This is also the reason why the merits of Jewish people are recorded in the heavenly accountancy. In this context the role of Elijah and the heavenly scribe mostly called as "Metatron" is in a central position in Ruth Rabbah as well as in the respective Jewish literature.21

The New Testament uses almost the same expressions of good deeds as the rabbinic literature does.22 The sages teach that man was created only to good works"; the benefactor does "the deeds of God"; thus he fills "the whole world with the love of God"; and he should do them "from a generous and loving heart" and "in secret". When, for example, some of the pious did their shopping in the market, they always set aside half of it for the poor. Some forbade taking contributions from foreigners, because this increased their merits. Hillel and Gamaliel extended works of love even to the Gentiles "to maintain peace". The model for this attitude, according to the Rabbis, was Abraham, who entertained foreigners and who had in his tent, as a sign of hospitality, "door-openings to the four points of the compass". Good works included visiting the sick, lodging foreigners in homes, supporting young bridal couples, attending weddings and funerals and, for instance, giving speeches of consolation even to the Gentiles, as Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul taught. The good deeds in Jewish and Christian reference are based practically on the same rules. God has "created us for good deeds" as both parts emphasize. They are not counted to the "works of the law". They rather reflect the human natural attitude of the believers. In Paul's time it was very common to give tithes to synagogue work. 1.5 THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK OF RUTH ACCORDING TO R. ZEIRA After having examined the importance of Gmilut Hassadim in the sages tradition, now let me analyze the very same purpose of the book of Ruth according to R. Ze'ira.

21

Ruth Rabbah presents also the task of "a celestial scribe" mostly called as Metatron who records the merits of Israel together with Elijah in the heavenly accounting in order to see whether she would be worthy to see the days of the Messiah.
22

See Eph. 2:10, Titus 2:14, 3:8 and 3:14, 2 Tim. 2:21 and 2 Tim. 3:16-17.

R. Ze'ira said: This scroll [of Ruth] tells us nothing either of cleanliness or of uncleanliness, either of prohibition or permission. For what purpose then was it written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness.23

According to R. Zeira the book is written to teach us about the reward of acts of loving kindness (Gmilut Hassadim). Ruth, the Moabite, is the character most roundly praised for her esed. Yet, it is the Moabite lack of kindness which leads to them being excluded from the "congregation of God", understood to mean prohibition of marriage. An Ammonite or a Moabite is not to enter the assembly of God; even to the tenth generation no one from them is to enter the assembly of God, for the ages, on account that they did not greet you with food and with water on the way at your going out from Egypt (Deut 23:4-5). Ruth is the one who rises above her breeding and displays esed and loyalty. Because of this she is worthy of becoming a part of God's assembly. In order to understand the depth of the statement of R. Ze'ira, we must know a bit of the history of Moab, as the sad parts of the story of Ruth took place there. Moab was the son of Lot and his eldest daughter (Gen19:30-38). Lots daughters committed incest with their father because they believed that everyone else on earth was dead. In fact, the only reason they were alive was because Abraham had prayed for them (Gen18). The Moabites, therefore, owed a debt of gratitude to the Jewish people. This character trait of ungratefulness is such a serious flaw that the Torah mentions it before the cursing of Balaam: No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of the LORD; none of their descendants, even in the tenth generation, shall ever be admitted into the congregation of the LORD, because they did not meet you with food and water on your journey after you left Egypt, and because they hired Balaam son of Beor, from Pethor of Aram- naharaim, to curse you.24 By the time the Israelites came out of Egypt, ungratefulness and immorality had become part and parcel of the national character of Moab (Ex 25:1-9). Moabites, therefore, are a picture of those who rebel against HaShem. They are ungrateful for what He has given them and turn instead to false Gods. The Torah, whose beginning and

23 24

Ruth Rabbah II, 14. Deut 23:4-5.

end is esed, kindness, is exemplified by the behavior of Ruth and Boaz, the main characters of Megilat Ruth.
R Simlai expanded: The Torah- its beginning is the performance of kindness and its end is the performance of kindness, as it is written-And HaShem God made for Adam and his wife skin garments, and he clothed them. And its end is the performance of kindness, as it is written: He buried him in the depression.25

It is therefore quite remarkable to encounter a Moabitess, Ruth, who was the epitome of kindness. Ruth was a princess, the daughter of Eglon, King of Moab, according to our Sages.
Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: A person should always engage in the study of Torah and the performance of Mitzvos even for ulterior motives because from learning Torah and doing Mitzvos for ulterior motives he will eventually come to learn Torah and do Mitzvos for their own sake. The proof for the forty two sacrifices which the wicked Balak offered he merited having the proselyte Ruth among his descendents. As R Yose son of R Chanina said- Ruth was the son of Eglon, the king of Moab. Since Eglon was the grandson of Balak, this proves that Ruth was descended from Balak. 26

Ruth Rabbah also mentions the origin of Ruth and Orpha from King Eglon of Moab:
AND THEY TOOK THEM WIVES OF THE DAUGHTERS OF MOAB (I, 4). It was taught in the name of R. Meir: They neither proselytized them, nor gave them ritual immersion, nor had the new law, Ammonite, but not Ammonitess, Moabite, but not Moabitess, been propounded, that they should escape punishment on its account. THE NAME OF THE ONE WAS ORPAH, because she turned her back (oref) on her mother-in-law. AND THE NAME OF THE OTHER, RUTH, because she considered well (ra'athah) the words of her mother-in-law. R. Bibi said in the name of R. Reuben: Ruth and Orpah were the daughters of Eglon, as it is said; I have a secret errand unto thee, O King. And he said: Keep silence, etc. (Judg. III, 19), and it is written, And Ehud came unto him... and Ehud said: I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat (ib. 20). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Thou didst arise from thy throne in honor of Me. By thy life, I shall raise up from thee a descendant sitting upon the throne of the Lord. AND THEY DWELT THERE ABOUT TEN YEARS (I, 4). [The force of the kaph prefixed to the word ten, as in] about thirty, about forty, is, either less or more.27

Moab typifies an immoral people who have left the ways of HaShem and lack kindness. Because of their apostasy, the Sages decreed that it was forbidden for an Israelite to marry a Moabite man. An Ammonite convert and a Moabite convert are prohibited from marrying into the congregation, and their prohibition is perpetual. However their woman (i.e., female
25 26

B.T. Sotah 14a. B.T. Nazir 23b. 27 Ruth Rabbah II, 9.

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Ammonite and Moabite converts) are permitted immediately.28 Ruth, though a Moabitess, demonstrated kindness par excellence! So great was this kindness that she merited becoming an ancestor of King David and an ancestor of the Kingly line. Ruth is the one who rises above her breeding and displays esed and loyalty. Because of this she is worthy of becoming a part of God's assembly.
It was taught: R. Hanania son of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said: Why are proselytes at the present time oppressed and visited with afflictions? Because they had not observed the seven Noachide commandments. R. Jose said: One who has become a proselyte is like a child newly born. Why then are proselytes oppressed? Because they are not so well acquainted with the details of the commandments as the Israelites. Abba Hanan said in the name of R. Eleazar: Because they do not do it out of love but out of fear. Others said: Because they delayed their entry under the wings of the Shechinah. Said R. Abbahu, or it might be said R. Hanina: What is the Scriptural proof? The Lord recompense thy work, and be thy reward complete from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose etc. thou art come to take refuge.29

Of the above mentioned scriptural proof found in Ruth 2.12 Ruth Rabbah has the following interpretation.
THE LORD RECOMPENSE THY WORK, AND BE THY REWARD COMPLETE FROM THE LORD (II, 12). R. Hasa said: Solomon shall be thy reward.5 UNDER WHOSE WINGS THOU ART COME TO TAKE REFUGE. R. Abin said: We gather from Scripture that there are wings to the earth, as it is said, From the uttermost parts (lit. wings) of the earth we heard songs (Isa. XXIV, 16); wings to the sun, as it is said, But unto you that fear My name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings (Mal. III, 20); wings to the Hayyoth, as it is said, Also the noise of the wings of the Hayyoth (Ezek. III, 13); wings to the cherubim, as it is said, For the cherubim spread forth their wings (I Kings VIII, 7); wings to the seraphim, as it is said, Above Him stood the seraphim; each one had six wings (Isa. VI, 2). Come and consider how great is the power of the righteous, and how great is the power of righteousness, 1 and how great the power of those who do kindly deeds, for they shelter neither in the shadow of the morning, nor in the shadow of the wings of the earth, nor in the shadow of the sun, nor in the shadow of the wings of the Hayyoth, or the cherubim or the seraphim, but under whose wings do they shelter? Under the shadow of Him at whose word the world was created, as it is said, How precious is Thy loving kindness, O God, and the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings (Ps. XXXVI, 8).30

Ruth was rewarded for her acts of loving kindness. Six righteous men of outstanding virtues were born in her lineage: David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, Daniel, and the Mashiach. Ruth Rabbah has the following:
AND HE SAID: BRING THE MANTLE THAT IS UPON THEE (ib. 15). BRING (HABI) is written habah, teaching that he addressed her in the masculine, that none
28 29

B.T. Yevamot 76b. B.T. Yevamot 48b. 30 Ruth Rabbah V, 4.

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should notice her. AND HOLD IT. Teaches that she girded her loins like a man. AND HE MEASURED SIX MEASURES OF BARLEY, AND LAID IT ON HER. R. Simon said: Bar Kappara expounded in Sepphoris: Is it then the custom of a king to betroth a wife with six grains of barley? Or is it the custom of a woman to be betrothed with six seah of barley? R. Juda b. Simon said: The meaning is that as a reward for, AND HE MEASURED SIX BARLEYS AND LAID [THEM] ON HER, he was vouchsafed that there should arise from her six righteous men, each one of them possessing six outstanding virtues, viz. David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, Daniel, and the Mashiach. David, as it is said, Skilful in playing, and a mighty man of valor, and a man of war, and prudent in affairs, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him (I Sam. XVI, 18); Hezekiah, as it is said, That the government may be increased, and of peace there be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it, through justice and through righteousness (Isa. IX, 6). And his name is called Pelejoez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom (ib. 5). Some observe that l'marbeh (be increased) is written with a closed mem. Josiah, as it is said, For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out its roots by the river, etc. (Jer. XVII, 8). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, as it is said, Youths in whom there was no blemish, but fair to look on, and skilful in all wisdom, and skilful in knowledge, and discerning in thought, and such as had ability (Dan. I, 4). Daniel, as it is said, A surpassing spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and declaring of riddles, and loosing of knots, were found in the same Daniel (ib. v, 12). The Mashiach, as it is said, And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, etc. (Isa. XI, 2).31

Ruth is a prime model of an individual who made a completely sincere commitment to HaShem, Torah, and a Torah Life. When we think of Matan Torah at Sinai, we tend to see the whole if Israel rather than the many individuals who make up the nation. Receiving the Torah was an act of the whole nation, but for it to be real in our lives; the commitment has to be personal and individual. In this way, the reading of Megilat Ruth complements the Torah reading beautifully. The book of Ruth is very clear as to the venue of the story and its significance. It was a famine in Eretz Yisrael and their communal responsibilities which drove Naomi's husband and sons to leave the Land. They were punished for leaving the Land. Naomi and Ruth were rewarded for returning to it. Repeated reference is made to mitzvot of the Land.
An Ammonite and a Moabite are forbidden and their prohibition is forever, their women, however, are permitted at once. An Egyptian and an Edomite are forbidden only until the third generation. Whether they are males or females. R. Simeon, however, permits their women forthwith. Said R. Simeon: this law might be inferred a minori ad majus: if where the males are forbidden for all time the females are permitted forthwith, how much more should the females be permitted forthwith where the males are forbidden until the third generation only. They replied: if this is an halachah, we shall accept it; but if it is only an inference, an

31

Ruth Rabbah VII, 2.

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objection can be pointed out. He replied: not so. [but in fact] it is an halachah that I am reporting.32

Targum of Ruth 2,11-12 also mentions about the reward that Ruth was to receive for her kindness.Boaz replied thus: "It has been told to me on the authority of the sages, that when the Lord decreed [against intermarriage with Moab], He did not decree against the women, but against the men. Through prophecy I have been informed that kings and prophets are destined to descend from you, because of the kindness which you have shown your motherin-law, in that you supported her after your husband died, and you left your gods and your people, your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have gone to become a proselyte and to dwell in the midst of a people with whom you were unacquainted before.33 The Targum explains that Boaz was also telling Ruth through prophecy that she would merit having the kingship of Israel descend from her on account of these two deeds. The Targum states that Boaz mentioned the deeds in this specific order: First, that she supported her mother-in-law; Second, that she left her idols and parents and converted to a nation she did not know. From the words of the Targum and the order in which these deeds were listed, there seems to be an implication that the first act, the support of Naomi, is at least equally responsible for Ruth meriting her great reward. As a conclusion of the explanation of the statement which we have been discussing so far I would like to give the opinion of Adele Berlin:
First of all, the Midrash has hit upon an important theme in the book, esed kindness and loyalty, which informs the relationship between the main characters. Second, the comment implicitly cautions about the dangers of getting bogged down in the legal aspects of the story (the levirate, the redemption of land, the status of the Moabitess in Israel). Theses legal practices remain problematic but should not overshadow the main thrust of the work. Finally, although the rabbis were vitally concerned with halakha, they were aware that many parts of the Bible were nonhalakhic (see Rashi on Gen 1:1) and also nonhistorical or nonliteral (for example, that Job was not a real person but a mashal). Ruth Rabbah is seeking to

32 33

B.T. Yevamot 76b 77a. D. R. G. BEATTIE, The Targum of Ruth. Translated with Introduction, Apparatus and Notes (in The Aramaic Bible Series XIX, T&T Clark Ltd.; Edinburgh 1994) 23-24.

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derive moral instruction, an example of gemilut hasadim an eternal value that readers should derive from Ruth.34

CONCLUSION In this chapter, we have examined the place of Ruth Rabbah in Midrashic literature and stressed the importance of G'milut Hassadim in Ruth Rabbah and in rabbinic literature as a whole. The characters in the book of Ruth are role models of G'milut Hassadim and they are rewarded by God. In fact they are acting as Gods agents in showing esed unlike the Moabitess and Ammonites who did not show esed to Israelites. In analyzing the statement of R. Ze'ira ,we have seen that Ruth Rabbah interprets the story of Ruth in the historical context of Moab and its people. Moab typifies an immoral people who have left the ways of HaShem and lack kindness. Because of their apostasy, the Sages decreed that it was forbidden for an Israelite to marry a Moabite man. Ruth, though a Moabitess, demonstrated kindness par excellence! So great was this kindness that she merited becoming an ancestor of King David and an ancestor of the Kingly line. Ruth is the one who rises above her breeding and displays esed and loyalty. Because of this she is worthy of becoming a part of God's assembly. It was a famine in Eretz Yisrael and their communal responsibilities which drove Naomi's husband and sons to leave the Land. They were punished for leaving the Land. Naomi and Ruth were rewarded for returning to it.

34

M. COGAN - B. L. EICHLER - J. H. TIGAY (eds.), Tehillah le Moshe. Biblical and Judaic Studies in Honor of Moshe Greenberg (Eisenbrauns, 1997) 182.

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CHAPTER TWO RUTH: A STORY OF ESED


The period of the Judges was a time of lawlessness: characterized by violence, crime, and continuous warfare. It was a period of corrupt leaders. Although the events in this historical epic were contemporaneous with that period, the book of Ruth portrays the peaceful home life of a family faithfully honoring the Lord in spite of economic adversity, discouragement and death. The key term in the story is esed meaning covenant loyalty (1:8; 2:20; 3:10). It is a book of esed, as we shall see in this chapter, on both the human and divine levels. Ruth and Boaz illustrate what covenant righteousness and loyalty are about in an era when everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). After discussing the various examples of esed in the book of Ruth has the following conclusion: All this demonstrates that esed to one another is among the most fitting vehicles God can use to display his own esed. This again provides a contrast to the book of Judges, in which loyalty within the bounds of the covenant is scarce.35 In this chapter, let us analyse this central theme of the book from the texts where this term is explicitly mentioned and also from analysing the different characters who exemplifies this divine virtue. 2.1 ESED: THE CENTRAL THEME IN THE STORY esed means loving loyalty that goes beyond the expected to unanticipated depths. esed is central to the book of Ruth and exploring how it works in this book will equip us to examine how God may be calling us to express esed in our lives today. R. L. Hubbard in his commentary on Ruth has examined the thematic role which esed plays in this story. He says, On the one hand, the story stressed that Yahweh practices esed toward his people. Naomis wish (1:8) appealed to that divine trait and signaled that, if positive, the storys outcome would result from divine devotion to those who, like Orpah and Ruth, do esed... On the other hand the story emphasized even more strongly the value of human esed. Naomis wish (1:8) first sounded this theme. In her view, the familial loyalty shown by
35

A. E. HILL J. H. WALTON, A Survey of the Old Testament (Zondervan 2000) 207.

15

Ruth and Orpah toward the living and the dead has earned a commensurate act of loyalty from Yahweh. In Boazs own wish for Ruth (2:12), he also stressed that Ruths esed (v.119 merited full repayment from Israels God.36 The book of Ruth holds out practice of esed as the ideal lifestyle for Israel.37 The book praises human esed shown to family and to God and promises that such acts will not go unrewarded. R. Ze'ira said: This scroll [of Ruth] tells nothing either of cleanliness or of uncleanliness, either of prohibition or permission. For what purpose then was it written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness.38

2.2 KEY PASSAGES DEALING WITH ESED (RUTH 1:8; 2:20; 3:10) 2.2.1 Ruth 1:8

hV'ai hn"b.Vo hn"k.le h'yt,L{k; yTev.li ymi[\n" rm,aTow: Ruth 1:8 ~t,yfi[] rv<a]K; ds,x, ~k,M'[i hw"hy> f[;y: hf,[]y: HM'_ai tybel. `ydI(M'[iw> ~ytiMeh;-~[i
WTT

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. Naomi had assumed that her daughters-in-law were accompanying her to Judah out of courtesy with the intention of returning to Moab afterwards. Her maternal suggestion was that they should return to their mothers home , confident that God would reward them for having been good wives and dutiful daughters-in-law. Ruth Rabbah interpret to her mothers house as to her peoples house, i.e., to say to Moab.
AND NAOMI SAID UNTO HER TWO DAUGHTERS-I N-LAW: GO, RETURN EACH OF YOU TO HER MOTHER S HOUSE (1, 8)-i.e. to her peoples house. The mother of Abnimos of Gadara died, and R. Meir went up to condole with him and he found them sitting in mourning. Sometime later his father died, and R. Meir again went up to condole with him, and found them engaged in their normal
36 37

R. L. HUBBARD, The Book of Ruth, (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans 1988) 65-66. Cf. E. F. Campbell, Ruth. A New Translation with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary (in AnBib 7, Doubleday; New York, 1975) 29-30. 38 Ruth Rabbah II, 14.

16

occupations. He said to him: It appears to me that your mother was more dear to you than your father! He answered him: Is it not then written, TO HER MOTHER'S HOUSE, but not "to her father's house"? R. Meir answered him: Thou hast spoken well, for a heathen indeed has no father.39

Ruth Rabbah relates that Ruth and Orpah prepared the burial shrouds of their husbands and relinquished their claims to the entitlements that were due to them upon their husbands death in favour of their mother-in-law. In doing so they had dealt kindly with the dead. Such acts of kindness will not go unrewarded. King David was to be descended from Ruth, a Moabitess.
THE LORD DEAL KINDLY WITH YOU (ib.). R. Hanina b. Adda said: The ketib is ya'aseh. He certainly will deal kindly with you. AS YE HAVE DEALT WITH THE DEAD, in that ye busied yourselves with their shrouds; AND WITH ME, in that they renounced their marriage settlement. R. Ze'ira said: This scroll [of Ruth] tells us nothing either of cleanliness or of uncleanliness, either of prohibition or permission. For what purpose then was it written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness.40

God does not withhold reward from any creature! God repays every good deed accordingly. Then what special implications did Naomis blessing have? Naomis blessing must be understood as saying: Just as you both have gone beyond what is expected of you by doing ds,x,, kindness, so may HaShem not only reward you in the usual manner, but may He go beyond the expected and do you (Nachal Eshkol).41 Ruth is known as the righteous convert in Judaism. In the process of conversion she is warned about the difficulties of Judaism. But she was ready to live a life of Torah, a life of esed.
TURN BACK, MY DAUGHTERS, GO YOUR WAY (I, 12). R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Judah b. Hanina: Three times is it written here [1:8, 1:11, and 1:12] ' turn back, corresponding to the three times that a would -be proselyte is repulsed.42

ds,x,, kindness, with

39 40

Ruth Rabbah II, 13. Ruth Rabbah II, 13-14. 41 M. ZLOTOWITZ, The Book of Ruth. A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources (in Artscroll Tanach Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd.; New York 1979) 72.
42

Ruth Rabbah II, 16.

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2.2.2 Ruth 2:20

rv,a] hw"hyl; aWh %WrB' Ht'L'k;l. ymi[\n" rm,aTow: Ruth 2:20 ymi[\n" Hl' rm,aTow: ~yti_Meh;-ta,w> ~yYIx;h;-ta, ADs.x; bz:['-al{ `aWh) Wnlea]GOmi( vyaih' Wnl' bArq'
WTT

Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not failed in His kindness to the living or to the dead! For," Naomi explained to her daughter-in-law, "the man is related to us; he is one of our redeeming kinsmen." There is a difference of opinion among the commentators whether the subject of who has not failed in His kindness to the living or to the dead, is God or Boaz.43 Majority of the commentators translate the phrase with subject as Boaz. Naomi blessed Boaz who always showed kindness to the living and dead. The kindness he did to Ruth and Naomi is obvious. The kindness he did with the dead is the gratification that the dead receive beyond the grave when benefits are bestowed upon their living relatives. Another interpretation is that when he ultimately perform levirate marriage, he will be doing kindness to the dead husband of Ruth. In the translation above given the subject is God. It would mean Naomi blessed him: May be blessed of Hashem who has not failed in His kindness to the living in this world or to the dead in the world to come. Ruth Rabbah interpret this verse as follows:
AND NAOMI SAID UNTO HER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: BLESSED BE HE OF THE LORD, WHO HATH NOT LEFT OFF HIS KINDNESS TO THE LIVING (II, 20), for he has fed and sustained the living, AND TO THE DEAD, in that he occupied himself with their shrouds. AND NAOMI SAID UNTO HER: THE MAN IS NIGH OF KIN UNTO US, ONE OF OUR NEAR KINSMEN (ib.). R. Samuel B. Nahman said: Boaz was one of the notables of his generation, and yet the woman made him her relative, as it is said, THE MAN IS NIGH OF KIN UNTO US.44

43

M. ZLOTOWITZ, The Book of Ruth, 103. Ruth Rabbah V, 10.

44

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2.2.3 Ruth 3:10

%DEs.x; T.b.j;yhe yTiBi hw"hyl;( T.a; hk'WrB. rm,aYOw: Ruth 3:10 lD:-~ai ~yrIWxB;h; yrEx]a; tk,l,yTil.bil. !Av+arIh'-!mi !Arx]a;h' `ryvi(['-~aiw>
WTT

He exclaimed, "Be blessed of the LORD, daughter! Your latest deed of loyalty is greater than the first, in that you have not turned to younger men, whether poor or rich. Sages stress Boazs righteousness and self control. As Ruth approached him at night no evil thoughts came to his mind. He was moved and blessed her. Boaz compared this incidents of Lots daughter and Judah and Tamar. He said, You, my daughter, are more blessed than Lots daughters and Tamar, because your actions do not involve serious prohibition such as theirs did (Kol Yehuda).45

Your latest deed of loyalty is greater than the first. For a woman in the prime of life to give up the opportunity to marry a youg man in favour of marrying an old one is a great sacrifice.46 Ruth was ready to do this in order to perpetuate the name of her late husband. This , her act of kindness is even greater than the kindness she showed to her mother-in-law.

Rabbi Schmuel Yerushalmi says that Boaz is praising Ruth for her habit of kindness in this verse.
He praised her for making a habit of kindness,which began with providing shroudes for her husband; to wit, May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the deceased(v.1.8), embracing Judaism(which was kindness to her soul), as it says,be your reward complete from the Lordbeneath Whose wings you have come to refuge(v.2:12), and in caring for the destitute Naomi-It has been fully related to me all that you have done for your mother-in-law. (v.2:11).

45

M. ZLOTOWITZ, The Book of Ruth, 114. Ibid. 114.

46

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But her latest act of kindness-seeking to marry the aged Boaz in order to perpetuate the name and soul of Machlon-surpassed all the rest.47

Her great kindness is clear in Ruth Rabbah where the age of both of them (Ruth and Boaz) is mentioned:
AND HE SAID: BLESSED BE THOU OF THE LORD, MY DAUGHTER. THOU HAST SHOWN MORE KINDNESS IN THE END THAN AT THE BEGINNING (ib. 10). R. Johanan and Resh Lakish and the Rabbis commented on this verse. R. Johanan said: One should never keep back from going to an elder to be blessed. Boaz was eighty years of age, and had not been vouchsafed children. But when that righteous woman prayed for him, he was immediately vouchsafed, as it is said, And Naomi said unto her daughter-in-law: Blessed be he of the Lord (Rut II, 20). Resh Lakish said: Ruth was forty years of age and had not yet been vouchsafed children as long as she was married to Machlon. But as soon as that righteous man prayed for her, she was vouchsafed, as it is said, BLESSED BE THOU OF THE LORD, MY DAUGHTER. The Rabbis, however, say: Both of them were vouchsafed children only as a result of the blessings of righteous people, as it is said, and all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said: We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman... like Rachel and like Leah (ib. IV, 11). THOU HAST SHOWN MORE KINDNESS IN THE END THAN AT THE BEGINNING, INASMUCH AS THOU DIDST NOT FOLLOW THE YOUNG MEN, WHETHER RICH OR POOR. R. Samuel b. R. Isaac said: A woman prefers a poor young man to a wealthy old man.48

According to Jack M. Sasson, in the above texts the word esed is used as term which signifies family bond and relationship among family members. In the case of Ruth 1.8, as well as the occurrences in 2:11and 3.10, esed defines the bonds of marriages and consanguinity which existed between Naomi and her daughter-in-law.49 But we are clear from the analysis of the text that esed is both human and divine. It is going beyond law and obligation to do the needful. 2.3 KEY PERSONS SHOWING KINDNESS 2.3.1 Boaz Boaz was generous to Ruth both publicly (Ruth 2:8-9) and privately (Ruth 2:14-16). Ruth had been working hard all through the morning, and Boaz granted her the right to glean with his women and eat and drink with his workers.

47 48

S. YERUSHALMI, The Book of Ruth (Manzaim Publishing Corporation; New York 1985) 103. Ruth Rabbah VI, 12. 49 J. M. SASSON, Ruth. A New Translation with a Philological Commentary and A Formalist-Folklorist Interpretation (The Johns Hopkins Press Ltd.; London 1979) 23.

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Hearing about her loving service to Naomi, Boaz (who was a close relative of Elimelech, Naomi's deceased husband) decided to take care of Ruth and Naomi. Boaz secretly ordered his men to intentionally leave some barley on the ground so that Ruth might glean more. This was going above and beyond the duty of a relative and suggests that Boaz was greatly favoring Ruth. He acknowledges her right to glean behind his handmaidens and to remain unmolested in his fields, but he does not yet accede to her request to glean among the sheaves. By meal time, he is a changed person: she is to eat with him, she may glean among the sheaves, and his men are to drop part of their harvest for Ruth to acquire. Ruth returns home with an efah of barley, and Naomi realizes that their future might be brighter than she had dared to hope. The harvest comes to an end, and Naomi instructs Ruth in a new plan: she is to join Boaz at the threshing floor during his night of vigil. The vigil had cultic and ceremonial significance; and Ruth's preparations for the night are preparations of marriage. Whether or not the marriage was consummated on that night is debated, although the story is clear enough here: the consummation took place after the marriage (4:13) and was blessed by God with a son, Obed. Ruth then repaid the favors given to her by Boaz by proposing marriage to him (Ruth 3:9-13). Not only did she propose marriage to an older man who had shown great favor to her, but she did so in a way that did not attract attention to herself or him. Since she made the request while no one else was around (without compromising her own good reputation for morality), she did not put pressure on him to accept in order to avoid public ridicule. Boaz recognized the great favor and promised to act on it quickly, after giving Ruth more barley as a sign of his sincerity (Ruth 3:15). Boaz went before the elders of the town and found the one relative closer to Mahlon (Ruth's deceased husband) than himself. Presenting his case skillfully, Boaz wove together the right to redeem the family inheritance of Elimelech with the obligation of marrying Ruth. The relative was interested in having Elimelech's land, but not in marrying Ruth. Since Boaz was willing to raise up an heir to Mahlon with Ruth, he gained the right to redeem the land. Boaz then married Ruth, and their marriage was blessed by the townspeople. This story, told in Ruth 4:1-6 and verses10-12, is an act of esed. There is no doubt as well that the readiness of Boaz to marry Ruth was an act of kindness. This is obvious, based on the refusal of her
21

kinsman to marry her - "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I harm my own inheritance" (4:6). 2.3.2 Ruth Ruth and Orpha remain with lonely Naomi after her husband's and sons' deaths. For this, Naomi thanks her daughters-in-law: "May God do kindness with you as you have done with the dead and with me" (1:8). Ruth 1.16-17: Naomi, an Israelite widow, decided to return to Israel after the death of her two sons in the land of Moab. Ruth, her widowed daughter-in-law, planned to go with her, even though Naomi warned her that there could be no expectation of marriage and children, but rather the bleak prospect of poverty. Still Ruth refused to leave Naomi. Uttering one of the most moving pleas of esed in the entire Bible, Ruth said, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord does so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me." With that the two widows went back to Bethlehem. After Naomi and Ruth reached Bethlehem, Ruth sought to help Naomi (who was probably too old to work at this time) by seeking her permission to glean for the two of them as the poor and strangers were allowed to do (Lev 23:22). Gleaning was not easy work. It meant long hours stooping to pick up small clumps of barley or wheat that had been left behind after the reapers finished harvesting a field. As a young woman, Ruth would have been subject to the unwanted attention of the young men of Bethlehem. As a Moabite woman in a town of Judah, Ruth could expect distrust and scorn. Knowing all of this, Ruth still desired to help her mother-in-law, and Naomi granted her permission. Ruth, by leaving her nation and God in order to live with her mother-in-law Naomi in a strange land and strange surroundings, without any practical chance of building a family, does an amazing kindness: "It has been fully told to me all that you have done for your mother-in-law after your husband died, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a nation whom you did not know before" (Ruth 2:11).
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When Ruth proposes to Boaz, he responds, "May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness (covenant love) greater than the first in which you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. The first instance of Ruths covenant love of which Boaz here speaks is what she had done for her mother-in-law since the death of her husband--how she had left her father and mother and her homeland and had come to live with a people she did not know before. The second instance of her covenant love is that she did not go out looking for a husband purely on the grounds of best protecting her own interests. She did not go looking for the strongest or most handsome or most romantic husband or, for that matter, the wealthiest. She went to the one who would not only be able to care for her, or even for her and Naomi, but also to preserve the family lineage. And she went to one who had already displayed the qualities of godliness that our keyword summarizes. Boaz apparently considers himself too old for Ruth, and so he has a personal appreciation of what she has done, but he is most impressed that Ruth is not looking out just for herself, but for both the living Naomi and the dead, childless men of the family. Ruth's agreement to marry Boaz, who was older than her by many years, is seen in the eyes of Boaz as a kindness: "For you have shown greater kindness in the end than at the beginning, that you did not follow after the young men whether poor or rich" (Ruth 3:10). 2.3.3 Naomi Naomi gave Ruth advice on how to propose marriage to Boaz (Ruth 3:1-4) As a widow without children, Ruth had the right, according to Israelite law, to propose marriage to the nearest relative of her husband to raise up an heir to preserve the family line. Ruth may have been unaware of the custom, and Boaz may have been too shy to propose marriage to Ruth himself. Naomi looked out for both of them Naomi's turn arrives to do kindness for her daughter-in-law: "Shall I not seek a home for you that I may be good for you?" (Ruth 3:1), and therefore she initiates the meeting between Boaz and Ruth, which brings about their marriage. 2.3.4 God
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God shows esed to Ruth, Boaz and Naomi. Boaz obtained a wife, Ruth gave birth to Obed, and Naomi served as the nurse. Referring to the child, the people of Bethlehem told Naomi, "And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughterin-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him" (Ruth 4:15). The book of Ruth closes with a genealogy from Perez to David. Obed was the grandfather of King David, the great shepherd king of Israel. Even more importantly, both Ruth and Boaz were ancestors of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and Ruth is one of only three women named in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Mathew.

2.4 THE POWER AND REWARD OF ESED


In the book of Ruth God does not act directly at all! In Ruth, it is people with their acts of kindness who bring about the redemption and the building of the house of David. The whole essence of the book of Ruth is the chain of acts of kindness brought about by people of esed. The characters of the book of Ruth contribute their part to an ideal atmosphere; there are no negative characters. Similarly, the heroes of the book of Ruth compete amongst themselves over doing good; everyone helps one another, everyone is striving to see their fellow man in a state of abundant goodness. In contrast to the book of Job, The Book of Ruth reveals another facet in the way the world runs: man through his actions can fix, build, establish, expand and redeem. The world can be built through kindness. Man has a significant form of power. "Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet" (Ps 8:6). Through the power of acts of kindness, the world must be repaired. It is impossible that a person of kindness such as Ruth would not come to the fields of Boaz, a man of kindness, exactly on the day that he arrives at the field. It is impossible that the kinsman would not pass by the gate of the city at the exact moment that Boaz was trying to complete the circle of kindness. This is the power of kindness. "Boaz did what he had to do, and Ruth did what she must do, and Naomi did what she was supposed to do, God said also: I shall do My part".
50

God has no choice, as it were, but to look down from His holy dwelling place, and

to complete the work "And God gave her a pregnancy and she bore a son" (Ruth
50

Ruth Rabbah VII, 7.

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4:13). Through her son she became the mother of royalty, the great grandmother of King David.

2.5 FROM JUDGES TO KINGS


We began with the question of the purpose of the book of Ruth, and discussed the message that arises from its plot, namely, the abundance and influence of acts of kindness. It still remains for us to discuss one detail: the framework within which all of these events occurred - the passage from the time period of the Judges to that of the Kings. It seems as if the text wished to express the message of man's responsibility and his ability to be active in the world specifically at this point in time, when the Israelite monarchy is about to commence. There is no one like the King to represent the highest level that man is capable of reaching, in terms of his authority and power to act. It is specifically at this time period, then, that it must be stressed that man must invest all his efforts in doing kindness, and then he will be able to build worlds, rebuild ruins, and redeem. There are two ways in which God rules the world. One way is fixed from the beginning according to a hidden plan, and man must come to terms with it and accept it as absolute truth. The other is placed in the hands of man and he is given almost unlimited powers to influence his world. The book of Ruth, then, comes to stress man's ability and obligation to do good; this is the power which brought about the lineage of King David and eventually in Jesus. CONCLUSION The book of Ruth is characterized by acts of kindness and concern for others. Acts of selfless giving abound in this book. As the conclusion of this chapter I would like to quote Judith A. Kates. Ruth has been traditionally been called the book of esed, a word usually translated as loving-kindness or benevolence. It refers to acts of care and love that go beyond obligation and to a quality of generosity, of an abundance of giving. The Bible attributes this quality most particularly to God, when God reveals Godself to Moses

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(Ex34.6-7).51 Naomi demonstrates unusual selflessness as she encourages her daughters in law to leave her so that they may rebuild their own lives. Ruth's dedication and ongoing care for Naomi is representative of a character filled with sensitivity, giving and loyalty. Boaz, even in his role as farmer promotes heightened sensitivity to the poor as he instructs his farm-hands to treat Ruth respectfully and kindly, beyond the call of duty. Later in the story, Boaz demonstrates his loyalty and kindness to Ruth personally, and to Elimelech's family, by "redeeming" Ruth and marrying her. God shows esed to Ruth, Boaz and Naomi. Boaz obtained a wife, Ruth gave birth to Obed, and Naomi served as the nurse. From this family is later born King David.

51

J. A. KATES G. T. REIMER (eds.), Reading Ruth. Contemporary Women Reclaim A Sacred Story (Ballantine Books; New York 1994) 190.

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GENERAL CONCLUSION
After having examined the statement of Rabbi Ze'ira regarding the purpose of the book of Ruth in the context of Midrash Ruth Rabbah, the book of Ruth and other rabbinic sources, now let me give some concluding remarks. R. Ze'iras statement is an expansive and also inclusive statement regarding the book of Ruth as a whole. Judith A. Kates observes in this statement the tone of an impatient halakhist who asks why we need to spend time on a text that apparently has nothing to teach us about the essential categories of the law.52 Rabbi Ze'ira offers us a reading of the book of Ruth in the context of Scripture as a whole. In that context he renders a pious affirmation of what we call Deuteronomistic theology. From the point of view of this theology blessings and sufferings of human beings can be seen as reward and punishment for the deeds done. Loyalty to the covenant is rewarded while unfaithfulness to covenant is punished. The Rabbinic principle of measure for measure is applied here. To see the book as written to teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of esed is to find in it an ethically comprehensible, divinely ordered world in which reward and punishment are clearly seen as a result of good deeds and bad deeds. As we have seen earlier Ruth, the Moabitess is brought under the wings of God because of her acts of loving-kindness. But we have seen from Talmud that her conversion was perfectly in keeping with the law. So, I think Judith A. Kates has a point in saying, The Rabbis Ruth then comes to teach not only the reward for deeds of loving kindness, as Rabbi Ze'ira said. It comes to underscore the network of righteousness so powerfully present in this story-the interdependence of law and ethics, halakha and esed.53

52

P. S. HAWKINS L. C. STAHLBERG, (eds.), Scrolls of Love. Ruth and the Song of Songs (Fordham University Press 2006) 49.
53

Ibid. 58.

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In short, people who exemplify a life of Torah are evidenced in the book of Ruth. Almost every character in the story perform ordinary esed, while some especially Boaz and Ruth perform extraordinary esed. Their lives demonstrate that esed to one another is among the most fitting vehicles God can use to display his own esed. God shows esed to Ruth, Boaz and Naomi. Boaz obtained a wife, Ruth gave birth to Obed, and Naomi served as the nurse. From this family is later born King David. Thus their loving-kindness are rewarded. This again provides a contrast to the book of Judges, in which loyalty within the bounds of the covenant is scarce. SHOW ESED IN ORDINARY LIFE SITUATIONS IN ORDER TO CREATE A BETTER WORLD. Ruth is a very human book. Its subject matter is the stuff of everyday life: family, marriage, children, homes, food, departures, deaths, good times, and bad times. The narrative is about ordinary human affairs, but the drama unfolds against a background of the providence and purposes of God. The book of Ruth pictures Gods activity as hidden behind the actions of human agents. Whenever people of faith practice God-like loving-kindness toward each other, God himself acts in them. In the book of Ruth we see esed displayed by Ruth for Naomi (1:16-17). We see esed displayed by Boaz for Naomi and her family (2:20). Ruths agreement to marry Boaz (3:10) and Boazs readiness to marry Ruth (4.6) are examples of esed. All the actions of these people are the process by which God's esed is displayed, first to Naomi and Elimelech's family, and then to Israel as a whole because it is through this family that David's blood line is traced. All this demonstrates that esed to one another is among the most fitting vehicles God can use to display his own esed. The book of Ruth also shows us the power of esed and challenges us to live a life of esed. We know from our experience that certain kinds of food and certain habits are good for our bodys health. Likewise certain habits nourish our soul while certain other habits are toxic to it. From the book of Judges we have seen the habits which are toxic. From the book of Ruth, we have seen what nourishes our soul. When we think of power we are often tempted to think about it in terms of Physical strength, political might or military power. But real power is the capacity to turn someones life for the better through selfless acts of love. In Jesus we have the example for a meaningful life. Treat everyone, even the most debased
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sinner with love and kindness. In the famous prayer of St. Francis Asissi beginning with the words, Lord make me an instrument of your peace.., I see, the strong desire of the saint to do true esed in order to create a peaceful world. In human contexts, esed is loving commitment within a relationship, most often, though not exclusively, within the setting of the family or clan as we have seen in the story of Ruth. It represents the social bonds of loyalty toward others within the community of God. esed is mutual. Those who are shown esed are expected not by law but by social and moral convention, to reciprocate. This has particular implications for the social life of Gods people where esed, expressed in the right conduct toward one another, is expected both because of the mutual relationship established through membership of the covenant community and as a proper response to the esed shown by God. Because esed is ultimately voluntary, it is not a legal obligation, though its failure is taken seriously. The practice of esed is part of the social contract that holds society together. When it is lacking everything falls apart, as Hosea observed: Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel! For the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
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Swearing and lying, and killing,


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and stealing, and committing adultery! They break all bounds, and blood toucheth blood.

Therefore doth the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein doth languish, with the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also are taken a way. (Hos 4:1-3). How can we show such kindness in our own lives? First we must find out what sort of needs there are among our friends and family, or our neighbors. Perhaps there is someone who needs some time and attention, a willing ear to listen to stories or problems. Perhaps someone needs a friend to comfort him or her through a difficult time. Without expecting or demanding anything in return, we can help those around us. In turn, God may end up repaying us in ways we cannot foresee. Though Ruth, Naomi and Boaz could not see the end result of their acts of esed to each other, they acted out of love.

In contrast to the book of Job, The book of Ruth reveals another facet in the way the world runs: man through his actions can fix, build, establish, expand and redeem. Of course, the
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world can be built through kindness. Man has a significant form of power. In the midst of global crises such as pollution, war and famine, esed may be a soft word too easily dismissed. But in fact esed is the greatest need in all these areas: kindness towards the environment, towards other nations, towards the needs of the people who are suffering. "Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet" (Ps 8:6). Through the power of acts of kindness, the world must be repaired. It is impossible that a person of kindness such as Ruth would not come to the fields of Boaz, a man of kindness, exactly on the day that he arrives at the field. It is impossible that the kinsman would not pass by the gate of the city at the exact moment that Boaz was trying to complete the circle of kindness. This is the power of kindness. Finally with the psalmist we shall proclaim Gods esed which lasts forever. I will sing of thy steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy faithfulness to all generations.
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For thy steadfast love was established for ever, thy faithfulness is firm as the

heavens. (Ps 89:1-2).

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BIBLIOGRAPHY
BEATTIE, D.R.G., The Targum of Ruth. Translated with Introduction, Apparatus and Notes (The Aramaic Bible Series XIX, T&T Clark Ltd.; Edinburgh 1994). Campbell, E. F., Ruth. A New Translation with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary (in AnBib 7, Doubleday; New York, 1975). Encyclopedia Judaica, (Keter; Jerusalem 1972). HAWKINS, P. S. STAHLBERG, L. C. (eds.), Scrolls of Love. Ruth and the Song of Songs (Fordham University Press 2006). HILL, A. E., WALTON, J. H., A Survey of the Old Testament (Zondervan 2000). HUBBARD, R. L., The Book of Ruth (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans 1988). JACOB, N., The Midrash Compilations of the Sixth and Seventh Centuries. An Introduction to the Rhetorical, Logical and Topical Program, Volume III. Ruth Rabbah (Scholars Press; Atlanta 1989). KATES, J.A. REIMER, G. T., (eds.), Reading Ruth. Contemporary women Reclaim A Sacred Story (Ballantine Books; New York 1994). Levy, J., Wrterbuch ber die Talmudim und Midraschim (Benjamin Harz Verlag; Berlin 1924). MORDECHAI, C.- EICHLER, B. L. - TIGAY J. H., (eds.), Tehillah le Moshe. Biblical and Judaic Studies in Honor of Moshe Greenberg (Eisenbrauns, 1997). PINES, S., The Guide of the Perplexed: Moses Maimonides, vol. II. Translated with Introduction and Notes. (The University of Chicago Press; Chicago 1963). RABINOWITZ, L. J., MIDRASH Ruth Rabbah. Translated into English with Notes, Glossary and Indices under the Editorship of Rabbi H. Freedman and Maurice Simon (in Midrash Rabbah VIII, Soncino Press; London 1961). SCHOTTENSTEIN, J., et al. (ed.), Talmud Bavli. The Gemara: The Classic Vilna Edition; with an Annotated Interpretative Elucidation as Aid to the Talmud Study (Mesorah Publication, Ltd., New York 1990-2004). SANTALA, R., The Midrash of the Messiah. The Messiah and His Meal in Midrash Ruth Chapters V, VII and VIII and its Roots and Reflections in Corresponding Jewish Literature (Tummavuoren Kirjapaino Oy; Finland 2002). SASSON, J. M., Ruth. A New Translation with a Philological Commentary and A FormalistFolklorist Interpretation (The Johns Hopkins Press Ltd.; London 1979).
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YERUSHALMI, S., The Book of Ruth (Manzaim Publishing Corporation; New York 1985). ZLOTOWITZ, M., The Book of Ruth . A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources (in Artscroll Tanach Series, Mesorah Publications Ltd.; New York 1979).

Contents
GENERAL INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................... 1 CHAPTER ONE ................................................................................................................................................ 3 RUTH RABBAH AND ITS POSITION IN MIDRASHIC LITERATURE ..................................................... 3 1.1 MIDRASHIC LITERATURE ........................................................................................................ 3 Early, Middle and Late Midrashim............................................................................................ 3

1.1.1 1.2

RUTH RABBAH ............................................................................................................................. 4 Name ......................................................................................................................................... 5 The Content and Division of Ruth Rabbah................................................................................ 5

1.2.1 1.2.2

1.2.3 Language .......................................................................................................................................... 6 1.2.4. Redaction ......................................................................................................................................... 6 1.3 1.4 1.5 THE TOTAL LACK OF HALAKHIC PURIFICATION RULES IN RUTH RABBAH ................. 6 IMPORTANCE OF GMILUT HASSADIM IN RUTH RABBAH AND JUDAISM ............... 6 THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK OF RUTH ACCORDING TO R. ZEIRA .......................... 8

CONCLUSION .......................................................................................................................................... 14 CHAPTER TWO ........................................................................................................................................... 15 RUTH: A STORY OF ESED..................................................................................................................... 15 2.1 ESED: THE CENTRAL THEME IN THE STORY .......................................................................... 15 2.2 KEY PASSAGES DEALING WITH ESED (RUTH 1:8; 2:20; 3:10) ............................................... 16 2.2.1 Ruth 1:8 .......................................................................................................................................... 16 2.2.2 Ruth 2:20 ........................................................................................................................................ 18 2.2.3 Ruth 3:10 ........................................................................................................................................ 19 2.3 KEY PERSONS SHOWING KINDNESS ............................................................................................ 20 2.3.1 Boaz ................................................................................................................................................ 20 2.3.2 Ruth ................................................................................................................................................ 22 2.3.3 Naomi ............................................................................................................................................. 23 2.3.4 God ................................................................................................................................................. 23 2.4 THE POWER AND REWARD OF ESED ..................................................................................... 24 2.5 FROM JUDGES TO KINGS.............................................................................................................. 25 32

CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................................... 25 GENERAL CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................................ 27 BIBLOGRAPHY....31

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