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Vol. 9 No. 32
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So You Shall Bless
(adapted from the K'li Yokor)
The Torah introduces Birchas Kohanim with the word "Koh sevorchu es B'nei Yisrael" ('So you shall bless the B'nei Yisrael'), because that is the word that G-d used when He blessed Avraham. There too, He said "koh yihyeh zar'echo" ('so shall be your children'). In this way, the z'chus of Avraham stands us in good stead each time the Kohanim bless us.
And that is why Bilam said to Balak "Hisyatzev Koh al Olosecho, ve'Onochi ikoreh koh" (You stand by your sacrifice and I will be met here'). By this, says the Medrash, he meant 'You with your sacrifices will negate "Koh yihyeh zar'echa", and I will negate "Koh sevorchu"!
For you see, Bilam realised the importance of the B'rachah of Avraham, and of its sequel in the form of Birchas Kohanim.
With this we can better understand the Medrash in Balak. With reference to the Pasuk "Perhaps I will be able to detract from them", the Medrash comments that from each Sa'ah of produce that one sells, one deducts one twenty-fourth (see Bava Basra 93b). And that is precisely what Bilam had in mind to detract from Yisrael - one twenty-fourth. And one twenty-fourth of six hundred thousand is twenty-five thousand.
Now what, one may well ask, was so special about the number twenty-five thousand? Why should Bilam intend to destroy specifically that number?
The answer is that Bilam wanted to negate the B'rachah of 'Koh sevorchu' (and "Koh" of course, is the numerical value of twenty-five). And once he succeeded in doing that, he would be able to move on from there and curse them without any restrictions.
But Hashem foiled Bilam's plans. The plague devoured twenty-four thousand and stopped, so as not to interfere with the B'rachah of "Koh yihyeh zar'echa", which remained intact. In other words, Birchas Kohanim (together with the B'rachah of Avraham "Koh Yihyeh Zar'echa") overrode Bil'am's efforts to negate it, preventing that extra thousand from dying. In spite of the plague, Yisrael remained blessed, and Bilam's plan to curse them had failed.
Perhaps the B'rachah "Koh sevorchu" corresponds to the twenty-four gifts of Kehunah, which together with Birchas Kohanim, totals twenty-five. Perhaps it is on their merit that when the Kohanim bless Yisrael, G-d responds, combining His blessing with theirs.
What benefit do the Kohanim receive from their B'rachah, you may ask, that renders it part of the Matnos Kehunah? The answer lies in the Pasuk "va'Avorchoh mevorchecha", from which Chazal derive that whoever blesses Yisrael is himself blessed (see Chulin 49a). So you see that when the Kohanim bless Yisrael, they too are blessed. In addition, the very first B'rachah of Birchas Kohanim "Yevorech'cho Hashem", Chazal interpret to mean with property. And when Yisrael prosper, the Kohanim benefit too, since the more property Yisrael own, the more tithes they are able to give.
The K'li Yakar has connected the word "Koh" to the B'rachah of Avraham, which after all, was the first B'rachah that pertained to K'lal Yisrael. The Ba'al ha'Turim adds a number of wonderful connections. Firstly, there is the merit of the Akeidah, where Avraham said "va'Ani ve'ha'na'ar neilchoh ad "Koh" ('and I and the 'boy' will go up to there'). In addition he points out, there are twenty-five letters in the Pasuk "Sh'ma Yisrael" (Kabolas Ol Malchus Shamayim) and the word "B'rachah" occurs in the Chumash twenty-five times. And he adds, so does the word "Shalom", which explains why Birchas Kohanim begins with B'rachah ("Yevorech'cho"), and ends with "Shalom".
To explain the sequence of the three Pesukim (incorporating six B'rachos) of Birchas Kohanim, the K'li Yakar cites the Medrash in Yisro, that G-d first referred to Yisrael as 'daughter', then he called them 'sister' and finally, 'mother'. And as he explained there, in Egypt, G-d gave Yisrael like a mother gives a daughter (who receives but does not give), because at that stage, they were not at a level to give (as we discussed in the Pesach issue). Later, at Matan Torah, when they proclaimed 'Na'aseh ve'Nishma', they were on equal footing with Him, so to speak, like sisters, who give and receive. Whereas when they built G-d the Mishkan, they became the givers, and G-d (Kevayachol) the receiver, and so He called them 'Mother'.
And that explains the sequence of the Pesukim of Birchas Kohanim "Hashem will bless you and guard you"; The bounty of the B'rachos will descend and He will guard you from above (for this is the connotation of 'guarding' - from above). "Ya'er Hashem Ponov eilecho ... "; His Face will shine to you - face to face, like the moon stands level with the sun (on the same plain) to receive its light. "Yiso Hashem Ponov Eilecho ... "; He will raise His Face (upwards) to you, because, as Chazal have said 'the Tzadik governs the fear of G-d' (G-d rules the world according to the dictates of the Tzadik). In this sense, G-d looks up to Yisrael to receive inspiration from them. That is when our relationship with Him reaches its peak, and that is when He grants us peace.
(Adapted from the P'ninei Torah)
Causing Others to Sin
"And that soul will be guilty. And they shall confess" (5:6/7).
If that soul is guilty of sinning, why should they confess?
The answer is because the Pasuk is talking here about Reuven who swears falsely, as a result of Shimon having claimed money from him which he denied (see Rashi). Consequently, Shimon must share in Reuven's guilt. for having caused him to swear falsely.
It would have been worthwhile foregoing his claim to prevent the thief from swearing falsely and desecrating G-d's holy name. Allowing the defendant to swear, knowing that he is swearing a false oath, is in itself a sin for which the claimant now needs to confess.
As Long as You've Still Got it
"And a man's Kodesh will be his; what a man gives to the Kohen will be his" (5:10).
According to the Halachah, as long as T'rumos have not yet been handed over to the Kohen, their sanctity can be revoked by a she'eilas Chacham, but this cannot be done once they have entered the Kohen's domain.
This Halachah is clearly hinted in this Pasuk, "A man's Kodesh (referring to T'rumah, which is called 'Kodesh') belongs to him (he has the right to revoke its sanctity and retain it. But) once he has given it to the Kohen, it becomes his (the Kohen's), and its sanctity can no longer be revoked.
The Adulterous Worm
"A man who gives to the Kohen ... A man whose wife strays ... " (5:10/12).
Rashi, commenting on the juxtaposition of these two issues, explains that a man who fails to give the Kohen his dues, will be forced to take his wife to the Kohen.
If this is the sole aspect of 'measure for measure' here, then the connection certainly appears somewhat superficial. The commentaries however, cite the Gemara in Sotah 3a; The Gemara there compares adultery to a worm that, slowly but surely, eats up all the sesame-seeds. So too, does an adulterous woman slowly but surely eat up all her husband's property by giving it to her lover.
This is the price the husband must ultimately pay for trying to enrich himself at the Kohen's expense. Then in addition, he is forced to take his wife to the Kohen. The cycle begins with the Kohen and ends with the Kohen, who knows that his tribe's honour has now been avenged.
By Hook or by Crook
The Dubno Maggid explains the previous issue with a Moshol. He tells the story of a sophisticated man who once arrived in a town whose inhabitants were uncultured. When they asked him his occupation, he replied that he bound wounds (a medic). He explained to his puzzled friend that although he held a number of senior posts at home, he declined to tell the locals about that, because they would simply not understand what he meant. But they all understood what a man who binds wounds was.
It's the same here, says the Dubno Maggid. We are obligated to honour the Kohanim, G-d's personal servants, by giving them their due tithes. Sophisticated people understand that and gladly give him his dues.
However, there are some uncultured people who do not understand this. So Hashem gives them to understand the Kohen's value in other ways, ways that they can relate to and which they do understand.
"Speak to Aharon and his sons ... So you shall bless the B'nei Yisrael, say to them" (6:23).
The word "Omor lohem" ('say to them') also has connotations of love (like in the Pasuk in Ki Savo "va'Hashem he'emircho Hayom" (and G-d loved you today) 26:18, according to some commentaries.
It is important that the Kohanim bless Yisrael out of love, so that their blessing should be a full one and not like that of Bil'am, who brimmed with hatred even as he blessed Yisrael, causing him to bless them begrudgingly.
That is why the Kohanim conclude the B'rachah with the words 'to bless His people Yisrael with love'.
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"So you shall bless" - with these very words, say Chazal, in Lashon ha'Kodesh.
Why, asks the K'sav Sofer, should the Kohanim not bless Yisrael, using words of their choice? Why do they have to use the words chosen by Hashem?
The answer, he says, lies in the fact that although a human being might think that he knows what's good for his fellow-Jew, nobody except G-d knows what is truly good for him. That is why the Kohanim have no option but to begin with the words "May Hashem bless you ... ". Because only He is able to bestow upon us a blessing that is genuinely a blessing.
Following the Joneses
"His Korban was a silver dish ... This is the Korban of ... ".
Since each Nasi brought the same Korban as the one before him, it would surely have sufficed to write "And on the second day, Nesanel ben Tzu'ar brought that too". Why did the Torah see fit to repeat each set of exactly identical Korbanos twelve times?
The answer, says Rebbi Bunim from P'shischa, lies in the fact that each Nasi brought that set of Korbanos, not because his predecessor brought it before him, but because he chose to bring it. Indeed, the Medrash explains how each Nasi had a slightly different Kavanah in bringing this particular set.
In addition, one might add, it speaks volumes for the Midos of the Nesi'im, that each one was happy to bring those Korbanos, unperturbed by the fact that someone else had preceded him with exactly the same set of Korbanos. Most untypical of aristocrats, who normally like to display their individuality by doing something original.
But then, of course, the purpose of the exercise was to glorify G-d, in whose honour they were being sacrificed, and not those who were bringing them.
THE DINIM OF ERETZ YISRAEL
AND ITS MINHAGIM
The Distance between One Species and Another
(chapter 14) Cont.
3. Produce and legumes have one and the same Din. Produce or legumes that one sowed as vegetables (for example if one sowed the former, or maize for its leaves, both to use as fodder, they are considered legumes). And the same applies to vegetables that one leaves in the ground to become hard, to then use as seeds.
4. By Torah law, different species of produce or of legumes require a space of six Tefachim (one Amah - slightly less than two feet) between one and the other. Whereas different kinds of vegetables require a division of only one Tefach.
There is a Safek (doubt) however, as to whether a space of a Tefach is sufficient between a species of produce or legumes and vegetables, or whether six Tefachim is required. One therefore takes the strict view.
5. Chazal decreed additional distances between different species, depending on the size of the areas that are being sown. For this purpose, they divided all land that is being sown into four categories: a field, a square, a row or a strip.
A field comprises an area of at least ten and a fifth Amos wide whose length exceeds its width.
A square, any square that does not exceed ten and a fifth by ten and a fifth Amos.
A row, whatever is between six Tefachim and ten and a fifth Amos wide, and whose length exceeds its width (even if it is longer than ten and a fifth Amos).
A strip comprises a row that is less than six Tefachim wide.
6. An area is only considered a field if it is sown with a single species only. Two different species with the required distance between them do not combine to turn the area into a field. And the same applies to a row.
7. Two rows of the same species with a space of three Tefachim between them, do not combine, unless it is the done thing to leave a space, in which case even a space of more than three Tefachim will not prevent them from combining.
8. Here then is a table of distances that one is obligated to leave between one species and another:
1). Between a field of wheat and a field of barley - ten and a fifth Amos across the width of the field (i.e. one whose length exceeds ten and a fifth Amos). And in a large field, ten and a fifth Amos by ten and a fifth Amos, and a diagonal running across the rest of the field (to form a triangle). And the same will apply to any two species of produce (i.e. rye, oats or spelt) and legumes that constitute Kil'ayim.
2). A field of wheat and a row of barley - two Amos across the width of the field. And in a large field, two Amos by two Amos, and a diagonal running across the rest of the field (to form a triangle).
3). A field of wheat and a strip of barley - ten and a fifth Amos wide (though it is a Safek whether it must be a square - i.e. ten Amos long as well).
4). A field of wheat and a field of vegetables - ten and a fifth Amos across the width of the field. And in a large field, ten and a fifth Amos by ten and a fifth Amos, and a diagonal running across the rest of the field (to form a triangle).
5). A field of wheat and a row of vegetables - six Tefachim across the width of the field. And in a large field, six Tefachim running across for ten and a fifth Amos, and a diagonal running across the rest of the field (to form a triangle).
This issue is sponsored by Sarah Feiga bas R' Yitzchok Grossman n.y.
l'iluy Nishmas Rus (Rikel) bas R' Yehudah z.l.
the beloved and devoted Eshes Chayil of
R' Eliezer ben Aharon ha'Kohen Orbach of New Jersey, USA.
When Was The Torah Given?
Whether the Torah was given on the sixth of Sivan or on the seventh is a Machlokes Tana'im in Shabbos (86b). According to the Chachamim, it was given on the sixth of Sivan, whereas Rebbi Yossi holds that it was given on the seventh. Their dispute hinges on whether Moshe added a day after G-d instructed him on the fourth of Sivan to prepare Yisrael for the third day (for Matan Torah), by which He meant on Friday (as we shall see). Rebbi Yossi maintains that Moshe decided to add a day (see Sugya 87a), whereas in the opinion of the Rabbanan, he followed instructions, and the Torah was given on the third day, as G-d had originally planned.
On the surface, this seems to suggest that, according to the Rabbanan, the Torah was given on Friday the sixth of Sivan, and according to Rebbi Yossi, on Shabbos the seventh.
But this is not correct. Both agree, the Gemara concludes, that Yisrael arrived at Har Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, and that the Torah was given on Shabbos. It is only possible for the Rabbanan to agree with Rebbi Yossi that the Torah was given on Shabbos if there is a second bone of contention.
And sure enough, the Gemara points to a second dispute between them. Rebbi Yossi and the Rabbanan also argue over when Rosh Chodesh Sivan fell that year. According to Rebbi Yossi, Rosh Chodesh Sivan fell on Sunday. On Wednesday, the fourth of Sivan, G-d instructed Moshe to prepare Yisrael for the third day, as we explained. Moshe however, prepared them for the fourth (to which G-d acceded), which turned out to be Shabbos, the seventh of Sivan.
Whereas according to the Rabbanan, Rosh Chodesh Sivan fell on Monday, and it was on Thursday (also the fourth of Sivan) that G-d instructed Moshe to prepare Yisrael for the third day - Shabbos the sixth of Sivan, which is what he did.
It transpires that in the opinion of Rebbi Yossi, Iyar of that year was a short month comprising twenty-nine days, and in the opinion of the Rabbanan, it was a full month of thirty days. And this is their first bone of contention.
It also transpires that according to both opinions, Shavuos of that year fell on the fifty-first day of the Omer. According to the Rabbanan, both Nisan and Iyar were full months, and seeing as traditionally, K'lal Yisrael left Egypt on Thursday the fifteenth of Nisan, this leaves us with fifty-one days until the sixth of Sivan. And the same will apply according to Rebbi Yossi, who holds that Iyar was a short month (only according to him, the Torah was given on the seventh of Sivan).
In short, according to both Tana'im, between the sixteenth of Nisan, when they began counting the Omer, as the Medrash records, and Shavu'os (the first Shabbos in Sivan), there were fifty-one days (inclusive).
We too, celebrate Shavu'os on the sixth of Sivan, like the Rabbanan (even though Halachically, we follow the opinion of Rebbi Yossi, as we shall discuss shortly). Only our calendar is fixed in a way that Nisan is always a full month, and Iyar, a short one. Consequently, we count forty-nine days of the Omer, as the Torah prescribes for subsequent years, and Shavu'os falls on the fiftieth day.
Interestingly, there is a B'raisa cited in Shabos 88a, which is of the opinion that Yisrael left Egypt on Friday, the fifteenth of Nisan, and that Rosh Chodesh Iyar must therefore have fallen on Sunday and Rosh Chodesh Iyar on Monday. And the Gemara concludes that the author of this B'raisa is the Rabbanan (despite the fact that the B'raisa is in Seider Olam, which was written by Rebbi Yossi). According to this opinion, the Rabbanan will tally precisely with our custom, inasmuch as Nisan was a full month, and Iyar, a short one. And what's more, it means that Yisrael, in that first year, counted forty-nine days - just like we do nowadays!
One possibility not discussed so far, is that Shavu'os can also fall on the fifth of Sivan. This will happen if both Nisan and Iyar are short months (which in turn, is only possible at a time when each month is declared by Beis-Din according to the sighting of witnesses).
It seems strange that we break with tradition on two scores. Firstly, we fix Shavu'os on the sixth of Sivan, even though we hold like Rebbi Yossi, who claims that the Torah was given on the seventh. And secondly, we count forty-nine days of the Omer, whereas when Yisrael left Egypt, they counted fifty, as we explained earlier.
The Magen Avraham, who poses the first kashya, answers that seeing as no date is given for the giving of the Torah, the Yom-tov of Shavu'os is determined purely by virtue of its being the fiftieth day of the Omer. This has no bearing however, on when Shavu'os fell the year they left Egypt.
And this also answers the second kashya, inasmuch as the Mitzvah of counting the Omer was only commanded after the Torah was given, and did not necessarily have any direct bearing on the counting that they enacted voluntarily the year that they left Egypt.
This dependence on Pesach makes sense too, since, in essence, Shavu'os is the culmination of Pesach, as we have discussed many times in the past, the one signifying our physical freedom, the other, our spiritual freedom. And this in turn, is not because Shavu'os is secondary to Pesach, but because Pesach is secondary to Shavu'os.
The Weeks and the Days
(adapted from the Meshech Chochmah)
Rebbi Yehoshua ben Zimra in Menachos (65b) discusses the apparent discrepancy between the concept of seven weeks of the Omer, as against that of fifty days. And he answers by ascribing the former to when Pesach falls on Shabbos, in which case one begins counting the Omer on Sunday, and goes on to count seven full weeks (without the need to combine the days of two different weeks). And he ascribes the latter, to when it falls on any other day of the week (when one of the weeks will indeed comprise two half-weeks).
The Medrash however, explains the discrepancy differently. The Medrash Rabah cites Rebbi Chiya, who says that the weeks are complete only 'when Yisrael carry out the will of Hashem'.
And the Meshech Chochmah explains this, based on the three possible dates on which Shavu'os can fall (as we discussed above in the main article). He quotes a Tosefta in Erchin, where Rebbi Yehudah states that if Shavu'os falls on the fifth of Sivan, it is a bad omen, and when it falls on the seventh (the date on which the Torah was actually given), it is a good omen. Whereas when it falls on the sixth, it is a sign that the year will be an average one. These signs, in turn, are connected with the fall of dew, which, as Chazal have taught us, is generally a sign of blessing to the world. And a good dew is beneficial for the fruit of the tree (bear in mind that Shavu'os is the day on which G-d blesses the fruit of the tree [Rosh Hashanah 16a]).
And with this, he says, we can understand Rebbi Chiya in the above Medrash. When Yisrael carry out the will of Hashem, then Shavu'os will fall on the seventh of Sivan, allowing full weeks in each of the months covered by the Omer: two in Nisan, four in Iyar and one in Sivan. Hence we count "seven perfect weeks'. As a result, the dew will be blessed, and there will be a bountiful fruit harvest. But if they do not perform the will of Hashem, then Shavu'os will fall on the sixth, or even on the fifth of Sivan, there will be no full week in Sivan and Hashem's blessing will be lacking. So we count fifty days, but not seven weeks,
Where from and Where to?
The Korban Omer (comprising barley), that was brought on Pesach, represents animal food and symbolizes the basic level of B'nei Yisrael when they left Egypt. Whilst the Sh'tei ha'Lechem (comprising wheat) that was brought on Shavu'os, represents human food, and symbolizes the level of Adam that they reached at Har Sinai on Shavu'os.
R' Baruch Horowitz (Sh'lita), explains why we refer to the counting of the Omer (rather than of the Sh'tei ha'Lechem). It is, he says, because, before a person can grow in Torah, he must first realize his own insignificance. This is the essence of Viduy as the first stage of Teshuvah.
And perhaps we can compare this to the Hagadah, which 'opens with degradation, and ends with praise', because it is only when we realize our humble beginnings, that we can possibly appreciate the enormity of G-d's kindness in bringing us to where we were when we left Egypt.
We might also add that the greatness of a Jew is ultimately based on his humility, and that he is only able to build a great future on the basis of true humbleness.
As important as it is to know one's destination and to aim high, it is equally important to know where one is setting out from. In one of his Meshalim, the Dubno Maggid compares this to an archer, whose arrow will only fly forward in accordance with the extent to which he first draws it back. The further the archer intends the arrow to travel forward, the further he will have to stretch the string back before shooting.
And perhaps we can explain this with the opening Mishnah in the third Perek of Pirkei Avos 'Know where you are coming from, and where you are going to' (even though the Tana's words are said in a different context).
The Mishnah continues 'And before whom you are going to give 'din' and 'cheshbon'. In the current context, we set out from Pesach and our destination is Shavu'os. 'Din' may well refer to the Yamim Nora'im, and cheshbon, to Sukos (which Chazal describe as 'rishon le'cheshbon avonos'), and the picture is complete.
The Prayers of Bo'az
On the Pasuk "because G-d remembered His people to give them bread" (1:6), Targum Yonasan adds 'thanks to the Tefilos of the pious Bo'az'. Later, when Bo'az finished his meal following the termination of the threshing season, and the Pasuk writes "And Bo'az ate and drank and his heart was good" (3:7), Targum Yonasan translates this as 'his heart was good and he blessed the G-d who had accepted his prayers and removed the famine from Eretz Yisrael'. And yet a third time Targum Yonasan refers to Bo'az' Tefilos at the end of the Megilah (4:21), where he refers to Bo'az the Tzadik, whose prayers G-d answered ... .
Megilas Rus begins with a famine which, judging by the juxtaposition of the two opening phrases, came as the result of incompetent judges ('a generation who judged their judges', as Chazal explain). And although there were other righteous judges who lived in that period (Barak and Devorah, Shamgar and Ehud), the shining light, whose prayers brought an end to the famine, was Bo'az.
It is interesting that months after the famine had ceased, Bo'az saw fit to bless the G-d 'who had accepted His prayers ... '. Some might have already forgotten what happened months before, others might have attributed it to their own efforts. But Bo'az neither forgot G-d's kindness, nor did he attribute the cessation of the famine to his prayers, but to the G-d who had accepted them.
No doubt, Bo'az took his cue from his ancestor, Yehudah, whose very name is an expression of thanks and acknowledgement. And why was Yehudah called by that name? Because his mother Leah (the first person to thank Hashem), wanted to express her appreciation of what He had done for her. It is a trait that was prevalent in the tribe of Yehudah, passed on to Bo'az from his ancestors. And it is a trait that his descendant David inherited from him and which figures so prominently in Tehilim. It is a trait that we would do well to emulate and to make our own.
And His Blessings
When Ruth, at Naomi's instigation, hinted to Bo'az to perform Yibum with her, he reacted by blessing her. For the initial anguish that she caused him, say Chazal, he might well have cursed her. But her faith (in following Naomi's [mysterious] instructions) stood her in good stead, and she received a blessing and not a curse.
Ruth was already forty years old, says Resh Lakish, and she had not had any children up to that point (what he possibly means is that she was unable to have children). Yet within twenty-four hours of Bo'az having said to her "You are blessed to Hashem", she conceived a child.
From here Resh Lakish learns the importance of going to a Tzadik for a Brachah.
No Chip of the Old Block
From the moment Ruth left Moav to accompany Naomi to Eretz Yisrael, she engages in one act of Chesed after another. To begin with, her loyalty to Noami is total, as is her loyalty to her deceased husband Machlon. Nor is her loyalty confined to that stage, when in spite of Naomi's offer to release her, Ruth's company must have served as a balm for her embittered mother-in-law. It also continued after they arrived in Eretz Yisrael.
Targum Yonasan in fact, on the Pasuk "G-d will repay your good deeds", lists a number of righteous deeds for which, he predicted, prophets and kings were destined to descend from her. The first of these is the kindness that she performed with Naomi, in feeding and sustaining her after they arrived in Eretz Yisrael (see also Rashi 2:20). And how did she do that? By collecting Matnos Aniyim in the fields of the rich, a little degrading don't you think, for an ex-princess, daughter of Eglon, King of Mo'av? Moreover, the Malbim comments that she made a point of going on her own, not in Naomi's company, to spare her mother-in-law the anguish of having to stoop to the level of begging.
And this is all the more remarkable when we consider that Ruth descended from a nation that was sorely lacking in the Midah of Chesed, as we see from their refusal to provide Yisrael, their cousins, with food in the desert.
Another of Moav's national weaknesses lay in the realm of modesty, which went back to their founding father's conception (see Rashi Bereishis 19:37), and the lack of which created such havoc prior by the episode of Ba'al Pe'or (prior to their entry into Eretz Yisrael). Yet there too, Ruth, despite her lack of upbringing, attained a level of excellence, as Chazal point out with regard to the modest manner in which she collected the Leket from the field, to the point that it even attracted Boaz' attention. Furthermore, Chazal stress the difference between the wife of Potifar, who accosted Yosef with the words "Lie with me!" and Ruth, who asked Bo'az to "spread the corner of his garment over his maidservant". So her modesty affected her speech too.
Chazal put it succinctly when they point to the daughters of Mo'av (at the episode of Ba'al Pe'or, to which we just referred), who approached the Jewish men with immoral motives, whereas Ruth approached Bo'az with the intention of performing G-d's will ('le'shem Shamayim').
Torah and Chesed
We just discussed Ruth's ongoing string of Chasadim, which resulted in her becoming, not only the mother of the royal dynasty, but the mother of the dynasty of Mashi'ach.
The Levush gives a number of reasons as to why we read Megilas Rus on Shavu'os, one of them, because the Torah, which begins with Chesed, deals with Chesed in the middle and ends with Chesed too, was given on Shavu'os. Clearly, the connection between Torah and Chesed is not merely casual, but basic. Indeed, the Pasuk "ve'Ahavto le'rei'acha komocho", which Rebbi Akiva considered to be the foundation of the entire Torah, incorporates loving one's fellow-Jew as well as loving G-d (for the Pasuk in Mishlei [27:10], with reference to G-d, writes "Rei'acho ve'rei'a ovicho al ta'azov") See Rashi, Shabbos 31a. And loving G-d is synonymous (can only be achieved) through Torah-study, as the Sifri derives from the juxtaposition of the second and third Pesukim of the Sh'ma.
The formula for Torah then, in a nutshell, is Torah-study and loving one's fellow-Jew like oneself (in whichever way this is interpreted). The one cannot exist without the other.
Nor is the Midah of Chesed in Megilas Ruth confined to Ruth. Because, were it not for the kindness that Bo'az displayed towards Ruth, who knows what sort of turn the story might have taken, and how it would have ended.
Effectively, it is the kindness of Bo'az which serves as a second reason for reading Ruth on Shavu'os. For in another example of the fusion of Torah and Chesed, the Torah follows the Parshah of the Sh'tei ha'Lechem on Shavu'os (in Emor) with that of Matnos Aniyim (Pei'ah and Leket [leaving a corner of the field standing, and grains that fall, for the poor, respectively]).
Once again, we see how the performing of Chesed is an integral part, not only of Torah, but of Kabalas ha'Torah. And it is this Mitzvah which serves as the central theme of Megilas Rus, and which Bo'az kept so meticulously, particularly in connection with Ruth.
Demise and Resurrection
What stands out in particular in Megilas Rus, is the stark contrast between the sad beginning of the story, and its happy ending, how everything eventually falls into place. And we only have to look at the respective causes to see why this is so.
For what caused the virtual demise of Elimelech's family, if not their having fled from Eretz Yisrael in order to escape what would have amounted to extreme and ongoing acts of Chesed. And what was it that reversed the situation and enabled them to rebuild the shattered family? Why, the extreme and ongoing acts of Chesed of Ruth and Bo'az, of course! See last year's issue ('Megilas Rus') 'Elimelech's Sin'.
When Bo'az awoke in the middle of the night to find Ruth lying at his feet, the Pasuk writes that he trembled, adding the word "va'yilofes", which Targum Yonasan translates to mean that he was physically aroused by her presence.
Bo'az knew that not only was she unmarried, and therefore available to him, but that there was an element of Mitzvah in performing Yibum with her. He also knew that from a Midos point of view, she was a worthy match for him, as is evident from previous exchanges of words that he had had with her .
And now, quite unexpectedly, there she was, awaiting his instructions. Besides perhaps the Mitzvah of "Kedoshim tih'yu", taking her at that moment would not have constituted a sinful act. Yet he desisted. If he was going to marry her, he decided there and then, he would do it in an honorable manner, with Chupah and Kidushin.
No easy matter for someone who was aroused in the way that he was.
So he took an oath that he would not touch her before settling the issue with his uncle Tov, and then, assuming that Tov would decline his offer, he would formally take her as a wife. Like the Tzadik that he was, the severity of his oath over-rode all other considerations. He calmed down, and she slept at his feet until the morning.
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