Book of Ruth Commentary

The ideas expressed here are from various sources. There will be commentaries from chanoch, which will be clearly identified.

We utilize a website to read the source known as Mechon Mamre.

  • Link To Book Of Ruth
  • chanoch adds: It is important to realize, according to the teachings of the Sages, two things. Each verse we read has 70 explanations. Each verse applies to us in this generation.

    The scroll of Ruth has 85 Verses. The number 85 = פה in Hebrew translates as "here" - "see Adam = mankind" - "Ephod = Breastplate".

    The Name Ruth = רות in Hebrew has a gematria of 606 which indicates that Rut through her conversion added 606 Mitzvot to the 7 Mitzvot of the Benai Noach.


    The book of Ruth - an enchanting agricultural allegory replete with some of the deepest Torah mysteries - centers on the theme of embrace of the Torah itself through conversion and the practice of the Kindness it teaches, which is the very pillar of the Universe. It is the union of Torah and Kindness that leads to redemption. Ruth is the archetypal convert who accepts the Torah. Her need to benefit from the agricultural gifts to the poor, an integral part of the pathway of kindness it teaches, leads her to the field of Boaz. And out of their encounter springs the line that leads to David, the Messianic king and redeemer of Israel (Ruth 4:13-22).

    It is customary to read the book of Ruth in the synagogue on the morning of the festival of Shavuos, the summertime harvest festival celebrating the Receiving of the Torah at Sinai. Ruth is read prior to the Torah reading, which describes the revelation at Sinai, where all those who accepted the yoke of the Torah were "converts". Shavuos is also by tradition the anniversary of the birth and death of King David.

    "Why was she called Ruth? Because she merited that out of her came David, who delighted (REEVAH) the Holy One blessed be He with songs and praises" (Berachos 7b). Ruth herself was a royal princess, daughter of Eglon king of Moab , who merited such a righteous descendant as David because he rose from his throne in honor of God when Ehud called him (Judges 3:20). Yet Ruth gave up her royal status and its luxuries in order to follow Naomi into a life of abject poverty. She was willing to do this in order to attain the greatest wealth of all, the life of Torah. She was prepared to descend to the very bottom of the social ladder and play the role of 'ANI, the poor man, who is needed by the BAAL HABAYIS, the rich householder, in order to fulfill the mitzvos involved in the practice of kindness and charity. First and foremost among these in a simple agricultural society are the gifts to the poor of PE'AH, the unharvested corner of the field, LEKET, the gleanings of fallen ears of corn, and SHICH'HAH, the forgotten sheaf.

    Ruth starts off as the receiver of kindness, but "More than the rich householder does for the poor man, the poor man does for the rich householder" (Midrash Ruth 4), because in the merit of the householder's kindness to the poor man, he receives a blessing that he could not have attained without the poor man serving as the recipient of his gift. In the merit of Boaz' kindness to Ruth, she becomes attached to him and bears him a son who fathers the father of Mashiach.

    V 1: "And it was in the days when the judges judged." This was prior to Samuel, some say in the time of Barak and Deborah, others say in the time of Shamgar and Ehud (Yalkut Shimoni). The Hebrew phrase "the judges judged" can also be construed as meaning that people used to judge the judges. "Woe to the generation that judged their judges and whose judges needed to be judged!" (Introduction to Midrash Ruth). VAYEHI, "and it was", is an expression of woe (Megillah 10b).

    "And there was a famine in the land." Targum on this verse enumerates ten major famines - in the times of Adam, Lemech, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Boaz, David, Elijah and Elisha, ".and the tenth famine will be in time to come, not a famine to eat bread and not a thirst to drink water, but to hear words of prophecy from HaShem."

    R. Ovadiah of Bartenurah (author of the standard commentary on the Mishneh) wrote a kabbalistic commentary on Ruth. He states that "in the days when the judges judged" means it was a time when the Attribute of Judgment was judging Israel , and the blessing was taken from her. "There was a famine in the land" means that the Shechinah left the throne and ascended on high, and correspondingly down below, the kings of Israel (Elimelech and family) left their "thrones" and went out into exile.

    ".and a man (ISH) went out from Bethlehem ." The word ISH teaches that he was very wealthy and the leader of the generation (Rashi). "ISH alludes to the Holy One blessed be He, cf. Exodus 15:3" (Bartenurah).

    ".to dwell in the fields of Moab, he and his wife." - "The Holy One blessed be He is the 'man', Israel are His wife, and when the wife is among the nations of the world, represented by the fields of Moab, the "man" is also with them, as the Rabbis taught: wherever Israel were exiled, the Shechinah went with them" (Bartenurah).

    V 2: "And the name of the man was Elimelech." - ELI is the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, and to Him alone is the kingship (MELECH) fitting" (Bartenurah).

    The ten Hebrew letters of the names of Elimelech's two sons, MACHLON and CHILYON (which have the connotations of Forgiveness and Destruction respectively), correspond to the Ten Sefiros.

    V 4: "And they took for themselves Moabite wives." Bartenurah explains: MACHLON and CHILYON are the places from which influence flows into the world, and now, because of our sins, they send blessing to the wicked, while Israel receive troubles and evils through them because they are weak in performance of the commandments and turn the back (OREPH) of their heads to God instead of their faces, and for this reason they are saturated (RAVVIM) with troubles and evils, and this is alluded to in the names of ORPAH and RUTH.

    V 5: "And the two of them died also, Machlon and Chilyon." Bartenurah explains: "The text says 'also' to suggest that this was not literal death but rather it is a metaphor for the absence of the Shechinah, so that even though there is blessing in the world, it cannot be compared to the blessing that flows when Israel are meritorious, and the blessing that comes down to Israel is not as it was in the days of old when they received it from the hand of the Holy One blessed be He. But when they are in exile they receive it through the angels, who are alluded to in the "lads of Boaz". For Boaz alludes to the Holy One blessed by He, who is destined to rule over Israel with might ('OZ) and power when He will be aroused from His "sleep", but in the meantime He hides His power and might from them and does not fight their wars.

    V 8: "Let HaShem perform kindness to you just as you have done kindness with the dead and with me." The "kindness" of the two daughters-in-law to the dead was that they made them shrouds (Yalkut Shimoni). Giving honor to the dead is CHESSED SHEL EMES, T R U E Kindness since one can expect no recompense whatever from the recipient. The theme of the practice of Kindness recurs repeatedly in Ruth because this is one of the three pillars on which the universe stands (Avot 1:2).

    Vv 7ff: Orpah and Ruth accompany Naomi on her way home to the Land of Israel , but Naomi seeks to dissuade them from going with her. Three times she tells them, "Return!" (vv 8, 11 & 12) teaching that the would-be convert is rejected three times, and only if he makes an exceptional effort is he received (Yalkut Shimoni).

    V 14: Orpah eventually turned her back on Naomi and ended up giving birth to four sons who became formidable adversaries of David, including Goliath (II Samuel 21:22).

    However, Ruth persisted. Her beautiful words to Naomi in vv 16-17, "wherever you go I will go", were darshened by the rabbis as stating her complete acceptance of the Torah (her "conversion"). "Wherever you go, I will go" - I will only walk within the Sabbath limits. "Wherever you lie down to rest, I will lie down to rest" - I will not go into forbidden seclusion with a male. "Your people is my people" - I accept the 613 commandments by which your people are distinguished from all others. "And your God is my God" - I will not worship idols. "Where you die, I will die" - I accept on myself the Four Death Penalties of the Court (stoning, burning, decapitation and strangulation). ".and there I will be buried" - I accept that there are separate areas in the cemetery for executed sinners (see Rashi on vv 16-17).

    V 21: "I went out full but HaShem has brought me back empty." Having returned to Israel , Naomi is now the very epitome of poverty, lowliness and humility, and with her is Ruth, the former princess, who must now go out into the field to gather fallen gleanings in order to survive. Poverty and humility are the attributes that God chose as the most fitting vessel through which to receive His Torah!

    chanoch adds: Poverty does not mean a lack of money. It has the meaning of recognizing true lack.


    V 1: "Now there was a relative of Naomi's husband." The rabbis taught that Elimelech and Sal'mon (the father of Boaz, Ruth 4:21), Peloni Almoni (Ruth 4:1) and Naomi's father were all brothers, the sons of Nachshon ben Aminadav, Prince of Judah.

    "And his name was Boaz." Bartenurah explains: "The allusive meaning is that the name of the Holy One blessed be He has the power and might to restore the captivity of Israel .

    V 3: ".and she happened to come." A higher Hand was guiding Ruth to her destiny. Of the Hebrew words, VA-YEEKER MEEKRE-HA, Rabbi Yochanan said, "Everyone who saw her had a KERI" (Yalkut Shimoni) - Ruth was exceptionally beautiful.

    V 4: ".and he said to the reapers, HaShem be with you". From here we learn that HaShem's name may be invoked in blessing others (Berachos).

    V 5: "And Boaz said. Whose maiden is this?" - "Could it be that Boaz was in the habit of asking after women? No! Rather, he saw in her the ways of modesty and wisdom. Two fallen ears she would take, but if three had fallen together, she would not take them [as prescribed by the halachah]. Ears that were standing up she picked while standing; those lying on the ground she sat down to pick in order not to bend over." (Rashi).

    Vv 8-9: "And Boaz said to Ruth." The deep allegory contained in this verse is darshened at length by Rabbi Nachman (Likutey Moharan I, 65, see "Rabbi Nachman on Suffering" translated by R. Avraham Greenbaum, pub. Breslov Research Institute).

    Vv 10-11: Why did Boaz show Ruth exceptional kindness going beyond the letter of his obligations under the laws of LEKET? Because of Ruth's exceptional kindness to Naomi and her having left her parents, homeland and native culture in order to join a people she had not known before. Kindness begets kindness.


    V 1: "And Naomi her mother-in-law said to her." Having seen how God's guiding hand had brought Ruth to reap in Boaz' field and how generously Boaz had responded, Naomi now seized the initiative, priming her widowed daughter-in-law to throw herself before him in the hope that he would marry her. (It is a sad reality that the convert is not generally perceived as having a high value in the marriage market, particularly not a Moabitess for the reason that will be discussed in the commentary on Chapter 4.) The dramatic initiative whereby Ruth at the bidding of her mother-in-law went into Boaz to plead with him directly is somewhat reminiscent of Esther's dramatic appeal to Ahasuerus at the bidding of Mordechai.

    V 2: "And now, is not Boaz our relative." Naomi was not merely trying to make a good match for Ruth. From the ensuing narrative we learn that Naomi wanted Boaz to fulfill the Biblically-ordained role of the "redeemer" of an impoverished relative's field, as laid down in Leviticus 25:25. Naomi and Ruth had been reduced to complete poverty, and they were forced to sell the field that had been the ancestral portion of Ruth's late husband Machlon. In order not only to retain the family property but also to keep the name of Machlon alive, Naomi wanted Boaz to buy the field AND marry Ruth so that Machlon's name would live on when people would see her going in and out of the field and say "She was Machlon's wife" (see Rashi on Ruth 3:8).

    What Naomi wanted to accomplish was NOT exactly identical with YIBUM, the "levirate" marriage in which the widow of a man who dies childless is married by her dead husband's surviving brother in order that the child she will hopefully bear him will perpetuate the dead brother's name (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). Nevertheless, the mystery of YIBUM lies at the very center of the story of Ruth and Boaz, just as it lies at the heart of that of Boaz' illustrious ancestors, Judah and Tamar (Genesis ch 38). Thus the ceremony described in Ruth ch 4 whereby Boaz in the presence of the elders at the gate "purchased" the field, and Ruth with it, from the other candidate for "redeemer", including the taking off of the shoe as a mark of the transaction, is conceptually bound up with the ceremony of HALITZAH in Deut. 25:7-10.

    V 3: "Wash yourself and anoint yourself and put your dress on." - "Wash yourself from the filth of idolatry, and anoint yourself with mitzvoth" (Rashi). Was Ruth naked so that Naomi had to tell her to put a dress on? No! She was telling her to change her clothes and put on her Shabbos dress! (Yalkut Shimoni). Ruth, symbolizing repentant Israel , was about to go to seek out her Redeemer, and she had to prepare herself.

    V 6: "And she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law had instructed her". In fact Ruth reversed the order, because Naomi had told her to get ready first and then go to the threshing floor. Wisely, Ruth understood that if she were to go through the streets adorned and bedecked people could get a very bad impression, which is why she adorned herself only after arriving at the threshing floor. All of this took place at NIGHT-TIME, signifying the darkness of exile, whereas the redemption of Ruth by Boaz, symbolizing God's redemption of Israel , takes place in the full light of the morning.

    V 8: "And it came to pass at midnight." These are exactly the same words as in Exodus 12:29 when Israel was redeemed from Egypt .

    ".the MAN was startled. and behold there was a WOMAN lying at his feet" - "The MAN alludes to the Holy One blessed be He, while the WOMAN lying at his feet alludes to Israel, as in the Talmudic phrase '[the sign of the 3 rd watch of the night is] a WOMAN talking to her HUSBAND' (Brachos 3a; Bartenurah on Ruth 3:8).

    V 9: "And she said. spread your garment over your handmaiden, for you are the redeemer." Rashi (ad loc.) explains that the spreading of his garment over her is a euphemism for marriage. On the esoteric level, Bartenurah explains that Ruth was requesting that God Himself should redeem Israel rather than a mortal hero like one of the ancient judges such as Samson or Gideon, for He is their true Redeemer.

    V 10: "And he said, blessed are you to HaShem." - "Reish Lakish said, A man should never hold himself back from going to an elder to bless him, for Ruth was forty years old and she had never had children [the rabbis said she was congenitally barren, Yalkut on Ruth 4:13 'And HaShem GAVE her conception'], but after that Tzaddik prayed for her she was granted a child" (Yalkut Shimoni).

    V 12: ".and also there is a redeemer who is closer than me". The other candidate to fulfill the Biblical precept of redeeming Ruth's field was a relative "closer" than Boaz, because, as the rabbis explained, this PLONI ALMONI, "Mister Someone" (Ruth 4:1), who was also called TOV (in our present chapter in the very next verse if we construe the Hebrew text literally) was the surviving BROTHER of Elimelech and Sal'mon (who had also died already), whereas Boaz was Sal'mon's SON and therefore not as close (see Rashi on our present verse).

    Bartenurah, discussing the mystery of the other candidate for redeemer, explains that the redemption of Israel can take place in one of two ways. Either Israel repents and they are redeemed immediately, or they fail to repent and have to be redeemed by God Himself. The first way in which redemption takes place is "closer", and indeed there were times in the history of Israel when they merited redemption in virtue of their repentance, as in the time of Hezekiah. (This explains the opinion of R. Hillel in Sanhedrin 99a that Israel will not have any further Mashiach, because they already "ate" him in the days of Hezekiah.) The second way in which redemption takes place is "further off" because it will only happen at the end of days.

    Bartenurah explains that esoterically, Boaz' praise of Ruth for "not going after the young men, whether poor or rich" (Ruth 3:10) indicates that even though redeemers like Samson and Gideon etc. had great power and strength, Israel prefers that the redemption should come from God Himself. "You have shown more loyalty at the end than at the beginning" - because Israel wants the final redemption to come from God, as opposed to the earlier redemptions, which came about through human leaders, the earlier redemptions were followed by further exile while God's redemption will be final and everlasting.

    V 13: "Stay this night and it shall be in the morning." If Israel waits for God to redeem them, they may have to stay longer in the darkness of exile, but in the end the morning will arrive and then God will redeem them (Bartenurah). The rabbis taught that the oath that Boaz took in this verse was that despite being sorely tempted, he would not lie with Ruth without first formally marrying her (see Rashi ad loc.)

    V 15: "And he measured SIX measures of barley." - "He hinted to her that a son would come forth from her who would be blessed with SIX blessings, 'a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of God' (Isaiah 11:18; Rashi on our verse).


    V 1: "Then Boaz went up to the gate." Boaz' intended marriage with Ruth was fraught with halachic complications since Ruth was a convert from Moab , and the Torah clearly states that "an Ammonite and a Moabite shall not enter the assembly of HaShem even in the tenth generation (=forever)" (Deuteronomy 23:4). According to the oral tradition, the use specifically of the masculine form of AMMONI and MOAVI in the verse teaches that the prohibition does NOT apply to Ammonite or Moabite WOMEN. However, this halachah flies in the face of the apparent simple meaning of the text to the point that it was frequently forgotten. This happened in the generation of David after he killed Goliath, when Saul's counselor Do'eg argued that David was not even eligible to enter the assembly, being descended from a Moabitess (see Rashi on I Samuel 17:55 and Yevamos 77b). And according to our commentators, the same forgetfulness was also present in the time of Bo'az, because the even closer relative who was the other candidate for redeeming Ruth thought that the Biblical prohibition applied to Moabite women as well as men, and he was afraid of marrying her for fear of putting an inerasable blemish on his issue.

    "And [Bo'az] said, Turn aside, wait here Mister so-and-so [PLONI ALMONI]." The Hebrew word PLONI is from the root PELE meaning something hidden (cf. Deut. 17:8) - Rashi explains that his actual name is not written in the text because he did not want to redeem Ruth. Rashi explains ALMONI (from the root EELEM, "speechless", "dumb") as meaning that he is "without a name", and also that he was dumb and a "widower" (ALMAN), bereft of Torah, because he did not know that the halachah forbids only a MOAVI from entering the assembly but not a MOAVIAH!!!

    V 2: "And he took ten men from the elders of the city." Boaz intentionally assembled a MINYAN (quorum) of men of stature in order to publicly teach the correct halachah that a MOAVIAH is indeed PERMITTED to enter the assembly (Kesuvos 7b). We also learn from this verse that the marriage ceremony must be performed in the presence of a MINYAN of ten men (ibid.).

    Vv 3ff: When Boaz began to explain to PLONI ALMONI, the other candidate for redeemer, that he was being asked to buy Elimelech's field, initially he was willing to do so (v 4, "I shall redeem it"), until Boaz started to explain that there were some "strings attached" as he would also have to marry Ruth. At this point PLONI ALMONI baulked "lest I harm my own inheritance" (v 6), because he thought Ruth's children would not be Israelites.

    V 7: "Now this was the custom in former time." The removal of the shoe is parallel to the present-day custom of formalizing an act of KINYAN, "acquisition", through the parties lifting up a SOODAR ("scarf" or other garment or vessel, often a "gartel") whereby through the law of CHALIFIN the acquisition comes about (KINYAN SOODAR). As discussed in the commentary on the previous chapter, the taking of the shoe also relates to the mystery of YIBUM and HALITZAH. In this way Bo'az formally acquired Ruth.

    V 11: "And all the people that were in the gate said with the elders as witnesses, Let HaShem grant that the woman coming to your house shall be like Rachel and like Leah." Boaz and the people of Bethlehem were from the tribe of Judah , Leah's fourth son, yet they gave primacy to Rachel as Jacob's principal wife (Rashi). Judah must respect Joseph and his offspring!!!

    V 13: "And Boaz took Ruth and she was his wife." The rabbis taught that on the very night that Boaz came into her, he died (Yalkut Shimoni). This is why the child was raised by Naomi.

    chanoch adds: Do'eg would argue that the death of Boaz immediately after conception would argue the acceptance of Ruth by the Elders was invalid as decried by HaShem.

    Vv 18-21: "And these are the generations of Peretz. and Yishai begat David". The whole purpose of this remarkable story of Ruth is to trace the origins of Melech HaMashiach.