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Boaz

In the beginning of the chapter we met Boaz through the eyes of Naomi, “a relative for her husband”. Now the verses skillfully introduce Boaz as it wants us to know him, a pious, wise and gentle man, a humble leader who cares profoundly about every individual and exudes gentleness and kindness.

Boaz comes in with a blessing and he generates blessing in return.

And behold, Boaz came for Bethlehem and he said to the reapers, “Hashem be with you:, and they answered “ May Hashem bless you”.

On a literary level this introduction comes to link Boaz with blessing. We must not forget that when Boaz blesses the reapers he blesses also Ruth among them. A minor prophecy is registered here – Boaz blesses Ruth and the workers bless him and from that moment on blessing accompanies them both.

“It seems that when an angel brought Ruth to Boaz’s field, Divine Presence rested near her. Boaz sensed the illumination of Divine Presence (among the reapers) and therefore said as a fact, “Hashem is with you (Bach)”.

A similar ideas is expressed in the commentary of Chid”a. “What Boaz meant is that the workers were engaged in leaving over the portions of the poor (corner of the field, gleanings, and forgotten sheaves). R. Isaac Luria had written that charity unites the Holy One Blessed Be He with Divine Presence. Boaz expressed this by telling the reapers, “Hashem is with you”. They answered: ”You are the owner of the field and the blessings belong to you”.

There is another echo, though, that can be heard in this sentence. The verse implies that Boaz did not regularly visit his field for “behold”, he came today to the field. That is not; however, a correct inference, for we learn later that Boaz slept at the threshing floor to watch his produce - in other words he was intimately involved in the harvest. In addition, the verse says that he came from Bethlehem, but was this field not in vicinity of Bethlehem and within its municipal borders? The verse associates Boaz with Bethlehem to communicate that this event was related to the role that Boaz played at Bethlehem and which Bethlehem played as a religious center.

But you Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which are little among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto Me one to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from old, from ancient days (Michah 5:1).

The Sages mine these implications in the following well-known statement, “They enacted that a man greet one another with God’s name, as it says, And behold, Boaz came for Bethlehem and he said to the reapers, “Hashem be with you”, and they answered “ May Hashem bless you” (Berachos 54b).

“… violence, stealing and absence of charity and kindness became rife among the people, neither did they listen to the Judges. When Boaz became a Judge he enacted that people greet each other with God’s name in order to fix into their hearts that God is in Heaven and sees everything and also awaken to Hashem is always before them including in the interpersonal relationships… (Malbim)”.

One might say that moral and societal reform must take place before religious revival can take place. Boaz as the Judge set about to educating the people as his central goal. His kindness and warmth at the filed was nothing more than a reflection of his private and public priorities. He was what he taught – kindness, concern for others, softness and care in speech, sensitivity and focus on each individual.

When Boaz inquired about Ruth, his page responded, “She is a Moabite girl who returns with Naomi from the field of Moab”. This young mean did not see Ruth as the individual that she was; neither did he look beyond the externalities. Perhaps he resented that she did not flirt with the young men as other gleaners did (Ruth Rabbah ad loc); perhaps he simply could not think deeply and consider profoundly. “The page responded and said, she is a Moabite girl who returns with Naomi from the field of Moab”. This means that her actions are pleasant and comely, but it is because her mistress trained her so (Ruth Rabbah 4:6)”. He couldn’t give credit but Boaz did not allow this characterization of Ruth to color his perception. Psychologists tell us that human beings’ opinions tend to be colored by the first immpression. This mechanism called ‘anchoring’ is so pervasive that many good educators decline to see their new students’ report cards from the previous year so as not to become biased regarding their students abilities.

This alone tells us volumes about Boaz’s character. His ability to totally disregard the conventional assessment of Ruth and his appreciation of her kindness, his refusal to minimize or explain away her accomplishments, reveal what is important to him, his priorities, his values. As the sage that he was, Boaz was humble, flexible, open to the good within others. Where the people of Bethlehem observed a Moabite, a stranger, a religious novice in training, he saw an exceptional human being, someone who despite differences in background, learning and experience, he must respect and honor. In this he was a fitting ancestor of King David whose career exemplified precisely these qualities. The uniqueness of Boaz and Ruth becomes apparent in their conversation that is shortly to come, which is as profound as it is simple, sophisticated as it is good and which solidifies our perception of these two unique individuals who were so right for each other and for the purpose to which they were destined.


Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Dr. Meir Levin and Torah.org.


 


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