Then she fell on her face, and bowed down to the ground, and said unto
him: 'Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should recognize me,
and I am a foreigner?'
And Boaz answered and said unto her: 'It has fully been told me, all that
you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband; and
how you left your father and your mother, and the land of your birth, and
came to a people that you knew not heretofore.
May HaShem recompense your actions, and be your reward complete from
HaShem, the G-d of Israel, under whose wings you came to take refuge (2:10-
Boaz responds to Ruth’s sense of surprise with the only possible answer
that can bring her closer. In her words one message rings – I am a
stranger and not worthy and you are a great leader of a blessed nation;
what can we possibly have in common and why do you say all these things
unto me? Boaz must explain. He does so with wisdom and tact. At the same
time that he gives due recognition to her status as a convert, he bases
his remarks on that shich will bring them closer.
Boaz first notes that Ruth has done a mighty deed of valor. Like Abraham
she has left all that she has known for the sake of an idea. In a way she
performed a greater feat than Abraham for he walked after God, who after
all is never capricious, who is always faithful and who protects and
rewards his servants. Ruth, on the other hand, came to join a people that
she did not know. Perhaps, they are narrow minded, perhaps they are petty,
vindictive, hypocritical, or plain unsuitable for to be her people. Why
did she do it? Because kindness is deeply imbedded within her.
The allusion to Abraham is unmistakable. Compare the following phrases.
…how you left your father and your mother, and the land of your birth,
came to a people that you knew not heretofore (Ruth ibid).
God said to Abram, 'Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from
your father's house, to the land that I will show you (Gen. 12:1, for
another parallel see Psalms 45:11).
Boaz understood that dwelling on Ruth, the convert may not please her and
he quickly moves beyond that fact. Now Ruth is a Jew and whatever her
merits in converting may have been, it is belonging that she may now crave
most of all. He must explain to her that he marvels at something that
unites him and her, not something that will set them apart. What is that
thing? It is loving-kindness.
“That you came to take refuge under His wings”
R. Avin said:
The earth has wings – “from the wings of the earth we heard songs (Isa
The morning has wings – “If I take the wings of the morning (Ps. 139:9)”.
The sun has wings – “The sun of righteousness with healing at its wings
The cherubs has wings – “And the sound of the wings of the cherubs (Ezek.
The Chyos angels have wings – “And the noise of the wings of the Chayos
The Seraphim angels have wings – “Each one had six wings (Isaia 6:12)”.
Said R. Avin: Great is the power of those who act benevolently, for they
shelter not in the shadow of the wings of the earth, nor in the shadow of
the wings of the morning, not in the shadow of the wings of the sun, nor
in the shadow of the wings of the Cherubim, nor in the shadow of the wings
of the Chayos, but in the shadow of Him at whose word the world was
created, as it says (Psalms 36:8): “How precious is Your loving-kindness,
O God, and the children of the world take refuge in Your wings (Ruth
This Rabbinic comment skillfully shifts our attention from Ruth, the
convert who comes to seek refuge under Hashem’s wings to the shelter that
he gives to all the children of the world. God is equal opportunity
protector of all His children who emulate His quality of Love and Kindness
and deal with each other accordingly.
The realization that this elderly Sage views himself as equal if not
inferior to Ruth, that he marvels at her spiritual accomplishments and
looks up to her, leaves Ruth temporarily speechless, with nothing right
now to say. A precious moment of deep communion has taken place, and no
one but the protagonists know it. One thing is clear – Boaz and Ruth share
deeply of values and perceptions. Perhaps, may they hope, they are united at
the very root of their souls. The metaphor of the wings and loving-
kindness returns when Ruth speaks to Boaz at the threshing floor.
And he said: 'Who are you?' And she answered: 'I am Ruth your servant;
spread therefore your wings over your handmaid; for you are a redeemer.'
And he said: 'Blessed be you of HaShem, my daughter; your have shown more
kindness in the end than at the beginning (Ruth 3:9-10)
The mixing of sacred and personal in the most inner sanctum of love and
life is the highest scaleable pinnacle of spiritual life. Can man and
women ever deal with one another on a level beyond desire? The book of
Ruth says yes. But, caution! Only the wholly righteous should ever attempt
it (Ritvo, end of Kiddushin). All others must guide themselves by the
parameters of the religious law that governs interation between the sexes.
Any impurity, any admixture of petty desire or self-interest irretrievably
spoils overambitious relationships and lead them astray and into deepest
reaches of the inferno.
R. Akiva expounded: Man and woman, if they merit it, the Divine Presence
is in between them. If they do not, fire consumes them (Sotah 17a).
Boaz and Ruth build their relationship, their recognition and
understanding of one another, upon a lifetime of spiritual growth. They
seek purity and unselfish commitment to God and it unites them. The name
of Hashem is constantly upon their lips. They can risk a meeting upon the
threshing floor, in the depth of the night, with no witnesses because they
share the palpable awareness of God’s presence. When a man and a woman can
reach for loving-kindness as the basis upon which to build their
interconnectedness, an incomparable resource has been mined and Redemption
becomes possible, as Ruth puts before Boaz, “…for you are a redeemer”.