Shavuot - What is the connection of Ruth to Shavuot

Referred to as Japan's Thomas Edison, Sakichi Toyoda invented a variety of weaving machines, including an automatic power loom, and founded Toyoda Automatic Loom.

Sakichi Toyoda grew up in the late 1800's in a remote farming community outside of Nagoya, Japan. As a boy, Sakichi Toyoda watched his mother and grandmother weaving cloth by hand. He was disturbed that his mother, grandmother, and their friends had to work so hard spinning and weaving. The weaving process required them to thread the material through the weaving machine, a long and tiring process. One of the problems they faced was when a thread broke, it unwound through the entire machine, and the women would have to start all over again and rethread – an extremely time consuming process - before continuing to weave.

Learning carpentry from his father, Toyoda eventually applied that skill to designing and building wooden spinning machines. In 1894 he began to make manual looms that were cheaper but worked better than existing looms.

He invented a series of weaving machines which speeded up the process enormously. Among his inventions was a feature that was a special mechanism to automatically stop a loom whenever a thread broke, catching the thread before it unwound completely, relieving the operator of the punishing labor of having to rethread the machine.

Eventually, Toyoda went on to found a car manufacturing company, and the name of the company was changed from Toyoda to Toyota, preferring the fewer brushstrokes required to write the 't' in Toyota.
This invention impressed me as an 'mashal' for something we can apply to our lives. When we create a mechanism in our life our own automatic stop mechanism, it can be used to hold us in check. This mechanism can be contact with a friend, a regular shiur, a relationship with your rabbi. These experiences not only can keep us on a straight path but create a platform for continued growth.

On Shavuot, there is the custom to read Megilat Ruth
·        Question #1: Who wrote Megilat Ruth?
·        Question #2: Why was Megilat Ruth written?
·        Question #3: What need did Shmuel see in writing this book?
·        Question #4: Why include the book of Ruth in the canon of the 24 books of the Tanach?
·        Question #5: What is the connection of Ruth to 'Atzeret' (Shavuot?

Kedushat Levi on Why we Read Ruth on Shavuot

Reb Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, the great advocate of Israel, was known for putting his love of G-d high, and calling Israel, His children, saying that the Torah is the soul of Israel. A story that I saw about Reb Levi went:

On Simchat Torah, Reb Levi Yitzhak was given the honor of leading the first round of dancing. He went up to the bima and put on a tallis, then he took it off, then he put it on, then he took it off. As if talking to the air, he said, "If you are such a scholar and pray so well, then you lead the dancing!" and he stepped off the bima and left.

Later at dinner, his father in law said, "Tonight you embarrassed me tremendously, can you explain?"
"Yes I will explain. When I went up to the bima, I put on the tallis and I saw the Yetzer Hara. 'You,' I said. 'Yes,' he said, 'surprised? Why are you so worthy to be here?'
'Yes,' I told him, 'I am learned.'
'So am I,' he said.
'I learn with a great teacher, the great Maggid from Mezrich.'
'So do I.'
'How can you?'
'I am with all the time, when you go to the beit midrash, I go with you, when you go to see your Rebbe, I go with. I am with you all the time.'
'If that's so, if you are such a scholar and pray so well, then you lead the dancing!' and that's why I left.
Reb Levi Yitzhak was passionate and a holy man of integrity. His seminal work is the Kedushat Levi.

The Kedushat Levi explains the reason that on Shavuot we read the Book of Ruth by bringing the Holy Zohar, focusing on the verse:
"He [Moshe] said: HaShem came from Sinai and shone forth from Seir to them; He appeared from Mount Paran and came with some of the holy myriads; from His right hand was a fiery Law for them"
וַיֹּאמַר: ה` מִסִּינַי בָּא וְזָרַח מִשֵּׂעִיר לָמוֹ הוֹפִיעַ מֵהַר פָּארָן וְאָתָה מֵרִבְבֹת קֹדֶשׁ מִימִינוֹ [אשדת] אֵשׁ דָּת לָמוֹ
Devarim 33:2

Rashi comments:
·        and shone forth from Seir to them: [Why did He come from Seir?] Because HaShem first offered the children of Esau [who dwelled in Seir] that they accept the Torah, but they did not want [to accept it].
·        from Mount Paran: [Why did G-d then come from Paran?] Because He went there and offered the children of Ishmael [who dwelled in Paran] to accept the Torah, but they [also] did not want [to accept it]. Avodah Zara 2B

Continues the Kedushat Levi from the Zohar: first Hashem came to Esau to present the Torah, and Esau said that he didn't want it and said that this should be given to Israel. To further substantiate this position, Esau also admitted that the firstborn birthright rightfully belonged to Israel and gave a present to Israel, in that Israel should get the Torah.

Likewise Yishmael didn't want to receive the Torah and said that it should be given to Israel. Also to boost this position, Yishmael admitted that he is not the true heir to Avraham  that only Yitzhak is the true 'zerah Avraham,' the legitimate heir to Avraham and also gave a present to Israel.

Nations of the World Praise Israel

How could these two nations, so traditionally at odds with Israel, praise Israel? This helps to explain passage from the Gemarah, in Mesechet Zvachim 116A,
For when the Torah was given to Israel the sound travelled from one end of the earth to the other, and all the heathen kings were seized with trembling in their palaces, and they uttered song.
They were afraid that Hashem had launched another cataclysmic flood, or other world apocalypse. Then they understood that the sound was the giving of the Torah at Har Sinar, they knew that He desired to give the Torah to His children, as it is said, "The L-rd shall grant strength to His people."(Tehillim 29:11. — The Torah is the strength of Israel.) Then the nations all exclaimed:

 "the L-rd shall bless His people with peace."
ה' עוז לעמו יתן ה' יברך את עמו בשלום
Tehillim 29:11

Why were the nations of the world praising Israel? Because they heard that Israel is actually receiving the Torah, and the Holy One, blessed be He won't come back to them to present the Torah to them again.

Giving Presents to Israel?

What were the presents mentioned that the nations of the world gave to Israel? In order to ensure that Israel would get the Torah, they gave presents to Israel. What were these presents? They were the holy souls that were imprisoned amongst the nations. They were returned to Israel and converted. These are the presents that were given by the nations to Israel, holy souls like Ruth.

Greatness of Ruth

Ruth was a great soul, that out of her will come the Moshiach. This is one of the souls that the nations gave to us, so that we would get the Torah, as well as many other holy souls. The main soul is Ruth since from her will come the Moshiach. That is why we read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot, the day that we receive the Torah, the day that we commemorate standing at Har Sinai. This serves as a reminder to us, how when the other nations refused the Torah, we were given the Torah, and how her soul was set free from its place amongst the nations in order for the  Torah to be given on Har Sinai to Israel on this day.

Why Read the Book of Ruth

In the book of Ruth, the author is not mentioned. Who is the author of Megilat Ruth? According to tradition, Shmuel HaNavi is the author of the Book of Ruth.
To understand how Ruth is connected to Shavuot, we have to go back and see how the treatment of Ruth.

Was Ruth a Kosher Convert? Allusions in Megilat Ruth

We see in the Gemarah that in the days of the Judges (Shofetim) in the generation of Boaz, there was a dispute, there was doubt about the lineage of David's family – whether they were kosher to be accepted into the Jewish people.  Allusions to the controversy surrounding the legitimacy of accepting Ruth into the Jewish people comes up in Megilat Ruth.

Boaz went to the gate of the city and waited for his relative, the brother of Elimelech, Naomi's dead husband. When the relative came, referred to only as "Ploni Almoni", Boaz brought him in. Boaz also gathered ten elders.

"Naomi is selling the property of our relative Elimelech, who died. As his brother, you are the closest relative. Will you to redeem (purchase) it? If not, I am the next eligible relative."
"I'll take it," Ploni responded.

Boaz continued. "The one who buys this property must also agree to marry Ruth. Will you?"
And the close relative said, "I cannot redeem [it] for myself, lest I mar my heritage. You redeem my redemption for yourself for I cannot redeem [it]."
ויאמר הגאל לא אוכל לגאול [לגאל] לי פן אשחית את נחלתי גאל לך אתה את גאלתי כי לא אוכל לגאל
Ruth 4:6
Rashi explains the word  'heritage' (נחלה)  according to the pasuk in Tehilim (127:3) "Behold, the heritage of the Lord is sons" (הנה נחלת ה` בנים שכר פרי הבטן). This shows how even here there was concern that Ruth was forbidden to join the community of Israel. He would not be ready to marry Ruth, and risk the impact to his descendents, barring them from remaining with the Jewish people.

Shmuel Bar Nachmani says in the Yalkut Shimoni that the anonymous relative is 'ignorant' of true Divrei Torah, as the relative says 'I will go and take her for me and bring a disqualification on my children?' For he was not aware that the halachah had been renewed in respect to 'Amoni and not Amonite, Moabi and not Moabite.'

וימר סורה שבה פה פלוני אלמוני, אר"ש בר נחמני אלם היה בדברי תורה שאמר ראשונים לא מתו אלא בשביל שנטלו אותה אני אלך ואטלה לי שאני מערב פסול בבני, ולא היה ידוע שכבר נתחדשה הלכה עמוני ולא עמונית מואבי ולא מואבית
Yalkut Shimoni Ruth Chapter 4
What was the source of doubt? What ignited the dispute?

Since David's family was descended from Ruth the Moabite, as it is written in Megilat Ruth. Yet we have an explicit pasuk saying that we don't accept anyone from Moab as a convert:

An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even the tenth generation shall never enter the assembly of the Lord.
לֹא יָבֹא עַמּוֹנִי וּמוֹאָבִי בִּקְהַל יְ־הֹוָ־ה גַּם דּוֹר עֲשִׂירִי לֹא יָבֹא לָהֶם בִּקְהַל ה` עַד עוֹלָם
Dvarim 23:4
It would seem that Ruth's conversion would not be valid and she should not brought  into the Jewish people. That was the basis for the questions surrounding the suitability of David's family.

Disputed Lineage of David

The controversy surrounding the suitability of David takes place in Gemarah Yevamot (76B), describing how this was questioned in the time of Shaul HaMelech.
And when Shaul saw David going out toward the Philistine, he said to Abner, the general of his army, "Whose son is this youth, Abner?" And Abner said, "By your life, O King, I know not."
Shmuel A 17:55

The Gemarah is surprised by Shaul's question about David, as if he doesn't know who David is, considering the earlier pasuk:
And David came to Saul, and stood before him, and he loved him very much, and he was his weapon bearer.
ויאהבהו מאוד, ויהי לו נושא כלים
Shmuel A 16:21

Rather the gemarah suggests he made the inquiry concerning the father of David, as it says:
And when Shaul saw David going out toward the Philistine, he said to Abner, the general of his army, "Whose son is this youth, Abner?" And Abner said, "By your life, O King, I know not. And the king said, "You ask whose son this youth is."
וְכִרְאוֹת שָׁאוּל אֶת דָּוִד יֹצֵא לִקְרַאת הַפְּלִשְׁתִּי, אָמַר אֶל אַבְנֵר שַׂר הַצָּבָא: בֶּן מִי זֶה הַנַּעַר, אַבְנֵר? וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְנֵר: חֵי נַפְשְׁךָ, הַמֶּלֶך, אִם יָדָעְתִּי. וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְשְׁאַל אַתָּה, בֶּן מִי זֶה הָעָלֶם
Shmuel A 17:55-56

The gemarah is also surprised by this inquiry, for Shaul was already familiar with David's father, Yishai. Yishai was one of the king's servents, as it says:
The son of your bondsman, Yishai the Bethlehemite.
בן עבדך ישי בית הלחמי
Shmuel A 17:58

To understand Shaul's concern we have to look inward to Shaul see his circumstance. In those days, Shaul was facing tremendous insecurity, feeling like his kingship was threatened and he was losing his hold. He saw that David acted and behaved with royal attributes, putting fear into the heart of Shaul, asking himself that perhaps in the future he will take the kingship from him as Shmuel had said.

Following the episode at Gilgal, where Shaul didn't wait for Shmuel HaNavi and on his own accord prepared an offering, Shmuel came can criticized Shaul.
And Shmuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly; you have not observed the commandment of the L-rd your G-d, which He commanded you, for now, the L-rd would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now, your kingdom shall not continue; the L-rd has sought for Himself a man after His heart, and the L-rd has appointed him to be a ruler over His people, for you have not kept that which the L-rd commanded you."
Shmuel A 13:13-14

So when Shaul asks, "Whose son is this" he is not asking about the father but about the lineage.
Shaul is asking whether David was descended from Perez, or from Zerah.  If he was descended from Perez, then David would be king, for a king breaks for himself a way and no one can hinder him. Peraz was the line with kingly qualities. If, however, he is descended from Zerah he would only be an important man.

Questioning David's Suitability

Doeg, a leader in the Sanhedrin, then said to Shaul, 'Instead of enquiring whether he is fit to be king or not, enquire rather whether he is permitted to enter the assembly or not'!
'Because he is descended from Ruth the Moabite.'
Said Abner to him, "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord;" and 'We learned: An Ammonite, but not an Ammonitess; A Moabite, but not a Moabitess!   There was no intention by the Torah to entire nations of Moav and Ammon, rather just the males.
Doeg answered back, 'in that case if we are to take this level of scrutiny, then we should apply this principle to other cases of those not permitted to enter the assembly of Israel, like a mamzer would imply: But not a female bastard? — It is written mamzer [Which implies] anyone objectionable.  And also for an Egyptian, this would exclude the Egyptian woman?'
Avner answered back 'Here it is different, since the reason for the prohibition is that the Torah explicitly stated: "Because they did not greet you with bread and water on the way, when you left Egypt"(Dvarim 23:5). Who was expected to come with bread and water, just the men, not the women, so was the custom for a man to meet travelers, while not the custom for a woman to meet them. While for the other cases, mamzer and Egyptian, the Torah did not attribute any explicit verse to keeping them out, making that prohibition all inclusive.
Doeg responds, the men should have met the men and the women the women! And this would have made the women of Moav unacceptable as well!
Avner was silent.
Doeg's question remained, throwing doubt on the suitability of David to enter the community of Israel.
Here the King said, "Whose son are you, young man (עלם)?" And the gemarah focuses on how Shaul changes his language in how he refers to David.   Previously he calls David a youth (נער). Why the change in language? This was an effort by Shaul to hint to Doeg that he is wrong. The gemarrah explains the word according עלם according to the meaning 'overlook', saying  'You have overlooked  a halachah,' go and enquire at the beit medrash!'
Doeg went to the Beit Midrash and upon enquiry, he was told the interpretation of the verse as: An Ammonite but not an Ammonitess; a Moabite, but not a Moabitess.
Doeg presented to the Beit Midrash all the objections he brought to Avner, yet the Beit Midrash eventually remained silent. So Doeg wanted to make a public announcement against him the suitability of having a king from David, as a descendent of Ruth the Moabitess.
Now Amasa girded on his sword like an Ishmaelite and exclaimed, 'Whoever will not obey the following halachah will be stabbed with the sword; I have this tradition from the Beth din of Shmuel: An Ammonite but not an Ammonitess; A Moabite, but not a Moabitess'!


·        Why did Shmuel see it necessary to write Megilat Ruth?
·        Why is Ruth included in the canon of the bible?
·        What is the connection of Ruth to 'Atzeret' (Shavuot?

R' Shlomo Alkabetz:  Legitimize David

Shmuel saw that the halachah for 'Amoni and not Amonite, Moabi and not Moabite' was becoming unstable among the Jewish people, facing disregard, raising issues about the legitimacy of David, so Shmuel wanted to strengthen and publicize this halachah. Perhaps Shmuel even felt that he was obligated to do this since by his own very hands David was anointed King over Israel. And so was motivated to write Megilat Ruth to provide strength  to this act, and to establish and publicize the legitimacy of the David's lineage – 'al pi din'.

R' Shlomo Alkabetz wanted bring attention to this approach about the purpose of Megilat Ruth, in his essay 'Shoresh Yishai' – Root of Yishai. In his commentary of R' Shlomo Alkabetz, author of the Lecha Dodi and a contemporary of Rav Yosef Karo, the Mchaber, writes on Megilat Ruth, "Megilat Ruth was written to legitimize David and to teach that it is acceptable to bring a Moabite into the community of Israel. And this is the ruling of Shmuel, to remove the questions surrounding the anointment of David."
This also answers our other questions of why we read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot, and why Megillat Ruth is included in the Tanach.

Since Shavuot celebrates receiving the Torah, and we are commanded to believe that all the Torah that is in our hands today was given to Moshe on Har Sinai, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, that they both came down to us bound as one.

Ruth and the Oral Torah

So as to remove from the hearts of the doubters of the authenticity of The Oral Torah, like Sadduckim and other groups, Chazal saw a need to establish the custom of reading Megilat Ruth on Shavuot, since it comes to strengthen the validity of The Oral Torah. How?

In Megilat Ruth, it relates how Boaz was a Judge and a gadol HaDor, he went out and risked his reputation and took Ruth the Moabitess for himself to be his wife in front of the elders, despite that this may appear to be a blatant violation of a written verse, "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord." Anyone reading the megilah may ask themselves, how could Boaz transgress an explicit verse from the Torah? And to add to this shock, one could ask how could Moshiach Ben David come out from a Moabite, unfit to join Israel?

We are compelled to accept the halachah and interpret the verse as "Moabi and not Moabite" and to come to accept that together Moshe received the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, which includes halachot and interpretations. One of those interpretations is "Moabi and not Moabite."

Kings and Ruth

Why did it have to come about that in spite of it all Jewish Kingship is descended from a Moabite? This is because our kings are commanded that Torah should go out and come in with them.
And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll from [that Torah which is] before the kohanim of Levy. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord, his G-d, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to perform them,
Dvarim 17:18-19

So that  it should enter the heart of the king to embrace only the written Torah and abandon the Oral Torah. Hashem turned about circumstances so that kings of Israel were descended from Ruth the Moabite, that she is the guarantee that holds the kings for all time bound to the Oral Torah, that if they should neglect the Oral Torah, then they can raise questions about the own legitimacy to rule.

Explaining the Essence of Ruth

The midrash asks, why was Megillat Ruth written?
 R. Zeirah said: "This scroll contains neither laws of purity or impurity, neither what is permitted or forbidden. Why was it written? Answers the midrash, to teach us how much of a reward is granted for Gemilut Hasidim (Acts of Kindness).

These are the actions of Ruth, she displays acts of kindness that go against the inherent nature of man. This is an elevated level of Chesed, when a daughter in law connects so tightly with her mother in law. The Alshich HaKadosh adds to this in his commentary on Ruth, Ene Moshe (The Eyes of Moshe). R' Moshe Alshich (also spelled Alshech), was a prominent rabbi, preacher, and biblical commentator in the latter part of the 16th century. He moved to Safed where he became a student of Rabbi Joseph Caro.

He writes: this is a characteristic that is contrary to nature "since all daughter's in law despise their mother in law" and despite this Ruth connected with Naomi.  And it is possible to say that her actions were a fix – a tikun – for the sins of her forefathers, whose behavior showed ingratitude towards the kindness of Avraham.
What was the 'chesed' of Avraham showed to Ruth's forefathers? In the war of 4 kings and 5 kings, Lot, Avraham's nephew was taken captive.

And Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, and he armed his trained men, those born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and he pursued [them] until Dan. And he divided himself against them at night, he and his servants, and smote them, and pursued them until Hobah, which is to the left of Damascus. And he restored all the possessions, and also Lot his brother and his possessions he restored, and also the women and the people.
Breisheit 14:14-16

Avraham helped the entire family of Lot, who would become the progenitor of the families of Amon and Moab.
And Lot's two daughters conceived from their father.  And the elder bore a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of Moab until this day. And the younger, she too bore a son, and she named him Ben-ami; he is the father of the children of Ammon until this day.
Breisheit 19:36-38

Yet despite this history and legacy of kindness shown to the nations of Moab and Ammon. They did not show kindness in return when the Jewish people were in despair.
An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even the tenth generation shall never enter the assembly of the Lord. Because they did not greet you with bread and water on the way, when you left Egypt, and because he [the people of Moab] hired Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim against you, to curse you.
Dvarim 23:4-5

That in despite all of these factors, Ruth strived to show kindness, making her chesed is even greater. From he we can take away from the Book of Ruth, not only a renewed commitment to the entirety of Torah both the written and the oral and all the interpretations, but also the essential message of striving to do good, be kind, and overcome a natural inclination to do otherwise.

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