The guest contributor to this issue is R' Aryeh Winter.
In the last post, we mentioned that the Megilla of Ruth is read on Shavuos.
Ruth, a Moavite, was the daughter-in-law of Na'omi. Na'omi's husband
Elimelech and her two sons Machlon and Kilyon died when the family was
living outside of the land of Israel. After the death of her husband and
children, Na'omi decided to return to her homeland. Ruth insisted on going
with her mother-in-law. The two returned to Israel as paupers. Ruth went out
to the fields, hoping to collect the part of the harvest which by Jewish Law
goes to the poor. Ruth went to the field of Boaz, who was a relative of
Elimelech, Ruth's deceased father-in-law, and one of the most respected men
of his generation. Boaz, upon finding out that Ruth was collecting in his
field, made sure that Ruth collected all that she needed to bring home in
order for her and Na'omi to live.
When Boaz met Ruth, he explained to her why he was dealing with her in such
a kindly fashion (2:11). He said "It has been told to me all that you have
done for your mother-in-law...and that you left your mother and father and
your birthplace and you went to a nation that you did not know." The Targum
explains that Boaz was also telling Ruth through prophecy that she would
merit having the kingship of Israel descend from her on account of these two
deeds. The Targum states that Boaz mentioned the deeds in this specific
order: First, that she supported her mother-in-law; Second, that she left
her idols and parents and converted to a nation she did not know. From the
words of the Targum and the order in which these deeds were listed, there
seems to be an implication that the first act, the support of Na'omi, is at
least equally responsible for Ruth meriting her great reward.
A question that arises upon reading this is how Boaz could equate these two
actions. One action was an incredible act of self-sacrifice. Ruth, our Sages
tell us, was the daughter of the king of Moav. Ruth, after the death of her
husband, did not return to the comfort of the palace life in which she was
raised. Instead, she decided to convert and become part of the Jewish
nation! Ruth went from being a princess in a royal court to becoming a
pauper, destitute, and dependent upon charity for her very sustenance. The
other action of Ruth was an ordinary kindness. It was a daughter-in-law
helping her elderly mother-in-law. What was so special about this everyday
act that because of it, Ruth would merit to be the mother of Jewish royalty,
and even more outstanding, that the act was placed on the same plane as
Ruth's extraordinary self-sacrifice in her decision to convert?
The answer is that Boaz is teaching us that even the smallest and seemingly
most mundane act, if done with the proper intentions, can be elevated to an
act of great self-sacrifice. Ruth, by performing the act of kindness with a
pure heart and with every fiber of her being in a desire to do the will of
Hashem, raised her small act of kindness above everyone else's similar acts
of kindness. Because of this act of kindness, she merited having the
monarchy of Israel descend from her. When approaching Shavuos, the day we
celebrate the acceptance of the Torah, many of us have lofty goals, ideals,
and aspirations which we greatly desire to fulfill. Boaz should remind us
that we need to remember the potential greatness in everyday, ordinary acts.
When these acts are done properly, we can merit great reward.
Check out all of the posts on the Shavuos! Head over to
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov to find the newly redesigned
YomTov Home Page, and click on the holiday you are interested in to find all of the archived posts on that