These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 240, An Early Start for Shavuos? Good Shabbos!
The Preface to the Story of the Moshiach
On Shavuos we read the sefer of Rus. In spite of it being a small sefer, each chapter is “action packed”. In the second chapter, the Navi begins by introducing us to Boaz. History is about to occur. Which history? This is the beginning of the history of the Moshiach [Messiah]. We are about to learn of the first meeting between Boaz and Rus — the union that would eventually produce King David, from whom the Moshiach will descend.
Each pasuk [verse] is laden with great symbolism and significance. When Boaz first arrives “on stage,” we learn “Behold, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem. He said to the harvesters, ‘Hashem [G-d] be with you!’ And they answered him ‘May Hashem bless you!’ [Ruth 2:4]”. Why is this exchange of greetings necessary to the plot? If we were writing a play about this great historical event, would it be so crucial to insert the line “And Boaz came in and greeted his workers and asked, ‘How are you?’ and they responded ‘Fine. How are you?'” This does not make for good script! And yet the Navi found it necessary to include this exchange of “Shalom Aleichem” in this historic chapter.
The Talmud [Makkos 23b] adds significance to this event by explaining that they were performing an enactment of the Court of Boaz. Early in Jewish history, it had not been the case that friends would greet each other with the expression “May G-d be with you,” using the ‘real’ name of G-d (rather than the substitute generic name ‘HaShem,’ meaning ‘the Name’). A specific judicial enactment was required to permit this form of greeting. Prior to the time of Boaz, people never greeted each other in this way, and subsequent to the time of Boaz we no longer perform this enactment. This was a short-term “emergency” enactment.
What was the reason behind this enactment? I saw an insight into this enactment in a commentary on the book of Rus, called Nachlas Yosef. At this particular time, the Jewish people were in a sorry state. There was a terrible famine. The times were so bad that a leader of the people (Elimelech, husband of Naomi) could forsake his people and go off to, of all places, Moav. This was symptomatic of what was wrong with the Jewish people at the time.
What did the “Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah” [Council of Great Torah Sages] of that era decide to do to remedy the situation? They decided that everyone should greet each other with the actual name of G-d. The import of this enactment was that every single Jew is so important and so holy that it is worthy for him to be greeted with none less than the actual name of G-d. This is a very different way of greeting a person than merely saying “Hi”.
This enactment changed the mood. It reestablished the easily forgotten concept that every person is created b’Tzelem Elokim [in the Image of G-d]. This enactment emphasized, “All Jews are princes” and they deserve to be treated as such. The psychological impact of greeting someone with the Name of G-d had an entirely different meaning than that of just saying hello.
The enactment hammered home the idea that we must be careful of how we treat people. People are not merely intelligent animals. The recognition that people are b’Tzelem Elokim suggests an entirely different approach as to how to relate to others. This was the enactment of the Court of Boaz.
The Medrash says that when the time comes for us to move on to the next world (after 120 years, G-d willing), we will all be asked two questions: ‘Did you make G-d your King?’ and ‘Did you make your friend your King?’ In other words, did you treat everyone like you would treat the Queen of England, l’Havdil?
A new era was beginning. The times necessitated a new era with a new way of dealing with each other. That is why this chapter is the introduction to the story of the Moshiach. The story of Moshiach must begin with greeting our friends with the Name of G-d, indicating the importance and prestige of our friends, and indicating that they deserve to be treated like Princes. This, too, must be our preface to the coming of Moshiach, so that after 120 years, we will be able to respond in the affirmative to that question ‘Did you anoint your fellow man?’
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (# 330). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: Sefer Rus and Its Halachic Implcations? The complete list of halachic portions for this parsha from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
Tape # 013 – Yerushalayim in Halacha
Tape # 058 – Yom Tov in Yerushalayim
Tape # 101 – Teaching Torah to Women
Tape # 147 – Sefiras HaOmer, Shavuos & the International Dateline
Tape # 194 – Can One Charge for Teaching Torah
Tape # 240 – An Early Start for Shavuos?
Tape # 284 – Birchas HaTorah
Tape # 330 – Sefer Rus and Its Halachic Implications
Tape # 374 – Bathing on Shabbos and Yom Tov
Tape # 418 – Shavuos Issues — Late Ma’ariv / Learning All Night
Tape # 462 – May A Child Carry A Sefer on Shabbos
Tape # 506 – Shavuos: Two Days, She’cheyanu, & Other Issues
Tape # 550 – Opening Cans On Shabbos and Yom Tov
Tape # 594 – Omer Davar B’Sheim Omro – Giving Proper Credit
Tape # 638 – Eruv and the Big City
Tape # 682 – Carrying on Yom Tov
Tape # 726 – Returning Pidyon Haben Money
Tape # 770 – Let Them Eat Cheesecake
Tape # 814 – Oy, The Eruv is Down. Now What?
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.