Rus. A Lesson In Faith And Courage
By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum
The story of Rus never fails to amaze me. A simple woman follows Naomi back home and
converts to Yiddishkeit. And what does she receive in return? She gets the most
unbelievable reward. She is zoche to have Dovid Hamelech coming from her. Daniel,
Chanania, Mishoel and Azaria were also her descendants. Furthermore, she was also zoche
that from her will eventually come Melech Hamoshiach. the ultimate reward that one could
ever wish for. This is no small-time reward! By the way, her grandson Yishai, Dovids
father, is one of the four people the Gemorah cites as never having even committed one
sin. He was nicknamed ygp - because he died only because of Adams sin with the
This raises a most difficult question. Throughout the centuries, there surely were
thousands of converts to Yiddishkeit, yet we dont find much mention of them at all.
Nor do we find any of them meriting such an unbelievably great reward because of their
conversion. Certainly we dont find them deserving of the crown. Why is Rus any
different? Why is she singled out for such a great reward for her conversion. After all,
can there be a greater reward than Melech Hamoshiach himself! It also seems a little odd
that malchus Yisroel should have its origin tainted with foreign Moavi blood. The Moavi
nation caused the Jews plenty of trouble in the midbar and then again when they refused to
give us food and water when they passed by. She came from Bolok, one of our arch-enemies,
who had caused many problems for us. Who was this strange convert that was able to
infiltrate the highest level of Klal Yisroel, into the house of royalty itself? Getting
such a great reward just for a simple conversion is most difficult to comprehend!
In order to fully understand this strange phenomenon, let us examine the circumstances
surrounding her conversion. Rus was the daughter of Eglon Melech Moav (some say she was a
granddaughter). She was a princess. She was next in line to become queen. Instead of
remaining home in the luxury and comfort of her fathers palace, she follows a poor,
penniless broken woman. Her own husband died. There was no motivation of love. Nomi was
penniless. There was no motivation of money. In fact, she was sacrificing her own great
glorious future. She was giving up her rights to queendom.
What does she see in Yiddishkeit? Only death. Only tragedy. A life of sadness. A life of
pain and suffering. Nomis husband is dead. Machlon and Kilyon are dead. Nomi herself
is turned from riches to rags. All she ever sees is sorrow and pain. All she sees is
tragedy and suffering. Why should she want to become a Jewess? She has a life of riches,
honor and royalty waiting for her back home! Instead she accepts poverty. She relinquishes
her rights to the throne, all because she is convinced of the real truth. What a great and
amazing sacrifice! What unbelievable character . We dont find people converting to
Yiddishkeit when the chips are down. There were no converts during the Holocaust. When
things are going badly, nobody wants to become a Jew. Certainly Rus was aware of the
ravaging hunger that had caused her mother-in-law Nomi to run away from Bais Lechem. Eretz
Yisroel was no tourist attraction.
She also must have been informed and well aware of the unwelcome attitude Jews took to
converts from her nation, Moav. A man no matter how sincere his motive, was not given a
royal welcome. Even if he was the finest and nicest most honest man around, he would still
not be permitted to marry a Jewess- 'd ldwa ia`ene ipenr `ai `l. The Torah absolutely
forbids a Moavi from intermarring into Klal Yisroel. While he could convert and become a
Jew, he could only marry another convert. And there are no exceptions! Surely she
couldnt have been impressed with such racism toward her race!
Many leading Rabbis claimed that the Biblical prohibition of intermaRRIGE included women
as well. There was absolutely no precedent to follow. No Moavi woman had ever married a
Jew. She was the first test case. She would have to undergo strong court battles to be
accepted. She certainly would be met with ridicule and derision, even possible harassment.
(Generations later, Dovid still suffered from this harassment and derision.) She certainly
couldnt expect any royal welcome or ten-gun salute. The daughters of Moav had
already caused the Jews enough trouble in the midbar by enticing them with znus.
Twenty-four thousand Jews died in a plague on their account. No wonder many Jews resented
them and probably thought they had a legitimate right to totally reject even their women.
Hadnt everybody refused to offer the Jews food and water as they were passing by on
their way into Eretz Yisroel? The women hadnt acted any better than the men. The
gemorrah finds an excuse for the women by stating that going out to feed others is only a
mans obligation and not a womans. Not everybody accepted this reasoning.
Even thogh a female Moavi was permitted to enter into the folds of Klal Yisroel certainly
no one would marry her. Who wants to get himself messed up in a rabbinical dispute? Who
would want to get involved in a problematic and doubtful situation? How would she ever
find a willing mate? She had too many strikes against her. Her personal genealogy stemmed
from Eglon and Bolok, two terrible reshoim that the Jews had killed. Anybody who would
check her ancestry would certainly run the other way. Who needs problems? Who wants to be
treated like a reject? Who needs all these troubles?
She could return to her fathers palace and be wined and dined in royalty. Religion?
She could still remain religious in her own home. Who stopped her? Basya, Pharohs
daughter, had learned to cope with these problems when she converted. Surely her father
would allow her to have an extra set of kosher dishes. He could afford it! What dont
you do for a daughter, even if you believe she has gone astray. Theres always hope
shell wise up and drop her foolish idealism.
Lets take a look for a moment how the Jews treated her family. It was a shofet by
the name of Eihud, who had sneakily murdered her own father (or grandfather) Eglon, in the
privacy of his own palace and then escaped with his life. She should have been filled with
contempt and hatred for the people who were guilty of the murder of her father!
Nomi put it to her straight. She withheld no punches. Judaism requires full disclosure of
all details. Its not a religion looking for converts.In fact, our chachomim warn us
that converts are actually thorns in our sides. Who wants a pain in his side? Rus must be
given all the facts before she can be accepted as a true convert. It wasnt like
todays Reform rabbis that give you an instant conversion kit and for an extra $25
you get a gold certificate along with it. Nomi paints in vivid detail all the difficulties
faced by a Jew. There are 613 mitzvos. Her entire social life would be destroyed. She
couldnt go to any theaters. No swimming at mixed beaches. No membership at
prestigious private social clubs. Her menu would be restricted. All the delicious dishes
she was so used to eating back home were out. She couldnt even eat in her own
parents home. No working or even riding on Shabbos. Nearly all her great enjoyments
and pleasures in life would be eliminated. They are against the Jewish lifestyle. A Jew
lives a totally different life. There are 365 negative commandments altogether. How would
she ever be able to keep so many?
And woe to her if she transgresses just one of them. The punishments are very harsh. You
get a hard lashing for intentionally eating even the tiniest bug. For drinking a glass of
water on Yom Kippur or eating a small piece of bread on Pesach, the penalty is death by
G-d. Eating a scrumptious meal at her parents home could even bring death, all
depending on the ingredients it contained. Even intentionally lighting a match on Shabbos
can get you stoned to death. What tough, brutal and harsh punishments for such seemingly
simple offenses. It was serious business. Even if absolutely no one saw you transgressing
a law, and the court could not punish you, G-d would eventually catch up with you, and
give you what you deserve. There was absolutely no hiding from Him. You cant get
away with anything. Even death doesnt solve or end all problems. There are special
cemeteries for those who are killed by the court. You cant even be buried near your
loved ones. This is a scary situation. No, its not easy to be a Jew! And for what?
Every nation hates the Jews. You are looked down upon by everyone. You are downtrodden and
despised. You want to join a nice fancy health club and they turn you down because
youre a Jew. Who needs it? Who wants it? Go home and live it up! Who needs this
entire mess? Why look for problems?
Yet she is stubborn. Unbending. Unyielding. Nothing in the world can stop her. All
Nomis arguments fall on deaf ears. She doesnt want honor. She doesnt
want glory. She doesnt want luxury. She doesnt even want to be a queen. All
she wants is to be a Jew. Shed rather live a life of poverty and misery and serve
the real G-d. Queen? King? Palace? Shes just not interested. She wants the truth.
She wants to live her life the way the Torah teaches it. Worldly pleasures are profane.
She wants the real thing! She is very persistent, so she finally makes it. The Bais Din,
in a violent session rules in her favor. zia`en `le ia`n. Shes exhilarated. She won!
The ruling would still be under attack many years later. After all, if we follow their
reasoning then Edomi women should also be included. Why not zinec` `le inec`
And then miracle upon miracle. She does find favor in someones eyes. The great and
famous Jewish leader, Boaz, suddenly becomes a widower. He decides that it is obligatory
for him to marry this poor convert because of his own family ties to Nomi. Evidently he
must see in her something nobody else takes notice of. He had watched her picking up some
grain from the ground, and had taken notice of her great tznius, in the way she bent down.
Just a little clue, but for Boaz it says enough. Her other relatives (Ploni Almoni,)
refuse to marry her. Theyd rather not get involved. Not everybody accepts the
courts arguments. There are underground rumors that the verdict was given
The grand wedding is celebrated, despite much whispering and undercurrents of disapproval.
The medrash tells us that on their wedding night Boaz was 300 years old, certainly no
spring chicken. The medrash adds that Rus had no womb, and therefore her chances of
bearing children were nil! No wonder people saw the wedding as an outrageous nonsense and
an exercise in silliness. Little could they have imagined how wrong they were. It was
purely Lshem shomayim. There was no ulterior motive! That very same night, as soon
as the wedding was over, Boaz mysteriously dies. Many see in this a clear message. They
see it as a vindication of their charges. It must be the Heavenly retribution for having
married Rus. After all, G-d is very harsh. Little did he or she realize that it was on
this night she conceived, and Boazs task on this world was accomplished.
Malchus Bais Dovid is born!
Russ dreams are now totally shattered! What had she done wrong to deserve this
terrible harsh punishment? She had gone through enough tragedy. Her first husband,
Machlon, had died a young man. Now her second husband dies on her wedding night. What
greater tragedy can there be? Is there really a G-d? If so, then where is He? How broken
Rus must have felt. Enough! Go home! Why be a Jew? Nobody wanted her anyway! Even G-d
seemed to reject her! But she persists. Her love for the truth has still not faltered. Her
faith and trust in G-d remain unshattered. She still believes. Nothing can dampen her
love. Nothing can destroy her belief. She remains forever faithful to Hashem. She abandons
nothing. She strengthens herself more than ever. She passed Hashems test with flying
colors! Do you know of another person that would convert under similar conditions? Someone
willing to give up all worldly pleasures in exchange for degradation and suffering? Can
you possibly find a more noble woman than her?
Chazal tell us that Hashem never withholds a reward due any creature. Even fish, animals
and birds get their due reward. The donkey was duly rewarded for carrying out our heavy
loads from Mitzrayim. The bird in Noachs ark was blessed with eternal life for not
wanting to trouble Noach to feed it. How much more so are humans rewarded for their good
deeds. Nevuchadnetzar harosho, received three generations of kings for a mere three steps
that he took for kovod shomayim. For just four tears that Orpoh shed as she left her
mother-in-law Nomi, she was rewarded with four great giant warriors. Even the evil Achov
was given 22 years of kingdom because he showed honor to the Torah, which is written with
Actually, Rus too, was zoche to be guided in the right path in return for her own
fathers single act in G-ds honor. All he did was stand up when Eihud told him
that he wished to read him a message from Hashem. Even this simple one little action could
not go unrewarded. Absolutely nothing goes unrewarded. Bolok, from whom she descended,
also had to get his reward for the 42 korbonos which he was makriv to Hashem. Certainly
Russ own willingness to give up a life of royalty and become a Jew, accepting all
that came along with it, could not go unrewarded.
When Hashem rewards, He rewards midah kneged midah. Whatever you are willing to give
up for Hashems honor you receive back in return. Nobody ever loses out when dealing
with Hashem. Hashem is the best banker in the world. His bank can never run out of
currency. He can never declare bankruptcy. His currency only goes up, never down. His
reward continues on for 1,000 generations for those that serve Him with fear. It extends
2,000 generations for those that serve Him with love. (Sotah:3l) .
Rus not only received kings, something she rightfully deserved for having given up the
throne back home, but she would be rewarded with that greatest of all prizes. She would be
the progenitor of the Malkoh Meshicho-the Melech Hamoshiach. Chazal, by the way, tell us
that she actually lived long enough to see her great-grandson Shlomo on his throne. She
must have lived at least 400 years. Yes! Hashems treasuries never run short.
Youll never be shortchanged for what you do for Hashem.
And all this, by the way, is only in this world. The reward given in olom haboh is beyond
description. Even the neviim made no mention of it. Its far beyond our wildest
dreams and imagination. It defies human understanding. The joy of spending only one short
hour in olam haboh outweighs all possible joy and pleasure one can experience an entire
lifetime. Yes! HaShem can surely be trusted and relied upon. He pays the highest
And so, its certainly most appropriate to read the story of Rus on the holy Yom Tov
of Shvuous, zman matan Torah. Where else do we find a person with so much love for
Torah? So much self -sacrifice to enter Klall Yisroel against the greatest of odds? And
this story teaches us the great reward coming to those who embrace the Torah with both
hands. For those who are willing to suffer poverty and pain for it. All the riches in the
world cannot repay even the schar of doing one mitzvah properly.
Lets hope that the story of Rus struggle and mesiras nefesh for Torah will rub
off on us. Its celainly something to think ahout. How many sacrifices are we willing
to make? What luxuries are we willing to pass up for kovod shomayim? Its a
frightening thought to think about. Were not even fit to tie Russ shoelaces.
The greatest part of our day is occupied in amassing greater and greater wealth for our
own entertainment and pleasure. Here and there we grab a couple of minutes for Hashem,
maybe just to clear our conscience. Its hard to say its all lishmoh. One must
be willing to accept far less than we do today. We must set our goals of earthly pleasures
aside for a while. Cut down on all our other commitments. Make only one commitment. A
total commitment to Torah, the way Rus did. Otherwise youll find yourself distracted
with a thousand other distractions. There can be only one desire. Only one goal. But
its going to take Russ stubborness to succeed. Russ obstinacy to achieve
our goal! No wonder then, that we read the story of Rus on the Shvuous day. When we accept
the Torah on Shvuous, we must be willing to make Russ commitment! We must be willing
to give up all worldly pleasures in exchange for the greatest treasure of all - the holy