The Megillah Is Too Beautiful

Megillat Ruth is too beautiful to be true, and would therefore appear on the bestseller's list under Fiction.

Tonight we will once again give up sleep and study Torah - it's not easy, but it's the custom - "Tikkun Leil Shavuot." The origin of the tikkun(repair) is not entirely clear (the root of the word may mean preparation.) But there is no question that many tikkunim are needed here for many malfunctions.

Religious, traditional and even secular Jews will do their best tonight to make amends for what they and their forefathers have done wrong before and after the Giving of the Torah; it's better late, and it's never too late.

For the purpose of the tikkun, the Jews make use of Megillat Ruth (the Book of Ruth), which is generally acknowledged to be the most beautiful of the megillahs, and perhaps the most beautiful book in the Bible altogether. It is so unusual in its charm, loving-kindness and mercy, that upon rereading, it is sometimes hard to believe it is still here, in the Bible section called "Ketubim," (Writings) and was not uprooted over the years, along with the Song of Songs. Has it remained for generations in order to hint that the Bible is only fiction? That the Bible is nothing but mythology, and that it did not and does not bear any relation to reality?

Megillat Ruth is too beautiful to be true, and would therefore appear on the bestseller's list under Fiction. What is its story, actually: Elimelekh, a man from Bethlehem in Judea, leaves the country to live in Moab because of the recession; he and his family are on the verge of starvation. Elimelekh dies after a time, leaving behind his widow Naomi and two sons, Mahlon and Khilion. The process of assimilation begins: The two marry Moabite women - Orpah and Ruth. They continue to live in exile for another 10 years, and then they die as well, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law alone.

Meanwhile, the recession passes, there is no more starvation and the widow-bereaved mother decides to return to Israel in the wake of food, and not necessarily for Zionistic reasons. Naomi does not want her daughters-in-law to come with her, because she is not certain that their lives will be good here.

Ruth insists on accompanying her mother-in-law. Although she never converted with an Orthodox rabbi, or even a Reform rabbi, she feels Jewish - "For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God." In other words, Ruth defines herself as a Jew both in the religious sense - "Thy God [shall be] my God" - and in the nationalist sense - "Thy people shall be my people."

The Megillah does not tell of the unique problems they faced in their entry or about mishaps and obstacles along their way. They were not required to identify themselves, and therefore there is no way of knowing whether Ruth arrived here by dint of the "Law of Return" or by dint of the "Entry into Israel Law." Since she did not undergo a restrictive conversion - she was a non-Jew and remained one - and her Jewish husband had died, the Law of Return did not apply to her, to the best of my knowledge.

And perhaps it's only a matter of the right connections, because Boaz, who will eventually marry her, is a relative of her late husband, an important person, a labor contractor, who apparently also employs foreign workers in his fields, and he may have arranged things for her. He hired Ruth as well, although he had other intentions for her, which are revealed in the course of the story.

Ruth herself is aware of her foreignness, she knows that it is problematic, and therefore asks her benefactor Boaz, "Why have I found favour in thy sight, that thou shouldest take cognizance of me, seeing I am a foreigner?" And Boaz replies simply that he greatly admires the fact that she left her father, mother and homeland and went "unto a people that thou knewest not heretofore."

As far as he is concerned, that is sufficient: "The Lord recompense thy work, and be thy reward complete from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to take refuge." Ruth stays, is integrated, falls in love, begins to work and probably does not have a work permit. Boaz is sure of himself and of his worldview, the society of Bethlehem supports him and his deeds, there is no outburst and no outcry, no scandals and no loud and urgent discussion in the Judean National Council.

I once again propose Ruth's extraordinarily moving declaration - "thy people shall be my people and thy God my God" - to the new interior minister as the official standard for his ministry, for the country. Anyone who signs this form will immediately receive the status of a citizen, or at least of a resident.

For the information of the minister and the officials: Ruth is not "another woman," "an ordinary non-Jew." Of all the women in the Bible, it is she who was chosen to be the great-grandmother of King David - "And Boaz begot Obed; and Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David." Couldn't the ancient authors have chosen a kosher Jewish woman to be David's grandmother? Couldn't they have chosen us a matriarch according to halakha (Jewish law), since we are all scions of the House of David?

Perhaps they, the ancients, wanted to tell us something, which today sounds incomprehensible and totally fictional. I am convinced that all this would not have happened had there been an Immigration Police worthy of its name here at the time.