Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 65

May 28, 2021

The Wisdom of Boaz

Dear Holy Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you in good health and enjoying the beginning the inspiring summer weather. Additionally, I hope you had an enjoyable and meaningful Shavuoth with loved ones.

We at CBIOTP are eagerly looking forward to our “re-opening” for in-person services as we begin the process of returning to "normal."

Towards that end, many of us have been considering the various protocols that will be incumbent upon us as a community. While there are a variety of opinions on this, I thought I would share some wisdom from our tradition, which is applicable to our situation. As I am entrenched in a post-Shavuoth mindset, I have been thinking about a recently recited text, namely, the Book of Ruth.

As you know, the Book of Ruth is a short Megillah, which focuses on the plight and repatriation of two female characters, Naomi and Ruth. The text highlights their response to personal tragedy and eventual return to the Holy Land. The voyage is marked by Ruth’s famous declaration to her mother-in-law, “For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God (Ruth 1:16).” Although the text presents two fascinating female characters, it is the wisdom of Boaz that may be worthy of our consideration as we prepare to join together, in person, for the first time in over a year.

First, at the beginning of the second chapter, Boaz, who is the owner of the agricultural endeavor, proactively greets his field reapers by blessing them with the words יְהֹוָ֣ה עִמָּכֶ֑ם, “May God be with you (Ruth 2:4).” I was always impressed by this “biblical boss,” who takes notice of everyone in his employ, including those who could be considered to be of a lower social status. Boaz volunteers words of spiritual uplift and encouragement to all around him.

Second, Boaz recognizes Ruth, a newcomer, (little did he know she would become his wife) and goes out of his way to acknowledge her and make her feel welcome. וַיֹּ֤אמֶר בֹּ֙עַז֙ מִ֖י הַנַּעֲרָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת, “Whose girl is that?” Boaz said to the servant, who was in charge of the reapers. To Boaz, even a newcomer, or stranger, deserved to be recognized as a significant individual.

Boaz further exemplifies the primacy of Jewish hospitality as he first ensures Ruth’s feeling of security [“Listen to me, daughter. Don’t go to glean in another field. Don’t go elsewhere, but stay here,”] and then he plays the role of gracious host by inviting Ruth to dine alongside him and his friends [“Come over here and partake of the meal, and dip your morsel in the vinegar. So she sat down beside the reapers. He handed her roasted grain, and she ate her fill and had plenty to eat.”]

Friends, there is no doubt that many of us will experience trepidation and even subtle uneasiness as we enter our holy sanctuary for the first time since Purim of last year.

While we may not yet be able to emulate Boaz at our Kiddush, our job will be to take the example of Boaz and bless each member of our community, open our hearts to them, and share our love of Torah. In this way, we will continue to build upon our strength as a community.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD
201 562 5277

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