Megillat Ruth – Halachic Gleanings

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

A number of halachot relating to conversion are learned from the book of Ruth which is one of the reasons it is read on Shavuot. The Talmud teaches that before Ruth’s conversion, Naomi told her: “We have rules as to where we can and cannot walk on Shabbat, rules regarding our dealings with the opposite sex, we have six hundred and thirteen challenging commandments to uphold, and we are strictly forbidden to worship idols.”[1] After hearing these rules came forth Ruth’s famous response: “Where you walk, I shall walk; where you sleep, I shall sleep; your people are my people, and your God is my God.”[2] It is from here that the Talmud rules: “We inform prospective converts of a few of the less serious commandments and a few of the more serious commandments. We do not overburden the convert with numerous commandments, nor with their fine details.”[3]

Another halacha derived from the story of Ruth is the practice of greeting each other with the name of God, as Boaz himself did, as it is written: “Boaz came from Bethlehem and he greeted the reapers with ‘May God be with you,’ and they responded, ‘May God bless you.’”[4] We fulfill this teaching today through the greeting “shalom aleichem,” and its response “aleichem shalom.” Shalom is one of God’s names.

Megillat Ruth is also the source [5] for the Talmud’s ruling that, “One may not leave the Land of Israel to go abroad unless the price of wheat has risen…but if one can still purchase wheat, although somewhat costly, one may not leave.” As Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai used to say: “Why were Elimelech, Machlon, and Chilyon, the greatest scholars and leaders of the day, punished? Because they left Eretz Yisrael even though wheat was available, albeit at a high price.”[6] Nevertheless, the halacha is not in accordance with this view and leaving the Land of Israel is permitted in a number of situations – a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this post. [7]

Finally, and not widely known, is that the source for washing in preparation for Shabbat, along with the custom of wearing one’s finest clothing on Shabbat derives from the book of Ruth, as well. As Naomi tells Ruth: “Wash yourself, anoint yourself, and put on your fine clothes.”[8] The Talmud comments on this verse, explaining: “These were her Shabbat clothes. Rabbi Chanina said: A person must have two sets of garments, one for weekdays and one for Shabbat.”[9] In fact, the use of fine perfumes in honor of Shabbat was a custom of even the greatest sages, and is certainly a meritorious custom one should consider emulating.[10]

[1] Yevamot 47b.
[2] Ruth 1:18.
[3] Ibid.; of course the convert is expected to commit to fully studying and practicing Judaism in its entirety.
[4] Ruth 2:4.
[5] Ruth 1:19.
[6] Bava Batra 91a.
[7] See Avoda Zara 13a; Bava Batra 91a.
[8] Ruth 3:3.
[9] Shabbat 113b.
[10] Ibn Ezra, Ruth 3:3.

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot.


  1. It is important to note that Rus received instructions not just on Dinei Torah, but as well as on Dinei Drabanan as well.

  2. Chalifin- “l’Kayem Kol Davar,” sheva berachot, geula, issur for talmid chahcam going out alone at night, giving brachot to zkeinim
    I am sure there are more- עיין בתורה תמימה חג שמח

  3. Which rabbis certified her conversion?

  4. Steve — let’s not confuse Aggadah with Halacha. As R. Angel writes in

    Rabbi Ben Porat quotes an aggadic passage in Yevamot 47b that seemingly indicates that Ruth had accepted all 613 mitzvoth upon conversion. He states that since the GRA cited this passage in a halakhic commentary, the source must be a halakhic (rather than aggadic) text. I ask readers to go to the text itself; you will find that it is a lovely, aggadic passage. It is not a halakhic source, even if great halakhists may quote it to bolster a particular viewpoint. The indisputable halakhic source is in Yevamot 47a-b, where the requirement is to inform would-be converts of some of the minor and some of the major commandments. There is no reference whatsoever to teaching them 613 mitzvoth, or of even informing them that there are 613 mitzvoth.

  5. Thanks Tuvia!

    I had thought of including the sheva brachot, but we have an earlier source — Lavan/Leah.

    Ari Enkin

  6. HAGTBG-

    How can you EVEN READ the book of Ruth?? It has no haskamas!

    Ari Enkin

  7. IH: The portion you quote illustrates that R. Angel has no clue what he is talking about.

    The gemara there quotes a derasha to illustrate the very halakha that R. Angel claims (and indeed is) normative. The derush on the pesukim in Rus is meant to show that Naomi fulfilled the law of the beraisa. It is aggadata in the sense that ascribing the fulfillment of the halakohs of gerus to the words of Naomi is not pshat, but it is a halakhically valid source because the point is to illustrate how one is supposed to react to a potential ger.

    Not to mention that R. Angel conflates two very different things: what you are supposed to inform the potential ger, and what the ger has to accept. Contra R. Angel, the overwhelming view of the poskim is that gerus involves acceptance of the totality of the Torah. That does not mean you have to tell them every last mitzvah and every last detail in advance (an impossible task in any event). You just tell them a sampling, some of the more severe and some of the less severe, and then they agree to accept the Torah in toto.

    Which is what happened at Kabbalas ha Torah with the Jewish people — which is THE paradigm of gerus which the gemara in Kerisus learns out to all geirus. God only told the Jews some of the commandments, and they then accepted the Torah in its totality when they said Na’aseh v’Nishmah.

  8. So the Talmud makes a ruling based on a make believe conversation?

  9. “So the Talmud makes a ruling based on a make believe conversation?”

    No. Try reading the post again. The Talmud’s ruling is based on a beraisa. It uses the pesukim as a Midrashic illustration of the concept.

    (The conversation between Naomi and Ruth was not make believe. Although I doubt that Naomi intended to allude to the halakhos the gemara in Yevamos seems to say she was alluding to. THat part is drush.)

  10. Tal — I am not sure why you feel the need to belittle those with whom you disagree – R. Angel in this case. It is sophomoric. In any case, there is sufficient scholarship to demonstrate that your maximalist reading is not a slam dunk. See most recent: R. Amsalem and Profs. Sagi & Zohar.

  11. IH and Tal-R Angel IMO did not answer the critique raised in the article in Hakira. Instead, IMO, R Angel’s response can be fairly described as “blaming the messenger”. Like it or not, the Talmud tells us that Rus accepted the prohibition of Yichud-which is clearly of rabbinic origin, and IIRC Techumin, which is also of rabbinic origin, except according to the view of R Akiva.

  12. IH: R. Angel invited the readers to look up the Talmud and judge for themselves. I did, and his reading of the gemara as a mere fairy tale does not hold water. When someone puts himself forward as an halakhic authority on matters that affect the Jewish people as a whole, he should be prepared for harsh criticism.

    The scholarship you cite has been debunked by others. By R. Broyde most prominently.

    In fact, the VERY SAME PAGE OF TALMUD we are discussing says EXPLICITLY states that a regular ger requires “Lekabel ol mitzvos.” (There is a discussion what an eved meshuchrar is supposed to do, but outside Saudi Arabia that does not exist today.)

    The notion that such is a modern day invention is a fantasy. The problem stems, IMO, from a basic misunderstanding of what geirus is. What is it? By what hocus pocus does a non-Jew become a Jew?

    The answer, as my rebbe used to say, is start at the beginning. THe basic derashah of geirus is in the gemara in Kerisus. The gemara states, Just as You (i.e. the Jewish People) entered the Covenant (at Sinai) through Milah, Tevilah and Korban, so too does a Ger who wants to enter the covenant have to go through those three stages.

    That’s what Geirus is: Entering the Sinaitic Covenant. The Jewish people* did that at Har Sinai, and a ger can do it later.

    As any child in Cheder or Day School can tell you, the central event there as Naaseh v’ Nishmah — the Jewish people accepted the Torah, mostly sight unseen. That’s what a Ger has to do to enter the covenant.

    * In a very nice piece by R. Soloveichik quoted in teh Harerei Kedem, he explains that the bris at Har Sinai was a collectively bris with the Jewish people, while geirus is individual. That explains a bunch of things. Incl., in my view, why the rule of ger shenisgayer ke koton she nolod dami, did not apply to the Jewish people then, but does apply to individual gerim later.

  13. I don’t think that R Ben Porat or R Angel mentioned this source, but R Asher Weiss in Minchas Asher Shabbos:34, discusses Hilcos Gerus at length Kdarcko BaKodesh from the Talmud through the Acharonim and points therein that the Medrash in Rus Rabbah:2:22, which Rashi quotes in his commentary to Rus 1:15 mentions that Naomi is understood to have instructed Rus on the Issur Yichud with an unmarried man, even though that element of the Issur Yichud is a “Davar Shein Bo Issur Msuyam D”orassia o Midrabanan”, as well as Techumin as examples of “Miktzas Onshim”.

    R Angel’s piece, which relies on a piece by Professors Sagi & Zohar that R Broyde subjected to a withering critique in Tradition as an overreading and underreading of the key Mareh Mkomos which R Dr M Shapiro valiantly attempted to rescue on the Seforim blog, merely discusses and expresses his disapproval of the views of the CS, the Beis Yitzchak,and now, without any underlying logic, suggests that one can differ with RYBS’s understanding of Kabalas Ol Mitzvos and does not even discuss RMF’s reliance on Bchoros 30b, as a very early statement of the sin qua non of Kabalas Ol Mitzvos.

  14. Steve — there is also a list of very respected authorities the R. Angel, R. Amsalem, Profs. Sagi & Zohar et al. can list, so that’s an uninteresting game.

  15. IH-the question is not who can list authorities like an accountant preparing a tax return, but rather how Rov Rishonim and Acharonim have defined Kabalas Ol Mitzvos, and understood the critical Talmudic passages.

  16. IH-read R Angel, who dismisses Bchoros 30b as dealing with a Ger Toshav, which is clearly not the view of RMF and other Poskim, and then read R Broyde’s critique and R D M Shapiro’s defense of Professors Sagi and zohar, who AFAIK , have never been viewed as Poskim. I think that the idea that Kabalas Ol Mitzvos is a de minimus concept, as opposed to an act equivalent to Naaseh VNishmah on the part of Klal Yisrael, cannot be reconciled with the sources. As far as the various Issurim with respect to Oonaas HaGer, one can argue that most, if not all, are rooted in the strong desire not to remind a Ger Tzedek of his or backgrund, as opposed to being part and parcel of the process of Gerus.

  17. I have actually read the sources by R Amsalem’ most of them are not talking about the issue of the concept of “kabballat mitzvot”. A cursory reading throughout passages of talmud, leave no other room for interpretation of “kabbalat mtizvot” other than a commitment to observe (whatever the concept is attached to). So it is regarding kballat chavrut (in bechoros). I challenge anyone to find any known Rov to interpret the issue differently (except for Mishptey Uziel). It’s laughable to interpret “kabbaalat chavrut” to mean: knowledge of the punishment for violating the laws of tumah vetahara. There is no other meaning than accepting the more and rules of tumah vetahar inpractice. So too, regarding kabbalat mtizvot,

  18. For an impressive (and long) analysis of the machloket between Rashi and Ibn Ezra on whether Ruth and Orpah converted prior to their marriage, see Tzitz Eliezer, Chelek 17, Siman 42, available at:

    [note the fascinating aside about the Marranos on page צ, first full paragraph in the 2nd column]

    Perhaps someone more familiar with R. Waldenberg’s style cares to separate his voice from all the sources he quotes regarding the bottom line, as I do not want to misrepresent his responsum.

  19. A cursory reading throughout passages of talmud, leave no other room for interpretation of “kabbalat mtizvot”

    I assume you mean Tosafot on the passages of Talmud rather than the Talmudic text itself.

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