Greeting with G‑d’s Name: The Significance of Boaz’s Greeting

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by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz

On Shavuot, we read the Book of Ruth. At first glance, a simple exchange between Boaz and his workers seems like a trivial detail. However, this greeting holds a profound lesson about respect and the importance of recognizing the inherent worth of every person.

The second chapter introduces us to Boaz:

וְהִנֵּה־בֹ֗עַז בָּ֚א מִבֵּ֣ית לֶ֔חֶם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר לַקּוֹצְרִ֖ים ה’ עִמָּכֶ֑ם וַיֹּ֥אמְרוּ ל֖וֹ יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ ה’׃

“And, behold, Boaz came from Beth Lehem, and he said to the harvesters: The Hashem [Gd] be with you! And they said to him: May the Hashem [Gd] bless you.”* [Ruth 2:4]

Boaz arrives from Beth Lehem to his field and greets his workers, saying, “Hashem [Gd] be with you!” They answer him, “May Hashem bless you!” Commentators note that this introduction seems superfluous, as we know Boaz was based in Beth Lehem, and the fact that he greeted his workers might seem irrelevant to the story.

The Talmud (Makkos 23b) explains that this seemingly irrelevant introduction imparts important information: Boaz had arrived from the seat of his court in Beth Lehem. This greeting was part of a specific, short-term enactment by the Court of Boaz. At that time, people didn’t typically greet each other using Gd’s name directly. This change arose from a period of great hardship. The Jewish people were facing a terrible famine, a crisis so severe that even a leader like Elimelech abandoned his community.

Boaz’s enactment was so revolutionary that it required and received divine approval, one of only three such enactments that achieved this distinction.

אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי: שְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים עָשׂוּ בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל מַטָּה וְהִסְכִּימוּ בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל מַעְלָה עַל יָדָם, [אֵלּוּ הֵן]: מִקְרָא מְגִילָּה, וּשְׁאֵילַת שָׁלוֹם [בַּשֵּׁם], וַהֲבָאַת מַעֲשֵׂר

There are three matters that the earthly court implemented and the heavenly court agreed with them, and these are they: Reading the Megillah of Esther on Purim, greeting another with the name of G-d, and bringing ma’aser [tithes]. (Makkos 23b)

The approval highlighted the importance and the profound impact of Boaz’s initiative in uplifting and uniting the community during a time of crisis.

To address this despair, the Court headed by Boaz instituted a powerful act: greeting each other with the actual name of Gd. This wasn’t just a formality; it was a way to acknowledge the inherent holiness and dignity within every person. By using Gd’s name, they affirmed that each person is created b’Tzelem Elokim (in the Image of Gd) and deserves utmost respect. The enactment emphasized that all Jews are worthy of being treated with the respect one would show to royalty.

The greeting served as a constant reminder of our duty. It emphasized the idea that we must treat each other with care, recognizing that we are not merely intelligent animals but beings created in the image of Gd. This suggests an entirely different approach to how we relate to others. It reminded us of our duty to fulfill the commandment “to follow in all of His ways” (ללכת בכל דרכיו) — as Chazal (the sages) explain:

ללכת בכל דרכיו. הוּא רַחוּם וְאַתָּה תְּהֵא רַחוּם, הוּא גּוֹמֵל חֲסָדִים וְאַתָּה גּוֹמֵל חֲסָדִים

“To follow in all of His ways” — He is merciful, and you should be merciful; He performs acts of kindness, and you should perform acts of kindness. (Rashi on Devorim 11:22)

Boaz’s enactment emphasizes that respect for our fellow man is something we should practice at all times. Due to the breakdown in society, Boaz wished to highlight that we are all created in the image of Gd and deserving of respect. This idea is further highlighted by a teaching that states at the time of a person’s passing from this world, they will be asked:

“Did you make Gd your King?” and “Did you make your friend your King with a pleasant spirit?” This question underscores the importance of treating others with the same respect and reverence one would show to royalty.

אמרו בשעה שהאדם נפטר מן העולם שואל לו מלאך המות כלום עסקת בתורה ובגמילות חסדים והמלכת קונך שחרית וערבית והמלכת את חבירך עליך בנחת רוח, אם יש לו דברים אלו יוצאת נשמתו בנשיקה ואם לאו וכו’ (בראשית חכמה ובאגרת הגר”א)

Our sages stated that at the time of a person’s passing from this world, the angel of death asks him, “Did you engage in Torah study and acts of kindness? Did you crown your Maker over you every morning and evening? Did you crown your fellows over you with a pleasant spirit?” If he has these qualities, his soul will then depart from his body as with a kiss.

The Midrash emphasizes the importance of treating others as royalty, showing them the utmost respect and kindness. This idea is directly related to Boaz’s enactment of greeting others with the name of Gd. By using Gd’s name in greetings, Boaz and his workers acknowledged the inherent godliness and dignity within each individual. This practice served as a reminder that just as we respect and revere Gd, we should also recognize and honor the divine spark within our fellow human beings.

In our current times, we feel a similar breakdown in society; therefore, we must emphasize the worth of each other. The exchange of greetings between Boaz and his workers serves as a crucial lesson for how people should treat one another in their daily lives, recognizing the inherent holiness and dignity in every person and acting towards them with chesed (kindness).

In conclusion, the Book of Ruth teaches us that even a simple greeting can hold immense power. Just as Boaz’s enactment reminded people of their inherent worth, we too can create a more compassionate world by recognizing the dignity in everyone we encounter. Let us take this lesson to heart and greet each other with kindness, remembering the divine spark within us all.

 השכר על גמילות החסד מובע במדרש רבה במילים אלו: “בועז עשה את שלו, ורות עשתה את שלה, ונעמי עשתה את שלה. אמר הקב”ה אף אני אעשה את שלי (רות רבה ז)  

The reward for acts of kindness is expressed in the Midrash Rabbah with these words: “Boaz did his part, Ruth did her part, and Naomi did her part. Hashem said, ‘I too will do my part'” (Ruth Rabbah 7).

May we greet each other realizing our divine spark, and by our kindness be worthy to see Gd’s kindness  enveloping us in these difficult times.

About Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz is a member of The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel

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