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Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.



Erev Chag Shavuot - Tuesday,  5 Sivan 5774 – June 3, 2014             

            A number of intriguing parallels exists between the story told in Megilat Rut and the story of Iyov.  Both Naomi and Iyov were wealthy people who lost their families and their fortunes.  Iyov bemoaned that God “heimar nafshi” (“made my soul bitter” – 27:2), just as Naomi told the people of Beit Lechem that God “heimar…li me’od” (“made me very bitter” – 1:20).  Iyov’s friends who came to visit him after the tragedies could not recognize him (“ve-lo hikiruhu” – 2:12), and when Naomi returned to Beit Lechem as a destitute widow, the people asked, “Is this Naomi?” (1:19).  The story of Iyov ends with his begetting seven children (42:13), and Megilat Rut ends with the birth of Naomi’s grandson to Rut, who was said to be “better for you than seven sons” (4:15). 

            These parallels call attention to the fundamental difference between the two stories.  The message of the story of Iyov is that our lives are governed by Providence, by the inscrutable wisdom of the Almighty, which we cannot possibly hope to understand. Tellingly, Iyov remains passive throughout the story, which is essentially an account of his conversations with his peers, trying to make sense of the tragedies that befell him.  And even at the very end, when Iyov rebuilds his life, we are not given any details about how he proceeded to start a new family and regain financial prosperity.  Sefer Iyov is all about man’s impotence and dependence on God, and thus Iyov’s fall and subsequent rise are depicted as acts of Providence, not the results of his actions.  Megilat Rut is just the opposite – it is all about how people respond to adverse conditions, how a family that had fallen apart managed to be rebuilt through resilience and kindness.  Remarkably, even the one event in the Megila that was exclusively an act of Providence – Rut’s arrival in Boaz’s field to collect fallen sheaves – is described as a “coincidence” (“va-yiker mikreha” – 2:3).  Whereas in Iyov everything is controlled by Providence, and when Iyov finally acts the text seems to intentionally downplay his role, in Rut, the events are orchestrated by the people in the story, and Providence’s clear role is relegated to the status of “coincidence.”  And thus the story of Iyov underscores the role of Providence in our lives, while Rut underscores the role assigned to us to overcome adversity and hardship through patience, sacrifice and chesed. 

            Taken together, then, these two stories demonstrate the delicate balance that Jewish thought maintains between Providence and personal responsibility.  We must believe and commit ourselves to both the sobering message of Iyov and the empowering message of Rut; to both the notion of absolute divine control, and the ability of human beings to control and change their destiny.  Practically speaking, this means accepting responsibility for ourselves and each other while at the same time recognizing that the outcome ultimately depends only on the will of God.  We are to act as though we are in control, while also acknowledging that in truth we are not. 

(Based on a derashah by Rav Moshe Weinberger)


Rav David Silverberg     



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