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
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
(Based on a derashah by Rav Moshe Weinberger)
Rav David Silverberg
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