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June 01, 2006



I guess your Hebrew teacher has never seen "Judge Judy."

Liz Neville

Eve-- what a beautiful story, and well told. It is sad to think of the traditional definitions being discarded. But we've discarded the traditions themselves. We all need to be civilized from birth: men molded into gentlemen, and women into ladies. That requires individual submission, at least in part, to a governance by social standards. I can empathize with the desire, as an individual, to do as one pleases-- but what if what pleases the one does harm to the society as a whole? I'm afraid that's where we've lost the beauty of the relationships you've described-- too few people will allow themselves to be civilized into those traditions. It pleases us more to do as we please.

That doesn't mean I'll give up. When raising children, you have a stake in the future. The standards may be reviewed and adapted, but not beyond their original effectiveness. If we are to remain a civilization, we need to behave with civility.

Thanks for the reminder.


I know exactly how your teacher feels. Don't you find the more you live in a traditional world/community the more distant and unreal the craziness of society seems? I am a Traditional Catholic and that sort of behavior just doesn't go on (casual sex and casual dating etc) and I really am shocked when somehow I am brought back to the realization that there ARE people out there who DO have premarital sex..and DO have abortions..etc etc. I suppose most people would call me naive, but I would rather be naive with my innocence protected!


Willoughby is from "Sense and Sensibility" ;) And thanks for sharing this.


Eve, this is off-topic a bit (and if the moderator wants to delete it I won't be offended), but I am really curious. I have always understood that lying at the feet of someone you wished to make a request of was a normal practice in ancient times. I have never heard that Naomi was counseling Ruth to seduce Boaz but rather to propose to him. Not a big surprise given the levirate marriage customs.

Do you have a reference I could look up (or is it because I'm using the King James version of Ruth)? I am just curious because I just taught Ruth to my Sunday school class and that was not the impression I had at all. But there is absolutely no question of Ruth's modest behaivor and character (and Naomi did seem a bit of a drama queen ;)


Sarah- Thank you. Wickham is the cad in P&P! I mixed those two "W" cads up. I'll change it on the blog.

DM- I actually just learned over Shavous that most classic commentators do not suggest that Naomi wanted Ruth to seduce Boaz into marriage; rather she told Ruth to uncover his legs and lie at his feet, which was a way of asking a man if he could marry her, as you wrote. But my teacher did give over the interpretation I wrote about on the blog, so there must be some rabbinical commentary that sees a seduction plan in the text. I will have to ask him for his sources, and then I will get back to you.


Thanks, that is awfully kind of you.


Dear DM,
I still have to look into some more specific sources, but I did learn that a more moderate interpretation, which may be in line with the classic commentaries, would say that Naomi intended to encourage copulation to initiate the Levirate marriage, and she advised Ruth to make herself enticing in order to make Boaz less inhibited. But the most important and surprising fact is that nothing physical happened between the couple that night. They were all alone at night in the fields, but they chose not to touch each other. This is remarkable. I will have to continue to ask rabbis and more knowledgable people than myself about the Naomi part of the story, and I am looking forward to going to the library later this summer to search for the sources. Thank you for asking your question.


You're welcome. :) Thanks for the great blog!

Emma Kurtovic


I would just like to know exactly what happened between Ruth and Boaz that night.

Some of my friends say she had sex with Boaz before marriage, and thats how she caught him. My friends also say that it's ok to have sex before marriage because that's what Ruth did with Boaz, and that it does not seem bad to do that.

Did she have sex with him that night when she took her mother in law's advice to go into his tent?



King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?
saith the Preacher, but your Teacher obviously seems to be out of sync with reality.
Ruth and Naomi were destitute and they were gleaning in the fields of Boaz for their livelihood. Naomi advises her to meet Boaz at his most vulnerable time- in the dark after he is drunk and tells her Moabitess widow of her son to sleep with Boaz. Naomi says, "He will tell you what to do!" Naturally the time chosen by Naomi to assault a man was not spiritual or ethical, by any stretch of imagination.
Secondly, we have to go by what is written. It is quite possible that Boaz ended up having sex with the willing Ruth and Naomi threatened the respectability of Boaz and got him to marry Ruth thereby paving a good life for herself.
The story sounds garish and your teacher's interpretation puerile. Get real and let us not fool ourselves.

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