21 November, 2007
Why Ruth was not a Moabite
(Note:Posts like these are meant to engender discussion, not to alter anyone's beliefs , simply to offer another view)
Numbers 21:26-29, "For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon. Woe to you, Moab! you are undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon, king of the Amorites."
First of all Israel conquered Moav: Deuteronomy 2:32-34, "Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. (33) And the Lord our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. (34) And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain:"
Numbers 21:30-35, "We have shot at them; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid them waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba. Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites. And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took the villages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there. And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at Edrei. And the Lord said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon, king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they(Israel) possessed his land."
Deuteronomy 3:12-16, "And this land, which we possessed at that time, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, and half mount Gilead, and the cities thereof, gave I unto the Reubenites and to the Gadites.And the rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, being the kingdom of Og, gave I unto the half tribe of Manasseh; all the region of Argob, with all Bashan, which was called the land of giants. Jair, the son of Manasseh, took all the country of Argob unto the coasts of Geshuri and Maachathi; and called them after his own name, Bashanhavothjair, unto this day. And I gave Gilead unto Machir. (16) And unto the Reubenites and unto the Gadites I gave from Gilead even unto the river Arnon half the valley, and the border even unto the river Jabbok, which is the border of the children of Ammon.
And this was such a done deal that there was no Moabite left:
Shoftim 11:12-26, "And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land? And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.
But of course, Israel did not for they had no reason to do so and Jephthah knew that and responded saying :This is what Jephthah says:
"Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. But when they came up out of Egypt, Israel went through the desert to the Red Sea [a] and on to Kadesh. Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, 'Give us permission to go through your country,' but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.
"Next they traveled through the desert, skirted the lands of Edom and Moab, passed along the eastern side of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon. They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.
"Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, 'Let us pass through your country to our own place.' Sihon, however, did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. He mustered all his men and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.
"Then the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his men into Israel's hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.
"Now since the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the LORD our God has given us, we will possess. Are you better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them? For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn't you retake them during that time? I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the LORD, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites."
And G-d did judge in favor of Israel.
Ruth is NEVER mentioned as being a racial Moabite but simply a resident of Moav.
She is Ruth the moabitess, not Ruth of the people of Moav. Just Ruth the Jew who happened to live in the Jewish possession of Moav. But we insist she was a Moabite , even though G-d forbid marriage with them. And we get around the law by saying well it doesn't say a female..so we presume it must only mean male. That is like the child who is told not to read a certain book and then goes and buys the comic version and reads it, or sees the movie version. When the parents say, "I thought I told you no?" , the child says, "well but I didn't read a book , I read a comic!" This is using the letter of the law to destroy the spirit of the law.
This is accepted because it does several things.
It makes G-d seem not to mean exactly what he says and therefore easier to get around. If he really didn't mind Yosef marrying out,(and he did not) or Ruth, then maybe the things I do will be winked at also. G-d is less formidable this way.
It allows the letter of the law to destroy the spirit of the law and some might have use of that in order to get around the law.
It allows for a more cosmopolitan Israel and inclusive Israel, which is seen as being somehow more tolerant and nice.
Ruth lived in Moav, but she was not of the people of Moav
"Rav Pappa said, ‘Ammon and Moav were cleansed by Sichon.’ and this was why Israel was allowed to conquer Moav.
Quoting R. Aryeh Kaplan:
One of the prizes of Israel’s conquest of Sichon’s land is his capital city, Cheshbon. Again, the Torah provides some background information: Because Cheshbon was the capital of Sichon, king of the Emorites: and he had fought against the first king of Moav and taken all his land from his hand, as far as the Arnon. “Come to Cheshbon! Be built and established, O city of Sichon! For a fire has gone forth from Cheshbon; a flame from the municipality of Sichon: It has consumed Ar of Moav, the masters of the altars of Arnon. Woe to you, Moav! You are destroyed, O nation of Kemosh! His sons have become refugees, and his daughters are captive, To the King of the Emorites, Sichon! And we cast them down, from Cheshbon as far as Divon, And we laid waste as far as Nofach, which is near Meideva” (vs. 26-30). These incidents seem out of place: They are quoted from outside sources, and are retold poetically rather than in straightforward prose, as well as include references to other nations’ deities. Moreover, they seem to stray from the narrative flow. So, why are they inserted in the Torah? Would knowing the Emorites’ history accord them a measure of respect in Israel’s eyes? Must they understand their enemy in order to oppose them effectively?
Rashi (21:26, based on Gittin 38a, Sanhedrin 94b, Chullin 60b; Yalkut Shimoni) explains the inclusion: and he had fought : “Why did this need to be written? Because it is said, Do not provoke Moav (Devarim 2:19), and Cheshbon was part of Moav. The text [therefore] writes for us that Sichon took it from them, and through him it was cleansed for Israel” (it became permissible).
Rabbi Zvi Magence (1914-1989), in Magen Zvi, Sefer Kedushat Ha’Aretz (chapter 37) explains further, “the children of Israel were not actually commanded not to take land from Ammon and Moav; rather it was forbidden for them to fight in order to conquer their land for themselves. However, they were not obligated to return to Ammon and Moav the land that Sichon had conquered from them.”
R. Shimon ben Lakish (in Chullin 60b) includes Because Cheshbon … among those passages “which are fit to burn, yet they are the very body of the Torah”: At first glance they seem inappropriate to the Torah, yet closer examination reveals that they contain fundamental principles.
In this case, “said the Holy One, Blessed be He: ‘Let Sichon come and take from Moav, and then let Israel come and take from Sichon.’ This is what Rav Pappa said, ‘Ammon and Moav were cleansed by Sichon.’”
We have plenty of incidents in which people are refered to by the name of the region they live... even though they are not from that region.For example in Perek Lamed Het Pasuk Beit, we hear about Yehuda marrying the daughter of a Caanani. Yet most meforshim believe he was not a Caanani.Moshe's wife is called a Kushit, yet again Rashi's explanation is not that she was Kushite, but that this was only a metaphor.
So simply because Ruth is called Moabite, does not mean that she cannot have been Jewish.
Finally, the idea of Sefer Ruth can be seen as an inspiring testament to the return of a lost part of the Jewish people, foreshadowing the final return of the 10 tribes under the leadership of Ruth's descendant, Moshiach.