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This question concerns Rus chapter 3, q.v.

  1. Why did Rus have to meet him in such an immodest fashion? Specifically: at night, alone, throwing herself at him (spread your cloak...)
  2. Why didn't Boaz send her home? Granted people might see her, but wasn't that the point of her coming at night (ie people wouldn't see)?
  3. If for some reason Rus couldn't leave, why didn't Boaz leave? Wasn't he concerned that he might be tempted to sin with her? The commentators indicate that he slept near her with an erection that entire night.
  4. Isn't this a transgression of Yichud?
  5. Why does the megillah need to record this incident? Had this entire incident been omitted would the narrative be missing anything?
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And now I shall explain the verses in such a way as to dismiss all these questions... :) –  jake May 25 '12 at 15:48
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YAY!​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ –  user1520 May 25 '12 at 15:54
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For #4, note that according to Sanhedrin 21a-b, yichud between two unmarried people hadn't yet been prohibited; this was done after the incident with Amnon and Tamar, several generations later. –  Alex May 25 '12 at 16:03
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@Menachem, IIRC, Alshich (quite typically) works with the assumption that Boaz and Naami and possibly even Rus knew that she (Rus) was to be the forebear of the Davidic dynasty. Essentially the entire last two chapters of Rus are explained accordingly. But IMO that is a very large and "un-pshat-like" assumption to make. –  jake May 25 '12 at 16:32
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As for #2 and #3, I would suggest that it's generally unsafe to wander outdoors in the middle of the night. Certainly it would have been improper for Boaz to send Rus out into the night (although she did venture out herself to get there), and perhaps he felt it was unsafe even for himself to leave, however uncomfortable that made it for both of them to sleep there together. –  jake May 25 '12 at 16:49
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3 Answers 3

This story is very difficult to understand on a simple, pshat level. However it can be clarified al pi sod.

Rus represents the shechinah which yearns for the messianic redemption, embodied by Boaz. Hence the forward behavior and why neither of them left.

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Is this your own interpretation? –  Monica Cellio Jan 10 '13 at 21:06
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Ditto what @Monica said. A source would be invaluable. –  Seth J Feb 20 '13 at 0:58
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Single women had 2 choices to survive, either 1) marriage; or, 2) prostitution, and Moabite women in Israel might be pushed more toward option # 2. According to the prophet Samuel who wrote this book, Rut was righteous, so how are the characters going to treat this Moabitess who chose Naami and her people over her own? Who would Rut marry? Who would she choose? Would she be accepted? Will her children be accepted?

Naami was a righteous woman and not naive. For Rut and Naami's continued survival, they were going to have to act. She in wisdom encouraged Rut toward Boaz in a rather definitive and bold move. Essentially Rut proposed marriage to Boaz by sleeping near him at the harvest campsite. Regardless of whether that means they had sex, the point is she flirted in such an explicit manner as to propose marriage to him. Boaz was thrilled by her proposal, and states explicitly he was glad to be chosen over younger men and her more immediate family redeemers. He praises her righteousness, exclaims how hard working and how loyal to her mother in law she was. Boaz could see she was modest in the fields with the young guys around. He immediately went about removing any barriers to their marriage, thus accepting her into his home and the community. This benefit of including the righteous stranger into the community was a great one that impacted not only Naami but the union was to produce kings. This fact is hidden in the name of Naami's deceased husband Elimelech (to me the kingdom).

Although she is not considered one of Israel's seven prophetesses, http://www.dafyomi.co.il/general/info/48prophets.pdf the book was written by the prophet Samuel who anointed David HaMelech, knowing he was descended from this Moabite convert. Just as the Holy One is hidden in this story, the kingship alluded to in this union. Samuel chose what seemed the unlikely choice, David haMelech, as did Naami and Rut. They looked at the inner person, not the lineage or externalities, and so can we.

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Nice writeup! If you can cite existing commentaries that support various points in your interpretation/explanation, that would make the answer even more valuable. –  Isaac Moses Dec 14 '12 at 15:54
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There's plenty of stuff in Tanach that looks suspicious on the surface level. Rus was a prophetess and that's what she needed to do. As a yevama, she was already quasi-married to her husband's next of kin. Therefore, her actions were not untznius, they were praiseworthy. Nowadays we are not on that madreiga, so for us that would be immodest.

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Mordechai, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thanks for your answer, which would be much more valuable if it would cite a source for its claims. (Otherwise we have only your say-so to go by, and, no offense, but none of us know you.) I hope you stick around and enjoy the site. Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  msh210 Jul 12 '12 at 23:59
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Rus was a prophetess? I don't think so. –  Double AA Jul 13 '12 at 0:38
    
In order to make her a yevama, Boaz would have to be the brother of her deceased husband. She is sorta-kinda like a yevama, which is sorta-kinda like a wife, so they can behave in ways that are otherwise licentious? –  Ze'ev Felsen Jul 24 '12 at 5:00
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