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Inspired by this weekly challenge.

Why did Boaz choose to make yibum to get the field of Machlon and Kilion. Couldn't he just buy the field from Ruth?

  • Who said he was obligated? – Double AA Mar 11 '12 at 21:24
  • @DoubleAA If he had other options then why he hurried up Tov with his decision. He could just buy the field directly from Ruth. – jutky Mar 11 '12 at 21:26
  • Obligation is different from a good thing. Maybe Boaz rushed Ploni because he wanted to marry Rut for personal and/or mitzvah-spirit related reasons. That does not at all imply that he is obligated. In terms of Hilchot Yibbum he was definitely not obligated to do anything. – Double AA Mar 11 '12 at 21:34
  • @DoubleAA I always was under an impression that yibum was his only option. If you think I'm wrong you are welcome to post it as an answer. – jutky Mar 11 '12 at 21:39
  • Post Mattan Torah, Yibbum is only an obligation for paternal brothers of the deceased. Neither Boaz nor Ploni was a brother of Machlon, so there was no Yibbum obligation to Rut. I still think your question is worthwhile if you ask why Boaz chose to group marrying Rut and buying the land together when he wasn't obligated do either. – Double AA Mar 11 '12 at 21:43
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It would appear that nothing here was in the bounds of absolute strict obligation. (The Torah only strictly obligates yibum for the brother of the deceased; Boaz and Ploni were more distant relatives.) Nonetheless, it was felt that to honor Elimelech's memory, it was appropriate that one person both buy his ancestral fields, so they'd be back in the family, and marry the widow. I guess if it's an honor, you don't go in halfsies.

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According to the Malbim's commentary, Boaz chose to do Yibum in order to spiritually reincarnate Rus's deceased husband, Machalon, which is the Zohar's approach to what happens in Yibum - the soul of the deceased is reincarnated into the son born of the Yibum union. (See Malbim to 4:14, for example.)

Along the same lines, he may have chosen to acquire the field through Yibum instead of acquiring it separately in order that it be the nachala (inheritence) of Machalon, and not his own unrelated property, as the Malbim explains at the end of verse 4:5 that the field acquired through Yibum will be associated with the deceased.

The implication of the Malbim is, however, that Tov had no option to buy the field, and it was not merely a choice to acquire it through Yibum instead of purchasing it, but rather this was the only option of how to get the field belonging to Rus, as is clear in his commentary to the first part of verse 4:5. This could possibly be because (my own suggestion) Rus was unwilling to sell the field in order that it be a "bargaining chip" to have Yibum, especially once she knew that Boaz was willing to do Yibum once Tov stepped out of the way (verse 3:13).

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