Megilat Rut: the night of Boaz and Rut revisited. By Chaim Sunistky.


In a well known story of Megilat Rut, Naomi tells Rut to bath herself, put on her [best] clothes and go down at night to where Boaz is sleeping. Boaz then will “tell her” what to do. The simple implication of this story is that Rut would be sent to make a marriage proposal to Boaz who could simply consummate the marriage immediately[1].


It has been already noted[2] that the story of Boaz and Rut contains many elements of “yibum” procedure and therefore it was concluded that at that time “yibum” was practiced by other close relatives, not just the brother of the deceased[3]. In theory Boaz could have relations with Rut and thus do yibum immediately that night, but since there was a closer to kin[4] he did not touch Rut and waiting till the morning. When in the presence of the elders Boaz offered the closer relative to redeem the fields left for Rut, he was willing to do this, but when Boaz stipulated that he would have to marry Rut as well he refused. Hazal understand him to argue with Boaz’s opinion that a female from Moav is permitted to “enter the congregation of Israel” i.e. marry a regular Jew.


The verse that hold the key to the understanding of this story has a “written” and “read” form (kri and ktiv[5]). It has been noted by modern scholarship that according to the ktiv (the written form) a completely opposite understanding immerges. According to “ktiv” Boaz did consummate the marriage and when talking to the closer to kin he says that Rut is already his wife. If he will later have children from Rut, they will inherit her property and the money the other relative paid to redeem the field will go to waist. This then is the meaning of the other relative’s rejection of the offer.








[1] While most commentators try to avoid this obvious interpretation, this is implied by Rut Rabbah 7:4 (see also Taz, Yore Deah 192:1).

[2] See for instance Malbim.

[3] Boaz was a cousin of Rut’s husband Machlon.

[4] Referred to as “ploni almoni”, he was Machlon’s uncle.

[5] In general the relationship between Kri and Ktiv is beyond the scope of this article, see also R. Marc Shapiro, “Limits of Orthodox Theology”.