Ruth in Boaz's Field, 1828 By Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld - 1. Unknown source2. National Gallery, London, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=536505

On Shavuos we read the Megillah of Ruth, the matriarch of sovereignty and a forebear of King David. In fact, the Megillah ends with an enumeration of the ten generations leading up to King David, beginning with Peretz the son of Yehuda and Tamar. Dovid HaMelech is of course the paradigmatic Messianic figure whose emergence signals the transmission from leadership at the hands of the secular empires under the unified dominion of G‑d.

The Megillah begins with the words “Vayehi bimei sh’fot ha’shoftim,” which is simply translated as “In the days when the chieftains ruled.” However, Rebbe Nosson of Breslov, the chief disciple of Rebbe Nachman, in his sefer Likkutei Halachos interprets these words differently. He says “Vayehi bimei sh’fot ha’shoftim” means that the Megillah transpires in an era underscored by a referendum against the current leadership. “Sh’fot ha’shoftim” means the justices themselves are being judged. The significance of the story of Ruth on Shavuos is its beginning in a time of judicial misconduct and its crescendo with the birth of Dovid HaMelech and the reconciliation of an abused justice system into a perfected one which is drawn on Shavuos.

Much of what I will present here is a paraphrasing of a commentary by Rebbe Nosson on the first words of the Megillah. It comes from a small sefer presented as a running commentary on the Megillah culled from the voluminous works of Breslov chassidus, including those of Likkutei Maharan, Likkutei Halachos, and others. I procured this sefer a couple of years ago but hadn’t really looked at it until now. When I opened it recently for the first time, the words seemed prophetic in scope, as though written specifically for our times, as you will see.

The main Temple sacrifice of Shavuos is that of the sh’tei ha’lechem, the two loaves of bread that are brought 50 days from the second day of Pesach, when the Omer sacrifice is brought. The transition from the Omer sacrifice to that of the sh’tei ha’lechem is symbolic of the rectified justice system wherein we are no longer threatened by the adverse representation of yeast which we were proscribed from engaging with over the Pesach holiday.

Today, when we cannot offer sacrifices, how is the sh’tei ha’lechem alluded to? There is a tradition to eat dairy products on Shavuos, in addition to having a meal with meat. Yet any bread eaten in context with dairy becomes designated as dairy. To circumvent this halachic quandary, our rabbis established that we partake from another loaf of bread in between the two meals to distinguish between them. It emerges then that the additional bread of Shavuos, which is the embodiment of the sacrifice unique to Shavuos, is an act of distinction between dairy and meat.

This is significant because more important to the rectification of the justice system than the emergence of Ruth is the exclusion of Orpah from the covenant. Reading this idea during these times is eye-opening, considering that one of the greatest threats to American democracy fomented by the Biden administration has been the migrant crisis, with millions of immigrants flooding into the U.S. across the Mexican border.

The previous administration, under President Donald Trump, succeeded in virtually banishing illegal immigration and addressing to some degree the opioid crisis. But under President Biden, the U.S. has seen the doubling and tripling of noncitizen criminal activity, including homicides and other serious crimes. We have also seen the emergence of sanctuary cities in California, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and so on, where illegal immigrants continue to increase the fiscal burden, spending hard-earned tax dollars to keep illegal immigrants within our borders as they act in contravention to the law.

The next words in the first verse of the Megillah after “Vayehi bimei sh’fot ha’shoftim” are “vayehi ra’av ba’aretz,” “there was a famine in the land.” A legal and orderly migration system led spiritually by Jethro (at the time of the Exodus) and Ruth, who defected from their pagan lifestyles to join the Jewish nation. Their migrations represented the beginning of a sacred sovereignty and fair and just governance, which leads to fiscal surplus. This is why Jethro’s migration led to Parashas Mishpatim, which contains more laws than any other parashah. And this is why we read the Megillah of Ruth on Shavuos, since it is all about creating justice, taking the system from the hands of those who abuse their power of legislation to create rising costs and dwindling savings in the accounts of the hardworking law-abiding citizens.

Rebbe Nosson continues to identify the main characteristic which distinguishes between a healthy, just, and functioning governing body and one which is broken and not serving its citizens correctly, which is the failure to elevate malchus, sovereignty, back to its source. He says that Elimelech, whom we are introduced to at the beginning of the Megillah, was guilty of using the power of governance for self-serving purposes. The name Elimelech may be read as a conjunction of the words “eilai tavo ha’malchus,” “the sovereignty is coming to me” and to serve my own personal interests. We have seen this time and again in the Biden administration’s collusion with China and Russia—exactly what he alleged his predecessor was guilty of—that has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Halachah dictates that when people seek to convert to Judaism, we discourage them from doing so. We ask them: “What is the motivating factor of your desire to convert? Don’t you know that the Jews are criticized and maligned,” etc., giving them all the reasons that would lead them to reconsider their decision. If, despite the litany of reasons not to convert, they persist in their desire, they are accepted.

This process of rejection prior to acceptance is done to ward off the aspect of Orpah—whose name has the same letters as “Pharaoh”—which is present every time a convert seeks to defect from their original home and take up residence in the Jewish community. The yearning that results from the initial rejection is symbolic of the tension which sets the soul on fire—similar to the friction between a match and a matchbox which causes it to light, but in this case with the fire of the G‑dly soul.

The story of the emergence of Ruth and the birth of King David, the paradigmatic Messianic figure through whom true sovereignty will be restored, is the manifestation of the Kingship of G‑d on an individual, collective, and global level that we seek to reaffirm this Shavuos as we get set to reaccept the Torah anew. Good yom tov.

 

Yochanan Gordon can be reached at ygordon5t@gmail.com. Read more of Yochanan’s articles at 5TJT.com.

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