Shavu’ot 5771: Megillat Ruth and the Impact of Actions

by Moshe Burt

The Sefer Shem Mishmuel (page 302) cites Rabbi Berachyah in Shemos Rabbah Perek 28, posuk 1:

“The Tablets were six tefachim (handbreadths) long — in some sense, Hashem grasped two tefachim, Moshe grasped 2 tefachim and 2 tefachim bridged the gap between them.”

Shem Mishmuel then explains (pages 302 – 304):

We can sub-divide all mitzvot, and indeed, all human endeavors into three spheres: thought, speech and action. There are some Mitzvot which require a Jew to think in a particular way. For example, the first of the Ten Commandments demands belief in Hashem.

Other Mitzvot are dependent on speech. For example, one must verbally recall Shabbos…. not lie to at Beis Din or speak badly of another.

Finally, there are many Mitzvot which utilize the Jew’s power of action. There are requirements to put on tefillin, shake the lulav, eat matzah, etc.

…Each of these three divisions reflect different interactions between man and Hashem.

Action… is entirely in an individual’s domain. He is not forced to do anything that he doesn’t want to do.

The actions of the Jew determine everything, even the ultimate success or failure of the peoples of the world. This idea is illustrated by Chazal:

“After Yisrael did that wicked act [the sin of the golden calf], Hashem wanted to grab the tablets from Moshe. However Moshe prevailed and snatched them back.”

To conclude, the actions of a Jew can have enormous consequences for good or for bad. Literally, everything depends upon it. And it could be that when the Jews received the Torah at Sinai they had all this in mind when they proclaimed: “All that Hashem has said, we will do and hear.”

In reflecting on Shavu’ot and the story of Ruth, I am struck by the similarity of actions between Ruth’s cleaving to Naomi and to Jewishness, and Jonathan Pollard’s actions on behalf of Israel and B’nai Yisrael — putting his life on the line, the price — come what may, for the survival of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael — Our Land. Jonathan is not a Ger Tzeddek as Ruth was when she clung to Naomi saying;

“Do not urge me to leave you, to go back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your G’d is my G’d; where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. Thus may Hashem do to me — and more! — if anything but death seoarates me from you.” (Megillat Ruth, Artscroll Tanach series, Perek 1, posukim 14-17, pages 79-81)

There was no mandate, no earthly obligation for Ruth to follow Naomi. She could have done what her sister-in-law Orpah did — they were both widowed of Naomi and Elimelech’s sons Machlon and Kilyon. When after the deaths of her husband and two sons, Naomi sought to return to Eretz Yisrael and bid the two widows to return to their Moabite people and land. Orpah tearfully left Naomi and returned to Moav, while Ruth clung to Naomi and her Jewishness thus charting her life unalterably along a Jewish path.

In much the same way, Jonathan Pollard, Yehonaton ben Malka, then working in the US defense department, could have taken the easy path — the path undoubtedly taken by many others, to just do his job without giving a thought to his people. He would have been free man, not incarcerated for some 25 years — but where would Israel be??

Pollard was not under any earthly superior’s orders to provide the dire intelligence which Israel needed to protect herself from what was then an Iraqi nuclear threat and to eliminate that threat.

But just as Ruth heard a Divine Imperative, the full extent of which she probably didn’t near fully comprehend — the lineage of Jewish Kingship, so too Jonathan Pollard acted on internal impetus and initiative in service of a Divine Imperative — the security and wellbeing of his people.

And so, as we re-read and re-learn the Megillat Ruth and the impact upon Am Yisrael — Am Yehudi, and upon all mankind for all time, of Ruth’s cleaving to Na’omi, of her brief union with Bo’az and their offspring from whom descended David HaMelech, we must also consider Jonathan Pollard’s selfless actions on behalf of Am Yehudi and their impact upon the Jews and upon mankind. We must contemplate on how he acted to save countless hundreds or thousands of other Jewish lives and to save the Jewish nation by the information provided.

In the spirit of Matan Torah, of Am Yehudi, of Megillat Ruth, of Malchut Shemayim, we must daven fervently for our fellow Jew in distress — Yehonaton ben Malka, that Hashem see fit to bring about Jonathan’s speedy release, liberation and return to his Eretz Yisrael in spite of a mean-spirited adversarial American president.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!! Chag Kosher V’Same’ach!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.