Excerpts from a lecture by HaRav Eliezer Berland, shlit"a, delivered on Shavuos, 5760.

      From the story of the Seven Beggars: “…for there are two birds, one male and the other female, and they are the only pair in the world…” 
    Every couple is the only couple in the world. Boaz and Ruth were the aspect of these two birds: they personify the secret of the redemption mentioned immediately before beginning the Amidah (Likutei Moharan II:102). Boaz is an aspect of the redeemer, and Ruth is an aspect of prayer.  It was Boaz who taught Ruth the secret of prayer, amongst many other things. He told her that she was to gather the gleanings of his field, as it says in Megillas Ruth, “And Boaz said to Ruth: Have you not heard my daughter? Do not go to gather in any other field, and do not leave this one.” This was the first guidance that Boaz offered Ruth: that she should not go to gather in any other field. The inner meaning of this instruction was that Ruth should say each and every word of her prayer distinctly, letter by letter. For, as Rebbe Nachman says in Likutei Moharan I:65, every letter embraces and kisses the one who prays, not wanting him to pass on to the next letter. This is what Boaz said to Ruth, that the first condition is to say each letter, each word, of the prayer clearly and distinctly--to wake up at four or five in the morning and pray for several hours. As he said, “and do not leave this one.” Don’t move on; don’t fly past at the letters; don’t swallow the words. All the flow of abundance from above that a person receives is contingent on this. A person is in a rush to get to the bank, so he hurries through his prayers…but if you would just say each word of the prayers slowly and with concentration, millions would come to you…billions.
    Then Boaz said to Ruth, “But keep close here to my maidens.”  Apparently, he was saying to her that it might be that she was used to the way things were in Moav, where boys and girls did not stay separate. This is why he said to her, “but keep close here to my maidens.”  Only go with the girls. “Let your eyes be on the field that they reap, and go after them. Have I not charged the youths that they will not touch you?  And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels, and drink of that which the youths have drawn.”  If you have no choice when you are very thirsty, then go to the well quickly drink, but hurry back.  A kind of  “hit and run.” Only go for a second, as long as it takes to get your drink, and then hurry back to your maidens. 
    However, when Ruth returned to Naomi and told her how the day had gone with Boaz, she seemed to change everything around and say exactly the opposite of what Boaz had told her. This is just as the verse says, “And Ruth the Moavite said: He said to me also, you will keep close by my youths, until they have ended all my harvest.”  Good heavens! What is going on here?  Ruth goes and turns everything upside–down!  How can she not be ashamed? On the very first day that she came with all of her freshness and all the inspiration that had made her convert in the first place, and she right away fell and said such things.  This is the exact opposite of Boaz’s words. Okay, a person repents and ten or fifteen years later he, G–d forbid, experiences some falls. That we could understand somehow. But like this? On the very first day, to turn everything upside–down and tell Naomi such things? “And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter–in–law: It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maidens, and that they do not meet you in any other field.” Naomi was explaining to her that it wasn’t nice.  You don’t have to go with the youths. “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maidens.”  And Ruth did just that.
    But why did Ruth really say such words to her mother–in–law? The Zohar explains that Ruth did not at all want to turn Boaz’s words upside–down, G–d forbid! [See Zohar Chadash, the commentary of the Sulam on Megillas Ruth 510-513] Ruth wanted to understand the mystery of the keruvim (the two, child–like winged forms that sat atop the Ark of the Covenant). Between them, the Shechinah was “compressed,” and from there, all the ten points from Keter down through Malchus spread forth. [See Eitz Chayim, beginning of “Sha’ar HaKelalim.”] So when Ruth said, “keep close by my youths,” she was referring to the keruvim, for they are called “youths” [“ne’arim”], and all blessing comes through them. [Zohar, Parshas VaYechi, 228] This is what Ruth came to tell her mother–in–law so enthusiastically. Boaz revealed this secret to me—that it is possible to attach oneself to the keruvim.  “Keep close by my youths.”
    Boaz was able to reveal these secrets because he was on the level of his ancestor, Nachshon ben Aminadav, the head of the tribe of Yehuda. When Nachshon had brought his sacrifices, he had been praying for all the kings that would be his future descendents. This is why the order of the sacrifices of the heads of the tribes is repeated twelve times in the Torah. Everything is written all over again in reference to each leader—one bull, one ram, one sheep, two goats, etc. It is written and repeated twelve times, while other matters are merely alluded to in a roundabout way in the Torah. For instance, the laws of Shabbos are discussed in only two verses, “Do not kindle a fire in your dwellings of the Shabbos day,” and, “Each man should stay in his place.”  It is from these two verses that we derive most of the laws of Shabbos. The laws of tefillin are alluded to in a similarly roundabout way. The verse says, “And they shall be ‘tosafot’” which the Gemara explains is a conjunction of the words “tat” in the Katfi language, and “fot” in the Afriki language. Both mean “two”—hence the four readings contained in the tefillin. One must know Katfi and Afriki to understand the Torah’s words. Here, the same exact words are written over and over without any new element being introduced.
    The leader of each tribe was able to see all of his future descendents prophetically, and he had all of them in mind when he brought his sacrifice. We see this most clearly with the sacrifices of the head of the tribe of Yehuda. The exact repetition describing the sacrifices brought by the leaders of the rest of the tribes reveals that they all experienced this kind of prophecy. Nachshon ben Aminadav brought his sacrifices with the twenty-one kings that were to descend from him in mind. Altogether, he brought twenty-one sacrifices—one bull, one ram, one lamb, one he-goat, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five lambs. They paralleled the twenty-one kings of Yehuda. The bull was Yoshiah, the ram was Asa, and the lamb was Yotam ben Uziah. He had been pure, simple, and whole like a lamb. So much so that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says, “By myself I could release the world from judgment for all that has passed since I was born until now. With my son Elazar with me, for what has passed since the world was created until now. But if Yotam ben Uziah were with us, we could release the world from judgment for everything that has and will transpire from the beginning of time until its end,” [Sukkah 45.] This is similar to that which Rashi says about Yotam, “He was a Tzaddik, and more humble than the rest of the kings.” That was why Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that, with Yotam, he could release the entire world from judgment forever! Yotam was so simple and honest that he did not rationalize any lenient behavior for himself. He acted always with the utmost honesty and simplicity. David and Shlomo, the two “oxen”, built the Temple. Even so, this Yotam, who never looked for a halachic dispensation for himself, was the one who could release the world from judgment forever. The “goat” was Menashe, who had been full of sin and iniquity. There were fifteen other kings who fall into the three categories of Tzaddikim, the wicked, and the ones in between. Each category—the five rams, five he-goats, and five lambs—alluded to five kings.
    Boaz was the grandson of Nachshon, as the verse says, “And Nachshon begot Salma, and Salmon begot Boaz.”  He knew the mystery of the keruvim, and how one attains it. Ruth had just then come from the king’s palace; she was the daughter (some say the granddaughter) of Eglon. This is learned from the statement of the Gemara in Horayos 10, “Ruth was the grand-daughter of Eglon, who himself was the grandson of Balak the king of Moav.”  All of the luxuries and pampering that she had in the palace had been like thorns in her very soul. She recoiled from them, and went in search of holiness. It was this self-sacrifice for holiness that ultimately made her worthy of being the mother of true royalty, the root of the royal house of David, as the Ben Ish Chai says. Ruth had come to Boaz; she wanted to be worthy of attaining the mystery of the keruvim. Boaz said to her, “Do not go to gather in any other field.” All the letters of the prayers are like a wonderful field of blossoming flowers and roses. That is why one must say every single letter with love and reverence, and one must not just fly through the letters. Everything is hidden in them—all salvation and the flow of abundance from above is hidden within the letters of the prayers and the blessings. 
    This is similar to the story that one of the Roshei Yeshiva of Mir told. He had been with his father during the Holocaust when the Germans came to their house. The Germans stood everyone against the wall and wanted to shoot them. The father then asked his son to go and get him a glass of water before they kill him, and the Germans allowed him to do so. He went and brought the glass of water to his father; his father took the glass and began to shout out the blessing in a voice like thunder. “Baruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam shehakol nehiyeh bidvaro!”  At that very moment, as he ended the blessing, they  suddenly heard a number of explosions. There was a great deal of confusion, and all the Germans fled because the Russians had arrived. They were saved. Afterward, this son asked his father how he had accomplished such a miracle. His father answered, “It’s a straightforward statement in the Gemara [Berachos]. ‘If one says the brachashehakol nehiyeh bidvaro” over anything, he is yotzei [fulfills his halachic obligation].’ ‘Anything’ means any trouble that can happen. If a person says “shehakol,” he is “yotzei,” he gets out of it.” This is because all salvation is hidden within the words of the prayers. 
    This was Elimelech’s failing: he didn’t have sufficient faith in the power of his prayers. He didn’t believe that through them he could save the Jewish people from the famine. He was the Tzaddik of the generation at that time, and he was meant to pray and save his generation.  Because he did not know this secret, he went to Moav and lost everything. His sons were destroyed there. 
    This is similar to that which the verse says about the angels who came to overturn Sodom: “for we are destroying this place.” Some say that the statement, “we are destroying,” means: “We were just passing through this city, and we have already been transformed into destroying angels.” Rashi says something similar in his comments in Parshas Behar 25:38, on the verse, “To give you the land of Canaan to be your G-d.” Rashi says, “I am the G-d of all those who dwell in the Land of Israel.  Anyone who leaves it is as though he is an idolater.”  A person who leaves the Land of Israel is simply as though he has no G-d, Heaven forbid. 
    The power of praying word by word can bring down such an abundance. The Chatam Sofer says in Toras Moshe on the verse, “To hear the song and the prayer” that just from song alone, Hashem listens and answers one’s requests, even before the prayer. The prayer itself only continues the abundance to the future generations—how much more so when one actually prays with the tune. Regarding the melody, Rebbe Nachman describes in Sichos HaRan 96, that there is an angel that has a thousand heads, and every head has a thousand tongues, and each tongue has a thousand voices. Each voice sings a thousand melodies. That is a trillion melodies—a person can’t even bear to hear the power of such amazing melodies. 
    Ruth then came to Boaz, and he wanted to reveal the mystery of the keruvim to her, the mystery of where all the souls come from. The souls of babies are the aspect of the keruvim. They come to this world pure and clean, emanating from between the two keruvim
    This is what Reb Avraham b’Reb Nachman says in Biur HaLikutim on Likutei Moharan I:282. It was this voice that emanated from between the two keruvim that transmitted the entire Torah to Moshe Rabbeinu. That is why that little children begin to study Torah from VaYikra, “And Hashem spoke to Moshe…” and Rashi says there: from between the keruvim. The holy Zohar says that when the little children begin to say the letters alef and beis, myriads upon myriads of angels are created from every single letter. All the worlds exist only because of this. This is why babies have that amazing scent, the scent of Gan Eden. Every soul before it descends to this world passes by way of all the heavenly chambers. This is why all the babies at one and two years old have such a wonderful smell: it is the scent of those chambers clinging to him. 
    This is similar to that which the Gemara says about Rabba bar Abuha [Bava Metzia 144] who was a poor man. Eliyahu the Prophet brought him to Gan Eden and, while he was there, Rabba bar Abuha collected some leaves that had fallen from the trees and bound them into his cloak. When he wanted to take them with him out of Gan Eden, he heard a heavenly voice proclaim, “Anyone who takes, takes from his own”—i.e. he was losing his heavenly reward. Rabba bar Abuha immediately threw the leaves back in, but their scent still clung to his cloak. Afterward, he sold it for thirteen thousand golden dinars.
    So, too, the soul of a baby comes here completely pure and clean. As soon as he begins to stray from the path, however, this holy soul flies away from him. This is the reason that once a baby grows up a bit, he no longer has that amazing scent. Once he gets to be three or four years old, if he is allowed to wander around in the street causing damage, his holy soul leaves him, but he is not at fault. He is still young; his parents are the ones at fault. They should have kept him at home, and not allowed him to go wild in the streets. There are terrible stories about children who throw stones and do all kinds of improper things.  A child that throws stones out in the street can, in the end, G–d forbid, come to throw stones at his parents. Such a child can go, in the end, completely wild, G–d forbid.  As soon as he leaves the proper path, his soul flies away from him up to a heavenly storehouse.  It then waits for its opportunity to either return to it’s original body, or if that possibility doesn’t arise—if the child doesn’t mend his ways—then it will come down to the body of his child or grandchild. This child is practically lost, G–d forbid, but his soul can later enter into one of his descendants who wants to repent, or if not them, then the soul enters someone else completely.  For instance, the soul could enter into someone living on some kibbutz that wants to be holy and pure, who is repelled by all the foolishness of this world. That soul then enters into this person. The child, himself, however will never know how much he has lost, until the time comes for him to go up to heaven.
    All of this depends on the level of responsibility of the parents. If the parents make certain that their child doesn’t wander the streets, if the parents sense how important this is and guard their children, then it will not happen. Now it is Shavuos, everyone was up the entire night so, of course, the parents will go to sleep and the children will party in the streets from noon until eight at night. Who knows what kind of tragedies could occur? Children get used to causing damage, to being destructive, to attacking. Afterward, they grow up and can even become murderers, G–d forbid. It might even be better to sleep all night and then be available to watch over the children by day, rather than staying awake all night and having to sleep all the day. It is impossible to put into words how important it is to watch over the children, sit and learn with them every day, even just to spend time talking to them. And, if you need to rest for an hour or two, someone else can learn with them, an older brother or whoever is available. The most important thing is not to leave your children unsupervised.
    This is what Boaz was saying to Ruth: in order to perceive the mystery of the keruvim, you must be careful not to skip over a single letter of the prayers. Say the entire prayer word by word, letter by letter. This is the only way to come to all of these lofty attainments.
    He also told her, “Behold I have commanded the youths not to touch you.”  A person who wants to be worthy of attaining the mystery of the keruvim must command the “youths”—the eyes, to close, so that he will not come to see any forbidden sights. [See Likutei Moharan I:65 where it says that the eyes are the servants of the mind, who bring vision to the mind. This is why they are called “youths”.] In that way, she will be worthy of attaining the mystery of the keruvim, the source of the Torah, and merit to see the complete redemption, may it come immediately, and in our days, Amen.

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Home Lessons given by the Rav HaRav Levi Itzchak Bender, zt"l.