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
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 bracha “shehakol 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
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
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.
Return to top of page.
© 2000 Breslov Institutions, Yeshivat "Shuvu Bonim",
All Rights Reserved.