Shabuot - Treating Our Friends as Kings
Megillat Rut tells the inspiring story of how Rut refused to allow Naomi to return alone to Eretz Yisrael, and insisted on joining her despite her state of impoverishment. After arriving in Bet-Lehem, Rut goes to collect stalks of grain that were left behind during the harvest, which the Torah requires leaving for the poor. She happened to collect in the field of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband, who cares for Rut and eventually marries her.
While telling this emotional story, the Megilla interjects a brief conversation that seems unnecessary as it has no effect on the progression of events. We are told that when Boaz arrived at his field to oversee the harvest, he went over to his workers and greeted them with the words, “Hashem Imachem” – “May Hashem be with you.” The workers then responded, “Yebarechecha Hashem” – “May Hashem bless you.” The question naturally arises as to why the Megilla found it necessary to add this brief account. Why is it important for us to know how Boaz greeted his workers, and how they replied?
The Midrash tells that Boaz, the leading Rabbi of his time, issued an edict that people should greet each with Hashem’s Name. Although it is generally forbidden to use Hashem’s Name when exchanging friendly greetings, Boaz made a special enactment that this should be done. This was a time of great hardship and sorrow, as a grave famine struck the country, and Elimelech, the wealthiest man to whom people looked for support and assistance, abandoned his nation and went to live in the neighboring, hostile country of Moab. The people were anxious and despondent. In an effort to lift the people’s spirits, Boaz instructed everybody to greet each other warmly and respectfully, using Hashem’s Name. He wanted people to treat each other with respect and honor, to make other people feel that they are even worthy of having Hashem’s Name associated with them. The way to uplift people enduring hardship is to give them respect and treat them with importance, to make them feel that we think highly of them. This is why we read about Boaz’s greeting to his workers. He treated his workers with respect and dignity, and even uttered Hashem’s Name when greeting them, in order to make them feel important and thereby lift their spirits.
The story of Rut ends with her marrying Boaz and begetting a child, Obed, whose grandson was David Ha’melech, from whom Mashiah will descend. The root of redemption is respecting other people and treating them with honor and dignity.
The Gemara lists several questions that we will be asked when we reach the next world, one of which is, “Himlachta Et Haverecha” – “Did you crown your fellow over you?” Meaning, we will be asked whether we treated other people with royalty, as important and distinguished individuals. We are to remember that all people are worthy of our respect and consideration, and to treat them accordingly. It is through this kind of interpersonal conduct that we make ourselves worthy of David Ha’melech – the long awaited arrival of Mashiah.