The following is based on the lectures of HaRav Chaim
Pinchas Scheinberg shlita, to his Yeshiva Torah Ore,
Jerusalem in the years 5747 and 5753.
In the first part of this essay, HaRav Scheinberg first
discussed Ruth and her surprising desire to stay with her
mother-in-law Naomi, even though Ruth's future with her
looked bleak. Also, in her speech that finally convinced
Naomi that Ruth was irrevocably serious, Ruth says that she
will die where Naomi dies. Why is this significant?
Also HaRav Scheinberg explained that tzaddikim
live a full life and can look back to accomplishments
throughout their lives. Reshoim, who merely pursued
pleasure, have nothing to look back at. Tzaddikim
look back to a full life of accomplishment.
When we count the Omer for seven weeks between Pesach and
Shavuos, we anticipate receiving the Torah, just like a
slave anticipates his freedom, according to the analogy of
the Sefer Hachinuch. The truth is that even today,
Hashem regards us on Shavuos as being without sin and making
a new beginning.
This is an astounding chiddush. The Korbon Eidah, in
his explanation of the gemora writes, "Every year on
Atzeres, it is like we are standing before Har Sinai and we
are accepting the Torah anew . . ." Yes, even for us, every
year on Shavuos we accept and receive the Torah once again,
fresh and anew. We are not simply counting the Omer as a
remembrance. No! For we too are preparing to stand again at
the foot of Har Sinai and experience a true kabolas
The Penei Moshe elaborates even more and writes,
"HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to them, `Since you have
accepted upon yourselves the yoke of Torah, that was given
on Atzeres -- to endeavor and toil in it all that is
necessary -- I attribute it to you as if there were no sins
in your days. There is no mention of sin, for the Torah is
an atonement for you."
Both commentaries explain that the acceptance of the Torah
on the yom tov of Shavuos is real. It is not
allegorical, for our very own kabolas HaTorah is
genuine. If so, then our counting of the Sefiras HaOmer
today is also just like it was at the time when the Klal
Yisroel was redeemed from slavery in Egypt and
approached Har Sinai.
From this, we can understand how the mitzvah of Sefiras
HaOmer is a Torah obligation and the sefer
Hachinuch's comparison to a slave yearning for the day
of his freedom directly relates to us. We have our own
kabolas HaTorah to prepare for and look forward to.
Every Shavuos, it is as if we stand by Har Sinai and receive
the Torah from HaKodosh Boruch Hu.
The counting of the Sefiras HaOmer includes, in many
siddurim, besides the sum of the days that have
passed in the count, a special annotation for each day. The
first day is characterized as Chesed ShebeChesed. The
second day as Gevurah ShebeChesed. The third as
Tifferes ShebeChesed. Then comes Netzach
ShebeChesed. The fifth day is Hode ShebeChesed
and the sixth is Yesod ShebeChesed. The final,
seventh day of the first week is signified as Malchus
ShebeChesed. Each day combines a particular aspect to the
sphere of Chesed. When the week is completed, we
count, "Today is seven days, which are one week, of the
Omer." Who does not know that seven days make up a week?
Everyone knows that seven days combine to make up a week.
Yet the mitzvah is to count both the days and the weeks. If
each is a separate mitzvah, we could even make two separate
blessings, one for the days and one for the weeks. However,
we combine them and recite only one blessing for both.
Clearly, for the sake of mathematics, we do not need to add
up the sum and restate its value into weeks. There is a real
lesson for us to learn by doing this.
In addition, the cycle is repeated, with each aspect --
Gevurah, Tifferes, Netzach, Hode, Yesod and
Malchus -- drawing from the influence of each of
their seven days to complete each sphere. When we have a
total of seven days of course it is a week, but more than
this, we are being taught that they are not seven entities,
individual and unrelated. The seven days unify to comprise
an entirely new unit, which includes the essence of each
day. This is called a week. A separate counting of the days
would not reveal the interrelationship between one day and
The fusion of each day to the next results in a new realm,
which we call a week. All the characteristics of each day --
its unique aspect and quality -- culminate in perfecting the
week. If one is missing, like a chain that is lacking just
one link -- the chain falls apart. Each day must contribute
its attributes to the week, and if not, the week is
deficient and incomplete.
The final forty-ninth day at the completion of seven weeks
is characterized as being Malchus ShebeMalchus. This
is in reference to the sovereignty of Heaven, the supremacy
of Hashem's rule over the world. The fear and respect that
we have for Hashem, our yiras Shomayim -- is
Malchus Shomayim. A king demands the loyalty, respect
and fear of his subjects; this is an outstanding quality
unique to a king. Our counting each of the seven weeks,
together with their combined days, brings us to Shavuos, our
Har Sinai, and then we can feel the majesty of Hashem's rule
over us and accept His Torah.
Each day is essential, for without each day's contribution
to the Sefirah, the ultimate result will be flawed.
Each one of the seven Sefirahs are different
manifestations of Hashem's Malchus, His kingship.
They all indicate the kedusha, the holiness of
HaKodosh Boruch Hu and the ultimate result is the
recognition of the perfection of Hashem's malchus
Shomayim. Together, the days and the weeks make up the
links in this chain. If one is left out, there is no
malchus Shomayim. The days are counted along with
their total in weeks because each must join with the other
to produce the desired result.
The Rambam zt"l in hilchos Talmud Torah (3:13)
writes, "Even though there is a commandment to learn during
the day and during the night, a person does not learn most
of his wisdom except at night. Therefore one who wishes to
be privileged to the Crown of Torah should be careful with
all his nights, not to waste even one of them . . ." What is
When a king wears his crown, it attests to the fact that
everything is his. All that is in his kingdom is his. It is
all at his disposal; whatever he may wish for is his. He
lacks nothing. If for some reason, he feels some lack, it is
not called true sovereignty. Supreme rule and authority are
essential for wearing the crown. If not, it is not true
malchus and the crown is just an ornament, a fancy
The Rambam zt"l emphasizes that to be privileged to
the Crown of Torah, every night must be used properly. A
loss of a night will detract from the eventual totality of
his life as a ben Torah. Hashem gives a person a set
amount of time. His days are the opportunities that Hashem
grants him to accomplish his purpose. If a night is wasted,
who can know how much the final outcome will suffer.
Therefore the Rambam zt"l warns about not wasting
even a single night's efforts in learning.
A ben Torah has his own crown, the Crown of Torah.
Like the crown of a king, it too expresses his position and
purpose in life. Like a king, the true ben Torah
feels that he lacks nothing. Torah supplies all that he
needs in life. His learning, if done properly with
consistency and depth, is a source of joy and contentment in
his life. Consequently, he lacks nothing. It all stems from
the recognition of the importance of Torah. One can not
reach the depths of Torah without first firmly realizing the
significance of Torah.
During the Sefirah we prepare ourselves and
anticipate our approach to our own kabolas haTorah on
Shavuos. Just as each of the days of the Sefirah is
essential for our kabolas haTorah, so too each day of
our lives cannot be wasted. Then like Avrohom Ovinu, we too,
at the end of our lives in this world can come before Hashem
with all our days fully used for a life of Torah.
Ruth was concerned about her days, for her
life was at a crossroads. Ruth understood all the
possibilities very well. She knew there was a bleak life
awaiting her if she chose to follow Naomi. No matter how
great a chesed it was to help Naomi, was it really
worth it for Ruth to lose a bright future? She was far more
generous than normal. Ruth went far beyond donating time or
money. She had a nobility of heart that enabled her to leave
it all behind. It was not just for the sake of Naomi, but it
was for Hashem.
We are all capable of such heights of altruism for, as it
was written (Tehillim 47:10),"The nobles of the
nations gathered -- the nation of the G-d of Avrohom." The
posuk here uses the word "nobles" to refer to those
who have hearts that are motivated by noble, selfless
intentions. Rashi explains that the nobles that the
posuk speaks about are, "Those who sacrificed
themselves to be slaughtered and killed for the Holy Name,"
for the highest form of altruism is to generously and
willingly return one's life to the One who gave it.
Rashi continues and explains why the connection is made to
Avrohom Ovinu, "For he was the first with a generous heart --
the vanguard for converts." Avrohom Ovinu bestowed the
highest form of generosity to Hashem. He acknowledged Hashem
as the One and Only True G-d and he was willing to sacrifice
his life rather than betray the One G-d. His heart was
resolved to return to its Creator for the sake of His Great
All succeeding converts to Jewish faith take their lesson
from Avrohom Ovinu. Ruth too had this generosity of heart
that allowed her to follow in the footsteps of Avrohom, to
make the full conversion to Judaism and continue onward
along with Naomi. This kind of generosity is a form of
kindness that we too can bestow on Hashem. When we put aside
our own benefits and considerations and instead, we act on
behalf of Hashem -- this is the highest degree of generosity
Ruth saw a purpose in her life. She had a clear vision of
what her last day could be like. She looked ahead to the
time of her death and was resolved to make that last moment
of her life a happy one. She desired to be able to think
back over the days of her life and to rejoice that she did
not leave Naomi, Naomi's people and her G-d. To be happy
that she was not distracted by the world's temptations. To
be grateful that in the end she did have a wonderful life by
joining Naomi at a time when there was nothing to look
forward to by going with her. There was the mitzvah of
kindness with Naomi, and all the other mitzvos to be done by
being a Jewess; that was enough. This was what Ruth was
living for. She knew that the pleasures of the world do not
mean much and in the end, they all add up to nothing.
In the prime of her life, Ruth turned her back on it all.
For us, our youthful years are normally spent chasing after
fun and adventure. The excitements of life are very
tempting, and without a higher goal to strive for, a person
becomes confused by the physical urges. After a time, with
age, when these urges subside, not much is left. Eventually,
even favorite pastimes become impossible to enjoy. The feet
simply do not move like they used to -- tennis and golf
games are history, never to be enjoyed again.
Tzaddikim work for a lasting goal and so they enjoy
their accomplishments. They can look back and rejoice over
the example they set for others, the Torah they learned,
their mitzvos and acts of kindness. They are content that
they have raised children who are bnei Torah and that
they have supported Yeshivas and kollelim -- all this
adds up to an everlasting monument even after they pass from
this world. These acts remain forever and ever. Death is not
final; it is not the very end. That death should not be the
end, but rather a beginning -- this is what motivated
Therefore, everything the world had to offer to a young,
beautiful daughter of a king meant nothing to her. She could
have married anyone she wished. Instead she chose a life
with Naomi and finally, when she did marry, it was to Boaz
who, although he was a giant of Torah and a leader for his
generation, was very old.
She saw the greatness of Boaz. She looked beyond his many
years and saw something spiritual, an opportunity for
eternity. This was what her heart was set on all along and
it was for this reason that the more that Naomi attempted to
dissuade her from continuing onward, Ruth became evermore
firm and convinced in her resolve not to take leave of
The posuk in Mishlei (6:23), "A mitzvah is a
candle and Torah is a fire . . . " illustrates this point. A
candle, a lone flame, can stand up against a gentle breeze.
It will flicker, but normally it will not go out. However,
if a strong wind comes, it will be extinguished. A fire is
just the opposite. The stronger the wind, the greater the
fire will become.
Torah is compared to a fire. Therefore Ruth, whose desire
for Torah burned within her -- the stronger the challenge to
her conviction to go on, the greater was her desire to go
Ruth recognized the importance of Torah for her life. What
Torah meant for her life was the promise of eventual success
and contentment that Hashem has in store for the
tzaddikim. Therefore, the more Naomi tried to
convince Ruth otherwise, the more Ruth became staunch in her
The motivation for it all was because she knew that in the
end she would be a happy person. She knew the beauty of her
youthful years would one day vanish as Shlomo Hamelech
zt"l teaches us in Mishlei (31:30), "Grace is
false and beauty is vain -- a woman who fears Hashem, she
should be praised." The time will come that all the world's
pleasures cease to gratify, and nothing will be left of a
life based on their pursuit. This knowledge gave Ruth her
There are times that bnei Torah come to
me about difficulties in motivation. They feel a lack of
impetus to go forward with their learning. Of course, it is
natural to feel a lack of drive. It is difficult to sustain
one's motivation when, in the midst of their precious
youthful, adventurous years that are filled with vitality,
there are no outlets for their emotional feelings. Why
should they be happy, why should they want to learn?
The answer lies in the recognition of the challenge before
them. There must be an understanding of the importance of
life. If life is perceived only through the limited view
that the present moment allows for -- then the picture is
bleak and unpromising. The path that a ben Torah sets
out onto in today's world is difficult and full of tests.
One must fight against all the distractions that the world's
temptations throw at him. There are so many obstacles and
pitfalls along his road through life.
Although the enticements of today's world are overwhelming,
a cheshbon hanefesh, a spiritual accounting -- by
looking ahead, can counteract them. Ruth looked at the
future, what will eventually and inevitably come to pass.
She thought about what will happen when she dies rather than
what is happening now. She made an accounting of how she can
insure her being happy at the end as opposed to how happy
can she make herself now. This gave her motivation.
This is the greatness of a person; to look ahead into the
future and realize the consequences of his choices and
actions. HaKodosh Boruch Hu blessed us with this
ability, and it should be used for serving Him. However, the
passions of youth are a hindrance to the calm, thoughtful
process of forethought that is needed to make a cheshbon
hanefesh and see clearly into the future. The immediate
gratification of the present moment interferes with the
thoughts and one can not realize what is truly important.
Ruth soared above the smoky confusion that her youthful
fires produced -- she ignored the present and chose the
future. We must look ahead.
This is what Chazal teach us in the gemora Brochos
(5a), "A person's yetzer hatov should always clash
with his yetzer hora." A person should always put up
a challenge against the yetzer hora. The gemara
teaches us several strategies and tactics. First, one
must wage constant battle, not to give in to the physical
desires. One must control them and channel them properly. If
this does not succeed, one should learn Torah, so that his
mind will not be distracted by thoughts of physical
pleasure. If one is still plagued by the false pictures of
the yetzer hora, then one should recite the Shema,
which will remind a person of the supremacy of Hashem's
reign over him and the love we have for Him.
Finally, if all of this is not effective, one should remind
oneself of the day of death. Chazal have taught us this
powerful weapon. More than learning Torah, thinking ahead to
the end of one's days will be the most effective way to
quench the fires of the yetzer hora. To think about
the endless quiet of the grave -- this can save a person.
Yet, youth does not prefer to think about death. People like
to think about happy things in life.
According to the Zohar, it is normal for people to
think that they will live forever. Most people never think
about death. To do so would dampen their spirits and bring
the person to a somber state of mind. It is a serious
thought. What is there really to look forward to? What is
the eventual end?
However, if one does think along these lines, he would
realize what he needs to do with his life and what will lead
him to a happy end. Then, it will be easier to turn away
from all the physical distractions and vain pleasures of
This is how Ruth could do what she did. Everything the world
had to offer her meant nothing, and in spite of all the
difficulties and hardships along the way, her longing to be
at death, like Avrohom Ovinu, "mature and satisfied," gave
her the impetus and courage to go on and help Naomi.
When we accept the Torah on Shavuos, we should
bear in mind that it is not easy. It is a hard struggle. It
is foolish to believe that in a short few years one can
achieve mastery and greatness in Torah. Furthermore, a
person can become disappointed and frustrated over his
seeming lack of success in Torah. It does not happen in a
year or two. It is a gradual process of fighting the
yetzer hora that slowly replaces the physical
pleasures with the happiness of a Torah life. Ruth observed
Naomi's example for many years. The more Ruth clung to Naomi
the more the beauty of Torah filled her life.
Bilaam, the rosho, with all his pleasures, desired
the happy death of the tzaddikim. He wanted to feel
at the end that he would be leaving this world as a happy
individual. However, that cannot be for it is impossible to
feel accomplished when there has been no accomplishment.
When the time comes to look back over a life filled with
mitzvos, chesed and learning -- a life of Torah, then
all the hardships that were experienced fade away, for there
is the joy of knowing that there were true and everlasting
accomplishments and it was well worth the difficulties. Each
day's contribution is counted and the sum total is a
Hashem carefully noted Ruth's determination and her
sacrifice. She eventually did marry Boaz, and although he
died soon afterward, Hashem allowed her to conceive and give
birth. Dovid Hamelech zt"l came from the offspring of
this marriage. Ruth's vision extended far into the future,
and so she could sacrifice the present for what she
envisioned and knew to be true.
We too, with Hashem's help, can also do the same as we wait
for the day, may it come soon -- speedily in our days, that
the seed of Dovid Hamelech will reach its perfection.
Moshiach shall then enlighten the whole world with the truth
of Hashem's Torah and Hashem will then be recognized as the
One and Absolute G-d. If our kabolas HaTorah is a
real one, we can all bring that great day closer.