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.
A reason that is given why we read Megillas
Ruth on Shavuos is that we see in Ruth a striking
example of self-sacrifice. Ruth could have remained with her
own people. Instead, she chose to accept the strictness and
confinements of Torah and Jewish life. In spite of all
Naomi's pleading to dissuade Ruth from following after her,
Ruth was undeterred. Ruth remained firm in her determination
to join Naomi and become a part of her people.
Ruth was a young, beautiful woman. It seemed pointless for
her to give up so much of her youthful life to follow her
mother-in-law Naomi back to Eretz Israel. Naomi argued time
after time that she should turn back. Orpah, Ruth's sister-
in-law, listened to Naomi's arguments and left. Ruth did
not. She continued on even after Naomi said to her (Ruth
1:15), "Look, your sister-in-law has returned to her
people and her god; go follow your sister-in-law."
Ruth clung to Naomi and refused to turn back. The next
posuk tells us Ruth's response to Naomi's last plea
to change Ruth's mind, "Do not urge me to leave you, to turn
back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go;
wherever 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 shall be buried."
This response silenced Naomi, for "When she saw she was
determined to go with her, she stopped her arguing with her,
and the two of them went on until they came to Beis Lechem."
Although Ruth was steadfast and unyielding, this did not
convince Naomi. There were many sound reasons why Ruth
should remain with her own people and in her own land. Naomi
depicted a very sad future for Ruth. Nothing would await her
in a new land and amongst new people. She would be giving up
her youth -- for what? It would all be in vain.
Ruth was not influenced at all. Amazingly, each time Naomi
talked with her, Ruth had more heart, more resolution to
continue onward. The posuk emphasizes Ruth's
increasing determination as the cause for Naomi's consent to
Ruth's desire to join her. Usually, after so much
dissuasion, a person weakens. Their desire wanes.
Undaunted by Naomi's arguments, Ruth grew increasingly firm.
She mustered more courage and her resolve was strengthened.
Naomi saw that Ruth was so increasingly determined to go
along with her that no further discussion would be fruitful
in changing her mind. If the more she reasoned with Ruth the
more determined she would become, then it would be pointless
to keep talking about changing Ruth's mind.
Therefore, Naomi allowed her to come along. Ruth passed the
test. How did she do it? What gave Ruth the courage to go on
in spite of Naomi's dissuasion? Her sister-in-law Orpah gave
up whereas Ruth possessed something that gave her the
impetus to grow ever stronger in her conviction.
Both women were princesses, accustomed to royal comfort and
wealth. Orpah turned back because she saw a black future in
store for her if she remained with Naomi. She saw no reason
to give everything up and sacrifice a life of a princess --
for what! She was the daughter of a king. That meant a lot
to her. Ruth too, was the king's daughter, yet she left it
all behind. With every attempt to convince her otherwise,
she grew increasingly determined. Why did she have the
courage to turn her back on all the world had to offer and
Orpah did not?
When a person sees a very bleak picture of life in front of
him, his spirit is dampened. If there is a hope of something
brighter in life that awaits him he will have more simcha
and gather the courage to go on. However, if all that
one can expect is the sadness of an empty, useless future,
what will give the person the courage to continue? When a
person can focus his thoughts on a goal, from this stems the
motivation that will carry him through, even during times of
difficulty and effort. Motivation will slacken when one
loses sight of his goal, his purpose in life.
In the world of Torah, our yeshivas and kollelim,
lack of motivation can be a very common problem, which
is not experienced by those in occupations, businesses or
professions. The businessman or professional sees something
for himself in the future. There are short-term returns for
their efforts. A doctor or a lawyer sees progress and
advancement in his field of specialization. They open a
clinic or office and they have clientele. Their practice
grows. They can become wealthy, enjoy prestige and be
One would never enter any venture if the outlook were
unpromising, nothing to expect in the future. A black
forecast. Bankruptcy and failure entice no one. A sensible
person would never pursue a career that did not offer at
least some chance, some hope, of success. Ruth was
different. She did what no one else would have done. What
Naomi obviously represented for Ruth a shining example of
Torah life. Ruth chose to cling to Naomi as she said, " . .
.your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d . . ."
Through Naomi's living example, Ruth saw greatness in Jewish
life according to Torah. Naomi, as her name implies was a
sweet, gracious person, an eishes chayil. Certainly,
this attracted Ruth to the fold of Yiddishkeit.
Naomi was also from a family of aristocracy. Elimelech, the
husband of Naomi, was one of the leaders of the generation
and from the royal tribe of Yehudah. Ruth's statement of
wanting to be part of such a heritage makes sense. However,
the statement that followed, " . . .where you die I will
die, and there I shall be buried" -- what difference should
it make where Naomi will die, and that it too should be the
place of death for Ruth? What was the meaning behind this
statement that added more rationale to Ruth's desire to be
part of Judaism? How does this last statement concerning
death and burial add significance to Ruth's assurance of
devotion to Naomi, her people and her G-d? Why should death
be a motivation for Ruth's conversion?
We have a clue to understanding Ruth from a remark that
Bilaam made when he was hired by Bolok, the king of Moab, to
curse Klal Israel. In the midst of his foiled
attempts to curse us, for Hashem did not allow it, Bilaam
makes a similar reference to death (Bamidbar 23:10),
"May my soul die the death of the upright, and may my end be
like his!" Who are the "upright" that Bilaam refers to? To
our righteous forefathers Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.
Bilaam desired that his death should be like theirs and his
end should be like theirs.
Avrohom Ovinu's death is described for us in the Torah
(Bereishis 25:8), "And Avrohom expired and died at a
good old age, venerable and satisfied, and he was gathered
to his people." He had lived a long and full life. The
Ramban zt"l explains this to mean that, "He saw the
realization of all his heart's desires and was satisfied
with all that was good." All of Avrohom's desires and wishes
were fulfilled. The Ramban zt"l goes on to explain
that this is a unique occurrence only for tzaddikim --
that when they leave this world, they leave it with a
feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment. What they sought to
accomplish was realized. All their wishes came true.
The Ramban zt"l continues, "This is not so about
other people, as it is said (Koheles 5:9), `The one
who loves money will not be satisfied with money.' About
this is said (Koheles Rabba 1:13), `That a person
does not leave the world having [even] half of his desires
in his hand. He has in his hand one hundred and he desires
two hundred. He acquires two hundred and he desires to make
it four hundred, for as it is said, 'The one who loves money
will not be satisfied with money.' " The millionaire is
interested in being a multimillionaire, and then a
billionaire. There is no self-satisfaction, no contentment.
He is never happy with himself. There is no feeling of
gratification, which, if he felt it, he could say, "I have
everything I have wished for, I don't desire anything else
Tzadikim have this and reshoim do not. The
full realization of this hits a person at the time of his
death. Speak to a rich man who is about to die. He may be
worth millions, but on his deathbed, there is a feeling of
regret. There is remorse over a life that did not achieve
its purpose and so, he is discontent.
Looking back over his life, he asks himself, "What am I
leaving behind?" He amassed millions of dollars, but when
the time comes to part with all of it, he is not a happy
person. Unless, chas vesholom, he has no belief in
HaKodosh Boruch Hu -- and he is an apikores,
or he is completely hefker and does not even care
about himself. However, one who believes in HaKodosh
Boruch Hu, a sensible person who believes that life has
a purpose and a goal -- in the end, when he realizes that it
was not achieved, he will be very unhappy. The last years of
his life, before he leaves this world, will be filled with a
sense of lack of accomplishment, for he did not fulfill his
purpose in life. All his millions will remain here while he
moves on to the Next World. What lasting purpose was
In contrast, the tzaddik dies a death of
gratification and contentment. He is at ease with himself
that he fulfilled his aim in life. Avrohom Ovinu died at a
ripe old age, fully accomplished. Each of his days had a
part to play in helping him reach his goal and purpose in
life. Each of the days of his life combined to create
something lasting and eternal. At the end, there was the
feeling of accomplishment and contentment. Bilaam, the
rosho, lived entirely for himself, steeped in the
pleasures and decadence of this world. Yet, when he
envisioned his end, his death, he wanted to have the same
death as the great tzaddikim, our Avos;
Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov. He longed to have that feeling
of happiness from the fact that he accomplished in this
The sum total of each day of his life was a tally of one
pleasure after the next. His accomplishment -- pleasure!
What does that add up to? All those pleasures can not
combine to produce a feeling of fulfillment over a life of
waste and depravity. One can not live a corrupt life and
then die like a tzaddik. Only a tzaddik can
look back over his life and see lasting accomplishments;
only then will there be satisfaction at the end. Each day
must combine with the next to produce a lifetime's sense of
purpose and gratification.
Based on the teachings of the Vilna Gaon zt"l, the
sefer Even Sheleimoh (10:11) explains that after
death, there is a certain angel which comes with an account
of the person's time while he was alive. Each and every
moment is inspected to see what was done with the time that
Hashem allotted to the person in this world. It was known
that the Chofetz Chaim zt"l would spend part of his
day by himself, in a special room, in order to make a
cheshbon hanefesh -- he would analyze how he spent
the day's time. Once, Rav Yeruchom zt"l, the
mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva, and Rav Naftali
Tropp zt"l, both of whom had learned together in Kelm
and were then in Radin, were curious to know how the Chofetz
Chaim zt"l, made this accounting. They discovered
that the Chofetz Chaim zt"l scrutinized each minute.
When the Chofetz Chaim zt"l realized that on that
day, twelve minutes could not be accounted for, he began to
cry out, "Yisrael Meir! Yisrael Meir!" When his cries became
so vehement, they ran away.
All this was over a lack of accountability for twelve
minutes! Such an attitude for the value of time made the
Chofetz Chaim zt"l into the leader of his people. It
brought forth all his seforim, his accomplishments,
his everlasting contributions and influence to the Klal
Israel. A person's life is created by his days -- a long
chain of events which can result in his greatness.
Such an attitude for the importance of time is part of
assuming the yoke of Torah. Hashem helps a person to assume
this yoke and gain this attitude. It is part of Kabolas
HaTorah. Once this is realized, no sensible person would
lose even one of his days. This is what brings
accomplishment and satisfaction in life.
The Zohar explains that each and every one of Avrohom
Ovinu's days were accounted for. He came to the Next World
with all his days. Each day gave a reckoning about what and
how much was accomplished in it. This was his greatness, for
each day contributed to his spiritual virtues and all the
days combined to make up Avrohom Ovinu. Therefore, each of
our days should be a precious gift for us to use to the
utmost. This, as it is written (Tehillim 34:13), "He
who desires life -- loves the days . . ."
Count each and every day as important. We should not be
fooled into thinking about weeks, months or years -- to
imagine that there is plenty of time to accomplish. No, each
day counts for your life's purpose, just like we see during
the counting of the Sefira.
From the second day of Pesach, we count forty-
nine days. This counting is referred to as Sefiras HaOmer.
After the counting, on the fiftieth day, we observe the
yom tov of Shavuos. This seven week period is in
anticipation to our Kabolas HaTorah. The Sefer
Hachinuch (Mitzvah 306) compares the expectation for the
day of Shavuos to that of a slave counting the days towards
his release and his freedom from slavery.
A slave, knowing that his emancipation will take place in a
month's time, yearns for the day and feels increasingly
elated as each day passes. Each day brings him closer to
what he desires most: his freedom. Likewise, as the Sefer
Hachinuch explains, "The whole core of Jewish life is
nothing but the Torah. It is for the sake of Torah that the
heaven, the earth, and Klal Yisrael were created . .
. this is the basis and the reason for them being redeemed
and taken out of Egypt. In order that they accept the Torah
at Sinai and fulfill it . . . For this reason, since it is
the essence of Jewish life, and for its sake they were
redeemed and were elevated to all their great status -- we
were commanded to count from the day after the yom
tov of Pesach until the day that the Torah was given.
This is to arouse in our souls a great yearning for that
precious day -- our heart's anticipation. Like [Iyov
7:2], 'A slave longs for the shade' and always counts
the time to come for the expected moment of his release to
freedom. For the counting reveals that the person's whole
desire and yearning is to reach that moment." The ultimate
result of our freedom from our Egyptian bondage was to
accept the Torah. We too, count in expectancy of the day of
This explanation poses a difficulty, for there is a dispute
amongst the poskim as to whether the mitzvah of
Sefiras HaOmer in our times is a Torah obligation or a
Rabbinical obligation (Mishnah Berurah 489:1,
Biyur Halachah). If the obligation is Rabbinical, the
explanation is understood. Our counting is a remembrance of
what occurred in preparation for Kabolas HaTorah that
happened then. Klal Yisrael, when they left Egypt and
looked forward to accepting Hashem's Torah felt like the
slave who is yearning for his day of freedom. It was real
for them, so they felt it.
However, if our counting is a Torah obligation, then each
day that we count is in anticipation of our accepting the
Torah. It is not a recollection, but a presently felt
experience -- we are yearning for a real event. Each day we
get closer to accepting the Torah. Is this true? Do we
accept the Torah on Shavuos? It was already given to Klal
Yisrael years ago on the first Shavuos. How does the
Sefer Hachinuch's analogy to a slave yearning for the
day of his freedom relate to us? When Klal Yisrael
first left Egypt it was like that, for they were headed
towards Sinai in expectation of receiving the Torah from
Hashem. Today, when we approach the Yom Tov of Shavuos, how
does our counting the Omer fit in?
The Talmud Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah 21a) has a
tremendous insight, "R' MeSharshe'ah said in the name of R'
Eidi that by all the korbonos it is written
`chet' [sin]; and by Atzeres [Shavuos] it is not
written `chet.' HaKodosh Boruch Hu says to them,
"Since you have accepted upon yourselves the yoke of Torah,
I attribute it to you as if there were no sins in your
days." Hashem regards us on Shavuos, as being without sin.
We are completely absolved of any of our wrongdoings.
Everything was erased because of the act of assuming the
yoke, all the responsibilities, obligations and efforts
required to know and observe the Torah. We can achieve on
Shavuos even more than we can on Yom Kippur!
End of Part I