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Megillat Rut

Megillat Rut opens with the story of Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and 2 sons Machlon and Chilyon, and how they left their home in Bet Lechem and moved outside of Israel into Moav due to a famine in the land. Elimelech was a wealthy man and a community leader, whom the locals in Bet Lechem looked up to and admired.

Elimelech was a direct descendant of Nachshon ben Aminadav, the prince of the tribe of Yehuda, who is mentioned multiple times in Sefer Bamidbar, and whom Midrash credits with being the first member of Bnei Yisrael to jump into the Red Sea before it split. Nachshon was a leader and a hero, who only wanted to work to benefit his people.

Elimelech probably could have weathered the famine in Israel as well as anyone else, but he used his financial resources to find a better place to live. Elimelech died soon afterwards. The Gemara in Baba Batra states that he was punished for not begging for mercy for his people in Bet Lechem, and Israel in general during the time of famine, and instead just left. This is quite a departure from the ways of his ancestor Nachshon. It’s as if Elimelech himself was responsible for the trouble his people were facing by abandoning them instead of davening for them.

After Elimelech’s death, his two sons Machlon and Chilyon married 2 women from Moav, and they settled in Moav for ten years.

Ten years is not just an escape from famine. Ten years is settling in another land. And with no community of people from Israel, Machlon and Chilyon assimilated into the local society and eventually married into that society as well. They had completely abandoned their people in Bet Lechem, and forgot their status as community leaders in Israel.

The Alshich comments that they only married local women after their father’s death. Elimelech, despite his faults, would not have tolerated intermarriage, but with him gone, the 2 boys took up with gentile women.

So it is no surprise that they too died at a young age as well. Just as God punished Elimelech for leaving the land of Israel, he punished both Machlon and Chilyon for remaining outside the land of Israel, assimilating into the local gentile society, and marrying gentile women. That they died at approximately the same time, according to the Pri Chaim, demonstrates that they were equally guilty.

In just the first 5 pesukim of the Megillah we have some very important lessons that are probably more relevant today than they were in Biblical times.

Today, we are fortunate to have an economically strong state of Israel. Virtually all Jews can come to the land, and live in the land without fear of a famine.

Jews in chutz laaretz (outside of Israel) are assimilating at an alarming rate. In the United States, the intermarriage rate is approaching 60%. More Jews have x-mass trees than keep kosher or Shabbat.

Sadly, chutz laaretz Jews are following the poor example of Elimelech, Machlon and Chilyon. They have chosen to make chutz laaretz their permanent home. They have chosen to assimilate into their local cultures and marry gentiles. They have all but forgotten their people living in their homeland, the Land of Israel

There is still time to do teshuva, to repent and return to Israel. To be a part of our people where we belong.

חג שמח!



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