Ruth, the Moabite, Progenitor of the Messiah
My good friend, Herb - a full-time kibitzer, part-time
bible scholar, called me up the other day. "Hey,
Ted. Who do you know in Hollywood? Any good contacts?
I got a great idea for a movie script- a box office bonanza-
especially for intermarrieds."
Turns out Herb had written a movie script. He told
me all about it in excruciating detail: The setting
is 1300 BCE. There's a dignified Jewish widow called
Naomi (maybe played by Elizabeth Taylor). She hangs
out with her daughter-in-law, also a widow. Ruth's her
name and she's a Moabite. Anyhow, after the two husbands
passed on, the mother-in-law tells her daughter in law
(maybe Meryl Streep), that it might be best if she returned
to her homeland and her people.
But Meryl loves Elizabeth. "Listen. Mom,"
she says. "I'm sticking with you. Your team is
my team and your food is my food." The Revised
Standard Version phrases it more eloquently than Herb;
"For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge
I will lodge, you people shall be my people and your
God my God".) So they stick together like two wild
and crazy girls. They're harvest groupies; one week
it's barley, the next grapes.
They end up in Judea, Naomi's homeland, were they
encounter Boaz, one of Naomi's relatives. He's got a
pretty nice spread, and remember were talking a long
time before real estate prices went south. Today, Boaz
would be tooling around in a Jag. Best of all, he likes
Ruth. Right away, he asks her to lunch. He knows a great
little spot in the fields under a fig tree, he says.
The meal is nothing fancy; a plate of bread and vinegar.
He's playing this strictly low key. He wants to win
the winsome widow's love because he's Boaz the mensch,
not a hot Judean developer.
And he does. Ruth and Boaz, in love like two ditzy
kids, stand under the Chupah; the wedding canopy in
the same field where they had their discreet bread and
Here, Herb paused to catch his breath.
I jumped right in. "Herb, you Meshuginah- THAT'S
THE BOOK OF RUTH!!! You can't sell that. It's in the
public domain. I mean, the copyright laws ran out a
couple of millennia ago!!"
"Ted, do you think anybody in Hollywood ever
read the Big Book? Those guys think C.B. Demille created
the Exodus plot line."
I guess Herb's right. But Hollywood has often dramatized
the Bible. Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheva-
tales that the film makers of yesterday turned into
cinematic epics and mountains of money. Who wouldn't
get sweaty palms thinking of David and Bathsheva bathing
in an open air penthouse. Samson and that cute Philistine
girl camping out down by the river.
But Ruth is different. She is a chaste lady. And as
loyal as Bathsheva is unfaithful. Mothers, this is the
daughter-in-law you deserve. The kind who would call
every morning and ask how you slept. A daughter-in-law
of virtue who never complains about the paucity of raisins
in your kugel. The kind of woman your boy SHOULD have
I myself have two daughters-in-law who, even though
not Moabites, are as gracious as Ruth. One of them swore
as we signed the Ketubah allowing her into our family
that, "your people shall be my people- even your
annoying cousins from Chicago." That's when I told
my boy to sign up.
The other declared, "Your food shall be my food."
And so it was. She and my son dine with me three nights
Beside the picture of a perfect daughter-in-law, we
should remember that the strongest message in Ruth,
the third of the five Megillahs, is the theme of universal
understanding, of brotherhood. Or, to be more accurate
considering Ruth's gender, sisterhood. Ruth is NOT a
Jewess- she is a Moabite. This book gives a halo of
dignity to a representative of those people who were
formerly blood enemies of the Israelites. Such a sentiment
in our Bible is like the Declaration of Independence
bearing a cover photo of George III with a preamble
praising his wisdom and sense of justice. Or the Hatfields
writing a family history with a meaty chapter devoted
to the virtues of the McCoys. Also, remember that the
bloodline that will someday bring the Messiah includes
this union of Ruth and Boaz, who beget Obed. And the
line continues with Jesse and David. Amazing! Ruth,
the Moabite, becomes the mother of Kings and, one day,
Maybe Herb is right. Maybe the Book of Ruth would
make a heckuva movie. It could definitely carry a "G"
rating. You could even show it on the Family Channel.
Ted Roberts is a syndicated Jewish Humorist
whose work appears frequently in the Jewish press, as
well as the Wall St Journal, Readers Digest,
and Disney Magazine.
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