It is customary on Shabuot to read Megilat Rut, which tells the extraordinary story of Rut, a Moabite women who converted to Judaism and moved to Eretz Yisrael. The story began when a famine struck Eretz Yisrael, prompting Elimelech, one of the wealthiest men among Beneh Yisrael, to leave the country and settle in Moab. He feared that as poverty became widespread, more and more Jews would be knocking on his door asking for assistance, and so he left. In Moab, his two sons, Mahlon and Kilyon, married Moabite women.
G-d punished Elimelech for abandoning his people during their time of crisis, and he lost his entire fortune. Shortly thereafter he died, as did his two sons. His wife, Naomi, who had previously been a wealthy, prominent woman, was now left as a poor, penniless widow. She decided to return home to Bet Lehem, and her two Moabit daughters-in-law, who were named Rut and Orpa, expressed their desire to join her. Naomi pleaded with them to stay in their homeland, Moab, rather than move with her to what was for them a foreign country. After all, she was penniless, and they would not find anyone in Eretz Yisrael willing to marry them. Orpa heeded her mother-in-law’s advice and went home, but Rut insisted on accompanying Naomi to Eretz Yisrael. Ultimately, she ended up meeting and marrying a wealthy landowner named Boaz, with whom she had a child, Obed, who was the grandfather of David Hamelech.
One of the many meaningful lessons we can learn from this story is the impact of the decisions we make in life. When Naomi urged Rut to stay in Moab, but she insisted on accompanying her to Bet Lehem, she could not possibly have imagined what kind of long-term impact this decision would have, and how it would change world history forever. From her perspective, this was simply a matter of performing kindness for a family member in need to whom she was very devoted. But at that moment, when she told Naomi that she was joining her regardless of what she said and what happened, she laid the groundwork for the birth of David Hamelech who would establish the eternal Jewish dynasty, from which Mashiah will emerge.
It is frightening to consider how even the small decisions we make in life – not to mention the larger decisions – can have such far-reaching effects. This is not to suggest that everyone should fret and panic when planning what to eat for dinner or choosing a shirt to wear. It does mean, however, that we must exercise care and patience when making the significant decisions in our lives. We never know which decision we make can change the entire direction of our and our families’ lives. I still recall several occasions when as a student I had to decide whether or not to attend a certain Shiur. There were various considerations that had to be taken into account, and ultimately I decided to go. In those Shiurim, I heard ideas and insights that literally changed my life and profoundly impacted upon the direction I took. At the time I had to make the decision, it seemed like a relatively trivial and minor matter. But in the end, this decision altered the direction of my life.
We must not be flippant when it comes to making decisions in life. This is certainly true when it comes to larger decisions such as where to live and where to send our children for schooling, but also with regard to the seemingly small decisions, such as whether to attend a Shiur, whether to go to the synagogue, whether to make the humorous, not-so-nice remark that we want to make, or whether to share a Devar Torah with a friend. The implications of these decisions can often be far more profound than we think, and they therefore must be made carefully and responsibly, after serious thought and consideration.