Shabuot- Sara Imenu and the Roots of the Jewish Monarchy
It is customary on Shabuot to read Megilat Rut, and one of the reasons given for this custom is that Shabuot marks the Yahrtzeit of King David, and Megilat Rut concludes with the birth of King David. Megilat Rut, of course, tells the story of Rut, a native of the nation of Moab, who decided to join the Jewish Nation, despite the great sacrifices this entailed. She ended up marrying a prominent man from the tribe of Yehuda, Boaz, and their son – Obed – was the grandfather of King David.
The Gemara in Masechet Yebaot (76b-77a) tells a fascinating story about how David, well before he became king, was almost declared to be unfit to marry a Jewish woman – let alone to become a king. The scholars in the Bet Midrash were discussing David’s eligibility to be king, when one scholar, Do’eg, came along and determined that as a descendant of Rut, a woman from the nation of Moab, David was forbidden to even marry a Jew. The Torah (Debarim 23:4-5) explicitly commands that no person from Moab, or even a descendant of a person from Moab, may marry a Jew, because the nation of Moab did not bring Beneh Yisrael provisions of food and water after they left Egypt, as they were expected to. As such, Rut was not permitted to marry Boaz, and her descendants were not permitted to marry Jews.
Ultimately, it was reported that an ancient tradition taught that this prohibition forbids only the men of Moab from marrying into our nation, because only the men were expected to come out to bring Beneh Yisrael provisions. Women, in accordance with the foundational value of Seni’ut (modesty), are encouraged to stay at home, as the verse in Tehillim (45:14), cited by the Gemara, states, "Kol Kebuda Bat Melech Penima" – "all the honor of a princess is inward." Therefore, Rut – a woman from Moab – was permitted to join the Jewish People and marry Boaz. This landmark Halachic ruling is what enabled David to eventually become king, as otherwise, he would not have even been allowed to marry a Jewish woman.
This background sheds light on the ancient roots of Moab – which can be traced all the way back to the Book of Bereshit, and the story of the three angels who visited Abraham and then proceeded to Sedom.
Two of the three angels that had visited Abraham proceeded from Abraham’s tent to Sedom. One of these two angels destroyed the city, and the other rescued Lot. After Lot’s rescue, he fathered a child – Moab – who became the founder of the nation of Moab. It thus turns out that if Lot had not been rescued, King David would never have been born, because he descended from Moab, a nation produced by Lot after he was taken out of Sedom.
The Gemara in Masechet Baba Mesia (86b) teaches that these two angels were Michael and Gabriel. Gabriel was assigned the task of destroying Sedom, and Michael was charged with the mission of rescuing Lot. Beforehand, these two angels had visited Abraham’s tent, together with the angel Rafael. The Gemara explains that Rafael’s job was to cure Abraham, who was reeling from his Berit Mila, which he had performed three days earlier, and Michael’s job was to inform Abraham that Sara would be conceiving and delivering a child. The Gemara does not, however, explain why Gabriel joined the other two angels at Abraham’s home. It seems from the Gemara that his only task was to destroy Sedom. For what purpose, then, did he go to Abraham’s tent with the other two angels? Why didn’t he just meet Michael in Sedom afterward?
The answer emerges from a brief but seemingly peculiar exchange between one of the angels and Abraham during the visit. The angel asked Abraham where his wife, Sara, was, and Abraham replied that she was in the tent. Rashi explains that the angel asked this question to point out Sara’s modesty, that she stayed inside her tent, out of public view. We must wonder, however, why this point needed to be made. And besides, is it not inappropriate when visiting someone where his wife is?
The Hiddushei Ha’Rim (Rav Yishak Meir Alter of Ger, Poland, 1799-1866) explains that this question was asked by Gabriel – and that this question is precisely why Gabriel had visited Abraham. Gabriel went to Abraham to determine whether or not Lot should be rescued from Sedom. Lot did not deserve to be rescued, but his descendant – Rut – would eventually join the Jewish Nation and produce King David. In that merit, Lot deserved to be saved. However, it was still uncertain whether or not Rut’s marriage to Boaz would be considered acceptable. If it was deemed forbidden, such that David could not become king, then Lot would not be worthy of being rescued. And this question depended on whether or not the women of Moab were expected to go out to offer food and water to Beneh Yisrael in the desert. Gabriel therefore asked Abraham where his wife was – to see whether women are expected to remain indoors, or are encouraged to be outside. When Abraham replied that Sara was in the tent, this determined that women are encouraged to remain out of public view – and this meant that the women of Moab were not included in the prohibition which forbids marrying Moabites. Once this was established, Gabriel determined that Lot should be rescued from Sedom, so that he could produce Moab, from whom Rut would descend, ultimately leading to the birth of King David.
In the merit of our adhering to our cherished principles of Seni’ut, may we be worthy of seeing the restoration of King David’s dynasty with the arrival of Mashiah, speedily and in our days, Amen.