Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 26
Seducing a Saint
Boaz officiated at the wedding of Ruth and Garto. Ruth looked stunning in her new white gown. Garto was grinning from cheek to cheek. Naomi looked on in mourning, whispering to Boaz: “failure.” Vered joined Naomi’s chant and then Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilyon joined in proclaiming: “failure.” Boaz’s father, Salmoon appeared and stated: “You have failed me, son. All I ever wanted was continuity. Such a simple thing. But you have broken the chain. Our line ends with you.”
Finally, Nachshon the Brave appeared in Boaz’s dream. Boaz had never met his legendary grandfather, but there was no mistake who it was. The bright red hair and beard, the cocky confidence mixed with supreme faith.
“Such promise,” Nachshon said to Boaz. “You were the key, Boaz. You had the gifts, the training, the spirit, but you lacked that final bit of courage. Were you asked to jump into the sea? Were you asked to risk your life? No! Merely to take in this most worthy, most honorable woman and make her your wife. But you worried too much about the superficial. What people would think. What people would say. Blood of my blood! What a disgrace! Joshua prophesied to you; Ehud confirmed it; Vered returned from the dead to push you, but still you dragged your feet, and now it is too late, too late. You were my last anchor to this world. The King will not be born, the Tribes of Israel will never be united, the Temple will not be built, God’s hope has gone awry, the light will be extinguished, the world will return to chaos, another failed trial, so close this time.”
“No! Wait! What do you mean?” Boaz cried out. “How can one poor decision lead to such a catastrophe?”
“The balance of free will is always on the edge of a blade,” Nachshon explained, “it must ever be so, but this was a moment, this was a confluence of time, a pivot, and you failed, you in whose hands all our hopes rested. It is a shame. Such a shame. God will find another path, another vehicle, another history. He never tires. What is another world to Him? Infinity is His playground, though I truly thought our world, our history, our time would be the one. Too bad, Boaz. Farewell, son of my son. Use your remaining time well.”
The wind over his uncovered legs awoke Boaz with a start. His head spun, still heavy from the wine. The night was pitch black, thick clouds blocking any moonlight or stars. It was as if a thick blanket had snuffed out all the light of the world. Boaz could sense the large pile of grain to one side. He was shocked to discover a woman lying next to him though not touching him. He trembled in fear and apprehension. Am I still dreaming? Boaz wondered through the haze of the wine. He could feel the warmth radiating from her body and unconsciously he was aroused. It is dark, was his first thought. No one will know.
By God, no! Boaz swore to himself. I will overcome this urge. Did I not just admonish all my people against this very thing? Whoever she is, she is a person, not a thing! I cannot ignore that. I cannot give in to the anonymity of the dark or the effects of the wine. Am I as drunk as Lot who could not recognize his own daughters?
“Who are you?” Boaz whispered to the dark.
The woman froze, not expecting conversation, not expecting to identify herself.
“I am Ruth, your maidservant,” the dark whispered back.
Ruth!? Boaz gasped. She is the last person I expected here. What does this mean? What about Garto? Why is this most modest of women by my side after the harvest festival?
“Spread your wings over your maidservant, for you are a Redeemer,” Ruth answered Boaz’s unspoken question.
A Redeemer! She asks for the Levirate marriage! How can I deny her? Boaz’s heart was filled with joy. She maintains her purity. I have been remiss. I have delayed. God has given me a second chance!
“Blessed are you to God, my daughter,” Boaz whispered back, not moving a muscle towards Ruth. “Your kindness to me tonight surpasses all your previous kindnesses. You did not go with the younger men. Not with the wealthy Danite nor with hard-working Garto.”
“I request this for the line of Nachshon,” Ruth said more comfortably, feeling the invisible barrier Boaz had created between them, not touching her. For that alone she loved him even more. “I do this to restore the name of Mahlon, your cousin. I do this for you, and most of all I do it for Naomi.”
Can there be a more righteous woman than this? Boaz asked himself.
“My daughter, do not be afraid. All that you say I will do for you. All of our people, all the people of the gate of Bethlehem, know that you are a woman of valor. And yes, I am a Redeemer, but there is one who is closer. Lie here tonight and in the morning we will settle the matter. If the other Redeemer will redeem you, fine. But if not, I will redeem you. I swear by God. Stay here until the morning.”
Boaz did not say another word.
Ruth respected his silence, though she thought her heart would leap for joy.
He said yes! Ruth thought. He swore he would redeem me. There is no way Ploni would. But how will I break the news to Garto? I must tell him first thing in the morning, before he is further shamed. Poor Garto. But this is the right thing. I feel it in every fiber of my body! He is the one. Naomi was right, but not the way she thought. What a man! I did not need to foist myself upon him. How many men such as he can exist in the world?
Ruth eventually calmed down and fell asleep, never touching Boaz’s body.
She arose before dawn. Boaz was awake. In the dim light of the beginning of the world, she could tell he had not slept the rest of the night.
“It should not be known that a woman came to the threshing floor,” Boaz whispered.
Ruth nodded her understanding. Boaz smiled at her intelligence.
“Give me the scarf that is on you and grasp hold of it,” Boaz ordered gently.
Ruth unbound her scarf from her hair and held it in front of her. He dropped six kernels of barley into the scarf, one for each working day of the week.
“You should not return to your mother-in-law empty-handed,” Boaz whispered. “She will understand the symbolism. Return now to Bethlehem. I shall be right behind you to ensure that you come to no harm. Go, my daughter. I will send word as soon as the matter of the redemption is concluded.”
Ruth nodded one last time and returned to Bethlehem. Boaz waited a few moments and followed her, keeping her always within eyesight until she reached the gate of the city.
Ruth opened the door to Naomi’s house silently, not wanting to disturb her mother-in-law at the early hour. The first rays of sun peeked into the house before Ruth closed them out.
“What happened?” Naomi asked urgently, sitting upright at the table. Her face was puffy from tears. She had not slept the entire night. “Who are you, my daughter? Are you still single, or have you bonded with Boaz?”
“Neither,” Ruth responded with a smile. “Boaz is a man of the greatest honor. He did not touch me at all. He will redeem me this morning. He gave me these six kernels,” Ruth handed them to Naomi. “He said do not return empty-handed to your mother-in-law.”
Naomi looked at the kernels of barley tenderly. She held them as she would a newborn child. She stroked each one gently as tears of joy ran down her face.
“This is more than I hoped for,” Naomi spoke to the kernels. “He signals that our work is over. We have worked the six days of the week and now we can rest. He will redeem you. He will. Once he has said so, he will not stop until it is done. You must wait here now, until the matter is decided. He will most likely be in fierce debate with Ploni and the other Elders. But he will succeed. Boaz is masterful in debate and they all respect him. Wait here, daughter, for today it will be decided.”
“There is one thing I must do first.” Ruth looked downward. “I must inform Garto. He will be devastated. But I would rather tell him myself than have him find out from someone else.”
“Go then, my daughter. But then come right back. I am hopeful for good news.”
Garto had borrowed a fresh tunic from one of his wealthier neighbors. He had taken a significant portion of his savings and had the blacksmith fashion a simple, unadorned gold ring for Ruth. He was on his way to another neighbor to ask if they could help with the preparation of the wedding feast. He had never felt so happy, so excited in his life. Ruth is mine! Garto thought, still incredulous.
Suddenly, he saw Ruth, in a beautiful blue gown walking rapidly to intercept him. The look on her face was filled with anguish.
“Ruth, what is the matter?” Garto asked with growing concern.
“We must talk,” Ruth said simply.
“Of course. Have I done something wrong? I have just started to tell people the news. I told Boaz last night and he agreed to officiate at the wedding.”
“We cannot marry,” Ruth said.
“What? Why not? Don’t tell me you are suddenly concerned about the Elders. We can leave here if they make an issue of it. There are plenty of cities in Israel that are not so particular about the laws and I can make a good living in any of them. The most important thing is you and me, Ruth. Do not let the so-called righteous intimidate you.”
“It is not that. I have called on Boaz to redeem me, to perform the Levirate marriage.”
“What? When? How is this possible?”
“Last night. After the feast. You are a good man, Garto, and I have deep affection and eternal gratitude to you. But I am meant to be joined with Boaz. There is much more at stake than just the happiness of two people. There is a family line to be resuscitated. There is the memory of my dead husband that needs to be restored. I can only do that through the Levirate marriage. I can only do that with a relative of Mahlon, and Boaz is the best, the most honorable candidate. I know what you will say. Our time may be short. Be that as it may, I must do this thing; for myself, for the Nachshon clan and most importantly, for Naomi. Anything else will break her heart. Do you understand, Garto? Can you forgive me for leading you astray?”
“I don’t believe it! Do you know how much money I just spent? I’m not a rich landowner like Boaz whom you can toy around with. What sort of woman are you? You agree to marry one night and the very next morning you change your mind? Do I understand? Of course I understand. I’m just a plaything to you. A tool in your feminine manipulations. Who else are you using? Are you marrying Boaz for his money? Will you count the days until he dies and then seek some other victim of your Moabite wiles? Will you come back to me after you’re done with Boaz? I understand. I understand very well!”
Garto turned around and stomped back to his house.
“No, Garto, please.” Ruth ran after him. “Please listen to me. It’s not like that at all. I promise you. Please.”
Garto stopped and faced Ruth, his face red with anger.
“I don’t have time for games anymore, Princess. Say what you have to say and let me be on my way.”
“Garto, when I agreed to marry you, I truly meant it. What I didn’t realize, what I didn’t remember was how much my marriage meant to Naomi. She is a mother to me. She is the reason I am here. She is the reason I have joined the Children of Israel. The marriage is not about me alone. It affects my wider family. It affects the memory of my dear Mahlon. It gives continuity to the families of Elimelech, of Boaz, of Nachshon the Brave. It has to be me and Boaz, and it has to be now. I don’t know what the future holds. But I know I must do this. I hope you can forgive me, Garto. I never meant to hurt you. I can understand if you never want to see me again, but know that no matter what, I will always treasure the memory of your friendship and kindness.”
“How can you do this?” Garto responded. “How can you lift a man’s heart to the heavens and then dash it to pieces? How can you promise someone a life of commitment, of loyalty, of love and then just walk away? Are the ghosts of the dead that important? What makes you think Boaz will give you a child at his advanced age? You would walk away from a good thing for a memory? Together we can make as many children as you’d like and we can name them after the entire Nachshon clan. Would that satisfy you?”
“It’s not that.” Ruth shook her head. “It has to be Boaz. We are destined for each other. I know it. I feel it with every part of my body. Please, Garto. Just accept it. I’m sorry. I was wrong. I was confused. I should not have agreed to marry you. I don’t know what else to say in my defense. I just ask for forgiveness.”
Ruth got on her knees and cried.
“Get up, Princess. I get it. He’s the one for you. I forgive you, though it may take me time to forget.”
“Thank you, Garto.” Ruth stood up. “It means a lot to me.”
Garto felt the gold ring in his pocket. How much can I get for it? he wondered. It’s a good thing I didn’t tell the whole city yet.
“I did think it was too good to be true,” Garto finally said. “You are special, Ruth. Truly special. And I’m not sure that I deserved you. Well, good luck then. I expect I will still see you around. If anything should change, I am still here and won’t mind being considered again. Perhaps I should hold on to the ring.
“You are a prince, Garto. Now the rest is up to Boaz.”
* * * * * *
“Nor is this world inhabited by man the first of things earthly created by God. He made several worlds before ours, but He destroyed them all, because He was pleased with none until He created ours.” Ginsburg, The Legends of the Jews, based on Bereshit Rabba 3.7 and 9.2, Midrash Koheleth 3.11 and Midrash Tehillim 34, 245, mentions there were 974 generations before creation of our world.
Book of Ruth, Chapter 3:
1 And Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her: ‘My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? 2 And now is there not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to-night in the threshing-floor. 3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the threshing-floor; but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. 4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.’ 5 And she said unto her: ‘All that thou sayest unto me I will do.’ 6 And she went down unto the threshing-floor, and did according to all that her mother-in-law bade her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn; and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. 8 And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was startled, and turned himself; and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. 9 And he said: ‘Who art thou?’ And she answered: ‘I am Ruth thine handmaid; spread therefore thy skirt over thy handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.’ 10 And he said: ‘Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter; thou hast shown more kindness in the end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou didst not follow the young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou sayest; for all the men in the gate of my people do know that thou art a virtuous woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a near kinsman; howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. 13 Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part; but if he be not willing to do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth; lie down until the morning.’ 14 And she lay at his feet until the morning; and she rose up before one could discern another. For he said: ‘Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor.’ 15 And he said: ‘Bring the mantle that is upon thee, and hold it’; and she held it; and he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her; and he went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said: ‘Who art thou, my daughter?’ And she told her all that the man had done to her. 17 And she said: ‘These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me: Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law.’ 18 Then said she: ‘Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall; for the man will not rest, until he have finished the thing this day.’