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Shavuot 5769-2009

“Mother of Royalty”

by Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald

In I Kings 2:19, we read that Queen Bathsheba, the mother of the recently coronated King Solomon, came to speak to Solomon regarding his brother, Adonija.

Adonija had asked Bathsheba to intervene on his behalf with his younger brother, King Solomon, to obtain permission for him to marry Abishag the Shunnamite, who had previously been King David’s companion. King Solomon saw in this request an attempt to undermine his throne, and ordered that Adonija be put to death.

The verse describing this royal encounter, found in I Kings 2:19 reads: “Va’tah’vo Batsheva el ha’melech Shlomo, l’dah’bayr lo ahl Adoniyahu, va’yah’kahm ha’melech lik’rah’tah, va’yish’tah’choo lah, va’yay’shayv ahl kees’oh, va’yah’sem kee’say l’aym ha’melech, va’tay’shayv lee’mee’noh,” And Bathsheba came to King Solomon to speak to him concerning Adonija. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. He then sat upon his throne and placed a chair for the king’s mother (Mother of Royalty), and she sat at his right.

The Talmud in Baba Batra 91b, cites Rav Elazar as saying that the expression, “Mother of Royalty,” refers not to Bathsheba, but to Ruth. The commentators explain that since Bathsheba is mentioned by name throughout the text, “Mother of Royalty” must refer to someone else. They therefore conclude that it refers to Ruth, who spawned the entire dynasty of King David.

Rabbi Eliyahu KiTov (1912-1976, one of Israel’s most acclaimed religious writers) in his masterpiece, Sefer Hatoda’ah, The Book of Our Heritage, expounds on the concept of “Mother of Royalty” and asks why Ruth, more than any of the other descendants of the seed of Abraham, merited to establish the bond of kingship with the G-d of Abraham, and become the mother of a monarchy of loving-kindness?

The Midrash records the fascinating history of the transmission of loving-kindness. The original seed of loving-kindness was planted by Abraham in his nephew Lot. However, it seems that the transplant did not take very well. In fact, everything was lost when Lot gravitated to Sodom. Not only was the seed of loving-kindness lost, to the contrary, Lot spawned the nation of Moab, the most ungrateful nation on the face of the earth, lacking any semblance of loving-kindness at all.

Nevertheless, apparently a single remnant survived. The “Torah” of loving-kindness, was hidden for seven hundred years as it drifted through the ash heaps and discards of humanity, until the light of the young Moabite maiden, Ruth, was able to penetrate the darkness. And when this light began to shine, it shined powerfully, lighting up all the darkness, and the gloom could no longer conceal it. This Moabite woman was destined to heal the seed of the other decedents who stemmed from Abraham’s loins. It was she who reintroduced loving-kindness to the house of Avimelech, who had refused to aid his brothers in the time of great famine in Bethlehem. Thus the light of Ruth, that had stood the test of time, came to heal the seed of Abraham that was unable to endure the test of loving-kindness.

It’s quite astounding that healing should be needed at all in Bethlehem and in Judah, the most noble of all Israel’s inheritance. It is even more astonishing that the healing should come from one of the lowliest places on earth, from the field of Moab. But the healing did not really come from Moab, it came internally, from Ruth, because even though she was a Moabitess, her origins are from the same holy stock as the people of Judea, and now she has been redeemed and returned to her original source.

That is why Ruth 1:22 records: “Va’tashav Naomi,” and Naomi returned. Was Naomi alone? Certainly not. Ruth, her Moabite daughter in law was with her, who came from the field of Moab. Consequently, the verse states that she “returned” rather than “came” from the field of Moab, implying that she [Ruth] returned to her original place. The Midrash Rabbah Ruth maintains that Ruth had indeed returned, because Ruth’s soul was one of the souls that Abraham and Sarah had brought to Monotheism (Genesis 12:5). She was now redeemed from her captivity and returned to her origins, arriving in Bethlehem and Judea to assume the role of “Mother of Royalty,” whose throne will endure forever.

The message of “Eema shel malchut,” the Mother of Royalty is powerful and resonant. If Ruth, who came from the ash heaps of Moab, who descended from an incestuous relationship of Lot and his daughter, can be saved from the wicked influence of her family and community, and become the progenitor of King David and of the Messiah, then there surely is hope for us today, as well.

Some might become despondent when listening to the hateful rhetoric of Durban II, and be appalled by nations honoring Ahmadinejad–inviting him to address a human rights convention. Others may despair when learning of the murder of a young collegiate from Wesleyan University because she had Jewish blood in her, and from the hatred that spews from all sides toward the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

Ruth teaches us otherwise, not to despair and not to be despondent. We read in Psalms 121:1-2, “I lift mine eyes to the mountains from whence shall come my salvation? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth.” As in the time of the judges, salvation often comes from the least expected source. In the Book of Ruth, salvation came from a Moabite princess and not from rabbis, it came from a Moabite princess and not from Priests, it came from a Moabite princess and not from scholars.

While we are shrouded in darkness, and things seem bleak for the Jews and the Jewish State, there are pockets of light and hope all about us. May Mother Ruth, the “Mother of Royalty,” see our despair, and send her angels to minister to us, and save us from the evils that beset us.

May this Shavuot, mark the occasion when our ultimate “Savior” emerges to redeem us from all our travails. May the spirit of Ruth, “Mother of Royalty,” prevail upon the Al-Mighty to cause His light to shine forth, and grant all His people salvation, and all the people of the world tranquility and peace.

May you be blessed.

The festival of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah at Sinai 3322 years ago, begins this year on Thursday evening, May 28, and continues through the end of Shabbat, May 30 2009.

Chag Samayach.
Have a wonderful holiday!