“And they raised their voices and cried more” (Megillas Ruth 1:14).
The word “Vatisenah — and they raised” is written without the letter alef. Their energy was depleted because they were walking and crying. (Midrash Rabbah 2:21)
As Naomi prepared to return to Eretz Yisrael, Ruth and Orpah walked along with her. As they walked, they cried incessantly, not wanting to separate. They sobbed so hard that they were drained of all their strength.
Naomi insisted that they return, and Orpah gave up. With great anguish, she kissed her mother-in-law goodbye and left. She returned to being Orpah the Moabite, the daughter of her father.
One of the reasons that Chazal established that we read Megillas Ruth on Shavuos is because of the personal Kabbalas HaTorah that Ruth the Moabite experienced. From her we can learn how to prepare for receiving the Torah.
The only way to be able to accept the Torah is to properly appreciate the value inherent in that acceptance. (Rav Moshe Schwab, Maarchei Lev, 32, vol. 3)
Ruth and Orpah were both princesses. Yet, they were both willing to give up a life of luxury and become paupers in a strange land for the sake of Torah. However, in the end, only Ruth merited accepting the Torah, and Orpah turned back. What was the difference between the two?
At first Ruth and Orpah spoke together. But only Ruth added the line that proved her commitment and dedication to Torah. When Naomi urged Ruth to leave her, Ruth responded: “Don’t urge me to leave you and return … because only death will separate between me and you” (Megillas Ruth 1:16–17).
While it’s true that Orpah was willing to sacrifice for Torah, Ruth’s answer shows a greater level of acceptance; to her, she wasn’t sacrificing anything. On the contrary, she only focused on the gain she’d receive via Torah. Without Torah, her life was not worth living. (ibid.)
We are all ready to be moser nefesh for Torah. We are prepared to do without, to manage on a budget, to urge our husbands to go to the beis medrash and learn another hour. The power of our self-sacrifice is enormous.
Yet, why should we look at our Torah lives like a huge, oppressive burden that is almost too heavy to bear? And why do we perceive ourselves as tortured martyrs when this can really be a privilege?
Rebbetzin Ruchoma Shain was once speaking with her grandson. “How incredible is our generation of young girls,” she said in admiration. “They are all willing to be moser nefesh to marry someone in Torah.”
“Why is it a sacrifice?” her grandson replied. “Building a home of Torah is a privilege, not a hardship.”
As Ruth shows us, there is no sacrifice when we understand the true value.
From here we learn that the only way to merit receiving the Torah is to understand its true benefits. Torah is our life. Accepting Torah out of a sense of sacrifice has its limitations. By contrast, when we realize that Torah is our very lifeline, we can appreciate our commitment. We can’t exist without Torah. (ibid.)
I glance around my small apartment. True, we could use more space. Yes, it’s difficult living on a tight budget. But somehow now, the shelves buckling with seforim seem to be glowing jewels. Suddenly, the hours I spend alone in the evening waiting for my husband to return seem to be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
My soul fills with light; my shoulders straighten and a tremendous burden is lifted. I’m not sacrificing. I’m doing much more than that. I’m gaining. It’s a privilege. Is there anything more thrilling to be married to and mothering a house full of Torah? The opportunities in a house of Torah are immeasurable. There are millions of diamonds strewn in every inch of my home.
Yes, there are limitations. Perhaps there are constraints in time, money, and even in what is permissible and what is not.
Am I ready to make the effort to be able to collect diamonds?
Ready? No I’m not ready. I’m waiting for this, yearning for this, and pleading that I should continue to merit this. It’s not an effort — it’s ideal.
How lucky I am.