The Roots of Megillat Ruth: Lot and Avraham

  • Dr. Yael Ziegler

 

MEGILLAT RUTH

By Dr. Yael Ziegler

 

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FESTIVAL OF FREEDOM: ESSAYS ON PESAH AND THE HAGGADAH


by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

 

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Shiur #4:

The Roots of Megillat Ruth: Lot and Avraham

 

 

Like many biblical stories, the origins of Megillat Ruth derive from the book of Bereishit. Lot, the ancestor of Orpah and Ruth, makes a historic decision to part company with his uncle Avraham and live among the evil people of Sedom. That decision returns full circle in the book of Ruth, as Ruth the Moavite, a descendant of Lot, decides to return to the Jewish nation.

 

Lot and Avraham

 

At the beginning of their story, Lot and Avraham are united in purpose and in action.[1]  Following God’s directive to leave their homeland, they journey to the land of Canaan together. A famine in Canaan prompts Avraham to journey to Egypt. Avraham returns, laden with cattle and possessions, and accompanied again by his nephew, Lot.

 

However, at this point, the idyllic relationship between Avraham and Lot comes to an abrupt close. Insufficient land to sustain their large quantity of livestock generates a fight between Avraham’s shepherds and Lot’s shepherds. This argument between shepherds seems to go beyond mere economics, because immediately Avraham turns to Lot and suggests that they go their separate ways. Lot agrees. Lot, however, veers from Avraham’s proposed suggestion that he go left (north) or right (south) and instead chooses to go straight to the cities of the Kikar (the Plain), namely Sedom.[2]

 

The very next passage casts doubt upon Lot’s decision by describing the people of Sedom as “evil and very sinful to the Lord” (Bereishit 13:13).[3] Later, Bereishit 19 elaborates on Sedom’s sinfulness, depicting the Sedomites as sexually immoral in their demand to rape Lot’s guests. Yechezkel 16:49 offers another perspective, calling attention to the miserly behavior of the Sedomites, who had plenty of bread and the tranquility of satiation, yet did not support the poor and the needy.

 

Lot’s choice to live with the people of Sedom has been treated in various ways by exegetes. Some of the midrashim, cited by Rashi, view Lot’s move as an indication of his sinful persona, and maintain that he chose to go to Sedom because he wanted to live among lewd people.[4] These midrashim regard Lot’s decision to leave Avraham as a rejection not just of Avraham, but of his God as well. Radak, however, regards Lot’s actions in a positive manner, maintaining that Lot is so steadfast in his faith and integrity that he will not be influenced by their evil deeds.[5]

 

The best means of determining the appropriateness of Lot’s decision is to examine his portrayal later in the narrative. Immediately prior to the destruction of Sedom, the Torah illustrates Lot’s commitment to the ideals of chesed embodied by Avraham. In fact, Lot hosts the strangers who arrive in Sedom (Bereishit 19) in a nearly identical manner as Avraham, who hosted the same strangers in the previous narrative (Bereishit 18).[6] While some exegetes focus on the slight differences between these stories,[7] both Rashi and the Radak cite the midrash that Lot learned how to treat guests from Avraham. The Ramban also mentions Lot’s behavior with approval. And indeed, the similarities between Avraham and Lot in these stories overwhelm the differences. The proximity of these stories, along with the peculiar fact that Avraham and Lot both host the very same guests, reinforce the sense that Lot and Avraham are far more similar than different.

 

It appears that despite his change of location, Lot has not assimilated into the culture of the cities of Sedom and Amora. Indeed, his kindness and generosity, presumably learned from Avraham, alienate him from the people of Sedom.[8] One could even make the claim that Lot, living as he does with the evil and corrupt people of Sedom, deserves extra credit for the difficulty of maintaining his decency and goodness.

 

And yet, Lot’s decision to live among the people of Sedom means that his fate is inextricably tied to theirs. The very first story following the separation of Lot and Avraham tells us of Lot’s capture during a war between Sedom and her allies and four foreign powers (Bereishit 14). This story seems intent on demonstrating that Lot is a victim of the environment he selected. However, Lot is not exactly an innocent victim; he has made the choice to live with the people of Sedom. Perhaps for this reason the narrative in Bereishit 19 goes out of its way to make it plain that Lot is not saved from the decree against Sedom on his own merit,[9] but rather because of his relationship to Avraham:

 

And it was when God destroyed the cities of the plain, and God remembered Avraham and he delivered Lot from the upheaval, when God overturned the cities in which Lot lived. (Bereishit 19:29)

 

If the people of Sedom deserve to be destroyed, then Lot should perish alongside them. God only saves Lot because of Avraham.

 

Avraham makes the opposite choice of Lot. By deliberately and consciously holding himself separate from the inhabitants of Canaan, Avraham isolates his fate from theirs, and can ultimately dispossess the Canaanites of their land. Indeed, each time that the text informs us that there are Canaanites and Perizites in the vicinity, Avraham picks up his tent and moves away (Bereishit 12:6-8; 13:7, 9, 18). Moreover, when Avraham buys land from the Hittim to bury Sarah, he insists on paying for it, and during the course of that story famously informs them, "I am a stranger and a sojourner among you" (Bereishit 23:4). Avraham wants to owe no debts and have no intimate ties with the people of Canaan. To this end, Avraham refuses to take spoils of war from the king of Sedom (Bereishit 14:22-24) and adamantly insists that his son not marry the daughters of Canaan (Bereishit 24:3). Throughout his life, Avraham strives to maintain his independence from the inhabitants of Canaan.[10] 

 

The Consequences of Lot’s Behavior

 

What are the consequences of Lot’s decision? Does Lot’s choice affect him, his family, or his descendants?

 

Despite his noteworthy desire to act with chesed, Lot fails to live a life of integrity in Sedom. In fact, Lot pays a high price for his choice to live amongst the people of Sedom, one that will eventually, perhaps inevitably, lead to his downfall. The consequences of Lot’s behavior manifest themselves in two areas: chesed and sexual morality.

 

Chesed

 

Because Lot lives in Sedom, even his well-intentioned act of kindness is sullied. The story of Lot hosting his guests turns from an act of kindness into a catastrophe filled with horror. The people of the city surround Lot's home, demanding that he throw his guests into the street to be raped by the townspeople. And Lot, searching for a solution, distorts the righteousness which he has displayed toward these men by offering to toss his daughters to the townspeople as a replacement for his guests.  In doing so, he perverts the very trait of kindness which motivated him to save the men!

 

Lot’s personal righteousness is distorted by the corrupt environment in which he has situated himself. Lot invariably finds himself in a situation in which he is forced to act like the people of Sedom, even against his will.

 

Ultimately, the Torah prohibits Lots' descendants, Ammon and Moav, from marrying into the Jewish nation because of their stinginess:

 

No Ammonite or Moavite shall come into the community of God… because of the matter in which they did not greet you with bread and water on your journey out of Egypt. (Devarim 23:4-5)

 

Lot's descendants become the diametrical opposite of generous hosts. In their failure to do chesed, Lot’s descendants become the spiritual heirs of Sedom.

 

Sexual Morality

 

Lot’s choice to integrate into the culture of Sedom results in a second failure. After the destruction causes Lot and his daughters to flee to the mountains, Lot’s daughters get their father drunk and commit incest with him. They do not do so because they are perverse or deviant, but because they sincerely believe that the human race has been destroyed and that it is up to them to repopulate the world (Bereishit 19:31). Lot himself is described as committing the act without any knowledge of it, so that when he woke up he did not know what he had done.

 

Once again, Lot himself is not consciously behaving like the people of Sedom. In fact, their initial indecent proposal to rape Lot’s guests had prompted a cry of protest from Lot. Nevertheless, Lot again has become the victim of circumstances that do not reflect on his personal virtue, but are instead the result of his fateful choice to live in Sedom.

 

Ultimately, Lot’s choice affects his descendants in this arena as well. The women of the Moavite nation, born of an incestuous union between Lot and his elder daughter, become known for their promiscuity, seducing the Jewish nation in the desert (Bamidbar 25).

                  

The Consequences of Avraham’s Behavior

              

Having chosen to maintain his separateness from the inhabitants of Canaan, Avraham, in contrast to Lot, maintains these two qualities of chesed and sexual morality. These become two of the cornerstones upon which the Jewish nation constructs its definition of morality and nationhood.

 

The trait of chesed is central to the definition of the Jewish nation. As noted previously with regard to Ammonites and Moavites, anyone who bears the trait of unkindness is barred from entering the community of God. Indeed, Maimonides asserts that if one meets a Jew who bears the trait of cruelty, one should be suspicious of his ancestry:

 

Anyone who is cruel and does not exhibit compassion, we should [suspect him and attempt to] ascertain his lineage. (Hilkhot Matenot Aniyim 10:2)

 

Moreover, had Avraham chosen to integrate with the people of Canaan, it almost certainly would have compromised the Jewish nation’s adherence to moral sexual conduct. Vayikra 18:3 explicitly prohibits the Jewish nation from adopting the sexual mores of the Canaanite former inhabitants of the land, indicating that only proper sexual conduct will allow the Jewish nation to remain in the Land of Israel.

 

Summary

 

Thus far, I have tried to show that Lot's choice to live in Sedom results in his descendants becoming the spiritual heirs of Sedom’s culture.[11] This process begins even in Lot's own lifetime and affects his own behavior as well, no matter how well-intentioned it may be. Lot’s assimilation to his environment occurs particularly with respect to the traits of chesed and sexual morality. Because these traits are so integral to the definition of the Jewish nation, Lot’s descendants become known as people whose essence is so diametrically opposed to that of Avraham that they cannot under any circumstances join the Jewish nation.

 

Avraham, who remains distinct from the inhabitants of Canaan, is able to preserve and maintain his unique qualities. It is largely due to Avraham’s decisions that the Jewish nation is characterized in the Bible and in rabbinic sources by its attention to kindness and sexual morality. The very essence of this definition as a Jewish nation hinges, in a very real sense, on Avraham’s choice to remain separate.

 

The Book of Shoftim

 

The book of Shoftim describes a period of progressive deterioration in Am Yisrael’s history. The book opens with the failure of the Jewish nation to complete the conquest of the land, a failure that affects their ability to create a society based on its own distinctive values. Instead, they continue to live amongst the Canaanites, assimilating their culture and values.[12] A well-known consequence of this decision is that Israel begins to worship the idolatry of the Canaanites (Shoftim 2:2; 6:10; 10:6). More to the point, however, in this schema, the Jewish nation during the period of the Judges makes the choice of Lot, the choice of integration in place of separation. Israel in the time of the Shoftim drifts away from the path of Avraham.[13] In this way, Israel treads the path of Lot, a path which leads to the abandonment of chesed and sexual morality.

 

Unsurprisingly, as the book progresses, Am Yisrael begins to resemble Ammon and Moav, Lot’s descendants and the spiritual heirs of Sedom. Consider, for example, the story of Gidon’s war against Midian. As the war begins to draw to its conclusion, Gidon continues to pursue the Midianite kings across the Jordan River. Exhausted and hungry, Gidon’s troops pass through two Jewish towns, Sukkot and Penuel.[14] Gidon’s request for food is met with cynical refusal (Shoftim 8:6): “Are [the Midianite kings] Zevach and Tzalmuna in your hands that we should give your army bread?!” This event suggests that the Jewish nation has internalized the morals of Ammon and Moav. Those nations are denied entrance into the holy congregation because of their refusal to give bread and water to the Jewish nation. In this case, the people of Sukkot and Penuel deny food to their own brethren, who are fighting on their behalf![15]

 

The book of Shoftim draws to a shocking conclusion with the narrative of the concubine who is raped by the townspeople of Giv’ah (Shoftim 19). This story of moral and sexual corruption is linguistically and thematically modeled upon the narrative of Sedom and Amora.[16] This indicates that the Jewish nation has veered perilously far from the path of Avraham and is instead following the path of Lot.[17] It has forgotten the values of chesed and sexual morality, which formerly lay at its core.

 

Megillat Ruth

 

Megillat Ruth takes place during the period of the Judges. In an upcoming shiur, we will see that the minor characters in the background of Megillat Ruth act in accordance with the above portrayal of the nation during this period. They are stingy and sexually immoral, just as we would expect from anyone who functions during the period of the Judges.[18] Nevertheless, Megillat Ruth will prove to be the solution to the disastrous situation of the book of Shoftim. It provides Am Yisrael with a new direction: generosity instead of miserly behavior, and morality in place of indecency. I believe that it is Ruth who serves to guide the Jewish nation back from the path of Lot to the path of Avraham.

 

The Path of Lot and the Path of Avraham

 

In the opening chapter of the book of Ruth, Ruth and Orpah are compelled to choose between the path of Avraham and the path of Lot. These Moavite women, descendants of Lot, must decide whether to return to Moav or to turn their back on their previous lifestyle and go to Bethlehem with Naomi.

 

Orpah

 

Initially, Orpah and Ruth speak in one voice, insisting that they will accompany Naomi to Bethlehem. Eventually, Naomi’s argument that her Moavite daughters-in-law will be unable to find a husband and start a new family in Bethlehem convinces Orpah to return to Moav.

 

Orpah’s choice, following Naomi’s strenuous attempts, appears to be a legitimate, even a reasonable, one. Therefore, it is somewhat unexpected that rabbinic sources sharply criticize Orpah for her actions. A midrash, which analyzes the etymology of Orpah’s name, offers the following explanation:[19]

 

The name of one was Orpah, for she turned the nape of her neck (haphkha oreph) to her mother-in-law. (Ruth Rabba 2:9)

 

Despite my initial resistance to this portrayal of Orpah, when viewed alongside Ruth’s fierce loyalty to Naomi, Orpah’s actions appear in a more negative light. Furthermore, the name Orpah certainly may be related to the word oreph, the nape of one's neck, and when combined with the word haphakh, meaning to turn one’s neck, it has the connotation of running away in a cowardly fashion.[20] This midrashic etymology, then, offers a viable, if perhaps overly critical, portrayal of Orpah.

 

It is startling, therefore, that a gemara offers a second possible etymology of Orpah's name:

 

Why was she called Orpah? For everyone sodomized her (orpin ota) from behind. (Sota 42b)

 

This scathing critique of Orpah’s character is very difficult to sustain. In fact, the Megilla offers no hint whatsoever of Orpah's promiscuity. Why does the midrash offer an etymology which does not cohere with any textual portrayal, when the first etymology is linguistically and thematically suitable?

 

Despite its lack of textual basis, the portrait of Orpah as a licentious woman emerges as the dominant portrait of her in the Midrash. She is described in several midrashim as a wanton, immoral, and promiscuous woman whose exploits include bestiality, sodomy, and indiscriminate, copious sexual activity.[21]

 

The biblical portrayal of Orpah is profoundly different from the midrashic one. According to the simple meaning of the text, Orpah is a kind and virtuous woman. She even initially offers to accompany her mother-in-law, and cries when Naomi tries to send her away. It seems to me that in creating this image of Orpah as both a heartless and a licentious woman, these rabbinic sources are not commenting on Orpah, but on her choice.

 

Orpah’s decision to return to live in Moav, the spiritual heir of Sodom, sets her on the path of her ancestor Lot. Like Lot, Orpah’s choice to return to a depraved surrounding, a society steeped in cruelty and immorality, determines her future and that of her descendants. By portraying Orpah as a person who turns her back on her unfortunate mother-in-law and lives a life of shameless immorality, the midrashim draw a parallel between Orpah and Lot. Even if their personal behavior is above reproach, the fact that each of them assimilates into a cruel and promiscuous society has far-reaching ramifications; they and their descendants are doomed to perpetuate the values of the society in which they reside.

 

Ruth

 

Ruth, who stays with Naomi, is represented in rabbinic sources as the paradigm of kindness. This portrayal needs no further explanation because it is well-attested to in the actual biblical portrayal of Ruth. A more peculiar phenomenon is the rabbinic representation of Ruth as the model of modesty. Ruth’s modesty emerges in the midrashim in several different forms. She is depicted modestly bending down to pick up the sheaves of wheat in the field (Shabbat 113a). In another midrash, Ruth refrains from flirtation with the young men (Ruth Rabba 4:9). According to a midrash cited by Rashi (3:5), Ruth chooses to amend Naomi’s instructions to go to Boaz’s field dressed up and perfumed, lest someone suspect her of promiscuity. She prefers instead to dress and perfume herself only once she has arrived at the field (Tanhuma Behar 3).

 

This modest representation is not indicated anywhere in the Megilla itself. In fact, in a later shiur, we will examine the manner in which Ruth is portrayed as a woman who comes from a promiscuous culture and only gradually learns to integrate and adopt the modest norms of the Jewish culture.

 

Chazal’s portrayal of Ruth as kind and modest emerges as the diametrical opposite of their portrayal of Orpah, the cruel and immoral woman. This portrait of Ruth is based on her choice. By choosing to abandon Moav and join the nation of Avraham, Ruth becomes the paradigm of chesed and morality, having herself adopted the traits of Avraham and enabled her descendants to do the same.

 

Ruth: The Tikkun for Lot

 

In addition to the far-reaching ramifications that Ruth’s choice has for her own definition and that of her descendants, Ruth’s choice represents a historic correction, or tikkun, of Lot’s fateful separation from Avraham. In fact, Boaz implicitly recognizes the nature of Ruth’s choice in his words:

 

And Boaz answered and he said to her, “It has surely been told to me all that you have done with your mother-in-law after your husband died, and you left your father (avikh) and your mother and the land of your birthplace (eretz moladteikh).” (Ruth 2:11)

 

By using words reminiscent of God’s command to Avraham in Bereishit 12:1, “Go from your land (artzekha), your birthplace (moladetkha) and the house of your father (beit avikha),” Boaz acknowledges that Ruth’s decision to accompany Naomi is a return to the path of Avraham, which Ruth’s ancestor Lot chose to abandon.

 

This point is further indicated by Ruth’s choice of words in declaring her unequivocal loyalty to her mother-in-law. Lot’s decision to separate from Avraham is described using the verb to separate (prd): [22] 

 

And each man separated (vayiparedu) from his brother. (Bereishit 13:11)

 

Ruth’s speech of loyalty to Naomi concludes with the same word used to describe Lot and Avraham’s separation. However, Ruth’s usage of the verb “to separate” (prd) is part of an oath in which she swears that only death will separate her from Naomi, from the path of Avraham which she has so courageously chosen:

 

I swear by God that only death will separate (yaphrid) between you and me. (Ruth 1:17)

 

In refusing separation and cleaving to Naomi, Ruth returns the narrative of Lot and Avraham’s separation full circle.

 

Finally, it is noteworthy that the keyword of the first chapter in Megillat Ruth is the verb “to return” (shuv), which appears twelve times. Naturally, this word modifies Naomi, whose return to Bethlehem lies at the core of the chapter, but it also is used to describe Orpah’s return to Moav. Oddly, however, the word also appears to describe Ruth’s actions:

 

And Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moavite, her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the fields of Moav. (Ruth 1:22)

 

Ruth’s “return” to Bethlehem makes little sense in the narrow context of Megillat Ruth. She has come from Moav and abandoned her homeland to join Naomi in Israel. Nevertheless, in a broader context, Ruth’s journey to Bethlehem is indeed a “return;” it represents the closing of the circle begun with Lot’s abandonment of Avraham in Bereishit 13. That event leads to the creation of the nations of Ammon and Moav, the spiritual heirs of Sedom, who are steeped in cruelty and immorality. Lot’s descendant, Ruth, returns to the path of Avraham and becomes a paradigm of chesed and modesty. In doing so, she acquires the tools and the authority to serve as a role model capable of guiding the people back to the path of Avraham during the chaotic period of the Judges.

 

Ruth is not simply a personal role model for this movement away from the path of Lot and back to the path of Avraham. She accomplishes much more that that. Ruth, in fact, produces the Davidic dynasty, which becomes the vehicle for the nation's return to the path of Avraham. Indeed, Megillat Ruth leads the Jewish nation at the time of the Judges back to its original path and restores chesed and morality to the Jewish nation.

 

 

This series of shiurim is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Naomi Ruth z”l bat Aharon Simcha, a woman defined by Naomi’s unwavering commitment to family and continuity, and Ruth’s selflessness and kindness.

 

I welcome all comments and questions: [email protected]

 

 



[1] Radak is particularly enthusiastic in his portrayal of Lot as Avraham’s willing and able partner. He comments that the plural of the words describing Avraham’s actions in Bereishit 13:5 (rakhashu and asu) points to a joint effort between Avraham and Lot. He also points out that the fact that Lot leaves his grandfather to accompany his uncle indicates that Lot particularly wants to be with Avraham. This, explains the Radak, is because Lot has learned belief in God from Avraham.

[2] The notion that left and right refers to the north and south is also indicated in Yechezkel 4:4-6. For a twist on this, see Yechezkel 16:46.

[3] This is highlighted in Bereishit 18, when Avraham’s bid to save the Sedomites from God’s decree of destruction is thwarted by the inability to find even ten righteous inhabitants.

[4]  Rashi, Bereishit 13:10.

[5]  Radak, Bereishit 13:11.

[6] Avraham is an exemplary host, sitting at the entrance to his tent, seemingly waiting for guests to arrive (18:1). He runs to greet his guests, bows to the ground (18:2) and is deferential, referring to himself as "your servant" and to the guests as "my masters" (18:3). Finally, Avraham offers the guests water to wash their feet and gives them food (18:4-5). Lot acts in a similar, if not identical, manner. In Bereishit 19, we find Lot sitting at the entrance to the gate of Sedom, presumably waiting for guests (19:1). When Lot sees the angels, he rises to greet them and bows his face to the ground (19:2). Lot is likewise deferential, referring to himself as “your servant” and to his guests as “my masters” (19:2). Finally, Lot offers the angels water to wash their feet and gives them food (19:2-3).

[7] See, for example, Or HaChaim 19:1, 3 and Seforno 19:3.

[8] Note the words of the men of Sedom to Lot when he protests their attempt to harm his guests: “Has one come to live and he dares to judge?! Now we will do more evil to you than to them!” (Bereishit 19:9).

[9] Undoubtedly, the narrative implies that Lot’s favorable actions contribute to his salvation. Nevertheless, the verse explicitly credits Avraham with Lot’s salvation.

[10] This does not contradict the designation of Avraham by God as “father of many nations” (Bereishit 17:5). Avraham’s universal role does not mean integration into the surrounding nations. This is especially true regarding the inhabitants of Canaan, whose sinfulness has sealed their fate (Bereishit 15:16).

[11] The prophet Tzephania (2:9) appears to acknowledge this when he prophesies the destruction of Moav and Ammon: “Therefore I swear, says God, that Moav will be like Sedom and the children of Ammon shall be like Amora: clumps of weeds and patches of salt, and desolation forever.”

[12] Note the description of Am Yisrael living amongst the Canaanites in the first chapter of the book of Shoftim (e.g. 1:27, 29, 30). See especially the formulation in 1:32, which describes Asher dwelling “in the midst of the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land.”

[13] Due to the space constraints of this shiur, I have made do with just a few examples. There are many other intriguing contrasts to the persona and acts of Avraham in the book of Shoftim. Yiftach, for example, seems to consciously model himself after Avraham in his sacrifice of his daughter, a bid that only draws attention to the ironic contrast between them. I maintain that there are numerous intriguing parallels between Gidon and Avraham which intimate the negative manner in which Gidon veers sharply from Avraham’s path (compare, for example, Bereishit 19:32 with Shoftim 6:39). This topic should be properly examined within the context of a shiur on the book of Shoftim.

[14] Rashi explicitly notes that the inhabitants of Sukkot were Jewish; see also Yehoshua 13:27. Penuel seems to be the place named by Yaakov after his encounter with the angel in Bereishit 32:30-31. There is no evidence as to whether its inhabitants were Jewish, except that the events which occur in Penuel are equated with those which occur in Sukkot.

[15] It is interesting that Sukkot and Penuel are Transjordanian cities, located in close proximity to Ammon and Moav.

[16] I have already noted the parallel between the story of the depravity of Sedom (Bereishit 19) and that of the tribe of Binyamin (Shoftim 19) in shiur #2. As mentioned there (in footnote 19), the numerous parallels between these stories have been noted at length by multiple exegetes and scholars and are immediately evident to anyone who encounters these stories.

[17] There are numerous compelling indications that suggest that this story in particular represents the perversion of Avraham in the book of Shoftim. Although it is beyond the scope of this shiur to properly examine them, I will cite one compelling parallel. The dismemberment of the concubine is accomplished using a ma’akhelet, a knife (Shoftim 19:29). This word appears in only one other narrative in the Bible – that of the sacrifice of Yitzchak (Bereishit 22:10). There is little doubt that the parallel is intended to underscore the ironic contrast between the two narratives.

[18] This seems to be the general atmosphere which reigns in Bethlehem as the backdrop of this narrative. In shiur #6, we will see that some midrashim perceive Naomi’s own family in this fashion, despite the lack of explicit textual evidence for this. Some midrashim actually compare Machlon and Khilyon to Sedom and Amora, as well as to Ammon and Moav.

[19] Chazal propose etymological explanations of names in a bid to offer insights into the essence of a person’s character.

[20] See, for example, Yehoshua 7:8.

[21] See, for example, Ruth Zuta 1; Rashi’s commentary on I Shemuel 17:23.

[22] Avraham’s initial suggestion in response to the friction between the shepherds likewise employs this root: “Please separate from me (hipared na me-alai)” (Bereishit 13:9).