| Parshah |


Suffering only brings forth salvation if there are seeds of longing to become higher


“And they raised their voices and they cried more, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Rus clung to her.” (Megillas Rus 1:14)

The Midrash asks: Why do we read Megillas Rus on Shavuos? To teach us that Torah is given through suffering and poverty. Chazal call Megillas Rus “A Book of Punishments,” just as they do Sefer Iyov.
Both books deal with tragedy and suffering. Yet there is a prominent difference between the impressions the two books make on those who learn them (Harav Yoseph Zev Lipowitz, Nachlas Yosef).

My Opa was a quiet man. We have a prewar picture of him sitting with his brothers, each with almost identical faces, mustaches, and the same solemn, unsmiling expression. Was it frowned upon to smile for pictures?

Unimposing and slim, with Yekkish neatness and propriety, he didn’t make waves, my Opa. But that same Yekkish personality didn’t allow him to yield on principles either.

In Germany he’d been a successful business owner, but when he disembarked on the West Coast in 1939, he was penniless, with Oma and my father to support. Yet despite his business acumen and the comfortable lifestyle he was used to, he became a peddler, going door-to-door to sell thread, preferring that humble trade rather than run the risk of chillul Shabbos.

And years later, when my uncle was reunited with his parents after the war, Opa didn’t hesitate to send him — and then my father — across the country to yeshivah, despite the pain of a long separation. Torah was his life, and in his quiet way, he was unwavering.

When reading Megillas Rus, although we read about famine, exile, death, and poverty, we end the sefer with salvation. All that suffering was worth it. Ultimately, Rus merited to be the mother of Beis Dovid and Mashiach.
However, although Iyov, too, ultimately saw a turnaround for the good (Iyov 42:12), we don’t see the connection between his suffering and his salvation. It feels like his suffering was for naught and therefore is much harder to make peace with.

Like most of my siblings, I have a child named after Opa. Fascinatingly, these cousins named for him share common personality traits. They’re steadfast bnei Torah, who don’t call attention to themselves, with a strong sense of yashrus and clarity. The mesirus nefesh Opa quietly displayed has rooted those traits deep in his progeny, and they are perpetuating his legacy.

Compare this to a sky filled with frightening, angry storm clouds, which isn’t followed by rain. The clouds are very threatening, but they have no purpose. In contrast, the clouds in the beginning of Megillas Rus eventually rained gishmei brachah — the creation of Malchus Beis Dovid.
How did Rus merit these wonderful peiros — the fruits of this rain? Only through her suffering and poverty. She was part of Naomi’s family for ten years, but wasn’t aroused to join Hashem’s nation. Only after her husband died and she was plunged into a whirlpool of pain did she have this aliyah in her life.
Yet the power of rain can only work if there are seeds in the ground. Suffering only brings forth salvation if there are seeds of longing to become higher.
Reading Megillas Rus on Shavuos is a comfort, teaching us that no matter how much suffering Klal Yisrael must endure, both as a nation and personally, it all will bear fruit that will justify the pain.

This Shavuos, my son who bears this name will be staying in yeshivah all Yom Tov for the first time. (Plus, it’s attached to a Shabbos — a two-day Yom Tov is a novelty for us in Eretz Yisrael!) My husband is struggling with the idea of losing the midnight chavrusa he’s had for years, and I’m feeling slightly lonesome picturing the morning kiddush without his sweet smile, the one he always conjures despite the weariness following a strong all-nighter in shul.

I want to fill his overnight bag with Yom Tov goodies, to stuff the corners with treats and cheesecake and all his childhood favorites. But I control myself. I know that for him, the sweetest thing is this opportunity to be with his chavrusas and taste the limud in a beis medrash full of Torah.

I watch him walk out the door, my heart both longing and full, and I know that his learning will be accompanied with the echo of his Groiss-Papa, joining in harmony as he sheps nachas from Shamayim.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 844)

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