This Shabbos is the Yahrzeit of Ruth Villency A”H, my wife’s mother.
Her Hebrew name was “Rochel,” but everyone knew her as “Ruth.” At the end of her long and active life, she was in the hospital for almost two weeks. We literally lived there. (To the credit of North Shore University Hospital, they provided very comfortable accommodations for us.) We spent Shavuos there and ate our meals at the home of a religious doctor, whose family kindly opened their home.
My mother in law’s neshoma left her on Shabbos Night, at the exact moment that my wife and I had finished bentching. We were eating in her hospital room. She was not conscious, but maybe she was more conscious than we were, for she was at the threshold of the World of Truth. We sang zemiros and said divrai Torah. Then we bentched out loud, and at that moment her neshoma entered Shomayim.
Why am I telling this story?
Because, like Rus in the Megillah which we just completed, my mother in law was a heroic woman. I will tell you from my heart that I look forward to Megilas Rus more than any other sefer in Tanach. To me, it is an emotional experience to hear the words of the Great Novi Shmuel ring out across the millennia. I hear the drumbeat of Moshiach.
Where we live in Yerushalayim, I have a minhag. Each day, after Shacharis, I walk across the street and into a neighboring (public) courtyard from which I have a perfect view of the Kever of Shmuel ha Novi, which overlooks all of Yerushalayim from the northern border. Each day, I say “Good Morning” to the great prophet and I ask Hashem to send Shmuel ha Novi’s spiritual descendant, who will anoint Moshiach ben Dovid just as Shmuel ha Novi anointed Dovid thousands of years ago.
Hashem sent Shmuel to Bais Lechem to anoint the future king. The prophet himself did not know who the King was except that he was a son of Yishai ben Oved ben Boaz. Yishai himself did not know which son was the future king. No one believed that it could be Dovid, because Dovid (unlike his brothers) was short and red-headed and many people felt there was a terrible taint on him, so that even his own father doubted him.
No one suffered like Dovid. “No shepherd of Israel lived through a life of such unrelieved vilification, challenge and travail as King David.” (Rabbi Nosson Scherman, Perspectives on Kesuvim)
“Who was Dovid? He was the mightiest of kings, the most pious of the pious, wisest among the wise, humble among the modest and the most glorious of poets who sang praise before G-d. Notwithstanding all this, no one suffered as much anguish in his life as David. From birth he suffered anguish and affliction, which did not leave him until his very last day when his son Shlomo succeeded him. It was only then that the world came to recognize his greatness and his enemies were finally silenced.” (Rabbi Eliahu Kitov, Book of Our Heritage)
My mother in law, for the last two years of her life, spent almost every Shabbos at our home. She became shomer Shabbos at the age of ninety! She had lived her entire life up to that point in a secular world with secular friends. What enabled her to make the mighty decision to change? From where did she gain the courage?
No one was pushing her, but she saw in our home the beauty of Torah. Of her own volition, she overcame the forces of habit and peer pressure and took shelter under the wings of the Torah. This was no easy thing to do. It takes tremendous courage. Your old friends can deride you. They can make fun of you.
This actually happened to us some fifty years ago when we decided to leave our upstate community and become observant. You can begin to doubt yourself. The yetzer ha ra will tell you, “You are a fool!”
A friend told me how old friends had once given her an ultimatum: either give them up or give up Shabbos! Can you imagine! She chose to give up her friends and come under the protection of the One Friend Who never deserts us! As a result, she and her husband have raised a magnificent family of Shomer Shabboschildren and grandchildren.
My mother in law chose Shabbos and Shabbos chose her. She left this world on Shabbos at the moment in bentching where it says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem. Then Hashem will be his security…. I was a youth and also have aged, and I have not seen a righteous man forsaken…. Hashem will give might to His people. Hashem will bless His people with peace.”
As we say “farewell” to the mighty Yom Tov of Shavuos let us remember the legacy of Rus ha Moavia, who taught us – down to this very moment – that we can all choose life!
“Oved was the father of Yishai, and Yishai was the father of Dovid,” (Rus 4:22) and Dovid is the father of Moshiach, may we greet him soon in our days!
A”H: The equivalent of “may she rest in peace”
Bentch: To say the blessing after a meal
Moavia: Rus was from the nation of Moab
Shacharis: Morning prayers
Shmuel ha Novi: The Prophet Samuel
Tanach: The Written Torah
Yahrzeit: Anniversary of a person’s death in the Jewish calendar
Zemiros: Songs sung at the Shabbos table