Rabbi Rodney Richard
No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of G-d; none of their descendants even into the tenth generation shall ever be admitted into the congregation of G-d, forever. Because they did not meet you with food and water when you left Egypt… (Deuteronomy 23:4-5)
לֹא יָבֹא עַמּוֹנִי וּמוֹאָבִי בִּקְהַל ה' גַּם דּוֹר עֲשִׂירִי לֹא יָבֹא לָהֶם בִּקְהַל ה' עַד עוֹלָם. עַל דְּבַר אֲשֶׁר לֹא קִדְּמוּ אֶתְכֶם בַּלֶּחֶם וּבַמַּיִם בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם...
“No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of G-d; none of their descendants even into the tenth generation shall ever be admitted into the congregation of G-d because they did not meet you with food and water when you left Egypt...”1
The book of Ruth, though, is a story about a Moabite woman. Ruth leaves her birth-family in Moav to accompany Naomi, her elderly, bitter and poverty-stricken mother-in-law, back to Bethlehem. No law required her to do this; she does it out of kindness.
The two women, both widows, are dependent on the charity of strangers. Ruth, following biblical law, goes to glean from the wheat fields of Boaz, a wealthy landowner. It turns out that Boaz is a distant relative. Hearing of Ruth’s benevolence towards Naomi, Boaz orders his workers to protect her and keep her safe. He did not have to do that. He, too, does it out of kindness.
The story not only has a happy ending but an astonishing one: “So Boaz married Ruth ... and she bore a son ... They named him Oved; he was the father of Jesse, father of David.”2 This is David — King David — the ancestor of the Messiah!
Moshiach is a descendant of a Moabite woman! This ought to be impossible according to the Torah! We are not supposed to let them come into “the congregation of Hashem”.
Yet, it did happen3 and every year on Shavuot we read Megillat Rut.
The lesson is a clear and obvious one. How great is the reward of those who do deeds of loving kindness!
Let us all commit to more acts of kindness, which will, please G-d, usher in the period of the ultimate redemption, where again the seemingly impossible will become possible.
1. Deuteronomy 23:4-5
2. Ruth 4:13-17
3. The ruling at the time the question was asked was that a woman was allowed to marry in. (See Talmud, Yevamot 76b)