Monday, September 12, 2011

Abarbanel on Boaz and Ruth's "yibbum"

Summary: On parashat Ki Teitzei, Abarbanel had asked about the nature of the apparent yibbum of Yehuda and Tamar, and the apparent one of Boaz and Rus. There are things which seem 'off' about the yibbum as it occurs in sefer Rus, as he explained in the question. Here, he gives his answer.

Post: Read the summary. Read the questions here. Read his answer to Yehuda and Tamar here. And now, here is Abarbanel's answer to doubt 20:

"And indeed, the matter of Boaz and Ruth the Moabite, people have already believed that it was yibbum and that the removal of the naal which was there was the chalitza which the Torah commands. So much so that from there they learned that the firstborn son who the yevama births shall not be called {literally} by the name of the deceased, just as the son Rut gave birth to was not called Machlon, but rather Oved.

But this in truth is a deficient position, and is in error. For Machlon, just as I mentioned in the 'doubts', was not the brother of Boaz, such that he would be obligated to perform yibbum upon his wife. And although Boaz said to the elders who were by the gate, 'the parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's...Naomi is selling, who has returned from the field of Moav', he only called him this to mean that he was of his family, not that he was strictly his brother. And the verse said explicitly, 'And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of valour, of the family of Elimelech, and his name was Boaz.' And she as well said  'The man is nigh of kin unto us, one of our near kinsmen.' Not that he was a brother to Elimelech, and all the more so, not to Machlon. And even if he was {the brother} of Elimelech, as he said {ach} he should not perform yibbum upon Rut, the wife of Machlon the son of Elimelech!

And the removal of the naal is not the chalitza mentioned by the Torah. For behold, Ruth did not come before the elders at the gate to remove the shoe from the leg of the redeemer or the yavam, and the obligation was upon her to say 'he does not wish the perform levirate marriage upon me', and to spit before him, and to say, 'so shall be done to the man, etc.' And these acts are not mentioned at all in the incident of Boaz.

She as well, according to the true tradition, when there are two brothers to the deceased, if the bechor of them does not wish to perform yibbum, the younger is not able to perform yibbum. And therefore, if the redeemer mentioed by Boaz was a redeemer closer, according to the law, Boaz would not be able to perform yibbum, for he was not as close. And all this is what informs that the matter of Boaz was not yibbum from any aspect. Rather, because the Torah commanded by inheritance that when a man sells his ancestral land, then his closest relative comes and redeems, therefore there were found

by the parcel of land which was to Elimelech redeemers -- Boaz and the other, closer redeemer. And their purpose was to purchase that inheritance, and to redeem it. And this is what Boaz said to the closer relative, 'Naomi, that is come back out of the field of Moab, selleth the parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's. and I thought to disclose it unto thee, saying: Buy it before them that sit here, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it; but if it will not be redeemed, then tell me, that I may know; for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee.'

And look closely, for for the redemption and the words, all of them are in the matter of the inheritance. The redeemer immediately responded at first, 'I will redeem it.' For he wanted to redeem the field and to acquire it.

And when Boaz saw his answer, he said to him further, 'What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi--hast thou also bought of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance?' That is to say, when you acquire the field, it is also fitting that you acquire with it the wife of the deceased, for she as well is selling the inheritance, and she as well has a potion in it. And she should not sell it except to one who takes her as a wife. For these two things are joined, the woman and the field. Therefore, in the second speech which Boaz mentions, he mentions Ruth the Moabite in the selling of the field, something that he did not mention at first, for he had only said 'Naomi is selling'.

And then, the redeemer retracted to say I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance; take thou my right of redemption on thee; for I cannot redeem it.' That is to say, since the field will not be redeemed unless I take the woman, I do not desire that field, lest I mar my inheritance, which is the first wife that he had. Or he is saying, lest I mar my inheritance for I cannot work that field if I do not leave as desolate the other portion {nachala} that he had.  And then the meaning would be that he did not wish to take the woman, and he {falsely} attributed the reason to the field.

And then, Boaz said that he would redeem the field and take the woman. And he said {pasuk 10}, 'to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place; ye are witnesses this day.'

If it was {?} as Rashi explained it there, that when Ruth comes to the field, they will say 'this is the wife of Machlon', and if this is because there is sustained with the woman and the field the name of the deceased, as is explained after this in the concerns of yibbum.

And indeed, they said {pasuk 7}, 'Now this was the custom in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning exchanging, to confirm all things: a man drew off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour; and this was the attestation in Israel.' This is not the topic of chalitza, but this was the law from early days on a matter of acquisition and trade, to establish any matter in a manner that one could not retract from it further, he would remove the naal and give it to the seller, and it as if that seller acquired that naal and in giving it over, he acquired that thing via acquisition and trading, and all rights which the seller had to it.

And this was evidence on the establishment of the acquisition and trade. And behold, if so, Ploni Almoni withdrew his naal and gave it to Boaz, as he granted him his rights in this redemption. And Boaz took it, and with it acquired that which he acquired. And then, he said to the elders, {pasuk 9} 'Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought...' and the elders and all the people at the gate answered him, 'The LORD make the woman that is come into thy house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel; and do thou worthily in Ephrath, and be famous in Beth-lehem; and let thy house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.''

That is to say to Boaz, do not think that these was duplicity and lewdness in that which that woman did, who came to your house and revealed your legs, and that the requested and petitioned with her mouth, 'and spread out the corner of your garment over your maidservant', for you are a redeemer. For greater 'pritzus' than these, if it were fit to call it that, did Rachel, Leah, and Tamar do. With Rachel, when she said to Yaakov 'give me children, and if not, I will die'. And with Leah, that she said 'Come to me, for I have hired you, etc.' For behold, both of them, with this, went out from the ways of tznius in order to establish seed from the tzaddik. And all the more so Tamar, who gave birth, for Yehuda her father-in-law, in the maner of an adulterous woman, so much that he thought her to be a prostitute! And will all this, their intent was desirable, and their actions were for the sake of heaven, and their righteousness will last forever, and both of them build the house of Israel.

And so shall this woman be, though the of her own accord came to your house to request that you take her as a wife. But, may it be the will from before Hashem Yisbarach that it should not happen to you as happened to Yaakov with his wives, that he left from that land to go to the land of Canaan. But you should not do this, but rather do thou worthily in Ephrath, and be famous in Beth-lehem, and not leave from here.

Behold, the matter of the redemption stated by Boaz is explained, that it is not a matter of yibbum. And so does Rashi says regarding the גאולה, that it is the sale, and תמורה, that it is the chalipin; שלף איש נעלו is the acquisition. And just as they acquire with a sudar {handkerchief} in place of a naal.

And Ibn Ezra as well, in his commentary on the Megilah, wrote that Boaz removed his naal and gave it to Ploni {the reverse of what was suggested above}.  And the reason that he gave him the naal was in trade for his rights that he had to redeem, and he received the naal and gave him rights via chalipin. And that which I {=Abrabanel} wrote is more correct.

And he wrote as well that the reason of the naal is that it is always present {to be utilized}. And it is not possible to remove the overgarment, undergarment, and the pants, so that he does not be left naked.

And it is appropriate that you know that שליפה for a naal is like the חליצה. But it is, in our holy tongue, that in the matter of naals comes three terms.

The first is like that (in parashat Shemot) {Hashem to Moshe Rabbenu}, של your naal from upon your foot.

The second is שלף, such as {by sefer Ruth} שלף the man his naal.

And the third is חליצה, as in וחלצה his naal.

And after seeking out the truth, all three of them are interchanged based on their aspects. {?} Since in the land of Egypt, as well as in all the land of Yishmael, the people are accustomed to carry upon their feet a מנעל of hard leather. Just as the scholar Ibn Caspi wrote in his Sefer HaSod. And those shoes were not tied to anything, and therefore when one wished to abandom the מנעל, he would shake the foot and the naal would fall of its own accord. And on things like this is stated the language of של, which is from the pattern of (Ruth 2:16) שֹׁל-תָּשֹׁלּוּ, which has a meaning of abandoning of its own accord.

And there are other shoes which are not as hard and wide, but they attach more to the feet, and it is of their way that one removes that מנעל with one's hands, rather than it falling of its own accord. And upon this was stated a language of שליפה, as in 'the one man would שלף his naal', that he would remove it with his hands, just like the שליפה {drawing out of a sheath} of a sword, which is done by the hand of man.

But if the shoe is even softer and thinner, it is toes and more connected to the foot, and this is with straps, and when one removes {שלף} it, one needs to untie the knots and release the shoe with the hands. This is called חליצה, from the meaning of (parashat Metzora) {14:40}, וחלצו את האבנים. {And they shall remove the stones which have the affliction...} And so is the naal of the yavam, with straps and tied, that the woman should untie it with her hands.

This is all from what it informs, that the matter of Boaz was not חליצה but rather שליפה, and not יבום but rather גאולה {of the field}, as the verses prove. And in this way, the 20th doubt is resolved."

My own thoughts, perhaps, in a separate post.

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