IN no instance is it permitted to hear the evidence of a witness in the absence of the litigants.--Mid. Ruth 1.
'The words of God were scarce,' etc. (1 Saml. 2.). That generation was known as a generation of hypocrites: they pretended to adhere to the religion of their fathers, but worshipped idols in secret, and the Holy Spirit did not rest upon them.--Ruth Rabba.
Woe to the generation whose judges need judging. Learning can suffer no greater blow than when those who possess knowledge of the Torah and learning in general disregard the teaching which the Torah imparts. Take, for example, one who eloquently enlarges on the words, 'Thou shalt not wrest judgment, thou shalt not respect persons nor accept a bribe' (Deut. 16.), or 'You shall not afflict a widow or a fatherless child' (Exod. 22.), and yet is known to disregard any or all of these grand teachings. Can one imagine a greater blow to the Torah? To such men may well be applied the words of the prophet Hosea, 'Their mother hath become a harlot'--the Torah, which is a mother to its possessors.--Mid. Ruth 1.
The following are the proper appellations for a corrupt judge:--Unrighteous, Perverter, Abomination, and Banned.--Mid. Ruth 1.
There were two obscure prophets whose prophecy was not made known, as only prophecy which was of any utility at the time or in the immediate future was published or recorded; but the prophecy of the prophets mentioned will be made known at a future time.--Mid. Ruth 2.
Moses, who always stood in the breach, has been compared to a shepherd who, when bringing home his flock for the night, finds the fence around their resting-place fallen in and has only time to put it up again on three sides, leaving on one side easy access to the wolf. This good shepherd placed himself on the open side, for the protection of his flock from the wolf and the lion.--Mid. Ruth 2.
Death is every one's portion, but it is not given to every man to leave a good reputation behind him. No one feels the death of a man like his wife, or of a woman like her husband.--Mid. Ruth 2.
A great and good man sheds lustre on the place in which he happens to live.--Mid. Ruth 2.
A would-be convert to Judaism should not at once be admitted into the fold, but should be mildly dissuaded from the step he intends taking. If he persists, and is steadfast in his desire, he is to be admitted.--Mid. Ruth 2.
What Boaz meant by telling Ruth 'Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field' (Ruth 2. 8) was to caution her against tainting her religion with the beliefs of any other. Having now become a Jewess she was to bear in mind the command which the Israelites heard and promised to keep, 'Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me.'--Mid. Ruth 2.
Ten priests and prophets descended from Rahab, upon whom rested the Holy Spirit, because she sent the spies away for three days, knowing that they would be safe after that. The following are the priests and prophets: Jeremiah, Hilkiah, Sariah, Machsia, Hanomel, Salom, Baruch, Neriah, Ezekiel and Booza.--Mid. Ruth 2.
In this life it may be given to an obscure individual to become famous, or to a distinguished man to sink into obscurity; but there are no such changes in the life to come; as you enter it so you remain; the great cannot become small, nor the small great. The grandson
of Rabbi Joshua was once in a trance for three days. When he awoke his father asked him where he had been and what he had seen. He said he had been in a world of great confusion, where he saw a large number of men, some of whom he recognized as coming from this world. Here they had held most dignified and honoured positions, but there he found them amongst the most despised and contemptible. When Rabbi Jochanan and Resh Lakish called to inquire how the sick lad was progressing, the father related to them what his son said he had seen. Resh Lakish, noticing some incredulity on the part of the father, said, 'Surely we have Scripture warrant for the lad's vision: "Thus said the Lord God, remove the diadem and take off the crown, this shall not be the same; exalt him that is low and abase him that is high"' (Ezkl. 21. 26). Rabbi Jochanan fully endorsed the view of his friend, and was pleased with the Scripture quotation.--Mid. Ruth 3.
In this life misdeeds may be redeemed, and a good life may at the eleventh hour be rendered worthless by backslidings in old age; but in the world to come there is finality, there is no retracting and no improving. There are some who associate here with those who lead a life of vice, and when they all come before the tribunal of God, one is put amongst the righteous and another is given a place amongst the ungodly. On beholding this he is inclined to think there is partiality in God's judgment; for did not his friend, who is now in the company of the good, follow together with him the narrow track and did they not alike indulge their vicious inclinations? Let such a man understand and know that his associate in vice and wickedness at last repented and made every effort to redeem his past. Then he will say, 'So will I do now to get myself out of this bad company.' Then let him also understand that the world which he has now entered is like the sea, and the one whence he came like the dry land. He who goes to sea must fit himself out
for the voyage whilst on land; for what he omits to take with him he will be unable to supply himself with at sea.--Mid. Ruth 3.
Said Hadrian to one of the Rabbis, 'I am better than Moses, your teacher, because I am alive and he is dead; and you are aware that your King Solomon said, A living dog is better than a dead lion.' 'Could you prohibit anything, say the kindling of light or fire for only three days?' asked the Rabbi. 'Certainly,' replied Hadrian. In the evening Hadrian and Rabbi Joshua went up to the top of the house to sit down in the cool of the night, when the latter, observing smoke coming out of one of the chimneys of a house, asked his friend how it was that his prohibition was disregarded. Hadrian replied that in the house whence the smoke came there lived a man of distinction, who being unwell probably found it desirable to have a fire lit in his house. 'And yet,' retorted the Rabbi, 'You consider yourself superior to Moses, although whilst you are living your law--which would only entail inconvenience for a day or so--is at once set at nought; whereas the law of Moses, who said we must not kindle a fire on the Sabbath day,--which means fifty-two days in each year--is strictly observed by rich and poor though he is dead.'--Mid. Ruth 3.
'Lord, make me to know mine end,' prayed David (Ps. 39.), i.e. 'Tell me exactly when I shall die.' 'That,' said God, 'is a thing hidden from all men.' 'Then may I know,' persisted David, 'the measure of my days what it is.' To which he received the answer: 'Threescore and ten years.' He was further told that he would die on a Sabbath day. David, who had an objection to being kept above ground longer than was absolutely necessary, asked again that he might die on a Friday, so that he could come to his resting-place on the day of his death, which would be impossible were he to die on the Sabbath day. This wish of his to die a day earlier was not
granted; and the reason given was that, as he was the sweet singer of Israel, God would prefer the hymns and prayers offered by him to the thousand burnt offerings which his son and successor would offer.--Mid. Ruth 3-
The earth has wings (Isa. 24.), the sun has wings (Mal. 3.), the cherubim have wings (1 Kings 8.), and the seraphim have wings (Isa. 6.); but the righteous and those who are compassionate and merciful are sheltered under none of these wings, but under the wings of the Most High God.--Mid. Ruth 5.
It is a great and good thing for a man to have the blessings of a good man.--Mid. Ruth 6.
One of the characteristics of the righteous is that their aye is aye, and their nay is nay.--Mid. Ruth 7.
Do not sit down in the presence of one who is greater than you unless he invites you to do so.--Mid. Ruth 7.
Whilst expounding in the college of Tiberias on some texts of Holy Writ, Rabbi Meier was informed that his former great master, Elisha b. Abuya, was riding on horseback notwithstanding that it was the Sabbath day. Rabbi Meier went out to see his master, and was asked by the latter upon what text he was preaching. R. Meier told him, on the words 'The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning' (Job 42.). He was further questioned as to what interpretation he put on the text, and replied that the meaning was that Job was richer than he formerly was. Elisha criticised his pupil's version, and said it was not the one that Rabbi Akiba taught. He had maintained that Job's blessings consisted in his having repented of the reflections on God's judgment which he had expressed in former days. Having thus broken the ice, Rabbi Meier, after further discussions of other Scriptural texts, ventured to suggest to his great teacher the necessity of repentance, of imitating Job, and bringing down upon himself the blessings of Job's latter days. 'For me,' observed Elisha, 'there is no hope; I am beyond the possibility of receiving
pardon for my misdeeds.' In further conversation he mentioned, amongst other things, the anomalies he had observed in the course of his life, that those who live in defiance of God's laws enjoy their lives and perfect immunity from punishment, whilst on the contrary those who scrupulously carry them out bring about their own destruction. 'Thus, for instance,' he continued, 'I have seen a man commit the double sin of climbing up a tree on the Sabbath day and robbing a nest of the dam and her young, and climbing down, without any mishap to himself; whilst on another occasion I saw--not on a Sabbath day--a man who found a birds' nest, and scrupulously observed the Scriptural injunction, and sent the dam away and took the young ones; but no sooner had he climbed down than he was bitten by a snake, and thus perished in the very act for which God promised long life. I therefore denounced all belief in futurity or in reward and punishment. Moreover,' he went on, 'one Sabbath day, when it was also the Day of Atonement, I rode on horseback past a synagogue, and I distinctly heard an echo exclaiming: "The words of the prophet Malachi. Return unto Me and I will return unto you" apply to every one except to Elisha ben Abuya, who rebelled against God, and not for lack of better knowledge.'
Some time after this Rabbi Meier visited his old master, who was lying on a bed of sickness. Said Elisha to his pupil, 'To what extent can a man indulge in sin and still hope to be received by God if he repents?' Rabbi Meier quoted the words of the Psalmist: 'Thou turnest man back to dust, and sayest, Return ye children of men'; when he observed his old master shed tears. When Elisha, not long after this, died, the good man rejoiced, saying that he had reason to hope that his old master repented before his death. In the course of instructing his pupils, R. Meier was asked by some of them, 'If you were to pray for one's salvation, for whom would you pray
first?' He answered, 'For my father, and then for my teacher.' When they expressed their surprise he explained to them that in the event of danger to the Torah, i.e. of the scroll being burned, the scroll is to be rescued together with the ark in which it is encased. Thus he was sure that Elisha--in whom was the Torah--would be saved for the sake of the Torah that was within him. When after the death of Elisha his daughters required pecuniary assistance, they applied to Rabbi Judah Hanasi. His first impulse was to decline their request, thinking of the words of the Psalmist, 'Let there be none to extend mercy unto him, neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children' (Ps. 109.). The daughters, noticing R. Judah's hesitation to help them, anticipated him by saying, 'We cannot plead our father's piety, but only his great learning.' In the course of conversation the Rabbi detected great godliness in Elisha's daughters, and had provision made for them. He added, 'If this is the offspring of one who acquired the knowledge of the Torah without at the same time being blessed with the spirit of piety, how much better must it be in the case of one who makes the study of the Torah his life's aim for the sake of his Heavenly Father.'--Mid. Ruth 7