“I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done . . .” — Ruth 2:11–12
Every Friday at the Sabbath meal, it is the Jewish tradition for the husband to sing the words from Proverbs 31:10–31 to his wife, praising her as an eishet chayil, a “woman of valor.” It is the highest compliment one can bestow upon a mother, a wife, a daughter. But what constitutes a woman of valor? During this month as we celebrate the women in our lives, enjoy these devotions from the timeless teachings of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein on what it means to be an eishet chayil.
Sometimes, you can tell a lot about people just by watching them interact with others and studying their body language. It’s evident from the Bible account that others knew a lot about Ruth’s character just by watching her.
After arriving in Bethlehem, widowed and with no means of providing for herself and Naomi, her mother-in-law, Ruth went out into the fields to pick up the leftover grain — a practice known as gleaning. This was an Israelite law that provided a way for the poor and needy, like Ruth and Naomi, to feed themselves.
As Ruth was gleaning, the owner of the field, whose name was Boaz, stopped by to check on the harvesters. He noticed Ruth and asked the workers, “Who is that young woman?” The workers replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked this morning if she could gather the grain behind the harvesters, and she’s been hard at work ever since. She’s not stopped except for a few minutes.”
Impressed by this hard worker, Boaz told Ruth that she could glean in his fields as long as she wanted. Then, he invited her to eat with the harvesters. Not only that, but Boaz told his workers not to bother her, but to drop even more grain for her to gather.
Ruth was overwhelmed, and asked Boaz, “Why are you so kind to me? I’m just a foreigner.” And Boaz said, “Yes, I know. But I have heard all about you. I have heard about the kindness and love that you have shown to Naomi since the death of your husband and her son. I have heard that you left your family and have come here to live among strangers.”
How Ruth cared for Naomi was obviously the talk of Bethlehem! Even though she was a stranger among them, the people knew she was kind, loving, and a compassionate woman — just by watching her actions! Her reputation had spread so that when the harvesters told Boaz who was in his fields, he had already heard about her.
Ruth’s life exhibited admirable qualities. She was hardworking, loving, kind, and faithful. She had gained a reputation for these qualities but only because she exhibited them consistently. Wherever she went, Ruth’s character remained unchanged.
What do your actions say about your reputation? Remember, a good reputation is something we earn when we consistently live out those qualities we believe in.