Meet John Doe: Shavuot 2023
by Adam J. Rosenbaum
Pre-Game Chatter: When do you prefer to stay anonymous? Do you meet resistance from others on those occasions?
We read the book of Ruth on the second day of Shavuot, and we learn that before he’s allowed to marry Ruth, Boaz must consult with a family member who has a closer claim to Ruth than he does. But we never officially find out this man’s name:
The Pitch: “Meanwhile, Boaz had gone to the gate and sat down there. And now the redeemer whom Boaz had mentioned passed by. He called, ‘Come over and sit down here, So-and-So!’ And he came over and sat down.” – Ruth 4:1
Swing #1: “Boaz probably addressed him by his real name, Tov; it is Scripture that disguised his name to avoid his embarrassment.” – Rav Alkabetz
Swing #2: “Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥman said: He was mute from matters of Torah. He [So-and-So] said: ‘The first ones died only because they took them, and I will take her? Heaven forbid that I take her, I do not want to taint my children, I do not want to mix dross with my children.’” – Ruth Rabbah
Swing #3: “The author’s anonymization of the man must … be an expression of indirect condemnation of him as a man who refuses to safeguard the good name of the family for posterity.” – Kirsten Nielsen, Ruth
Late-Inning Questions: What do our commentators think of this nameless man? By not revealing the man’s name, are the text’s authors and editors being too judgmental about his character, or are their opinions justified? When is it helpful and when is it hurtful to withhold a person’s name?
On-Deck at TBT: We’re getting close to our Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, a time to hear from leaders and teachers throughout Jewish Buffalo as we celebrate the anniversary of the encounter at Mount Sinai. Join us through the night of Thursday, May 25th-Friday, May 26th, concluding with a sunrise service and breakfast.
The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of withholding names, according to baseballhistorian.com, there’s a great story of Casey Stengel managing the first New York Mets team and almost forgetting one of his starters: “‘We got five or six fellas that’s doing very good. And the best played for Hornsby in Cincinnati, bats left-handed, and hit .300, done very good. Delighted to have him, is married, has seven kids in the station wagon he drives down here from Cincinnati where he lives,’ – on and on went the ‘Old’ Perfessor, remembering everything except Bell’s name. Finally as Stengel rambled on and declared, ‘if he can hit for us like he hit for the Reds, he’d ring the bell … and that’s his name: Gus Bell!’”
Chag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom!