There are many lessons to be learned from Megilat Ruth. One of these lessons
is apparent in the early verses of the Megilah. We see how important Sedaqah is
and how it can ultimately save one's life.
At the start of the story of Ruth, we are in the time after the passing of Yehoshua
Bin Noun, and at the onset of the "Shofetim" or judges period, where Bnei Yisrael
were sent judges to rebuke them for their immoral ways. There was a constant cycle:
-Bnei Yisrael would not follow the ways of Hashem,
-Bnei Yisrael would become oppressed in some fashion and cry to Hashem
-Hashem would send a Judge to help save the nation
-Peace and tranquility would reign for a short period
It was during this time when a great famine broke out in Israel. In the first verse
we see the word "Vayehi" ("there was") repeated twice:
"Vayehi Bimeh Shefot Ha'Shofetim, Vayehi Ra'av"
"In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine"
This word is stressed twice in the verse to teach us:
-the famine was caused due to the immoral situation of the nation of Israel at the
-the judges were not proper as well, and when judges do not judge with justice,
famine comes to the world (Rashi, Devarim 16:20)
We are then introduced to Elimelech, a rich powerful man, as the verse relates:
"They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah." His household was bountiful with
enough food to support many people. Instead, we see Elimelech leaving Israel to
go to Moab, a nation of stingy people. Elimelech did not want to support people
and give Sedaqah. He hoped to wait in Moab until the famine in Israel subsided.
Let's take a minute to understand the nation that Elimelech chose to live with.
Moab, like Ammon, were stingy. In fact, there is a law that no Moabite or Ammonite
is allowed into the nation of Israel because they did not come forward with bread
and water when Moshe and Bnei Yisrael passed near their lands. Seemingly, Elimelech
chose a nation that symbolized his very cheap, narrow-eyed, action.
"And they went to Moab and lived there."
Initially, Elimelech only wanted to stay in Moab until the famine ended. However,
once there, they grew accustomed to the way of life and decided to stay. As the
translation states on the words "lived there" - "Vahavou Taman Roufailin", that
they stayed and became officers in the Moab royal courts.
What was the punishment of Elimelech?
He died. He died as "Ish Naomi", the husband of Naomi, without any other titles
that he held throughout his lifetime.
His sons died as well - " both Mahlon and Kilion also died". "Also" connotes
that they died due to the same reasons that their father Elimelech died.
We can see the importance of this misvah, in what Elimelech could have been.