Boaz as an “Ish Gibor Chayil”

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Boaz as an “Ish Gibor Chayil”

In Megillat Ruth, Boaz, a wealthy prince and field owner, is the unsung hero. Right off the bat, he is a man of moral strength and honor. When he and Ruth are first introduced, she has just been expelled from countless other fields, waited for hours upon hours, been harassed by his own hostile farmhands and servants, and failed to obtain food for herself and Naomi. Ruth is just about to leave Boaz’s field and try her luck elsewhere when she happens upon him, and he instantly begins to calm her down, welcoming her into his field and offering her food and shelter. No one in Bethlehem has been so kind to Ruth. But Boaz is different. He is generous beyond words and, more importantly, he sees Ruth. Everyone else has neglected her, but he takes her in.

This artwork features a shield that represents Boaz’s virtuous character. In the shield, I have pasted a snippet of the persuasive speech in which Boaz declares his admiration for Ruth, as well as four words—strength, morality, wealth, and fertility—that are essential to Boaz’s role in the story. I have painted the exterior of the shield red because the color denotes blood and is, therefore, associated with mankind in Ketuvim. This is relevant because Boaz and Ruth will soon redeem the Jewish people and beget the Davidic Dynasty. Surrounding the shield is the phrase ish gibor chayil, meaning a “man of substance,” a strong, mightful, wise, and industrious man. These are all characteristics that are attributed to Boaz throughout the book and anticipate his ultimate role as the progenitor of David.

Boaz is also incredibly humble, tracing his own virtuous character to Ruth; her willingness to accompany Naomi, abandon her home, and join the Jewish people; and her undeviating bravery and morality. Thus, the sword in the drawing symbolizes Ruth’s character and refers to her both as Boaz’s counterpart and as an eshet chayil, a “woman of substance.” Inside the blade of the sword, I have written an earlier part of Boaz’s speech praising Ruth, accompanied by his blessing for her. I have painted the sword blue to denote God’s involvement in convening Ruth and Boaz since the color blue indicates divinity. Together, the couple is capable of not merely saving Naomi and her family line but resolving the disorder of the period of the Judges.

ARTIST’S STATEMENT: An Artistic Exploration of Megillat Ruth is a collection of art pieces centered around key moments in Megillat Ruth. I created these in response to prompts that were part of a Judaic Studies unit on the Book of Ruth, and, as you can see, decided to take a more artistic route with my submissions. There are statements associated with each individual artwork, but overall, this project meant a lot to me because it illustrates a book that I think has been greatly misunderstood. On the surface, Megillat Ruth seems quite uneventful, but if we look closer and deeper, as you will through the art pieces, the complexity of the narrative and its characters shines through.

Sarah Gorbatov is a member of the class of 2022 at The Idea School in Tenafly, New Jersety. She is the editor-in-chief of her school publication, The Ideals, and a staff writer for the Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens. When Sarah is not writing, she is mixing potions and conducting scientific research, whether for her biodegradable fashion line or her work at Columbia University's Mitochondrial Psychobiology Lab. She is passionate about STEM, journalism, and education and is a sucker for arts and crafts.