Boaz’s Evil Inclination

The book of Ruth describes an especially charged encounter between Boaz and Ruth on the threshing floor (Ruth 3:6-15). The verses, however, narrate this crucial scene, in which the heroine is transformed from a childless refugee to the matriarch of the Israelite royal line, in a laconic and enigmatic fashion, concealing more than they reveal. The Midrash¹, here as elsewhere, uncovers what Scripture hides. The Tannaitic homily unfolds the entire erotic drama that played out that night on the threshing floor, a drama to which the bible only alludes. But, to the readers’ great surprise, in the Midrashic reconstruction, the drama is not between Boaz and Ruth at all, but between Boaz and himself; or, to be more precise, between Boaz and his evil yetzer:

Along these same lines: As the Lord lives! Lie down until morning—because his evil Yetzer sat and importuned him the entire night. It said to him: ‘You are unmarried and you want a woman, and she is unmarried and she wants a man (teaching that a wife is acquired by sexual intercourse). So go and have intercourse with her, and she will be your wife.’ He took an oath against his Evil Yetzer: As the Lord lives!—I shall not touch her; and to the woman he said: Lie down until morning (Sifre Numbers 88).

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Author: Ishay Rosen-Zvi

Keywords: Boaz, Adversary, Angel of darkness, Body of death, Christ tempted, Christ's temptation, Christ's temptation in the wilderness, Deliver us from evil, Devil, Devil and Jesus, Devil tempts Jesus, diabolos, Evil angel, Evil Inclination, Evil nature, Evil one, Good angel, Good nature, Hara Yetser, Ha-ra Yetser, Hara Yetzer, Ha-ra Yetzer, Hara Yezer, Ha-ra Yezer, Intentional misspelling, Intentionally misspelled, Jesus' temptation, Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, Jesus tempted, Jesus tempted by Satan, Jesus tempted by the devil, Jesus tempted in the wilderness, Jesus's temptation, Jot, Jot and tittle, Jots, Man's sinful nature, Mispelled word, Mispelling, Misspelling, Misspelled word, Origin of sin, Personification of evil, Personification, Satan, Satan and Jesus, Satan tempts Christ, Satan tempts Jesus, Seducer, Sexual temptation, Sin, Sin in the flesh, Sin personified, Sin within, Sinful nature, Snatcher, Temptation, Temptation from within, Temptation in the wilderness, Tempted in the wilderness, Tempted of Satan, Tempted of the devil, Tempted sexually, Tempted to do evil, Tempts Christ, Tempts Jesus, The devil tempts Christ, The devil tempts Jesus, The Evil Inclination, The Evil One, Tittle, Two jots, Two yodhs, Two yods, Wicked one, Wilderness temptation, Wretched man, Yatsar, Yetsarim, Yetser ha ra, Yetser ha tov, Yetser ra, Yetser tov, Yetzer, Yetzer ha ra, Yetzer ha tov, Yetzer Hara, Yetzer ra, Yetzer tov, Yezer ha ra, Yezer ha tov, Yezer Hara, Yezer tov, Yod, Yodh

Bible reference(s): Ruth 3:6-14, Romans 7:17-24

Source: “Sexualising the Evil Inclination: Rabbinic ‘Yetzer’ and Modern Scholarship,” Journal of Jewish Studies, v. LX, no. 2, Autumn 2009, pp. 265-266.

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