RUTH RABBAH (Heb. רוּת רַבָּה), aggadic Midrash on the Book of *Ruth, the product of Palestinian amoraim.
The editio princeps was called Midrash Ruth, the title Ruth Rabbah being derived from later editions (from that published in Venice, 1545, and onward) in which the work was printed together with Midrashim on the other Scrolls (Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther) and with five on the Pentateuch, the whole commencing with Genesis *Rabbah. Hence, the general designation of Rabbah applied to all these Midrashim (see *Midrash).
Ruth Rabbah is an exegetical Midrash which expounds the Book of Ruth chapter by chapter, verse by verse, and, sometimes, word by word. It is a compilation, made by the redactor, of various expositions. In the printed versions, the Midrash is divided into eight sections with introductory poems. Actually there are only four sections, each introduced by a poem or poems, the division being as follows:
(a) from the beginning of the proems to the end of section 3;
(b) sections 4–5;
(c) sections 5–7;
(d) section 8.
The work has apparently a total of ten proems, these being of the classical type found in amoraic Midrashim, in that they commence with an extraneous verse, taken usually from the Hagiographa, which is expounded and then connected with the one treated at the beginning of the section. While some of the proems are anonymous, others are stated in the name of a sage. The first original section concludes with an assurance and consolation (in the printed versions, at the end of section 3).
Ruth Rabbah is written mainly in mishnaic Hebrew, and, to a certain extent (particularly the narrative parts), in Galilean *Aramaic, like the Jerusalem Talmud. It also contains many Greek words.
The redaction drew upon tannaitic literature, the Jerusalem Talmud, Genesis Rabbah, Leviticus *Rabbah, Lamentations *Rabbah, and Pesikta de-Rav *Kahana. Zunz's assertion that the Babylonian Talmud was used as well has been disproved by *Albeck. The sages mentioned in the Midrash flourished not later than the end of the fourth century c.e. It seems, therefore, that the work was redacted in Ereẓ Israel and belongs to the early amoraic aggadic Midrashim. Since, however, it drew on Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, it is difficult to assign the compilation of Ruth Rabbah to a date prior to the sixth century c.e.
Ruth Rabbah, first published at Pesaro in 1519 together with the four Midrashim on the other Scrolls (to which it bears no relation), has often been reprinted on the basis of this editio princeps. The printed versions are quite defective.
Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 128, 130; H.L. Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (1931), 220; D. Hartmann, Das Buch Ruth in der Midrasch-Litteratur (1901).
[Moshe David Herr]