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Why Read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot?

On the holiday of Shavuot, which begins this year on May 24, many Jews follow the ancient custom of reading the book of Ruth in the synagogue. The connection between this book and the holiday is not obvious; Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah, while Ruth is the story of a Moabite convert to Judaism who is the ancestress of King David. Micah Goodman argues that the book was chosen to make a point about the connection between the universal and the particular:

Israel is God’s kingdom of priests who live on a higher level of sanctity. But there is nothing in the book of Exodus, [in which the Israelites take on this status and received the Torah], about a universal mission of spreading Torah to the other nations, even though in Genesis God declares that Abraham is to be blessing to all the nations. . . .

Ruth is a foreigner, a daughter of Moab, who is the offspring of an illicit relationship between Lot and his daughter (Genesis 19). Moabites are explicitly excluded from entering God’s community for ten generations. Ruth [thus] has a bad lineage. Yet Ruth will become the model for conversion to Judaism, for the voluntary acceptance of God’s laws, and for joining with God’s people and receiving an inheritance of God’s land. Her lineage will be wiped away, and she will be judged not by her fathers, but by her sons. The genealogy found in the book of Ruth [cataloguing her descendants through David] thus comes at the end of the book, rather than at the beginning as do the genealogies in the biblical stories about Esther and Saul.

Read more at Hartman Institute

More about: Book of Ruth, Jewish holidays, Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Shavuot

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy