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.

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

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat