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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

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy