Ruth: An Unambiguous Heroine in a Book Filled with Ambiguity

Surveying a number of ancient and modern interpretations of the book of Ruth, Hayyim Angel notes that the actions of many of its characters exhibit a range of often inconsistent moral attributes. The one character whose actions unambiguously exemplify righteousness is Ruth herself:

Ruth . . . sacrificed heroically to accompany [her former mother-in-law] Naomi to the land of Israel and to accept God. A textual parallel suggests a comparison to Abraham, who also left his homeland to serve God. . . .

In light of this comparison, one might argue that Ruth is portrayed even more favorably than Abraham. God spoke directly to Abraham and promised him reward. By contrast, Ruth came [to Israel] voluntarily and hardly could have expected anything but a lifetime of begging and discrimination in return for her sacrifices. Ruth also declined marriage opportunities with younger Judeans in order to marry Boaz and thus preserve [her deceased husband] Machlon’s ancestral line.

The ambiguity of Ruth’s world is reflected in the many characters and circumstances presented by the text. The extent of God’s intervention in her suffering and salvation is unclear, as are the motivations of the members of the society on whom she depended. Nevertheless, she remained steadfast in her commitment to Naomi, Machlon, and God.

Ruth has the distinction of being the only biblical woman explicitly called by the epithet eshet ḥayil, “woman of valor” [a phrase used to describe the ideal woman in Proverbs]. While Ruth struggled mightily to preserve Machlon’s name, she in fact immortalized her own name, winning the hearts of readers in generation after generation.

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More about: Abraham, Book of Ruth, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Shavuot

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America