The Book of Ruth: An Alternative to the Hobbesian World of Judges

The book of Ruth, traditionally read on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, contains no reference to sin, divine retribution, repentance, or other typical biblical themes. It is, Sarah Rindner writes, “unusually sweet,” its narrative built on acts of human kindness: the title character’s devotion to her former mother-in-law Naomi, Naomi’s devotion to her, and Boaz’s kindness to the two of them. Examining the numerous implicit references to other biblical books in Ruth, Rindner elucidates the message:

Goodness prevails in [Ruth], but not at the cost of totally effacing the tragic qualities that are present in both life and the Bible. . . .

[A]t the start of the book we learn that it takes place “in the days when the judges judged,” a direct allusion to the book of Judges. Judges depicts one offensive or ugly event after another, with increasing intensity, until the book concludes with [a] statement [that has appeared thrice in the preceding chapters] linking this state of affairs to a lack of central political leadership: “in those days there was no king in Israel, every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Although the book of Ruth is set in this historical moment, the lack of centralized political authority does not prevent its characters from displaying responsibility toward one another and fulfilling lofty ethical imperatives.

In the end, the book also invokes [the imminent arrival of biblical] kingship—due to Ruth and Boaz’s virtue they merit to be the progenitors of the Davidic dynasty. It thus represents a counter-narrative to the book of Judges—it presents kingship as a consequence of a chain of goodness, not as a Hobbesian solution to the people’s moral depravity.

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More about: Book of Judges, Book of Ruth, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Shavuot, Thomas Hobbes

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