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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.

Read more at Book of Books

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

The Palestinian National Movement Has Reached a Point of Crisis

With Hamas having failed to achieve anything through several weeks of demonstrations and violence, and Mahmoud Abbas reduced to giving rambling anti-Semitic speeches, Palestinian aspirations seem to have hit a brick wall. Elliott Abrams explains:

[Neither] Fatah [nor] Hamas offers Palestinians a practical program for national independence. . . . [The current situation] leaves Palestinians high and dry, with no way forward at all. Whatever the criticism of the “occupation,” Israelis will certainly not abandon the West Bank to chaos or to a possible Hamas takeover. Today the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is simply too dangerous to Israel and to Jordan to be contemplated. . . . There are only two other options. The first is the “one-state solution,” meaning union with Israel; but that is a nonstarter that Israel will reject no matter who is its prime minister. The other option is some kind of eventual link to Jordan.

In polite diplomatic society, and in Palestinian public discourse, such a link cannot be mentioned. But younger people who visit there, Palestinians have explained to me, can see a society that is half-Palestinian and functions as an independent nation with a working system of law and order. Jordanians travel freely, rarely suffer from terrorism, and [can vote in regular] elections, even if power is ultimately concentrated in the royal palace. The kingdom has close relations with all the Sunni states and the West, and is at peace with Israel.

The fundamental question all this raises is what, in 2018, is the nature and objective of Palestinian nationalism. Is the goal sovereignty at all costs, no matter how long it takes and even if it is increasingly divorced from peace, prosperity, and personal freedom? Is “steadfastness” [in refusing to compromise with Israel] the greatest Palestinian virtue now and forever? These questions cannot be debated in either Gaza or the West Bank. But as Israel celebrates 70 years and the “occupation” is now more than a half-century old, how much longer can they be delayed? . . .

The catastrophic mishandling of Palestinian affairs by generations of leaders from Haj Amin al-Husseini (the pro-Nazi mufti of the British Mandate period) to Yasir Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas has been the true Palestinian Nakba.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians