Much Modern Fiction Explores the Dissolution of Families. The Book of Ruth Explores a Family’s Restoration

Both the American novelist Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and the Israeli novelist Meir Shalev’s Two She-Bears feature main characters named Ruth, and employ parallels—in the former case, explicit—to the biblical book of that name, read in many synagogues on the holiday of Shavuot. Examining both novels’ use of biblical motifs, Sarah Rindner contrasts them to a short story by the great Hebrew writer S.Y. Agnon, “In the Prime of Her Life,” which is replete with echoes of the book of Ruth. Rindner writes:

The book of Ruth, a midrash states, was written only “to teach how much reward comes to those who perform deeds of lovingkindness.” In the hardscrabble world in which Marilynne Robinson’s Ruth resides, Christian neighbors can at best offer a bland and conventional kind of assistance. . . . In Two She-Bears, the patriarch of the [protagonist’s] family, Zev Tavori, does not possess the humility of the biblical Boaz. Whereas Boaz essentially effaces himself by enabling a variation of the biblical idea of yibum [Levirate marriage]—the continuation of the family line by the deceased husband’s brother [or, in Boaz’s case, relative]—Tavori turns to murder.

Modern novels often explore the dissolution of families and relationships. The book of Ruth, too, presents an account of familial dissolution, but it is followed by restoration. Agnon’s invocation of the book, notwithstanding his [frequent use of] irony, is a rare example of a modern work that mines the biblical story in its full depth. Ruth’s travails alongside Naomi, their exile, and their exclusion from civilized society are a natural fit for modern novelists like Robinson and Shalev. . . . The inexplicable acts of goodness that drive men and women like Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth are harder to find, in literature and in life.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Book of Ruth, Hebrew literature, Literature, S. Y. Agnon, Shavuot


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria