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.

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More about: Book of Ruth, Jewish holidays, Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Shavuot

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror