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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Read more at Jewish Ideas and Ideals

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

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy