“Gleanings: Reflections on Ruth” edited by Stuart W. Halpern— Inspired by the Book of Ruth

Halpern, Stuart W. “Gleanings: Reflections on Ruth”, Maggid, 2019.

Inspired by the Book of Ruth

Amos Lassen

At first look, the Book of Ruth seems to be a rather simple story about a family that struggles for survival. However, it is so much more than that. It is a wonderful example of a very ancient Jewish text can inspire, education and bring enlightenment to the reader and this book here is a good place to start. Through readings of Ruth, we gain insights into its themes and now with this volume, we get diverse readings from studies that have taken place. There is even more diversity as we look at the characters based upon one’s through the prisms of their respective academic interests and professional fields. The topics of these essays are wide-ranging both topic wise and stylistically. We have poetry and straight essays that are about social work, the Hebrew Bible, spirituality, immigration, conversion, elder care and so on.

The essays have been written by contemporary scholars, educators, community leaders and people like you and me. Thy give us insights into the story through the lens of their own particular interests. We, in turn see how our perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of our time and on the Book of Ruth can always have something new and vital to say. We see the synthesis of Torah wisdom and general wisdom come together.

The fact that Ruth is so connected to the holiday of Shavuot serves to remind us of the importance of the book and the importance of its celebration. It appears that it all came together because, as we read in Maccabees II, that the Hasmoneans decided to celebrate a delayed holiday on the 25th of Kislev because they had been unable to celebrate Sukkot because of their military struggle against the Seleucid Greeks. This was a celebration of the wanderings of the Jewish people during the Exodus. The story of Ruth is also the story of wandering but from Moab to the Land of Israel. At the end of the wanderings commemorated by the holidays of Sukkot and Shavuot, we find ourselves on the land, our land.

“Gleanings” is divided into five major sections— “Communities of Care”, “Love, Literature, and Interpretation”, “Conversion and Peoplehood”, “Immigration, Law and Identity” and “Biblical, Midrashic and Talmudic Meanings” so there is something for everyone. Taken as a whole, the book is a blessing for those of us who have struggled with the Book of Ruth. Now we can really sit back and take in all of its beauty on a deeper and more intense level.

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