Reading Ruth; Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story

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Overview

"The Book of Ruth is one of Western civilization's great narratives of women's relationships. This collection of modern-day interpretations brings together the wisdom, sensitivity, and spirituality of the biblical story with the struggles and insights of contemporary women. Readers will be moved and inspired by these essays."
--Susannah Heschel
Editor of On Being a Jewish Feminist
With Reading Ruth, two creative scholars have brought together an amazingly eclectic group of ...
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Overview

"The Book of Ruth is one of Western civilization's great narratives of women's relationships. This collection of modern-day interpretations brings together the wisdom, sensitivity, and spirituality of the biblical story with the struggles and insights of contemporary women. Readers will be moved and inspired by these essays."
--Susannah Heschel
Editor of On Being a Jewish Feminist
With Reading Ruth, two creative scholars have brought together an amazingly eclectic group of Jewish novelists, essayists, poets, rabbis, psychologists, and scholars--including Cynthia Ozick, Marge Piercy, Francine Klagsbrun, and Nessa Rapoport--to explore one of the most beloved stories in the Bible. In lively essays, poetry, fiction, and personal narrative, the gamut of women's experience in the modern world is illuminated by this ancient story. Whether the essayists explore relationships between sisters, the complex bond between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, the place of the "other" in society, the heartache of loss, the limitations of loyalty, or the elaborate connections of family, they give voice to an exciting array of thought and interpretation that endows this sacred tale with new life.
"[A] rich, diverse, and thought-provoking collection."
--Judith Plaskow
Author of Standing Again at Sinai

"Filled with passion, humor, insight, and just the right combination of irreverence and awe, Reading Ruth puts the Book of Ruth right where it belongs--in the hands of women. All of us are the richer for it."
--Ari L. Goldman
Author of The Search for God at Harvard
"The book of Ruth is a gem in its own right. Through Reading Ruth the gem becomes a multifaceted diamond that reflects and refracts a multiplicity of images....Read this book."
--The Rocky Mountain News

In the tradition of Out of the Garden Kates and Reimer have brought together an amazingly eclectic group of Jewish novelists, essayists, poets, rabbis, psychologists, and scholars--including Cynthia Ozick, Marge Piercy, and Nessa Rapoport--to explore the most beloved stories in the Bible.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The subtle mixing of voices to create a cohesive whole is accomplished with some success in this work. Academics Kates and Reimer have brought together the voices of female Jewish writers, rabbis, teachers, wives, and mothers such as Cynthia Ozick, Merle Field, and Nessa Rapoport to offer insight into the biblical tale of Ruth the Moabite as daughter-in-law, childless widow, stranger, and loyal friend. The essays that work best are those that steer clear of what one writer calls "imaginative reconstruction." The dynamism of Ruth is found when it answers Field's challenge: "What happens when people, when women, stand at a crossroads? How do you find your true path in this world?" The new ground this book plows lies in the reclamation by Jewish women of this ancient, female-centered drama. Footnoted with abundant Hebrew and English translations; recommended where greater depth is needed in feminist religious writing.-Sandra Collins, SLIS, Univ. of Pittsburgh
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345380326
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/1996
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 386
  • Sales rank: 1,101,993
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

A Note about the Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
The Book of Ruth 3
Verse by Verse: A Modern Commentary 14
1 "But Ruth Clung to Her" 29
Ruth, Naomi, and Orpah: A Parable of Friendship 33
Friendship 44
Feminine Plurals 55
The Concealed Alternative 65
2 "For Wherever You Go, I Will Go" 83
The Redeeming of Ruth 87
Finding Our Past: A Lesbian Interpretation of the Book of Ruth 91
Her Mother's House 97
3 "I Went Away Full, and the Lord Has Brought Me Back Empty" 107
Language as Female Empowerment in Ruth 111
The Journey Toward Life 125
Fullness and Emptiness, Fertility and Loss: Meditations on Naomi's Tale in the Book of Ruth 131
Growing Up and Older with Ruth 145
Poetic Movements 157
The Book of Ruth and Naomi 159
Ruth's Journey 161
At the Crossroads 166
4 "Your Latest Act of Chesed" 183
Women at the Center: Ruth and Shavuot 187
Circles of Kinship: Samuel's Family Romance 199
Ruth 211
Poetic Movements 233
Words Not Said: Four Poems after the Book of Ruth 235
Awakening Ruth 241
Isa 242
5 "Like Rachel and Leah, Both of whom Built Up the House of Israel" 251
Ruth and the Continuity of Israel 255
Ruth and Naomi, Rachel and Leah: Sisters under the Skin 261
Soldiers in an Army of Mothers: Reflections on Naomi and the Heroic Biblical Woman 273
6 "A Son Is Born to Naomi" 285
Reading Ruth: Where Are the Women? 289
Ruth: Dilemmas of Loyalty and Connection 298
Reading Ruth with Naomi 309
7 "Ruth the Moabite ... Begot David" 317
Ruth and the Messiah 321
Ruth Reconsidered 336
Dialogue on Devotion 347
Notes 369
Contributors' Biographies 380
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2002

    A Stellar Anthology of Views

    No book of the Jewish Bible so clearly calls for a women's commentary than the Book of Ruth. Not only are the two central characters both women, but their relationship is the engine which drives the plot and is what accounts for much of our affection for the book. Reading Ruth, edited by Judith Kates and Gail Twersky Reimer is so successful that no one wanting modern views of this book can ignore it. It begins with the Hebrew text of Ruth, plus the JPS translation, followed by a commentary on selected verses by Ruth Sohn, which sometimes focuses on midrash or spiritual implications of the verse Next is the heart of the book, 7 sections, each anchored to a single verse. Some are familiar ('For whereever you will go, I will go ¿.') And others puzzling ('A son is born to Naomi' --- when the son was actually born to Ruth). For each, there are 2-4 essays that deal, in some way, with that verse. These vary widely; there is no set of controlling parameters for this book. Aviva Zornberg is quite traditional, delving into midrash in a wide ranging attempt to fundamentally characterize the actions of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Rebecca Albert is utterly radical, presenting lesbian readings on the relationship of Ruth and Naomi and uses of the story ('less plausible midrashim have been accepted throughout the ages' she notes). Vanessa Ochs expresses her disappointment that Ruth seems to be almost erased: 'Is this the Book of Ruth or is it the Book of Naomi?' Looking at the end, she decides it's neither --- the genealogy seems to obliterate all the women. Nehama Aschkenasy has a careful look at how women use language to create a form of power. Marianne Hirsch focuses on this rarity in western literature, such a strong bond between a woman and her mother-in law, bringing in her own positive relationship with mother-in-law. Patricia Karlin-Neumann draws a similarity between Job and Naomi, in how their suffering produces isolation. And if you were to sample just one essay, read Gail Twersky Reimer's 'Her Mother's House'. Working purely with the text --- no midrash --- she presents Ruth as establishing another model of 'woman's relationship to motherhood' --- Ruth as a woman who doesn't particularly want children, but has one anyhow. Skillfully drawing both on things mentioned (Naomi becoming the foster mother) and things unsaid (there is no mention of Ruth suffering as a result of about 10 years of childless marriage), she makes a compelling case for this reading, contrasting Ruth with Naomi's intense preoccupation with children. Also included is a short and fairly intense play, based on a women's discussion group focussing on the Book of Ruth, six 'poetic movements' and some lovely woodcuts (complete with explanations!). Alas, no index. This book sets an extraordinary standard for an anthology of commentary on a single book.

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