Reading Ruth; Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story

Reading Ruth; Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story

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Reading Ruth; Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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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.