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November 30, 2015 / 18 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘Ruth’

Title: Sorosi Bamdinos on Shir Hashirim and Ruth

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Title: Sorosi Bamdinos on Shir Hashirim and Ruth
Author: Rabbi Henoch Levine
Reviewed by Dr. Yochanan Roth

It’s refreshingly rare to welcome a new compendium on the targum of Megillas Shir Hashirim and Ruth (in one volume), just released by Rabbi Henoch Levine. This is the tenth volume in a series by the author, acclaimed for his expertise in targumic studies in general, and for his works on Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel Al Hatorah, in particular. His literary skill in expounding the targumic unique approach to Chumash and the five megillos is legendary and makes his commentary one of the very few, if not the only, comprehensive work on the targum.

The megillah text is newly-set with te’amim in an appealing manner. Rashi is included and newly-reset, as well as the Pirush Toldos Ahron, along with the corresponding targum, lucidly translated to loshon hakodesh in a bold face.

The Sorosi Bamdinos commentary surrounds the targum, and, among the many advantages, it notes variations from that of Rashi and of other authors, and their ramifications to other subjects and topics.

The reader will find in it:

Lomdus in give-and-take discussions among achronim, based on a targumic translation of a verse, expounded in a clear and user-friendly Hebrew, which becomes relevant to the popular lomdishe subjects of yemei Pesach and Shavuos.

Halacha: Contemporary halachic topics, relevant to the laws of shalosh regalim, aliyas haregel, kedushat Yerushalayim bizman hazeh, and a host of allied topics.

Mussar and chassidus teachings, elucidated by the respective movements’ founders and masters.

A guide in avodas Hashem and hanhagos tovos, illustrated in short stories and parables, always quoted verbatim from their sources.

Among the many features included are: More than 400 seforim by rishonim, kadmonim and achronim quoted verbatim, in a concise and relevant form; every book source is highlighted in bold face for easy identification; it contains a complete index of Tanach, Shas, Midrashim, Zohar and poskim as well as a complete topic index and concise gleanings, listed alphabetically, to aid in finding a desired topic, quickly.

In short, this sefer is truly a refreshing wellspring for a mevakesh devar Hashem, where he will find concise, easy-to-follow, relevant divrei Torah in the pardes haTorah.

Sorosi Bamdinos on Shir Hashirim and Ruth, as well as Megillos Esther, and Koheles, and Sorosi on Chamisha Chumshei Torah, may be purchased directly from the author by calling Rabbi Henoch Levine at 347-249-8415 or at your favorite seforim outlet.

Yoram Ettinger: Shavuot Guide for the Perplexed

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Shavuot is the holiday of the Torah, which impacted the US Constitution in particular and the state of Western morality, liberty, and democracy in general. Shavuot is celebrated by decorating homes and houses of worship with Land of Israel-related fruit, vegetables, herb and flowers, demonstrating the indigenous connection between the Torah of Israel, the People of Israel, and the Land of Israel.

Shavuot – a spiritual holiday – follows Passover – a national liberation holiday: from physical liberation (the Exodus) to spiritual liberation/enhancement.

The two portions of the Torah, which are recited/studied around Shavuot, are נשא and בהעלותך, which mean – in Hebrew – spiritual enhancement and elevation. נשא is the longest portion of the Torah (176 verses), highlighting the inauguration of the ancient tabernacle and altar. בהעלותך highlights the Menorah (Candelabrum) of the ancient tabernacle, which had seven branches, similar to the seven day week and the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot.

Shavuot is celebrated 50 days following Passover. The Jubilee – the cornerstone of liberty and the source of the inscription on the Liberty Bell (Leviticus 25:10) – is celebrated every 50 years. Judaism highlights the constant challenge facing human beings: the choice between the 50 gates of wisdom and the corresponding 50 gates of impurity. Egypt represented the gates of impurity and the receipt of the Torah represented the gates of wisdom. The 50th gate of wisdom is the gate of deliverance. The USA is composed of 50 states.

Shavuot highlights the eternity of the Jewish People. Thus, the first and the last Hebrew letters of Shavuot (שבועות) constitute the Hebrew name of the third son of Adam & Eve, Seth (שת), the righteous ancestor of Noah, hence of all mankind. The Hebrew meaning of Seth – שת – is “to institute” and “to bestow upon”, מתן in Hebrew – the Hebrew word for the bestowing of the Torah at Mt. Sinai (מתן תורה).

Shavuot (שבועות) is a derivative of the Hebrew word “Shvoua’” (שבועה) – vow, referring to the exchange of vows between God and the Jewish People. The origin of Shavuot occured 26 generations following Adam and Eve. The Hebrew word for Jehovah equals 26 in Gimatriya (assignment of numerical values to Hebrew letters). There are 26 Hebrew letters in the names of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs: Abraham (אברהם), Yitzhak (יצחק), Yaakov (יעקב) Sarah (שרה), Rivka (רבקה), Rachel (רחל) and Leah (לאה).

The Hebrew root of Shavuot is the word Seven – “Sheva” (שבע). Shavuot is celebrated 7 weeks following Passover; God employed 7 earthly attributes to create the universe (in addition to the 3 divine attributes); There are 7 basic human traits, which individuals are supposed to resurrect/adopt in preparation for Shavuot; 7 key Jewish/universal leaders – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aharon, Joseph and David – represent the seven qualities of the Torah and the wholesomeness of Judaism and the Land of Israel; 7 days of Creation and a 7 days in a week; The Sabbath is the 7th day; The first Hebrew verse in Genesis consists of 7 words; There are 7 species of the Land of Israel (barley, wheat, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive and date/honey); 7 represents multiplication – שבעתיים – “Sivatayim”; There are 7 directions (north, south, west, east, up, down, one’s own position); 7 gates to The Temple in Jerusalem; 7 Noahide Commandments; Moses’ birth/death was on the 7th day of Adar; Jethro had 7 names and 7 daughters; Passover and Sukkot (Tabernacles) last for 7 days each; each Plague lasted for 7 days; the Menorah has 7 branches; Jubilee follows seven 7-year cycles; according to Judaism, slaves are liberated, and the soil is not-cultivated, in the 7th year; there are 7 continents in the globe and 7 notes in a musical scale; there are 7 days of mourning over the deceased, 7 blessings in a Jewish wedding, 7 congregants read the Torah on each Sabbath and 7 Jewish Prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chana, Abigail, Choulda and Esther). Pentecost is celebrated, by Christians, on the 7th Sunday after Easter.

Shavuot is the second of the 3 Jewish Pilgrimages (Sukkot-Tabernacles, Passover and Shavuot), celebrated on the 6th day of the 3rd Jewish month, Sivan. It highlights Jewish Unity, compared by King Solomon to “a three folds cord, which is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The Torah – the first of the 3 parts of the Jewish Bible – was granted to the Jewish People (which consists of 3 components: Priests, Levites and Israel), by Moses (the youngest of 3 children, brother of Aharon and Miriam), a successor to the 3 Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and to Seth, the 3rd son of Adam and Eve. The Torah was forged in 3 manners: Fire (commitment to principles), Water (lucidity and purity) and Desert (humility and principle-driven tenacity). The Torah is one of the 3 global pillars, along with labor and gratitude/charity. The Torah is one of the 3 pillars of Judaism, along with the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

Artifact Found in Time for Shavuot Proves Bethlehem Existed During First Temple

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In a press release issued on Wednesday, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Ir David Foundation announced that a clay seal was discovered bearing the name of the city of Bethlehem, evidence that the city existed during the period of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  The find fortuitously coincides with the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, during which time Jews from around the world focus on the story of the biblical figure Ruth, set in the city of Bethlehem.

The 1.5cm seal – called a bulla – was discovered during sifting of soil removed from the archeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the City of David, just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.  The sifting is underwritten by the Ir David Foundation, which treated The Jewish Press to a private tour.

The clay bulla was meant to seal a document or object, used as a way of showing that the private item had not been tampered with.

The new bulla bears the words:   בשבעת   Bishv’at    בת לים    Bat Lechem [למל[ך   [Lemel]ekh

Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said “it seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (either Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem.”

“The bulla we found belongs to the group of “fiscal” bullae – administrative bullae used to seal tax shipments remitted to the taxation system of the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth and seventh centuries BCE,” Shukron said.  “The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat”.

According to Shukron, this is the first time the name Bethlehem has appeared in an inscription from the First Temple period, proving that Bethlehem was a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly in earlier periods.”

The first mention of Bethlehem in the Bible occurs in regard to the matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob, sister of Leah, and mother of Joseph, who died while giving birth to Benjamin “in Ephrat, which is Bethlehem, and was buried there (Genesis 35:19; 48:7).

In later generations, when the region was settled by the descendants of Jacob and Leah’s son Judah, a man named Boaz made Ruth, a Moabite convert and daughter-in-law of Naomi, his wife (Book of Ruth).  The couple’s great-grandson, David, became the most celebrated king in Jewish history, and made his capital in Jerusalem, on the site of the modern day “Ir David” – City of David.

From Mein Kampf to Ruth, Now That’s Some Roundup

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I was bored and so I Googled “Jewish jokes” and got this one. I chortled, I think you will, too.

Cohen and Levy are both in the antique business across the street from each other, and have been for years. Cohen hates Levy – he thinks he’s a gonniff and; a liar and; an ignorant bum, and says so publicly. Levy thinks the same about Cohen.

One day Levy leaves the door open to his shop and goes out for a few minutes. Cohen takes the opportunity to walk across the street and steal a magic lantern Levy has in the window. He gets it back to his shop and can’t resist rubbing it. Naturally a genie pops out of the lantern.

“Cohen”, says the genie, “because you have released me from a thousand years of confinement in the lantern, I will grant you one wish – anything you want – money, power, fame, anything. But because the lamp belongs to Levy, whatever it is you get, Levy will get twice as much.”

“You mean,” says Cohen, “if I ask for a million dollars, Levy gets two million?”

“That’s right,” says the genie, “and if you ask for a beautiful woman, Levy gets two beautiful women.”

“All right, genie,” says Cohen. “I know what I want.”

“What’s that?”

“I wish I were half dead.”


The People of the Book…
I live in a country where the main language is Hebrew. For those of us who came here later in life with English as our mother tongue, we struggle to keep ourselves “in the book” – with enough to fill our time. I can’t go to sleep at night without reading for a while. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and the fastest way to go back to sleep is to read for a while.

So – my brilliant friend came up with the brilliant idea that we swap books – for charity. We did the first one in my backyard and raised well over $1,000 in one night and all the money was immediately donated to charity. We did another a few months later and raised about twice that amount; and we did it again last night to the benefit of several local charities.
Paula R. Stern, A Soldier’s Mother


Good read, don’t miss.

Sending Mein Kampf Back to School
Important literature can’t be kept under wraps forever. A case in point is Mein Kampf. The German state of Bavaria, which holds the German copyright, has blocked the book’s publication within Hitler’s homeland; as recently as 2010, the state went to court to prevent an unauthorized academic edition. But in 2015, 70 years after the author’s death, Bavaria’s copyright will expire. So, the state has announced plans to fund two new editions, the first in German since 1945, including critical commentary. The aim, say Bavarian authorities, is to “demystify” Mein Kampf and make other editions “commercially unattractive.”
Alex Joffe, Jewish Ideas Daily


Delicious brain candy as usual at Hirhurim.

Megillat Ruth – Halachic Gleanings
Megillat Ruth is also the source for the Talmud’s ruling that, “One may not leave the Land of Israel to go abroad unless the price of wheat has risen…but if one can still purchase wheat, although somewhat costly, one may not leave.” As Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai used to say: “Why were Elimelech, Machlon, and Chilyon, the greatest scholars and leaders of the day, punished? Because they left Eretz Yisrael even though wheat was available, albeit at a high price.” Nevertheless, the halacha is not in accordance with this view and leaving the Land of Israel is permitted in a number of situations – a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this post.
Rabbi Ari Enkin, Hirhurim


Batya, of Shiloh Musings, was saying stuff I’ve been saying since I was a school girl yea high, and read Moshe Dayan’s memoirs in which he related, unabashedly, how he opted to give the keys to Temple Mount back to the Arab Waqf, because he didn’t want a Jewish Vatican in the middle of his Israel.

The Door Was Slammed Moshiach’s Face
The more I read about how the Israeli Government planned the 1967 Six Days War, the more conflicted I feel. On one hand, I feel sick and embarrassed that the government showed such incompetence and lack of vision and faith. And on the other hand I feel more and more grateful to G-d for His willingness to save us and take over.

In Biblical times, the former slaves were punished, condemned to death in the wilderness. Only a new generation would enter the HolyLand. They only waited forty years. It’s now forty-five years, and it doesn’t seem like we’re ready to accept G-d’s gifts and welcome the Moshiach.
Batya, Shiloh Musings

I wonder if any serious research exists about the damage Dayan has inflicted on the Jewish nation since he was picked up by Ben Gurion, seemingly out of nowhere, to command the Jerusalem front in 1948. Undoubtedly, giving up the holiest sanctuary on the planet probably ranks way up there.

God bless you, Jeff Dunetz, for your service to history and to me and my readers.

Jeff put together a great multi-media commemoration of the events 45 years ago, including a stunning recording (which he translated) of the fighting men in the city over the wireless – with then Colonel Motta Gur’s immortal announcement: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!

And, like Batya and like myself, Jeff points the finger at the bad guy in that story.

Moshe Dayan: The Villian of Jerusalem
Dayan thought the Temple Mount should remain in Muslim possession. In his biography Dayan clearly stated that the last thing he wanted was the Beit Hamikdash (the Jewish Temple) rebuilt.

Dayan took it upon himself, he “gave” control of the Temple Mount back to the Arabs because he wanted to make sure that there wouldn’t be a third Temple.  There was nothing that Prime Minister Eshkol could do about it, after all Moshe Dayan, was a war hero.
Jeff Dunetz, The Lid

Finally, for insights into the mind of Moshe Dayan, the following might be helpful. It’ll cost you, though, the full article is offered at a steep price.

On Herbert Marcuse’s Conversation with Moshe Dayan
Herbert Marcuse visited Israel in late December 1971. Recently I found in The Israel Defense Forces and Defense Establishment Archives (IDFA) an unpublished document concerning his visit to Israel: the protocol of his meeting (December 29, 1971) with Moshe Dayan, the then Israel’s Defense Minister and the topmost Israeli politician at the time.

In my short commentary article, I seek to understand why this meeting was never publicized by Dayan or Marcuse. I also reconstruct Dayan’s and Marcuse’s ideas and statements, that came up in their conversation, while comparing them to the well-known political views and positions of each of them. Lastly, I dedicate special discussion and analysis to three relevant themes.
Zvi Tauber, Telos


Thank you, Andrew Greene, for the great pointer. Man, I don’t think our Talmud has ever looked better. Wow! I understand the complete set will include 41 volumes, and that come July, there should be a Talmud App available.

Review: The Koren/Steinsaltz English Talmud Bavli
I got a sneak peek at the new Koren/Steinsaltz English Talmud Bavli this week. Regular readers of my blog know that I admire both Rabbi Steinsaltz and Koren Publications greatly. I am very pleased to report that this project blew me away, exceeding my expectations. Although I’m sure acquiring the entire set won’t come inexpensively, I will find some way to afford to buy these as they come out. They’re that amazing.

Surrounding the main text block are translations of Rabbi Steinsaltz’s notes, with headings, as in the original, indicating what each one is. Now here’s one of the brilliant touches: in the main text block, superscript sans-serif letters look like footnote indicators, but simply refer you to which section of marginalia to examine.

One thing that has always annoyed me about Artscroll’s footnotes, for example, is that you never know whether it’s worth interrupting your reading to follow the number. Are they just going to give you a cross-reference, or are they going to explain some concept in depth? Well, with this system, your eyes can easily gloss over notes that you don’t want to follow right now, while easily navigating the page when you do.
Andrew Greene, Live Journal


The Rebbetzin’s Husband is presenting a list of vignettes and sources he’ll using for a Lunch & Learn Business Ethics series, which starts this Wednesday in Allentown, PA. Interesting read – say hi if you end up taking the class.

Business Ethics – Working with unethical people
Sarah is a certified tax accountant. Her friend Rachel, asks her for off-line advice on how to best report her earnings. Sarah advises her, but comes out of the conversation believing that Rachel is going to cheat on her forms. Is Sarah halachically obligated to pursue Rachel and convince her to obey the law?
The Rebbetzin’s Husband

From `Sin’ [China] to Sinai

Friday, May 18th, 2012

This is not my story at all. But when I heard it from Avigayil Madmoni, formerly Gin Lin Lug, a Chinese convert, I gained a new view of what Torah means to me. I know for sure, as anyone who has ever met this very charming, sincere, lovable young woman will agree with me, that Avigayil is my sister like any other Jew and that she surely stood at Har Sinai — together with my ancestors and the souls of their descendants, namely me and all the Jews alive today, and who have ever lived, since the giving of the Torah.

Having heard Avigayil’s story and internalizing its message, I know that Torah is everything. It is the past, present and future. It is the air we breathe, and the messages we receive all the time telling us that it is Truth, and the closer we cling to it, the more alive we are and the better person we can strive to become – and actually become, with the help of Hashem!

Our high school in Ofakim brought Avigayil to speak to us. A convert of six years (and incidentally, one of the dayanim who signed on her conversion is the husband of our principal), Avigayil speaks a fluent Hebrew with a slight accent. These are her words [translated from Hebrew]:

I have been a student at Seminary Neveh Yerushalayim for the past five years, since shortly after I converted. I have realized a few of my lifetime dreams – that of joining your people and also of earning my degree here as a certified nurse.

My third dream is to get married and raise a family of fine Jewish children, and that, like everything else, is in the hands of G-d, as I have clearly seen every step of the way. Who knows? Maybe just like the Chinese girl from the book, Bamboo Cradle, found her mate, I, too, will merit to get married and raise a family.

My story begins in China, of course, in the home of simple but honest and hard working peasants who taught me good values. I always felt that there was something more, something beyond just living a decent life. I thought that training to be a nurse would provide fulfillment, but my parents couldn’t afford to send me to nursing school.

Divine Providence found me a job in Israel as a caregiver to ten-year-old Elad Madmoni z”l, terminally ill with muscular dystrophy. He was confined to a wheelchair, but his mind was alert and his soul was pure and beautiful.

Elad attended school and spent recess in his wheelchair, watching his friends running around and playing ball. He was fully aware of his situation but never complained. In fact, he radiated peace and joy to everyone around him.

Elad’s family was religious, and I would watch him pray with fervor and study Gemara and Mishnayos. His good spirits always amazed me and I used to ask him, “How can you pray to G-d? Aren’t you angry that He made you this way and that there is no cure for you?” And he would answer so sweetly, “Lin, whatever the Creator does is for the best, even for me. Who knows, maybe He made me this way so that you could come and learn more about Him?”

Now I know that Elad was right, but how could he have known?

We had long philosophical talks, perhaps on a simple level, but I was always amazed how he knew the answers to my questions. “China is an ancient country with an ancient tradition,” I told him once, “but all Chinese people know that the Jews are the most learned and clever nation in the world. That’s what my grandfather told me, too. So tell me, what is written in your Torah?”

And he would patiently explain ideas that you’ve been familiar with since you were small children. I became interested in Judaism and at the age of 21, opened the Bible for the first time in my life and was actually able to read it in Hebrew. I had loved this language from the very first day I came; the very letters seemed holy to me and I used to copy them. When Elad saw my interest, he began teaching me to read and write and speak. He taught me Jewish history and told me stories about the Sages. Thanks to him, I was able to see that everything in this world has a purpose; nothing happens just like that. Then, right before Shavuos, he told me the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, and all the chessed that each did.

What We Can Glean From Ruth’s Posture

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Until one examines the Book of Ruth – which is read on the holiday of Shavuot – artistically and mines the text for visual fodder that would lend itself to dynamic subjects to paint, one is unlikely to realize how passive the book actually is. The overwhelming majority of action verbs have to do with speech, and there is virtually no violence or conflict. Save a spitting in a shoe here or uncovering an ankle there, the book is much more about states of mind and identity than it is about action.


In the central moment of the book, Ruth, in a grand act of self-negation and concession, declares to her mother-in-law Naomi, “Your nation is my nation, and your God is my God” (1:16). So determined is Ruth’s statement that Naomi, who has just seen her other daughter-in-law, Orpah, depart (1:14), knows that the former means business and doesn’t try to send her away anymore. In just a matter of verses, the book tells of Ruth’s intense decision to stay with Naomi, even though her own husband had passed away.


Just about the only other thing Ruth does in the book is to gather grain in Boaz’s field, another action of hers that represents obedience to Naomi’s charge or at least a decision she ran by Naomi before going out on her own.


The artistic tradition “Ruth Gleaning” has largely cast David’s forebear in a vulnerable position, reflecting artists’ interpretation of her character as a weak and passive woman. (It evokes the artistic tradition of “Esther Swooning” or “Esther Fainting” before Ahasuerus, though she is surely a courageous woman putting her life on the line, and the Book of Esther offers no indication that she swooned or fainted.)


Almost invariably, when artists represented the motif “Ruth Gleaning,” they presented her kneeling or bowing in the fields, often before Boaz. 


The following is a partial list of representations of Ruth kneeling in the fields: “Ruth threshing: Naomi counseling Ruth; Ruth at the feet of Boaz” in the Macejowski Bible (c. 1250); Ruth Gleaning in Marco dell’Avogadro’s Bible of Borso d’Este (15th century); Ruth Thanks Boaz for Letting Her Glean His Fields in an engraving by Philips Galle (1560-70); Ruth Gleaning Grain in the Field of Boaz, an engraving by Hendrik Goltzius (1580); Rembrandt’s pen and wash drawing, Boaz Meeting Ruth in His Fields (c.1648-9); Nicolas Poussin’s Summer (Ruth and Boaz) (1660-64); Michelangelo Marullo’s 17th century drawing Ruth and Boaz; Johann Ulrich Kraus’ 1705 illustration Boaz meets Ruth gleaning in his fields, and Boaz taking Ruth to wife; Marco Ricci’s 1715 Landscape with Boaz and Ruth; and Randolph Rogers’ sculpture “Ruth Gleaning” (1853-1860).



Southern German Mahzor. “Ruth and Boaz (text for Shavuot).”

First quarter of the 14th century. British Library.



           In Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones’ 1879 drawing “Ruth and Boaz,” which was created for a window in All Hallows Church in Allerton, Liverpool, and is in the collection of the Tate, the kneeling Ruth lifts grain off of Boaz’s shoe, perhaps foreshadowing the shoe removal ritual that will later make her Boaz’s wife. One gets the impression that Burne-Jones’ vision is that Ruth was gleaning and lifted some wheat up to reveal a foot. The drawing reflects the camera angle as it pans up revealing the owner of the foot.


In other works, Ruth bends over or bows, as in the initial R and story of Ruth in the 12th century illuminated Lambeth Bible, a 1550 etching by Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert (after Maarten van Heemskerck) The Story of Ruth and Boaz, and Simone Pignoni’s c. 1650 Ruth and Boaz.


However helplessly Ruth is portrayed when she is a woman encountering Boaz the man, Ruth is given equal treatment when she is in the company of just Naomi or Orpah. In two 13th century bibles, Bible Moralisée and a bible made in Bologna, and Rembrandt’s Ruth and Naomi on Way to Bethlehem (c. 1648-49), Ruth stands firmly beside Naomi. Ruth and Naomi are also equals in the illumination Ruth and Naomi on their way to Bethlehem from the Aurifaber Workshop, dated around 1275 to 1300.



Ruth, centrally located and standing before her mother-in-law in “Ruth and Naomi”

by a follower of Jan van Scorel. C. 1525-60. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.



In Jacob Jordaens’ c. 1641-42 Ruth and Naomi, Ruth sits comfortably in front of her mother-in-law, while she peeks out from behind the grain in Boaz’s field in Niklas Stoer’s c. 1562-63 woodcut “Ruth and Boaz in the Wheat Field” and in Antonio Tempesta’s (1555-1630) “Ruth and Boaz in the Wheat Field.”



Jean François Millet. “Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz).” 1850-53.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.



But there are artistic depictions of Ruth that come from more of a feminist perspective. In Jean François Millet’s 1850-53 painting Harvesters, a man in trousers and a vest (perhaps Boaz?) presents Ruth to a group of nearly a dozen resting laborers. Ruth wears a shawl, and modestly (or shyly) looks at her feet. A lamb (surely symbolic of innocence) follows Ruth as she is led to the group. Although Ruth is an outsider, she is presented as a real person rather than a caricature. However awkward the first meeting is, Ruth is not frozen in a servile position.



Archie Rand. “Ruth (For Kitaj).” Acrylic on fabric. 2002.



Archie Rand may have paid Ruth the best compliment in his Ruth (For Kitaj), in which Ruth, wearing a purple backpack (for gathering wheat of course!), is pursued by Boaz, who tells her, “Did you hear, my daughter? Don’t go glean in anyone else’s field.”


Ruth’s expression makes it seem like she’s considering Boaz’s offer. Of course, Rand has abstracted the story. There is no wheat. There are backpacks, trousers and contemporary attire. But Rand latches onto an essential aspect of the story of Ruth and Boaz – Ruth’s allure. Ruth definitely pursued Boaz, and even let herself into his private threshing room at night and uncovered his feet. But Boaz must have been struck by Ruth when he first saw her in his fields or else he wouldn’t have condescended to introduce himself.


Whereas Ruth had been depicted as helpless through centuries of art history, Millet, Rand and others liberated Ruth and sought to present her perspective. Richard McBee’s 2001 painting Ruth and Boaz achieves a similar balance, as a Chassidic-looking Boaz confronts Ruth, who looks away. Boaz has an intense gaze, but McBee, by offering viewers a glimpse of Ruth’s inner turmoil, reveals her to be the more interesting character.


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia,  welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Remembering Babe Ruth’s Concern For Jews During The Holocaust

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

The New York Yankees and their fans observe April 27 as Babe Ruth Day to remember the home run slugger’s exploits on the baseball diamond. Jewish New Yorkers, however, this year marked the day by remembering another side of Ruth – his little-known efforts to aid African-Americans and other minorities, including Jews in Europe during the Holocaust.

In a program at Temple Israel in Manhattan, Ruth’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, joined with Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, to describe their research on Ruth’s social activism. Rabbi William Gelfand, sporting a baseball cap with “Yankees” embroidered on it in Hebrew, emceed the event.

Tosetti shared with the standing-room-only audience a number of family stories illustrating her grandfather’s concern for the less fortunate. She also showed an excerpt from her forthcoming documentary film, “Universal Babe,” concerning Ruth’s efforts on behalf of minorities.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Ruth courted controversy in the off-season by barnstorming with players from the Negro Baseball League. At a time when racial segregation was rampant in the United States, Ruth defied convention and took part in exhibition games with African-American players.

“My grandfather made a powerful statement against racism,” Tosetti said. “Many people resented his actions – but they couldn’t lynch Babe Ruth. He was an American icon. And he used his status to demand equality for blacks.”

Ruth also actively assisted the Women’s Baseball League, which was later immortalized in the Tom Hanks film “A League of Their Own.”

Dr. Medoff spoke of Ruth’s key role in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times in December 1942, in which he and other German-Americans denounced the Nazis’ persecution of European Jewry.

“At a time when most Americans still doubted the truth about reports about the Holocaust, and few were interested in helping Jewish refugees, Ruth spoke out and tried to shatter the silence,” he said.

The ad, headlined “A Christmas Declaration by Men and Women of German Ancestry,” declared, in part: “[W]e Americans of German descent raise our voices in denunciation of the Hitler policy of cold-blooded extermination of the Jews of Europe and against the barbarities committed by the Nazis against all other innocent peoples under their sway,” the declaration began.

“These horrors … are, in particular, a challenge to those who, like ourselves, are descendants of the Germany that once stood in the foremost ranks of civilization.”

The ad went on to “utterly repudiate every thought and deed of Hitler and his Nazis,” and urged the people of Germany “to overthrow” the Nazi regime.

Medoff, who has written extensively about the involvement of athletes in political and social policy controversies, said Ruth’s willingness to participate in a protest against the persecution of European Jewry was “a welcome contrast with today’s athletes, whose off-field activities are too often sources of scandal and embarrassment.”

Widely regarded as the greatest baseball player in history, Ruth in his time held the records for most home runs in a season (60) and most home runs in a career (714) as well as other records – including the pitching record for the most shutouts in a season by a left-hander. The Sultan of Swat, as he was known, was one of the first players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The audience at Temple Israel also had a few standard questions for the baseball legend’s granddaughter. One attendee asked if there was any truth to the story that on one occasion Ruth gestured with his bat toward the center field fence, and then hit a home run in exactly in that place.

“Absolutely true,” said Tosetti.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/news-magazine/remembering-babe-ruths-concern-for-jews-during-the-holocaust/2011/06/01/

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