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A Book Review : 1

Ruth, The Truth and a Sweet Tooth
By Merle Turitz 

King Solomon words describe Torah as “sweet as honey and milk under the tongue.”  We celebrate the joyous holiday of Shavuos, when G-d gave Israel the written and oral Torah laws, by eating sweet dairy foods, recounting the ten commandments and reading the Book of Ruth.  Whether the dessert choice is delectable fruit-filled blintzes or creamy-smooth cheesecake, there is no doubt that Rabbi Moshe Weisblum’s Ruth Talk, will provide a lively, thought-provoking discussion around the holiday table.  


For many, the drama-filled Book of Ruth will be recited, closed and put away until next year. We may simply remember Ruth’s most memorable line, For where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge;

your people are my people, and your G-d my G-d” or maybe not. On a very cursory level, the story relates how Ruth, the young Moabite woman, whose limitless kindness to her mother-in-law Naomi and her devotion and eventual conversion to Judaism, earned her an important place in the history of the Jews.  The union of the young Ruth and the 80-year-old Boaz, who three generations later, would produce the heroic King David, was the precursor for the building the First Temple.  In the Book of Ruth, Ruth’s conversion and unconditional acceptance of the Torah Laws is compared to a time when we, as a people, stood together at the foot of Mount Sinai and accepted the Torah Laws.  Shavuos, commemorates the giving of the laws to the Jewish people, reminds us that we were converted to Judaism upon acceptance of those laws.  

Ruth Talk : Questions and Answers on the Book of Ruth by Rabbi Moshe Weisblum (Jonathan David Publishers, Inc. 2005) takes the story and analyzes each segment of the four chapters in a way that brings the characters to life and makes the story relevant.  In an easily understood question and answer format, Rabbi Weisblum uncovers the secret messages that are carried in character names, nuances of particular words and discusses the emotions and feelings of characters in the story.  The Book of Ruth becomes much more than some obscure tale that occurred thousands of years ago. 

Understanding the psychological factors behind ancient societies helps the reader relate to the traumas experienced by Naomi and her family.  Why did Naomi encourage a young, childless beauty to lay at the foot of Boaz’s bed?  After all, Boaz was eighty years old.  Was Boaz enticed?  Why did Naomi return to the land of Judah in the first place?  Hadn’t she and her husband Elimelech, then a leader of Israel, turn their backs on their people in the midst of a famine?  How did the people treat her when she returned penniless and tattered?  How did the laws of inheritance shape the story?  What becomes of Orpah, the other daughter-in-law who returned to her land, abandoning the Jewish G-d of Naomi and her deceased sons?  What is the significance of removing a sandal from one’s foot to clinch a deal?  How do the names we give our children reflect their personalities and their fates? 

These questions, and much more are answered, with tremendous insight and depth, in just over 200 pages.  Ruth Talk is one of those must-reads that can’t be put down.  With Ruth Talk as a companion, The Book of Ruth, becomes an inspirational masterpiece filled with elements of love, religious devotion, kindness, divine intervention and respect for others.  It has the makings of a great Broadway show that could wipe Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat off the map!  This fresh approach to Torah study makes the reader crave more.  

Ruth Talk is Rabbi Weisblum’s second book in this question and answer format.  Table Talk : Biblical Questions and Answers (Jonathan David Publishers, Inc. 2005), is an insightful and comprehensive guide to the Parashas (Weekly Torah readings), highlighting themes that make Torah relevant to our modern lives.

Moshe Pinchas Weisblum, a fourteenth generation rabbi, resides in Annapolis, MD with his wife Miriam and their five children.  He is the religious leader at Congregation Kneseth Israel.  Both Ruth Talk (list $16.95) and Table Talk (list $19.95) are available at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon.com and many Judaica stores.  It can also be ordered directly through the publisher, Jonathan David Publishers, Inc (718-456-8611) or distributor KinderKlassics (1-877-KINDER7).

 

 
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