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Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story Paperback – February 6, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A generally superb collection of both traditional and unorthodox readings of the Book of Ruth. The biblical story of Ruth--the young Moabite widow who followed her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, to the Land of Israel, married her husband's kinsman, and became mother of the messianic line through her descendant, King David--is an intriguing one, especially for women, who find few active female role models in the Bible. Kates, and Reimer, both teachers of Jewish texts with doctorates in literature, have assembled 30 essays, poems, stories, and dramatic narratives by contemporary female scholars, authors, psychiatrists, rabbis, and poets. All the contributors bring their professional and personal experiences to their interpretations of the Ruth story: Some are subjective accounts, such as the joint effort (``Feminine Plurals'') of psychiatrists Roberta Apfel and Lise Grondahl--an older Jewish supervisor and her young Christian supervisee--who use the relationship between Naomi and Ruth to understand and enrich their own; others, like Tamar Frankiel's kabbalistic approach to the messianic lineage in Ruth (``Ruth and the Messiah''), are more strictly scholarly. Often the two aspects are combined: Cynthia Ozick's ``Ruth'' is one part personal reminiscence, three parts textual analysis. These autobiographical and scholarly pieces are nearly always more interesting than the vanilla literary retellings of the story that add little to the conventional understanding of the text, although Gloria Goldreich's inclusion of Ruth's sister-in-law, Orpah, in her ``Ruth, Naomi, and Orpah: A Parable of Friendship'' adds a beautiful dimension to the relationship of Ruth and Naomi. Aviva Zornberg's shiur, or oral lesson, ``The Concealed Alternative,'' stands out as the most unusual; she draws on ancient commentaries as well as on Kafka, Nietzsche, and Buber to present a compelling understanding of the concept of redemption in Ruth. Despite occasional redundancies--only natural given the 400 pages of commentary on a brief text--this book is absorbing and provocative. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (February 6, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345380320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345380326
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Merle Feld is a widely published poet, award-winning playwright, peace activist and educator. She is the author of a new volume of poetry, "Finding Words," (URJ Press, 2011) and a highly acclaimed memoir, "A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition" (State University of New York Press, revised edition 2007).

Merle's award-winning plays include "The Gates are Closing," which has offered hundreds of synagogue communities and university groups from Brooklyn to Beijing a powerful and moving introduction to the themes of the High Holidays. In "Across the Jordan" (published by Syracuse University Press in the anthology "Making a Scene"), Biblical characters share the stage with contemporary Israelis and Palestinians struggling for recognition and rapprochement.

Merle is a popular scholar-in-residence nationally; abroad, she has facilitated Israeli-Palestinian dialogue on the West Bank and at Seeds of Peace, and has traveled to collaborate with and support Jewish women activists in the former Soviet Union through Project Kesher. The Russian translation of "A Spiritual Life" enjoys a wide audience in the FSU; its publication occasioned a unique three-week book tour of Ukraine. Both her experiences facilitating dialogue on the West Bank and traveling across the FSU are detailed in the revised edition (2007) of "A Spiritual Life."

Since 2005 Merle has served as Founding Director of the Albin Rabbinic Writing Institute, guiding rabbinical students and rabbis from all denominations to develop and explore their own spiritual lives and to serve more effectively as spiritual leaders. Her prose and poetry (including her signature poem about women and men at Sinai) can be found in numerous anthologies and prayer books, most recently in the celebrated volumes "Mahzor Lev Shalem" and "The Torah: A Woman's Commentary." Merle and husband Rabbi Edward Feld make their home in Western Massachusetts.

Visit Merle's website www.merlefeld.com for further details about her books and plays, her speaking and teaching schedule and her guidance to begin or enrich your own spiritual writing practice.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have always found the book of Ruth interesting, and had read all the midrash (stories, commentaries, thoughts, lessons, etc.) written on it. All the traditional midrash, however, were written by men, and are hundreds of year old. This book was a refreshing change: Stories, poems, essays, and thoughts on the biblical book of Ruth all written recently by women. We read this book in my Jewish Women's Book Discussion Group, and it was the only book whose discussion had to be continued for a second session.
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Format: Paperback
No book of the 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.
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Format: Paperback
The Book of Ruth is familiar to most of us- we traditionally read it during Shavuot. On the surface Ruth is a pleasant story of a young woman who returns to Israel with her mother-in-law after the deaths of thier husbands. But the very simplicity of the story raises many questions. Until this collection of midrashim - interpertations and extentions of the story to fill in the gaps- that is where the matter lay. Now is it possible to read what contemporary well educated women think about this story and the questions raised. If you've never studied a Midrash, this is a good place to begin. If you have studied Midrashim, you will see how different the prespectives are in this book. Other writings on Ruth are both very old and written exclusively by men. This book is a must for anyone who enjoys studying and values a full perspective.
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