The Book of Ruth: A Torah of Lovingkindness in the Face of Death | Reconstructing Judaism

The Book of Ruth: A Torah of Lovingkindness in the Face of Death

Spoken Audio

The Book of Ruth: A Torah of Lovingkindness in the Face of Death

As we look forward to reading the Book of Ruth on the holiday of Shavuot, Rabbi David Gedzelman explores the text with an eye towards literary elements which speak of how the Hebrew Bible pushes forward structures of covenantal openness, societal protection and compassion towards the other built on and transcending the requirements of the Law. 

The handout for the study session is available here:

PDF icon book_of_ruth_a_torah_of_lovingkindness_in_the_wake_of_death.pdf

 


Transcript

Note: This verbatim transcript is intended for accessibility purposes — while it has been reviewed for major errors and quoted Hebrew texts have been inserted, it has not undergone detailed proofreading or editing for written publication.

 

Rabbi Deborah Waxman:

Hello and welcome. This is Rabbi Deborah Waxman, and it is my great honor to be with you all in this virtual forum and to introduce today Rabbi David Gedzelman, who will teach for us today. David is the president and CEO of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life. You probably have heard of their work. The foundation is dedicated to revitalizing Jewish identity through educational and cultural initiatives, as well as to advocating for and supporting Hebrew and Jewish literacy among the general population. That’s been a particular passion of David’s; he’s a champion of Hebrew fluency and literacy in North America and is involved in a variety of ways in promoting Hebrew in the American context. If you have the means to call in, you have access to his bio, so I will just note that his Jewish interests are quite wide.

He was ordained here at RRC, but has studied at several different institutions and serves on the board of many others. His teaching today will focus on our fast approaching chag on reading the Book of Ruth, and I’m going to stop talking and turn the virtual floor over to him for teaching. Just to let you know right now, everybody is muted except for David; he’ll teach for about 20 minutes. Then we’ll take some time at the end, where we’ll be able to open up the lines, and I’ll give instructions for how people can raise your virtual hands so that we can bring you in, and we can hear your voices and your questions. David, thank you so much for being with us. 

Rabbi David Gedzelman:

Thank you so much, Deborah. It’s really a pleasure. When Rabbi Waxman first asked me to participate in this, I wasn’t sure what I would share. Then I looked on the calendar and realized that we’re right before Shavuot, so might as well look at Megillat Ruth together. It’s not exactly in the context of the kind of work I do in the foundation, but I enjoy very much having opportunities to teach classical text, especially Tanakh, and to look at it together with others. 

We read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot. That’s actually not a very old custom. It’s probably just a few centuries. It’s not something that we have in rabbinic texts, but most of our communities do this, and it’s a powerful thing. In terms of the seasonal context, there’s a theme of the harvest, and we’re celebrating the harvest with Shavuot, but there are other elements as well.

I wanted to first just get into the text and get into the story. Just to remind folks, in case you haven’t pulled the book off the shelf recently or need a little brushing up on the narrative, this is set in the time of the Judges, a number of generations before the beginning of the Davidic Dynasty. We’re not sure when it’s written. It’s probably written much later. Could be written as late as the fourth century BC, during the Persian period. The story is that there’s a family in Bethlehem, and it’s a time when there’s no lehem [bread]. There’s a famine in the land and Elimelech and Naomi leave the land and go to, of all places, Moab across the valley. Moab, which is a place that traditionally was not friendly to the Israelites.

They go with their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and these are actually horrible names. Mahlon could have a positive sense to it; it could be related to mekhila, could mean forgiveness or could be makhala, it could be about sickness. “Chilion” is just like ending and destruction, so our theme is kind of set that these boys are not gonna meet with a great future. They die after their father dies, but before that they marry two Moabite women. Mahlon marries Ruth, and Chilion marries Orpah. The family is in Moab for about 10 years, and, as I said, Mahlon and Chilion die. Ruth is completely bereft; her husband has died. Her two sons have died. I’m sorry, Naomi was completely bereft, and she’s in a place of extreme bitterness.

I want to look first at a Rabbinic text from Ruth Rabbah, from the Midrash. Quickly, to see how the rabbis understood the central theme of this text, and this is commenting on the moment when Naomi tells her two daughters-in-law that they, now that her sons have died, and she has nothing for them. She has no more sons to give to them. That they should return: each woman to the house of her mother, and that God will deal with you justly. God will do hesed with you as you did with the dead and with me. This is Naomi saying this to Ruth and Orpah.

The language, if you look in the Hebrew in source number two, in the source sheet, that what’s written is that she says, in the middle of the text:

יעשה [יַ֣עַשׂ] ה׳ עִמָּכֶם֙ חֶ֔סֶד כַּאֲשֶׁ֧ר עֲשִׂיתֶ֛ם עִם־הַמֵּתִ֖ים וְעִמָּדִֽי

We read that traditionally. We don’t say ya’aseh, we say ya’as, even though it’s written “ya’aseh“ That God should do hesed. Ya’aseh would mean God will do Chesed. Ya’as is may God do hesed.. The rabbis in this Midrash make something out of that. If you look at source number one, in the midrash, you see that it brings the text, and it says, “May the lord do hesed with you, as you did with the dead and me.” It emphasizes the fact that Rabi Hanina bar Ada amar, Rabbi Hanina bar Ada says, “It is written “may he do” “will he do”, as opposed to ya’as. [Actually], “He will do,” as opposed to “may he do.” Actually, I just translated this a little backwards.

His point here is that even though we don’t want to be as presumptuous as for Naomi to say, “God definitely will do,” so the way that this is read, is, “May God do.” Rabbi Hanina bar Ada is saying that even though we say it that way, we know because it’s written, that God will do hesed with them. Why? Because they had done hesed with those who are dead and with Naomi. What is the proof of that? That you attended to their shrouds, is that you attended to the dead, and with me that you did not hold Naomi to the financial guarantees of their marriage agreements. Okay? That’s a little technical here. They had ketubahs, I guess. When the boys died, their widows did not say, “Here’s a ketubah. It says in it that you owe me 200 zuz, or whatever it said. Give me my money.” In other words, she says, “You forgave what was guaranteed to you legally. You forgave the law. You acted out of hesed to forgive the law.”

Then the Midrash says: מְגִלָּה זוֹ אֵין בָּהּ לֹא טֻמְאָה, וְלֹא טָהֳרָה, וְלֹא אִסּוּר, וְלֹא הֶתֵּר,  “Now this megillah, it doesn’t have laws of impurity or laws of purity in it. It doesn’t have the halakha about what’s exactly forbidden, and what’s permitted. It’s not a halakhic book.” וְלָמָּה נִכְתְּבָה , why was it written? לְלַמֶּדְךָ כַּמָּה שָׂכָר טוֹב לְגוֹמְלֵי חֲסָדִים “To teach you what is the reward for those who do acts of loving kindness.”

From the beginning of this text, the theme of the text, as the rabbis see it, is that this a meta-halakhic text. That it takes structures of obligation and goes beyond them to show what it means for human beings to treat each other with hesed. My thesis that I want to share with you today, and I really don’t have a lot of time to do that, so I’m just gonna refer to these various sources, and you could look at them later, is that the book of Ruth takes basically three areas of Jewish law from the Torah and expands those areas and treats them in a way that demonstrates what it means to build a society of openness and hesed.

Those three areas are first of all the laws of leket and shikheha, of gleaning and … When we harvest our fields, we leave behind for the poor, whether it’s the four corners or … It’s specifically setting aside part of the produce when we’re harvesting, so that the poor can follow us. The gleaners can follow us. Anything which is forgotten, we don’t go back for again. The category is matanot oniyim, gifts to the poor. 

The second category of Torah law that’s treated here is the institution of levirate marriage, yibbum. I’ll go into that. If you look at number five: “When brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and leaves no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married to a stranger.” There was an obligation in the Torah, that if a man is married and dies without children, that his brother then marries his widow. There’s a lot of ways to understand this. It seems pretty harsh and barbaric on a certain level, that a woman is being treated as basically the property of a family. On another level, given this is from 3,000 years ago, it’s a way of protecting her. That she’s provided for and protected within the family. The obligation to do that is called “yibbum.” The man who marries his brother’s widow is called the “yavam, and the widow that he marries is called the “yevama”.

The language, if you look carefully in number five, the language that we have there, if we look at verse six, וְהָיָ֗ה הַבְּכוֹר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תֵּלֵ֔ד יָק֕וּם עַל־שֵׁ֥ם אָחִ֖יו הַמֵּ֑ת That the first born, that’s born out of this levirate marriage, is accounted. יָק֕וּם עַל־שֵׁ֥ם אָחִ֖יו הַמֵּ֑ת He’s named for the dead brother, so that the dead brother’s name is not wiped out. If you look down in the paragraph a little further down, in verse seven, towards the end of it, that the purpose is it’s established here is לְהָקִ֨ים לְאָחִ֥יו שֵׁם֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל. The purpose of this institution is to establish for the dead brother a name in Israel.

If the person refuses to do this, if the brother refuses to do this, like Onan, the brother of Er refused to do this in Genesis for Tamar, then he goes through a ceremony, where his shoe is untied, and the widow spits in his face and makes a declaration, “This shall be done to the man, who will not build up his brother’s house.” כָּ֚כָה יֵעָשֶׂ֣ה לָאִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־יִבְנֶ֖ה אֶת־בֵּ֥ית אָחִֽיו

וְנִקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל His name in Israel shall be called בֵּ֖ית חֲל֥וּץ הַנָּֽעַל. He loses his name. He doesn’t have a name, so if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do to make sure that your dead childless brother has a name for posterity in Israel, then the result of that is that you lose your name, and you’re called “the One Who is בֵּ֖ית חֲל֥וּץ הַנָּֽעַל”, the one of the family of the un-sandaled one.

That’s the second area of law that gets treated in an interesting way in the Book of Ruth. The third … If you look at number six from Leviticus, this is the institution of land redemption. This section of Leviticus comes right after a description of the Jubilee, Jubilee history. The cycle of the fifty years, in which you have seven sabbatical years. Seven sevens of years. Seven weeks of years. Then in the fiftieth year is the Jubilee year, and in the Jubilee year, supposedly, all of the tribes of Israel and all of the households within these tribes return to their original akhuza, their original land possession or holding. It’s a kind of return to a primordial sense of balance. We don’t know if this ever really happened. Probably didn’t. It’s a biblical ideal; a fantasy, but it speaks of a value of return to a kind of perfect order. If somebody in that time has sold off their inheritance, they get it back in the fiftieth year.

What we have here in Leviticus 25:22-28, is an institution that if somebody becomes destitute, and they sell off their portion in the land, then a relative who’s called … The language that’s used here is goel. A redeemer, sometimes gets translated as “a near kinsman”, can demand, through payment, that whoever bought the land from their relative who sold off their holding must sell it back. The goel comes and redeems the land. He buys it back for his relative. That’s another thing that comes now very powerfully in the Book of Ruth.

These are the three institutions, so let’s now get into it. I realize as the time is going very fast, that I really just need to jump to particular moments here. The story goes that Naomi is returning to Bethlehem, and she tells both daughters-in-law, “You know, you stay here. You go back to your mother’s house. Don’t come with me.” They’re both are very upset by that. They love her greatly, and they want to go with her, but she explains to them, “You really can’t do do that. I don’t have anything for you.”

Orpah decides to leave. If you look at verse 14 in number seven … We’re on source number seven. They lift up their voices, and they cry again. Orpah kisses her and means that she’s kissed her and she’s going.  וְר֖וּת דָּ֥בְקָה בָּֽהּ  Ruth is cleaving to her, and what Naomi now says is הִנֵּה֙ שָׁ֣בָה יְבִמְתֵּ֔ךְ אֶל־עַמָּ֖הּ וְאֶל־אֱלֹקֶיהָ שׁ֖וּבִי אַחֲרֵ֥י יְבִמְתֵּֽךְ׃ She says, “You know, look. Your—your—I’m gonna translate this right now as, “Sister-in-law” has returned to her people and to her god. You should go with your sister-in-law.

Now I just want to go back to the word. The Hebrew word here is  יְבִמְתֵּ֔ךְ  yevim’teikh which is ha-yevama shelakh. Your Yavamah. Remember, a little while ago, I mentioned that the person, the widow, who is married by the brother of the dead man in Yibbum is called the Yevamah, so what Naomi’s saying here is … is telling Ruth that Orpah … She’s defining her as her levirate sister. It’s a very cynical, ironic use of language here. There’s only like six times that we have the word yevama in the Hebrew Bible at all. Four of them are in the sources that we had before talking in Deuteronomy about what levirate marriage is, and who the yevama is, and who the yavam is. The other two times, basically, are here. It’s a self-referential phrase, so it has a sense of deep irony and cynicism.

Now we know that Naomi says, “You know, I …” She comes into … Well, first of all, Ruth, of course, won’t leave her. Ruth says, “Your people will be my people. Your God is my God. I’m gonna go wherever you go. I’ll die wherever …” She makes this declaration, and she stays with her, and she becomes an Israelite in that moment.

Naomi and Ruth return, and everybody’s excited they’re coming back. Ruth says, “Don’t call me. Don’t call me, Naomi. I went out full, and I came back empty. Call me Mara. Call me bitterness. That’s who I am.” The whole book, the whole story is set with a tone of cynicism, irony, bitterness, and one in which Naomi’s completely bereft. That’s how the scene is set.

Let’s fast forward a little bit. Ruth needs to find food for the family, and this is the time of the harvest. She goes to the field of Boaz, and Boaz notices her. Boaz tells her, “Please glean here.” This whole institution of gleaning now comes up. She’s gleaning, but Boaz does something else. He tells his workers to make sure that lots of sheaves are left for Ruth, and that she not be interfered with. He goes way over the line of what he’s required to do. He doesn’t only leave leket for the gleaners, he goes the extra mile, and he tells his people to do all of this for her. He says to her, “You know, I’ve been told of everything you did for you mother-in-law after the death of your husband. How you left your father and mother in the land of your birth and came to a people you had not known before.”

What we have here is … It’s clear. The elements of the story, that there’s something going on between Ruth and Boaz. There’s an attraction. There’s something already … A sense of going the extra mile and hesed and helping. One of the things that I think … Something that’s powerful here, is that as this love story unfolds, what are the qualities that these two people see in each other? There’s no description of physical beauty. The qualities that they see in each other, that they become attracted to each other for in this love story, are qualities of goodness. They fall in love with each other, because they’re good. Because they show hesed.

 If you go to source number nine, the story speeds up even more. Ruth is now … She needs to figure out her future, and her mother-in-law, Naomi, is telling her that her future is with Boaz. By the way, at the end of source number eight, when Ruth comes home with lots of produce, with lots of sheaves, with lots of barley, and Naomi asks her, “Well, where were you today?” She says, “Oh, the person whose field I gleaned in was Boaz.” Naomi says to her, “You know, barukh ha-shem, because that is our goel.” That’s the first time that we have that other institution we talked about. We’re talking about Boaz as a near-kinsman of Elimelech, of Naomi’s dead husband. He is a redeemer for this family.

We fast forward again; we’re in source number nine. This is really the climax of the story. Naomi tells Ruth, “This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to go to the threshing floor, where Boaz is tonight and wait ‘til he drinks … He eats and drinks his fill. And you’re going to lie down by his feet, and you do whatever he tells you to do.” That’s important to remember that. She says, “Whatever he tells you to do.”

In verse number seven, in source number nine, Boaz ate and drank and in a cheerful mood, went to lie down beside the grain pile. Then she went over secretly and uncovered his feet and laid down. Then in verse number eight, וַיְהִי֙ בַּחֲצִ֣י הַלַּ֔יְלָה, It was in the middle of the night, וַיֶּחֱרַ֥ד הָאִ֖ישׁ. That the man was shaking, and וַיִּלָּפֵ֑ת, he turned away. וְהִנֵּ֣ה אִשָּׁ֔ה שֹׁכֶ֖בֶת מַרְגְּלֹתָֽיו׃ - there’s a woman, lying down at his feet. He said, “Who are you?” She said, “אָנֹכִי֙ ר֣וּת אֲמָתֶ֔ךָ.” Your servant, your handmaid. . She says to him now, “וּפָרַשְׂתָּ֤ כְנָפֶ֙ךָ֙ עַל־אֲמָ֣תְךָ֔ כִּ֥י גֹאֵ֖ל אָֽתָּה” Spread your skirt, your dress, your clothing over your handmaid, because you are a redeemer. You are a goel.

He says, “You know, blessed are you.” Basically, at this moment, he says, “The hesed that you show now is even greater than the hesed you showed before,” and basically they plan things out. He says to her, “There is a redeemer who is closer than me in the family, who has first rights as a redeemer. So in the morning, we’re going to figure out if he’ll be a redeemer or not. And if not, well, then I’ll be your redeemer.”

The language here … There are parallels, interesting parallels. First of all וַיְהִי֙ בַּחֲצִ֣י הַלַּ֔יְלָה [in the middle of the night]. If we were learning together in a kind of normal way, I would … Have been many times in this session, I would ask you, “You know, where’d you hear … Where have we heard that before?” וַיְהִי֙ בַּחֲצִ֣י הַלַּ֔יְלָה Nobody can answer, because you’re all on mute, but you see source number 10. We all know this phrase.וַיְהִי֙ בַּחֲצִ֣י הַלַּ֔יְלָה. It’s in the Haggadah! There’s only two times in the entire Hebrew bible, where we have this formulation of language. וַיְהִי֙ בַּחֲצִ֣י הַלַּ֔יְלָה. In Exodus at the moment of the destruction of the first born, the moment of redemption of Israel, at Pesach, and at this moment. It’s clear: this is a redemptive moment.

The other parallel here, is this language of Ruth saying, “Spread your skirt on me,” is very similar to language in Ezekiel. Ezekiel 16:6 through 8. This is marriage language. This is the language of completely coming together as a couple, so marriage is happening here, in a certain sense. The other thing to notice here is that Naomi told Ruth, “Ask him what to do, he’ll tell you what to do,” and that’s not what happens here. She tells him what to do.

Then we have the final scene in chapter 12, and in this scene, we have a number of the elements that are reminiscent of what we talked about before. Of Yibbum, of levirate marriage, but we never have the language of levirate marriage here. We have elements of it, and it’s clear that, although this is not a brother of a dead brother securing the marital future of the widow of his dead brother, it’s expanded to a relative, and the text doesn’t use the language of Yibbum, of levirate marriage. It uses the language of goel, of land redemption, to talk about both the redemption of a plot of land, but of Boaz taking, marrying Ruth. Ruth, by the way, who’s Moabite, who is prohibited to be married by an Israelite, even though the Midrash and the Gemara get out of it by saying, “Oh, the Torah in Deuteronomy 23:4 doesn’t prohibit a Moabite-ess. It only prohibits a Moabite.” It’s clear that there’s something here that’s against the grain of the more restrictive notion of who is in and who is out. There’s an openness here.

I just want to look at number twelve to … I’ve gone over the 20 minutes. Here are the elements, which are similar to levirate marriage. Boaz goes to the gates and sits down there. The redeemer, who Boaz had mentioned, comes by. He calls over to him, and he calls the redeemer “ploni almoni”, which means John Doe. It’s not a real name. It means “so and so”. This person, who is a closer goel, the closer near-kinsman, is supposed to have the responsibility to protect Ruth and Naomi and to buy back their field before they sell it off in destitution, so that they have it.

At first, he’s willing to do it, and then when Boaz tells him, “But you got … You have to understand that Ruth comes with it. And if you take this field, you’re going to … You’re also going to marry Ruth, because they …” That’s one of the elements of Yibbum here: that he needs to marry the widow of the dead kinsman. As I said before, it’s not a brother, but it’s an expansion of that. Then this ploni almoni, who has no name, says, “Nah, I’m not gonna do that. That’s gonna mess up my whole inheritance.”

If you look at other elements of similarity here … If you look in verse number five, Boaz continued, “When you acquire the property from Naomi and from Ruth, the Moabite, you must also acquire the wife of the deceased. So as to לְהָקִ֥ים שֵׁם־הַמֵּ֖ת עַל־נַחֲלָתֽוֹ” To establish the name of the one who is dead on his inheritance. We saw before, that the whole purpose of levirate marriage is לְהָקִ֥ים שֵׁם.

Then what happens is the nearer kinsman, peloni almoni, won’t do it, and in order to represent that, what happens? he throws his shoe. That is also reminiscent of the fact that in the Torah, the brother who won’t fulfill the obligation of levirate marriage has his shoe taken off of him and is known as “the one who has the loosened sandal.” The other element here is if you look at verse nine, וַיֹּאמֶר֩ בֹּ֨עַז לַזְּקֵנִ֜ים. They have an element of the elders, who are at the gates, which in the Torah, when the brother who is refusing to do Yibbum, he has to stand at the gates in front of the elders.

What happens from all this? What is the result? The result is that Boaz and Ruth become the forebears of David ha-melekh, and if you look at the very end of passage number 12, the women of the city in verse 14, the same women who said, when she first came back from Moab, they said, “Here, here’s … Here’s Naomi,” and the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the lord, who has not withheld the redeemer from you today. May his name be perpetuated in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain your old age, for he is born of your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons.”

The redeemer is the one, who’s gonna come out of this marriage. Naomi took the child and held it to her bosom. She became its foster mother. The women neighbors gave him a name, saying, “A son is born to whom? To Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse. The father of David, so, in other words, it’s Naomi, whose name is established in Israel, as well as Elimelech. As well as her son, Mahlon.

Naomi gains her perpetuity. She gains her name in Israel, because of what Boaz was willing to do, and here is Boaz marrying a Moabite-ess, in a sign of complete covenantal openness. Out of that comes not just any family, not just anyone, it comes David hamelech, who is the symbol of the sovereignty of Israel, so that the sovereignty of Israel is born out of expansion of institutions of the Torah. Of taking leket, and making it full of hesed. Of taking levirate marriage, of Yibbum, and turning it into redemption. Of taking redemption and moving it to a higher and greater level. In doing that and accepting the nokhriya, the foreigner, the Moabite-ess, into the covenant, I believe that this text is teaching us in a very powerful way, that it is an authentic and original biblical Hebrew notion to expand covenant and to open covenant, rather than to restrict it. I’m sorry I went over my time, but I’d love to have some conversation.

DW:

 David…Just beautiful, that … At the beginning, as soon as you put out your thesis, that you want to make the case of what it means and even how to build an open hearted society and then … It’s just very, very moving and very, very powerful. So, thank you. I know we set an impossible task in asking people to teach in 20 minutes. 

[Some discussion of teleconference logistics omitted]

 I am so happy to call on our mutual friend, Rabbi Avi Winokur from Society Hill Synagogue, your classmate. 

DG:

I’m looking forward to hearing his wonderful voice.

Rabbi Avi Winokur:

Great teaching. Wonderful teaching. I had a question about authorship. I’ve often thought, and I’m wondering what you think about this, that the Book of Ruth is maybe the only, or maybe one of two books, that is authored by a woman. The prominence of the women characters, the fact that so much of this is about character and relationships, a kind of Carol Gilligan-esque feel to it. There’s something about it that makes me think that maybe that’s the case, and I’m wondering if you’ve thought about it or if you have any thoughts about it now.

DG:

I haven’t thought about it, but since all of the writers of the biblical tradition are anonymous to us, that allows us to imagine them in all kinds of ways. I’m certainly not a historian of the biblical period to note that possibility, but that’s a powerful idea.

DW

David, I actually have a two part question. One is, I’m wondering if you’ve taught this arc, these texts and this moral arc that you laid out, before, and if so, what kind of response you’ve gotten. I think the second part of that question is I’m … I guess I want to ask you, and I’m not intending to be provocative, but I just wonder about implications for today. I love as you ended, about how you articulated that you really … From this reading, you see that it’s a very, deeply authentic and original notion within the Tanakh to expand the covenant, and if you have any thoughts about what that means for our contemporary Jewish community.

DG:

Great, so I think that it’s important to see this is one example of covenantal openness in the biblical tradition, but I think we also have to see it that there are examples of covenantal restriction, also. They’re both there, and they’re in this constant tension with each other. To choose to live and move forward on the side of covenantal openness is our choice, and we can do that. To say, yeah, it does say that Moabites can’t … There are these restrictions in the tradition, but I’m choosing to hear this voice, which is authentic. It’s not like, “What’s the authentic Israelite or Jewish voice about openness to the other?” There’s a variety of them, and I think we need to choose that which speaks more to who we are.

DW

Especially I love about what you’re saying is I think about, as we approach Shavuot, and this image that all of the Israelites stood together at Sinai to receive the Torah, and there’s this incredible recounting of —  like synesthesia, where they saw sound and they heard visual sights, but the hearing of revelation is so important. One of the things that you’re raising up is how important it is to listen from multiple voices.

DG:

Also, you asked me if I’ve taught this before. I have taught this before, as you see from the study packet. In the past, it’s been in like an hour or more, sure, but I’ve … The times I’ve taught it, and just a few times, I’ve gotten … People have been very appreciative that here is an authentic group of sources. This particular sefer, this megillah.That is an opening to openness. I’m gonna teach it, actually, in a few days in an Orthodox synagogue. I’ve never taught this in an Orthodox synagogue before, and it’s about as open an Orthodox synagogue as you can imagine, given the fact that they asked me to teach, but I’ll be interested to see the response there.

DW:

Oh, please let us know. That will be really fascinating. Thanks. I want to thank everybody who stayed on the call. I hope you found it as worthwhile as we did. The “we” here, I’m sitting, and I want to thank, at this moment, Rachael Burgess and Oanh Whalenfor helping with all of the arrangements and with bringing this call to life. We were smiling at each other throughout the teaching, so as I said, we will post a recording of this thing for anybody who would want to return to it, and you have access to the text and the materials that we distributed. Rabbi David Gedzelman, again, thank you so much. It was a great pleasure to learn with you. A great honor that you joined us today, and I want to thank …

DG:

Well, thank you all for thinking of me, Rabbi Waxman, thank you very much for inviting me. I really appreciate it. Chag sameach!

President and CEO, Steinhardt Center for Jewish Life

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