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Reading Ruth

Reading Ruth

Leon Kass

Regular price $ 13.56 USD
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125-page paperback / 5" x 8" / ISBN 9781589881587 / Publication Date: 4/6/2021

Through close reading and responsive commentary, Reading Ruth: Birth, Redemption, and the Way of Israel vivifies this much-loved biblical text, enabling readers to imagine how a widowed woman from an alien nation becomes the ancestress of the greatest Israelite king.

As the authors (granddaughter and grandfather) also show, the Book of Ruth is about much more than the Cinderella-like rise of a woman from misery to glory. Ruth’s story sheds light on certain enduring questions of human life, and on the Hebrew Bible’s answers to those questions: the meaning of national membership and identity; the nature and limits of female friendship, marital love, and familial obligations; the importance of attachment to the land; and, especially, the redemptive powers for human life of childbirth, loving-kindness, and loyal devotion.

Also available as an e-book:

"Layers of questions and meanings emerge as authors Kass and his granddaughter Mandelbaum explicate the text, exploring themes like friendship, intermarriage, community, punishment, incest, and God's fateful hand . . . A small but thoughtful and thought-provoking book."—Booklist

"A delightful and inspiring analysis of the biblical Book of Ruth."Jewish Media Review

“Through a close reading of the Book of Ruth, Leon Kass and Hannah Mandelbaum transform how we see the story and how we see ourselves. A marvelous gem of a book.”—Russ Roberts

“To ‘read Ruth’ with Leon Kass and his granddaughter Hannah is to find a host of new meanings in that familiar tale. This little book, infused with the ineffable quality of chesed, is a pure delight.”—Mary Ann Glendon, author of A World Made New:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"Kass and Mandelbaum’s passion for the material, often felicitous phrasing, and the accessibility of their work to a wider range of readers than a typical scholarly commentary make the volume a worthwhile read independent of one’s previous study of Ruth . . . It succinctly but sumptuously conveys the pathos, profundity, and artistry of the pastoral tale that has inspired countless kindnesses for generations."Lehrhaus

“This new approach to the Biblical Book of Ruth radiates intelligence, wisdom, and kindness. The authors guide the readers through the memorable story of Noemi and Ruth, two women closely attached to each other, who come home to the Promised Land, Noemi as a returning native who has lost her husband and her sons, and Ruth, her widowed daughter-in-law, as a stranger. Rectitude, modesty and courage are their virtues, which, thanks to a beautiful love encounter with wise, generous Boaz, lead to Ruth’s marriage, conversion and motherhood. At each step, Kass and Mandelbaum help us capture the feelings of the characters, their mutual fidelity, and the happiness they achieve in a Biblical Israel open to virtue and piety. A deeply moving book, uplifting and true.”—Thomas Pavel, University of Chicago

Reading Ruth combines careful reading of the Book of Ruth with sensitive regard for the human experiences that lie at its core. Capturing the authenticity of the uplifting human interactions between the protagonists of this short narrative, the book reflects upon themes such as loyalty and devotion, family and marriage, friendship, community, and nobility of character. Allowing us a glimpse into the unadulterated joy of a study partnership laced with affection, the authors invite us to join them on a delightful journey into the Book of Ruth. Reading Ruth with respect and warmth, Kass and Mandelbaum unveil the inner world of Ruth’s characters, engaging the reader’s head and heart, and allowing the places, dialogues, and dilemmas of the biblical book to spring to life.”—Yael Ziegler, author of Ruth: From Alienation to Monarchy

"Not only an insightful reading of the book of Ruth, but also a wonderful demonstration of its tenets, being itself an act of familial transmission."—Assaf Inbari, author of Home and The Tank

“[O]ur era has somehow contrived to produce the ideal teacher in Leon Kass: learned humanist, medical doctor, bioethicist of distinction, gentleman, and wise counselor.”—George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, Ethics and Public Policy Center, on Founding God's Nation: Reading Exodus

“Do you have the Bible on your bookshelf, but wish you knew it better? Reading Ruth is for anyone—religious or secular, Jew or Christian—who seeks solace in the Hebrew Scriptures and who loves the Jewish people. Yet behind the familiar yet inexhaustible story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, there is the story of Leon and Hannah. The authors who draw so much wisdom from the deep well of this biblical text are a grandfather and granddaughter, separated by an ocean, yet united in mourning their beloved Amy [wife to Leon and grandmother to Hannah]. Together they read and remember her insight, and so come to terms with their loss. Reading Ruth is truly a tale for our times.”—Daniel Johnson, Editor of TheArticle, founding Editor of Standpoint and former Literary Editor of the London Times

"The genesis of this insightful and moving study—Leon Kass and his granddaughter Hannah Mandelbaum reading together the Book of Ruth, inspired in their shared loss by the memory of wife and grandmother—shines through the completed work. Thinking through the biblical story of personal friendship, women and family, without losing the political frame of the transition from the world of judges to kings, pondering the question of why an 'outsider' should be identified as the origin of the royal Davidic line, the authors draw their readers into reflection with them on fundamental human questions."—Ronna Burger, Professor of Philosophy, Catherine & Henry J. Gaisman Chair and Director of Judeo-Christian Studies, Sizeler Professor of Jewish Studies, Tulane University


Leon Kass is the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought at the College at the University of Chicago and Scholar Emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute. He was Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001 to 2005. His numerous articles and books include: Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature, Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying (with Amy A. Kass), Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song (with Amy A. Kass and Diana Schaub), Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times, and Founding God's Nation: Reading Exodus. Kass lives in Washington, DC.

Hannah Mandelbaum has lived in Jerusalem since the age of seven and has long been an avid student of the Hebrew Bible. Having recently completed her army service in the Education Division of the Israeli Air Force, Hannah is preparing to enter university to major in Jewish Studies and Education. She aspires someday to teach Biblical texts to the young.

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