Why do you think R. Ze’ira says this?
How does the book of Ruth teach that those who do gemilut chasadim are rewarded?
What are some of the key acts of hesed in the narrative? Who enacts them?
- How essential do you think the notion of hesed is to the Book of Ruth? What would you say is the primary teaching of this megillah?
What point does the first paragraph of the midrash make?
What is the context for each of the two prooftexts that it cites?
Do acts of hesed differ whether they are being “recorded” or not?
Do you act differently when doing a good deed if you know that someone is paying attention?
- The quote from Malachi hearkens to the liturgy of Yom Kippur. Usually we think of it as a day to recount our sins and atone, but Malachi offers us the opportunity to think about it from the opposite side. How do you note and record your own acts of hesed?
Aviva Zornberg, The Murmuring Deep, pp. 372-3
… the midrash goes on to speak of the “nowadays reality as one of pure narrative: when one does a good deed, who records it? In the past, the prophet was at hand to record such deeds -- the gap between narrative and closure was narrowed, the prophet effecting almost simultaneous translation, so that full and final meanings were, to some extent, even in this world, to be understood. But now, such record is a matter of faith: Elijah, the Messiah, God Himself ensure that the significant moments of narrative are written, their meanings elucidated. But that writing happens in some other world…
… After the prophetic period, however, the existence of such a divine record becomes a matter of faith. We remain essentially uncorroborated in this world, with our various social networks, normative worlds, conversational fabrics. Although the midrash maintains that all is ultimately on record --signed by God-- in this world we have no access to that divine text. Those who belong to the society of believers sustain their world of belief in God’s providence and in the larger repercussions of human action. They may discuss theology and interpret reality; but final meaning -- the divine writing -- is not available to them. Like Reuven, and Aaron, and Boaz, they live in this world, which is the world of narrative. Here a pinch of parched corn may have to do in place of fatted calves…
How does Zornberg understand the midrash?
Do you agree with the theology represented in this commentary?
What does it mean that “final meaning… is not available to them?” Is our human realm inherently limited as a result?
Has social media or the public nature of the internet affected how you tell your own story or inform your ethical behavior?
Does this midrash support the statement of R. Ze’ira in Source #1?
Aviva Zornberg, The Murmuring Deep, p. 377
Where did Solomon learn to listen so well? In the midrashic narrative, the two women who flank the king, Bathsheba and Ruth, become more than witnesses: both are associated with the issues that are brought into brutal focus in the case of the harlots. Solomon is in fact the child born of the illicit relationship between David and Bathsheba; he is also the great-great-grandson of Ruth the Moabite, once liminal, abject, full of desire. Perhaps Solomon has learned from these women to inform law with narrative, to bring the incompatible universes into dynamic relation.
Perhaps Ruth, in particular -- who once chose for herself a new mother -- has been chosen by Solomon as his ancestor. When he is faced with the challenge of recuperating and sustaining a normative world, his version of law seeks to bridge the reality and the vision, what is and what may be. As Robert Cover says, “Choosing ancestry is always a serious business.” Solomon chooses Ruth the Moabite, as a constant reminder of the narrative anguish out of which transformations emerge. Perhaps her willingness to be effaced from the written text of her own narrative, to give up her child as an act of devotion, is what gives her the grace of the “true mother” in the moment of Solomon’s choice.