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A Hanukkah Song’s Hidden Anti-Christian Polemic

Dec. 26 2016

Composed in the late 12th or early 13th century by a German Jew, Ma’oz Tsur (“Mighty rock”) is the best known Hanukkah hymn. Modern scholars have long thought that its sixth and final verse, a prayer for future redemption, was added by a later author. Yitzhak Melamed argues otherwise:

To the best of my knowledge, the sixth stanza first appeared in print in Amsterdam in 1702. The fact that the sixth stanza was first printed only hundreds of years after the hymn was written has led some scholars to suggest that it is not original but a later addition. Nevertheless, the intricate style of the sixth stanza is identical to that of the first five stanzas, and it complements almost perfectly the topic of the first stanza. Thus, the last stanza [appears to have been] intentionally repressed and passed by oral tradition for almost five centuries due to its strong anti-Christian theme.

The first line begins by beseeching God to “expose his holy arm,” an expression referring to God’s violent redemption of the Hebrews from Egypt “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 26:8). . . .

Against whom is God meant to apply his mighty arm? The phrase which follows may mean simply: “bring the end, the redemption.” But the text may have a [coded] meaning as well: “bring the end of Jesus-ism.” In other words: “Bring the end of Christianity.” The intentional double meaning of y’shua as salvation, on one hand, and as a collective noun referring to the followers of Jesus [in Hebrew, Y’shua], on the other, allowed the medieval Jews to assert and conceal their hatred of Christianity at the same time.

The succeeding line is a natural continuation of the hidden meaning of the opening line of the stanza: “Avenge the abuse of your servants / From the wicked nation.” The term “wicked nation” is a standard rabbinic reference to Rome and Christianity, and the historical context of the hymn, [an] era of massacres [of Jews] perpetrated by the Crusaders, explains the desire for revenge and the urgent request for redemption expressed in the third line.

Read more at theTorah.com

More about: Hanukkah, Jewish-Christian relations, Judaism, Religion & Holidays

 

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy