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Three Exemplars of Jewish Excellence at the Age of Twenty-Nine

Reflecting on the Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion, the political philosopher Leo Strauss, and the rabbi and theologian Joseph B. Soloveitchik at the end of their third decade, Eric Cohen analyzes their thought and actions at a formative moment in their intellectual development. He concludes with a reflection on Moses, the paragon of Jewish leadership:

Seeing the [burning] bush aflame yet unconsumed, Moses does what philosophers and scientists have always done: he asks a question and seeks by his own powers to find an answer. “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight; why doesn’t the bush burn up?” This is Spinoza’s Moses, who treats God’s call as an invitation to thought. But the story, of course, does not end there. The second Moses in this short passage is the Moses who “hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” In his piety, he lies prostrate before the Almighty, creator of all, whose ways are not his ways and whose powers he cannot fully fathom but to which he knows he must submit. This is Soloveitchik’s homo religiosus par excellence [who confronts God through an experience of wonder and acknowledgment of his own incomprehension].

The final Moses is Moses the liberator, a political leader in the best and highest sense of the word, who comes to see the suffering of his people not as a reason to ask, or a reason to submit, but as a commandment to act. “Come, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt.” So God demands, and eventually Moses accepts the responsibility of leading his nation.

We can admire—and we should—Ben-Gurion’s statesmanship, Strauss’s wisdom, and Soloveitchik’s piety. But perhaps only Moses—the greatest Israelite of all—knew all three facets of Jewish excellence from the inside, and so he remains the enduring exemplar for Jewish leaders of every age, on whose shoulders, and ours, the Jewish story continues.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: David Ben-Gurion, History & Ideas, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Leo Strauss, Moses, Zionism

 

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC