After Two Millennia, Christians Begin to Appreciate the Jewish Love of Law

Ever since the apostle Paul referred to “the law”—meaning the prescriptions of the Torah—as a “curse,” Christians have been perplexed, to say the least, by Judaism’s enthusiasm for legality. Meir Soloveichik believes this has started to change:

The Torah—a rigorous and complex code containing 613 commandments, to which the rabbis later added a myriad of further prohibitions and obligations—is for Jews an exquisite source of happiness, the ultimate embodiment of the Almighty’s love, and God’s greatest gift. . . .

Christian thinkers have been startled by the fact that law—in all its multifarious details—can be a source of delight. In his Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis admits he was confounded by the Psalmist’s description of the Torah as sweeter than honey. “One can easily understand,” Lewis asserts, how laws may be important, even critical, but “it is very hard to find how they could be, so to speak, delicious, how they exhilarate.” . . .

In the past two decades, however, a stunning new genre of religious writing has appeared: Christian appreciation of the Jewish love of the law. These sensitive reflections are not only instructive to Christians but also, in certain ways, very interesting to Jews, as we can learn a great deal when we see ourselves through an outsider’s insightful eyes. . . . In an age of libertinism, Christians are coming to appreciate the role rigorous adherence to law plays in Jewish character formation—and in an age when they are now cultural outsiders, Christians are beginning to seek the secret of Jewish survival through the centuries, and are discovering it in the Jewish love of the law.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Christianity, Halakhah, Jewish-Christian relations, Judaism, Paul of Tarsus, Religion & Holidays

To Defeat the Legacy of Islamic State, Start Rebuilding the Communities It Destroyed

Now that the borders of Islamic State (IS) are slowly contracting, argues Alberto Fernandez, there is a moral and strategic imperative to reconstruct some of the non-Muslim communities that it has destroyed—and the U.S. should encourage local government to help:

Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate is crumbling, if all too slowly. Sadly, though, its ultimate collapse will not be the end of the story. It will leave behind a still-lethal insurgency that will almost certainly attempt to stage terrorist attacks around the world as well as a wide swath of physical destruction and devastated lives stretching from Aleppo to Ramadi.

And yet, even while the Islamic State is “losing,” there is no denying that it has also “won” some things. It has created grim facts on the ground. It has wiped out communities that will never rise again. Many Yazidi villages and towns within its orbit are destined to remain permanently empty because of slaughter and the flight of despairing survivors. IS jihadists also succeeded in destroying the ancient Christian community of Mosul, whose surviving members were robbed of everything they had when they were expelled from the city in July 2014. Many of the survivors of these same minority groups remain scattered around the region, and some still haven’t decided whether they should stay, with all the risks that it would entail, or leave forever. Islamic State has torn a hole in the fabric of the region’s millennia-old diversity that can never be fully repaired. . . .

But we should consider fresh ways for Muslim leaders to show concrete support for restoring what IS sought to exterminate. Even the resurrection of a single community would be a powerful message of solidarity and diversity in a Middle East that is becoming increasingly monochrome. . . .

In . . . Israel, one kibbutz incorporated and commemorated survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and other Jewish partisans. Imagine the resurrection of a non-Muslim community that the Islamic State sought to exterminate. What a powerful message that would send. And the message would resonate even more strongly if the work were to be done with the support of Muslim states.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: ISIS, Middle East Christianity, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Yazidis