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.

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

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America