As Genesis Makes Clear, Fear of God Is the Best Check on Sexual Impropriety

From the nudity of Noah to the rape of Dinah to the attempted seduction of Joseph in this week’s Torah reading, the first book of the Bible is replete with instances of people who try to use power or violence to coerce sex from the unwilling. Daniel Ross Goodman finds an important and timely message in the thread that connects these stories:

Abraham diagnoses the problem [during his sojourn] in Philistia, after [its king], Avimelekh, abducts Sarah and [a] miracle occurs preventing Avimelekh from molesting her: Avimelekh confronts Abraham, asking him why he lied and called Sarah his sister. Abraham tells Avimelekh, “I said to myself ‘there is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife’” (Genesis 20:11). . . .

The message of [this and other] stories is clear: where there is no fear of God, . . . primal instincts go unchecked and powerless people are at risk of having sexual violence perpetrated upon them by powerful, unrestrained potentates. . . .

“Good manners must come prior to the Torah,” the rabbis of the Talmud teach. Because if there is a lack of basic decency, then what good is law? The book of Genesis is the first book of the Bible in order to teach us that if we cannot manage to act with basic decency—for instance, if we cannot understand something as basic as not forcing people into sexual activity against their will—then the rest of the Bible, and the rest of our endeavors, are essentially worthless.

We have a difficult time nowadays talking about concepts like “holiness,” “humility,” and “fear of God” (or “fear of Heaven,” as it is often called in rabbinic literature). We are much more comfortable talking about “tolerance,” “equality,” or “rights.” But if there’s anything that today’s stories about sexual harassment can teach us, . . . it’s that without a fear of Heaven—without the fear that there is a higher power who will hold those with earthly power accountable for their misdeeds—then it is very, very difficult to prevent people from exploiting others.

Without the fear of heaven, you must rely on earthly laws alone for justice. As Harvey Weinstein and the rest have demonstrated, that’s not much of a shield. When you untether the law from belief, you rob it of its power.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Abraham, Genesis, Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Sexual ethics


How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen