The Tabernacle as a Biblical Lesson in Artistic Creativity

March 7 2018

The final chapters of the book of Exodus are largely concerned with the construction of the tabernacle—the portable precursor to the First Temple—used by the Israelites in the wilderness. After examining how these passages were understood by Christian theologians in Reformation-era England, Ranana Dine examines what can be gleaned from uniquely rabbinic readings:

For the [talmudic] rabbis, the tabernacle reflects God’s own creation of the world and other aspects of divinity—the command to the Israelites to construct the building is [a way in which He allows] people [to serve] as partners in divine creation. . . .

[The 20th-century exegete] Nechama Leibowitz, drawing on [these] earlier commentators, has drawn parallels between the Bible’s description of the tabernacle’s construction and the first creation narrative in Genesis. In particular, many of the verbs, such as “saw,” “blessed,” and “completed” occur in both texts, giving the impression that the construction of the tabernacle requires the same actions as God’s creation of the world. . . .

[In light of such interpretations], it is possible to read these passages . . . as suggesting that artistic creation—designing, construction, crafting—can be part of divine work, part of godly creation, and perhaps even require a bit of the divine spirit. By weaving or chiseling we too can participate in a type of creation, although we lack the [explicit] divine command today to build a dwelling place for God. . . . [Thus, in] Jewish theology, the beauty of the tabernacle and the Temple is godly in its essence, containing the traces of the human-divine partnership in ongoing creation.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Art, Exodus, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Tabernacle

The Danger of Hollow Fixes to the Iran Deal

March 20 2018

In January, the Trump administration announced a 120-day deadline for the so-called “E3”—Britain, France, and Germany—to agree to solutions for certain specific flaws in the 2015 agreement to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Omri Ceren explains why it’s necessary to get these fixes right:

[Already in October], the administration made clear that it considered the deal fatally flawed for at least three reasons: a weak inspections regime in which the UN’s nuclear watchdog can’t access Iranian military facilities, an unacceptable arrangement whereby the U.S. had to give up its most powerful sanctions against ballistic missiles even as Iran was allowed to develop ballistic missiles, and the fact that the deal’s eventual expiration dates mean Iran will legally be allowed to get within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear weapon. . . .

A team of American negotiators has been working on getting the E3 to agree to a range of fixes, and is testing whether there is overlap between the maximum that the Europeans can give and the minimum that President Trump will accept. The Europeans in turn are testing the Iranians to gauge their reactions and will likely not accept any fixes that would cause Iran to bolt.

The negotiations are problematic. The New York Times reported that, as far as the Europeans are concerned, the exercise requires convincing Trump they’ve “changed the deal without actually changing it.” Public reports about the inspection fix suggest that the Europeans are loath to go beyond urging the International Atomic Energy Commission to request inspections, which the agency may be too intimidated to do. The ballistic-missile fix is shaping up to be a political disaster, with the Europeans refusing to incorporate anything but long-range missiles in the deal. That would leave us with inadequate tools to counter Iran’s development of ballistic missiles that could be used to wipe Israel, the Saudis, and U.S. regional bases off the map. . . .

There is a [significant] risk the Trump administration may be pushed to accept the hollow fixes acceptable to the Europeans. Fixing the deal in this way would be the worst of all worlds. It would functionally enshrine the deal under a Republican administration. Iran would be open for business, and this time there would be certainty that a future president will not act to reverse the inevitable gold rush. Just as no deal would have been better than a bad deal, so no fix would be better than a bad fix.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Europe, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy