During the second half of the 20th century, the kabbalistic concept of tikkun olam—literally adjusting or “repairing” the world—was transformed in some American Jewish circles into a religious obligation incumbent upon Jews to make the world a better place. This imperative quickly became indistinguishable from the causes of the American left, so that tikkun olam is now synonymous with “social justice.” In his recent book To Heal the World?, Jonathan Neumann argues that this new understanding of tikkun olam has distorted much of American Judaism and undermined the rationale for preserving Judaism and the Jewish people. He discusses the book with Jonathan Silver. (Audio, 31 minutes. Options for download and streaming are available at the link below.)
How the Desire to “Repair the World” Came to Undermine Jewish Particularism
Can American and Israeli Jews Stay Together as One People?
Best Books of the Year, as Selected by Mosaic Authors
In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War
Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:
The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.
The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .
All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .
And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.