Jewish Artistic Creativity for the Days between Passover and Shavuot

Following Leviticus 23, observant Jews ritually count the 49 days from the second day of Passover (when, in ancient times, the annual barley offering was brought) until the eve of the holiday of Shavuot. This practice, known as “counting the omer” after a biblical measurement of grain, has inspired various artistic works, as Sarah Ogince explains:

Tobi Kahn grasps an asymmetric block of wood in both hands. He turns the piece, a fluid combination of angles and curves painted a rich metallic pewter, to reveal the base: a perfect rectangle, soft gold and marked with a hand-written number eight. Behind him, 48 similar blocks sit in a wooden grid suspended from the wall. “I didn’t want each individual piece to look the same because every day is a different day,” he says.

Very much a work of 21st-century art, Kahn’s sculpture is also part of a tradition that stretches back centuries. . . . Omer counters have been a staple item of Judaica since at least the 18th century. “We see so much artistic creativity: paper cuts, books—handwritten and printed—parchment scrolls in calendar boxes,” says Abigail Rapoport, curator of Judaica at the Jewish Museum in New York, which has a large collection of omer counters, including Kahn’s.

A parchment counter from the 18th century in the Netherlands depicts the numbers intertwined with tulips—not long after the region’s “tulip mania”—and colorful birds. Portuguese script next to the numbers hints that the counter was made by descendants of refugees fleeing that country’s inquisition.

A counter produced in early 20th-century Rochester, NY shows a darker aspect of the counting of the omer: the Talmud relates that 24,000 students of the [2nd-century] sage Rabbi Akiva perished in a plague during this time, and many Jews observe it as a period of mourning. The intricate papercut counter doubles as a memorial plaque that includes hundreds of names of deceased congregants.

Read more at JNS

More about: Jewish art, Jewish holidays, Shavuot

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy