How Ancient Jews Understood Divine Law

In her recent book, What’s Divine about Divine Law, Christine Hayes examines how Jews in antiquity thought about the laws of the Torah. Many, especially those influenced by Greco-Roman thinking, considered halakhah divine because of its nature or characteristics; others saw it as divine simply because it was commanded by God. (This division, she remarks, corresponds neatly to the one in modern legal theory between those who believe in positive law and those who believe in natural law.) According to Hayes, many Greek-speaking Jews—including the Alexandrian philosopher Philo and the apostle Paul—found the two competing notions to be disturbingly dissonant, but the talmudic rabbis, for their part, tended toward a conception of law that transcended the distinction between them. (Interview by Joseph Ryan Kelly. Audio, 52 minutes.)

Read more at Marginalia

More about: Halakhah, History & Ideas, Jewish Thought, Judaism, Paul of Tarsus, Philo, Talmud

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy