Three Exemplars of Jewish Excellence at the Age of Twenty-Nine

Reflecting on the Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion, the political philosopher Leo Strauss, and the rabbi and theologian Joseph B. Soloveitchik at the end of their third decade, Eric Cohen analyzes their thought and actions at a formative moment in their intellectual development. He concludes with a reflection on Moses, the paragon of Jewish leadership:

Seeing the [burning] bush aflame yet unconsumed, Moses does what philosophers and scientists have always done: he asks a question and seeks by his own powers to find an answer. “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight; why doesn’t the bush burn up?” This is Spinoza’s Moses, who treats God’s call as an invitation to thought. But the story, of course, does not end there. The second Moses in this short passage is the Moses who “hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” In his piety, he lies prostrate before the Almighty, creator of all, whose ways are not his ways and whose powers he cannot fully fathom but to which he knows he must submit. This is Soloveitchik’s homo religiosus par excellence [who confronts God through an experience of wonder and acknowledgment of his own incomprehension].

The final Moses is Moses the liberator, a political leader in the best and highest sense of the word, who comes to see the suffering of his people not as a reason to ask, or a reason to submit, but as a commandment to act. “Come, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt.” So God demands, and eventually Moses accepts the responsibility of leading his nation.

We can admire—and we should—Ben-Gurion’s statesmanship, Strauss’s wisdom, and Soloveitchik’s piety. But perhaps only Moses—the greatest Israelite of all—knew all three facets of Jewish excellence from the inside, and so he remains the enduring exemplar for Jewish leaders of every age, on whose shoulders, and ours, the Jewish story continues.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: David Ben-Gurion, History & Ideas, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Leo Strauss, Moses, Zionism

 

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine