A Forgotten Interview with One of the Great Talmudists of Pre-War Eastern Europe

July 24 2017

Serving for most of his career as the rabbi of the ḥasidic congregation of the first Russian, later Latvian, city of Dvinsk (modern-day Daugavpils), Joseph Rozin (1858-1936) was widely considered the foremost rabbinic mind of his day. Rozin, known as the “Rogachover Gaon” (the talmudic genius from Rogachov), was frequently consulted by other rabbis for his opinions on halakhic matters, which he approached with sometimes stunning unconventionality. In 1933, M. Gurtz, a correspondent from the New York-based Yiddish paper Der Morgen-Zshurnal, conducted a rare interview with the Rogachover, reproduced in translation at the link below. In his introduction to the text, Marc Shapiro describes the sage’s “complete originality and independence as a legal scholar”:

Take the question of the halakhic standing of civil marriage, which is [the subject of] one of the major rabbinic disputes of the 20th century (a dispute that was later extended to the status of marriages performed by Reform and Conservative clergy). Does a non-halakhic marriage create a marital bond that requires a halakhic divorce (get) to dissolve the union? While halakhic authorities lined up on opposites sides of the dispute, the Rogachover charted a unique path. . . . In brief, he argued that . . . the origin of the non-halakhic marital bond is in the [pre-Mosaic] Noahide code [i.e., the seven universal commandments given, according to rabbinic tradition, to mankind via Noah], and for Jews this status can be ended only with a [special] get, which is written differently from a typical get. . . .

The Rogachover’s special love for Moses Maimonides, who in his eyes stood above all other medieval [sages], is not only seen in his halakhic writings or in his volumes of commentary on Maimonides’ [code of Jewish law]. Unusual among his contemporaries, the Rogachover also intensively studied Maimonides’ [philosophical magnum opus] the Guide of the Perplexed, and [some] of his notes on it survive. . . . A number of philosophical expressions found in the Guide were applied by him in an original fashion to halakhic texts.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Divorce, East European Jewry, Halakhah, History & Ideas, Seven Noahide Laws, Talmud

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela