How Jewish Mysticism, Not Just the Hebrew Bible, Helped to Shape American Religion

Oct. 15 2021

While much has been written of the influence of Christian Hebraism on early American thought, from the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay through the Founding, a new book by Brian Ogren highlights a heretofore overlooked aspect of the phenomenon: the exposure of colonial theologians to the teachings of Kabbalah. Yisroel Ben-Porat writes in his review:

In his first two chapters, Ogren considers Kabbalah as a point of contact between Quaker and mainstream-Protestant thought. He identifies and analyzes a hitherto unstudied manuscript that he attributes to George Keith, a Scottish missionary who fashioned a unique strand of Christian Quakerism. The text, which draws heavily upon a variety of kabbalistic ideas, made its way from Pennsylvania to the library of the famed Mather family in Massachusetts. Reverend Cotton Mather (1663-1728), son of Reverend Increase Mather (1639-1723) and [a highly influential American Puritan churchman], engaged in an intellectual exchange with Keith. This debate “brings into focus some of the contrasts but also some of the commonalities between Jewish Kabbalah, Keithian Christian Quakerism, and the Puritan Congregationalism represented by Cotton Mather.”

The finer points of this discussion will likely elude most readers who do not have an advanced background in kabbalistic texts; however, the overarching intellectual significance of Kabbalah for these thinkers emerges clearly. While Keith deviated from mainstream Quaker thought, Mather arguably represented the center of New England’s religious culture.

[Another] significant character is Judah Monis (1683-1763), who converted to Christianity in 1722 and subsequently taught Hebrew at Harvard for several decades. . . . Monis’s decision to join the Protestant fold engendered a great deal of excitement among the clergy. Ogren deepens our understanding of this episode . . . by providing a close reading of Monis’s polemical use of Kabbalah.

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: American founding, American Religion, Christian Hebraists, Kabbalah, Quakers

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism