Revisiting a Very Orthodox Rabbi’s Unorthodox Biography of His Father, Twenty Years after It Was Banned

Two decades ago, Nathan Kamenetsky, a prominent Jerusalem rabbi with impeccable ḥaredi credentials, self-published The Making of a Godol, a two-volume biography of his father, Yaakov Kamenetsky (1891-1985), who had been a leading rabbinic sage (or godol) of non-ḥasidic Orthodoxy in America. The book’s frank portrayal of its subject, and of numerous other revered sages, constitutes a radical departure from the hagiographies that have become mainstays of popular ḥaredi literature—so much so that it was swiftly condemned by prominent rabbis. The younger Kamenetsky quickly ceased publication; Amazon now sells the book for $2,503. Reading the book for a second time Marc B. Shapiro reflects on its virtues and idiosyncrasies:

Anyone lucky enough to have bought a copy of Kamenetsky’s book when it came out, . . . quickly saw what a curious book it was: chatty, psychologically acute, alternately gullible and critical, endlessly digressive, and compulsively readable (though the spelling and transliteration are a bit idiosyncratic). It also had a peculiar literary structure that could have been conceived only by someone who was raised in an intellectual tradition of commentaries and metacommentaries: the biography of the godol in question was just 67 pages long and ended in spring 1908, when “our protagonist,” as Kamenetsky refers to his father, was seventeen. All the rest was commentary, or rather notes and excurses and further notes spawned by these excurses (each distinguished by somewhat bizarre choices of headings and font).

Nathan Kamenetsky had an instinctive historical sensibility: he was interested in the minute particulars and realia of his subjects’ lives, and he had a knack for choosing the revealing anecdote. [Nonetheless], The Making of a Godol was in the tradition of ḥaredi historical works. Yet it was unique in that Kamenetsky did not generally censor either himself or his sources, nor, despite his belief in the intrinsic religious value of the study of great rabbinic scholars, was he interested in writing hagiography. By choosing not to portray the great rabbis as entirely selfless [saints], lacking any self-interest or ego, he bucked the conventions of his society. His g’dolim [great rabbis] are great, but they are not perfect.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish History, Haredim, Orthodoxy, Rabbis

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security