Christian Hebraism, Abolitionism, and the Biblical Message of the Liberty Bell

July 25 2022

Inscribed on Philadelphia’s liberty bell is a segment from Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Meir Soloveichik explains that the selection of this verse, like so much that was distinctive about colonial and revolutionary America, was a product of a culture steeped not only the Bible , but in the Hebrew language and other Jewish texts:

The story begins in 1701, when William Penn enshrined in Pennsylvania a Charter of Liberties guaranteeing freedom of conscience. For Penn, a Quaker, true friendship with God and man could not be coerced: “There can be no friendship where there is no freedom.” Penn’s agent in the region was James Logan, later mayor of Pennsylvania. The historian Edwin Wolf describes how Logan “bought himself Hebrew Bibles and Hebrew prayerbooks, and read them and made notes in them. When he was more fluent, he added a Shulḥan Arukh and the great six-volume edition of the Mishnah with the Maimonides and Bertinoro commentaries. In fact, Logan gathered together in Philadelphia in the first half of the 18th century one of the largest collections of Hebraica which existed in frontier America.”

Logan, Wolf explains, then taught Hebrew to his daughter Sally, whom he described as a child “reading the 34th psalm in Hebrew.” . . . Sally, in turn, married Isaac Norris, speaker of the State Assembly. Norris was a Hebraist in his own right. . . . It was from this Hebraic household that the bell emerged. In 1751, Isaac Norris commissioned it . . . to mark the 50th anniversary of the Charter of Liberties. He chose to emblazon the bell with words from Leviticus, describing how every 50 years, indentured servants are freed. . . . Known until the 1830s as the “State House Bell,” anti-slavery advocates chose the bell because of its verse, renaming it the “Liberty Bell” as a symbol of the abolitionist cause.

The Bell’s biblical story is worth rediscovering today. We are experiencing what Commentary has called “the great unraveling,” in which many on the left assail the greatness of America, describing its story as a series of unmitigated sins. Meanwhile, even on some segments of the right today, we hear dismissal of the universality of the American idea, and of a foreign policy that seeks to support liberty around the world. The bell embodies a people who, ever imperfect, ever exceptional, were inspired by the Bible to advance the cause of liberty on its own soil and throughout the world.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: American exceptionalism, American Religion, Christian Hebraists, Slavery

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