Groundhogs, King David, and the Midrash

The hibernation of the groundhog holds an important place in American folklore; much less well-known is its possible appearance in rabbinic folklore. According to one major midrashic work, “There are three types of slumber: that of sleep, that of prophecy, and that of marmita.” The Midrash goes on to cite a story in Samuel I in which David sneaks into the camp of his rival, King Saul, while Saul and his men are asleep. David then steals the king’s spear and water jug and sneaks out. According to the Midrash, Saul and his comrades were lost in the “slumber of the marmita.” Natan Slifkin explains:

The slumber of the mysterious marmita is the deepest type of sleep—but what is a marmita?

Opinions vary. But several opinions . . . argue that it is the animal known in Europe as the marmot, which is known to North Americans as the groundhog. Marmots enter a deep hibernation during the cold winter; their heartbeat slows to around five beats a minute, while they take only one to three breaths a minute. The Midrash says that such a deep sleep was placed upon Saul’s camp by God, so that David was able to steal in and out undetected. Nobody in Saul’s camp woke up; it was as though time itself was frozen.

Read more at Rationalist Judaism

More about: Bible, King David, King Saul, Midrash, Religion & Holidays

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy