Was Moses’ Death Punishment or Reward?

On the holiday of Simḥat Torah (which fell on Monday in Israel and Tuesday in the Diaspora) the annual cycle of readings from the Pentateuch is concluded with the end of Deuteronomy. Here God instructs Moses to survey the land of Israel from a mountain vantage point, but forbids him from entering. This is generally understood as punishment of the Israelites’ dying leader, but James A. Diamond wonders whether it is really something else:

Should Moses have extended his leadership tenure and guided the people into the land, he would have been faced with . . . more of the same anguish and suffering he had experienced up until this point. It would surely have entailed the wrangling, the complaints, the jealousy, and the power struggles that accompany the burdens of state- building. . . . God does not invite Moses up the mountain to deny him entry into the Promised Land (“I have let you see it with your own eyes, But you shall not cross there”), but rather to preempt the pain of doing so, while assuring him that his vision will inevitably become a reality. The verse reads better as “I have let you see it with your own eyes, and there you need not cross.”

Moses is thus spared being mired in the partisan machinations that—as the historical record of the books of Joshua, [Judges, Samuel, and] Kings (let alone the contemporary history of the modern Jewish state!) evidence—would certainly have ensued. His record then of autonomy and initiative, even in the face of divine obstinacy, is preserved and remains untarnished by the political intrigue that would have inevitably consumed him to the very end.

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Read more at Seforim

More about: Deuteronomy, Hebrew Bible, Moses, Religion & Holidays, Simhat Torah

 

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine