Zionism, Humanism, and Naturalness: The Theology of Yehuda Amital

Yehuda Amital (1924-2010), a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, spent most of his career as the head of the Har Etzion yeshiva and became a leading figure in the Religious Zionist movement. In an analysis of Amital’s life, work, and thought, Reuven Ziegler and Yehudah Mirsky explain the notion of “humanity” (enoshiyut) that formed one of the “fundamental principles” of his theology. (Free registration required.)

[According to Amital, the] “worship of God, in whatever form, cannot wipe out simple human feeling.” As an example, he cites the obligation of a kohen [priest] to defile himself [ritually by attending a funeral] and mourn for close relatives despite his calling to serve in the Temple. Even Aaron, the high priest, who was not permitted to desist from his service, received Moses’ approval when he asserted that he still mourned his sons in his heart (Lev. 10:16–20).

Humanity further entails the recognition of fundamental human traits—human weakness and frailty prominently among them. This applies even to great individuals and extends to revered canonical figures, as we find them depicted both by the Tanakh and by the sages. . . .

This set of ideas is connected to another . . . : the importance of “naturalness” in the life of mitzvot. . . . On the one hand, the human ideal according to Judaism is not, as in some Eastern teachings, the attainment of tranquility, but rather perpetual aspiration, activity, and growth. Yet, on the other hand, excessive tension and anxiety in the worship of God is abnormal and counterproductive, often leading to paralysis. Fear of God should be natural, like fear of one’s parents. Similarly, prayer should be natural, a “conversation” with God. What is natural is not necessarily holy, but what is holy should be natural.

Read more at Academia.edu

More about: Abraham Isaac Kook, Judaism, Prayer, Religion & Holidays, Religious Zionism, Yehuda Amital

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security