The Tenth Commandment as the Key to Social Harmony

“Thou shalt not covet,” the last of the Ten Commandments—read in synagogues around the world this Sabbath—is something of an outlier, writes Jonathan Sacks. Prohibiting envy, not an activity but a natural human emotion, it seems less grave than “Thou shalt not murder” or “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Sacks, however, considers it in light of the overall biblical narrative and of Jewish history, and argues for its paramount importance:

[E]nvy is one of the prime drivers of violence in society. It is what led Iago to mislead Othello with tragic consequences. Closer to home, it is what led Cain to murder Abel. . . . Most poignantly, envy lay at the heart of the hatred of the brothers for Joseph. They resented his special treatment at the hands of their father, the richly embroidered cloak he wore, and his dreams of becoming the ruler of them all. That is what led them to contemplate killing him and eventually to sell him as a slave. . . .

Jews have special reason to fear envy. It surely played a part in the existence of anti-Semitism throughout the centuries. Non-Jews envied Jews their ability to prosper in adversity. . . . They also and especially envied them their sense of chosenness (despite the fact that virtually every other nation in history has seen itself as chosen). . . .

So the prohibition of envy is not odd at all. It is the most basic force undermining the social harmony and order that are the aim of the Ten Commandments as a whole. Not only, though, do they forbid it; they also help us rise above it. It is precisely the first three commandments, reminding us of God’s presence in history and our lives, and the second three, reminding us of our createdness, that help us rise above envy.

Read more at Rabbi Sacks

More about: Anti-Semitism, Exodus, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Ten Commandments, William Shakespeare

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University