A Philosophical Basis for Following Religious Tradition?

Much Jewish practice finds its justification in appeals to precedent and tradition (masorah in Hebrew), even though it is not at all evident why one should do things simply because they were done by one’s ancestors. Making use of the tools of philosophical logic and the ideas of the modern philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alex Ozar constructs a defense of tradition, and then explores some of the implications of his own argument:

[According to Wittgenstein], “if one person is considered in isolation, the notion of a rule as guiding the person who adopts it can have no substantive content.” This is because the individual, presented with a new case, has no way of distinguishing between what is really “right” and what one merely, presently, thinks one ought to do. To get beyond subjective whim, Wittgenstein argues, requires accountability to a community. . . . It is through and only through our embeddedness within a community, and that community’s continuing fidelity to a specific form of life, that the facts of past precedent—rules, customs, examples—can provide real guidance.

An intriguing consequence of all this, it is worth noting, is that mere third-person acquaintance with the rules is not enough for faithful interpretation: it will of necessity be only those who truly and deeply feel the pulse of the community’s form of life, and achieve a view not only of the individual norms but of the whole in which those norms are integrally embedded, who will adequately project traditional practice into the future. . . .

But of course . . . just what qualities it takes to qualify an authoritative interpreter of communal tradition will of necessity be itself determined by nothing other than the concerned community and the world it makes. Why, according to Maimonides, are the rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud authoritative? Because the [Jewish] people made a world that made them so.

The meaningfulness of the guidance of precedent, then, requires that the ends and purposes of the statute, custom, or exemplar are the same as, or continuous with, the ends and purposes of the community’s interpretive practice as embedded in its present form of life.

Read more at Torah Musings

More about: Halakhah, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Maimonides, Philosophy of Religion, Religion & Holidays, Tradition

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security