Sephardi Shavuot Customs and Poetry

June 10 2016

The holiday of Shavuot, which begins Saturday night, celebrates the beginning of the harvest season as well as the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Since the Middle Ages, Jews from Spain and their descendants have marked the holiday by reciting intricate liturgical poems as part of the synagogue service, including a special class of poem called azharot (literally, “warnings” or “commandments”), which list the 613 commandments that, according to rabbinic tradition, are found in the Torah. Ty Alhadeff writes (2015):

[The most] famous [version of] azharot . . . [was written] by the great medieval Spanish poet and philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol (1021-1058). On the first day of Shavuot, the 248 positive commandments are read, and the 365 negative commandments on the second day. (Later codifiers of Jewish law, such as Moses Maimonides, criticized the various versions of azharot, arguing that the task of categorizing the biblical laws should be left to experts in talmudic jurisprudence rather than poets who may sacrifice legal accuracy for the sake of poetic meter and form.)

Another important Ladino song [for Shavuot] is . . . Ketubah de la Ley (“Marriage Contract of the Law”), an 18th-century kompla (rhymed Ladino poem) by Rabbi Judah Leon Kalai. . . . Kalai found inspiration for this kompla in an earlier, similarly titled Hebrew text, Ketubat a-Torah, meaning “the marriage contract of the Torah,” written by another great Sephardi poet, Rabbi Israel ben Moses Najara of Gaza (active 1580-1625). Both songs describe the covenant made at Sinai metaphorically as a marriage between Israel and the Torah.

Read more at Stroum Center for Jewish Studies

More about: Israel Najara, Maimonides, Piyyut, Religion & Holidays, Sephardim, Shavuot, Solomon ibn Gabirol

The Assassination of a Nuclear Scientist Is a Reminder That Iran Has Been Breaking the Rules for Years

Nov. 30 2020

On Friday, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the chief scientist behind the Islamic Republic’s nuclear-weapons program, was killed in what appears to have been a carefully planned and executed operation—widely thought to have been Israel’s doing. In 2011, Fakhrizadeh was given a new position as head of the Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research (known by its Persian acronym SPND), which was a front for Tehran’s illegal nuclear activities. Richard Goldberg explains:

Last year, the State Department revealed that SPND has employed as many as 1,500 individuals, including nuclear-weapons scientists [who] “continue to carry out dual-use research and development activities, of which aspects are potentially useful for nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-delivery systems.”

How could Fakhrizadeh and SPND continue to operate during the 2015 Iran nuclear deal when the deal was premised on Iran’s commitment to an exclusively peaceful nuclear program? Indeed, the existence of SPND and the discovery of Iran’s nuclear archive [by the Mossad in 2018] paints a picture of regime that never truly halted its nuclear-weapons program—but instead separated its pieces, keeping its personnel fresh and ready for a time of Iran’s choosing.

That reality was deliberately obfuscated to sell the Iran nuclear deal. Iran-deal supporters wanted the world to believe that the ayatollahs had left their nuclear ambitions in the past. . . . We now know Iran lied to the International Atomic Energy Agency, [which is charged with policing Tehran’s compliance], and to the participants of the nuclear deal. Today, the IAEA is again investigating Iran’s concealment of undeclared nuclear material, activities, and sites.

President-elect Joe Biden can no longer pretend that the Iran deal prevented the Islamic Republic’s nuclear advancement. It did not. Nor can Biden’s incoming secretary of state or national security adviser—both of whom were instrumental players in putting the deal together—pretend that Iran can return to compliance with that flawed deal without addressing all outstanding questions about the archive, SPND, and its undeclared activities.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy