The Imperfect God of Midrash

The idea that man can and even should argue with the Creator—found most famously in the biblical passage where Abraham challenges God over His decision to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah—received much attention in 20th-century Jewish thought, especially through the work of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Elie Wiesel. In his recent book, Pious Irreverence, Dov Weiss investigates the development of this idea in ancient and early-medieval rabbinic texts. (Interview by Alan Brill.)

[T]he tannaim (the rabbis of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE) were . . . adamant that God is infallible and morally perfect. As a result, [they] declared that it would be entirely absurd—and sinful—to argue with God.

The bold notion that God is fallible and not morally perfect—and therefore that protesting God might be legitimate—surfaces in [the later talmudic] literature of the 5th century CE, and appears most starkly in post-talmudic literature of the 6th and 7th centuries. In these later texts, we read of biblical heroes teaching or counseling God to adopt a more ethical approach to governing the world. Strikingly, God accedes to these moral critiques and challenges, declaring that the contentious encounter has caused Him to adopt a new moral position. [These stories suggest the possibility of a] fundamental change in God’s attitude toward His governance of the world, rather than a one-time concessional act of divine mercy as we have in the Hebrew Bible or earlier rabbinic texts.

Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

More about: Abraham, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Elie Wiesel, Midrash, Religion & Holidays, Theology

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy