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

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