Does God Still Talk to People? And If So, What Does He Say?

The Talmud and other ancient rabbinic works tell a number of stories in which God seemingly addresses humans via a bat kol—a phrase usually rendered “a heavenly voice,” but meaning literally “the daughter of a voice.” One source states directly that, although the era of prophecy has ended, God can still be heard through a bat kol. After arguing that this phrase is best translated “a disembodied voice,” Ari Lamm shows through an examination of various passages that a bat kol almost always affirms what is already known, and cannot decide matters of halakhah:

Why, of all metaphors, was a disembodied voice selected to describe God’s involvement in a discussion? . . . [The dominant talmudic position] is that the bat kol should not be used as a halakhic tool, such that people might be tempted to claim, in support of their own positions, that not only are they right on the merits, but, in fact, God is definitively on their side. The process of halakhic decision-making does not and should not claim that degree of confidence. Halakhic decisors must do their best with the modest, human tools they are given. In other words, the divine bat kol . . . is, simultaneously, a way of expressing commitment to an ongoing relationship with God and a way of conceding with due humility that we know too little about God to make more extravagant claims [about His will].

The disembodied-voice metaphor is perfect for expressing this tension. . . .
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The ancient rabbis sought . . . to live according to God’s will. When we have questions about how to do this, we do our best to provide solutions, and are reasonably confident in our process for doing so. But we are fully conscious that, at best, halakhic decision-making is like God’s bat kol, a disembodied voice, an echo that we hope—but cannot be sure and cannot check—that we have interpreted correctly. . . .

And surely this humility should extend beyond the realm of halakhah as well. Should it not also infuse our theological pronouncements, our prayers, and the entire scope of our religious life? Now, this should not induce in us so great a fear of being wrong that we become spiritually paralyzed. That would be a mistake. But it should encourage us to ask ourselves difficult questions.

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More about: Halakhah, Prophecy, Religion & Holidays, Talmud

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror