Seeing Israel’s Fires as Divine Justice Makes a Mockery of Jewish Theology

As much of Israel was in flames, the chief rabbi of Samaria, Elyakim Levanon, declared that the fires were “divine punishment” for the government’s plans to evacuate the settlement of Amona, built in violation of Israeli law. To William Kolbrener, such simplistic explanations of human suffering insult the Jewish theological tradition.

If only the Regulation Bill—the Knesset move to legalize outposts in the West Bank—had already passed, Levanon assures us, then maybe the nation would have been saved from the punishment of the current wave of fires. “Until the threat of eviction is lifted,” he prophetically intones, “no rain will fall.” But the day the bill is passed, “that very day the rains of blessing will begin to fall.”

Notwithstanding Levanon’s pretense to know the divine mind, Jewish tradition warns against such speculative ḥutzpah. . . . [By contrast], Levanon’s version of the divine is a God tailor-made for his followers, a God who satisfies their simplistic political narrative, but also for the skeptical secular left because this God is so easily dismissed as a childish fantasy. Indeed, Levanon provides a straw-man of God and religion that would make any rational person think: Judaism is a primitive endeavor, a silly crutch for the weak and unenlightened.

But not all Jewish theologians act as God’s accountant, keeping track of the balances of divine reward and punishment. For Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, writing in 1956, the pronouncement in Genesis that the world is “very good” is made only from God’s perspective; man, however, experiences evil, suffering, and death as stubborn realities. Man, with his “partial vision,” Soloveitchik continues, cannot make sense of the universe, certainly not speculate about how God “governs the world.” . . .

[According to Soloveitchik], we cannot explain the existence of evil, but we can ask ourselves what to do when confronted by it. We might ask, for example: what forms of kindness and generosity can we offer to those who endure hardship, to those in Israel who were injured or lost their homes? . . . Soloveitchik may not, like Levanon, offer the consolation of theodicy, with pat explanations of suffering and evil, but he does appeal to the potential for human nobility, to transform the experience of evil into action—into the consolation of others who are suffering.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism in Israel, Religion & Holidays, Settlements, Theodicy, Theology


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

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