Reflections on Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in the Jewish Tradition

In his recent book After One-Hundred-and-Twenty, Hillel Halkin explores the Jewish tradition’s attitudes toward death and what comes after it. Edward Alexander, calling the book “at once scholarly and passionate, secular and religious, detached and autobiographical,” writes in his review:

Since most readers of this review, like the reviewer himself, have attended colleges where we studied mainly the mind of Western Christendom rather than the literature of the Jews, we have been more conversant with non-Jewish conceptions of the afterlife than with Jewish ones. In Dante’s Inferno, for example, the most dehumanized and disgusting figure is Ciacco, the glutton. But for Jews, eating—although strictly regulated by laws that set them apart from lawless and oppressive Gentile communities in which they lived—is anything but a potentially sinful activity “When the messiah comes, we will have a banquet,” sing the Ḥasidim.

Jewish imaginings of the afterlife do resemble Christian ones in recognizing that one cannot have a heaven without a hell; but the Jewish version of hell is much less a place of mud, frost, fire, and filth than the Christian one; and “nowhere in early rabbinic sources do we find such glee taken in hell’s sufferings” as the Christians imagined for heretics. . . .

The great literary gift bestowed on us by this stunning book is Halkin’s translation of large sections of [the 11th-century Spanish poet-statesman] Shmuel Hanagid’s 64-poem “unparalleled document of mourning” for his older brother, who died in 1041. In the gradualness of its movement from grief and thanatophobia to consolation and acceptance of death as a part of life, this great elegy by Hanagid (“the governor”) may call to mind Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s masterpiece, In Memoriam. That poem comprises 131 sections, written over a sixteen-year period prior to its publication in 1850. What we shall not find in Tennyson is Hanagid’s structure, which follows the Jewish calendar of mourning: death, funeral, first week, first month, and the following eleven months. That structure, Halkin suggests, “reflects the natural workings of the human heart.”

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Afterlife, Death, Hillel Halkin, Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Shmuel Hanagid

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security