What, Exactly, Does “Hear O Israel the Lord Is Our God the Lord Is One” Mean?

The opening lines of the Sh’ma (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) are among the most famous, and the most important, in Jewish liturgy. Drawing on comparisons to the writings of the ancient Near East, Benjamin Sommer attempts to explain them in their historical context. (Interview by Joanne Palmer.)

[W]hen you look at ancient Near Eastern treaties and contracts, they have a certain number of stock elements—boilerplate language. There is a particular formula for the contract between the emperor and his vassal kings. It often has been noted that the books of Deuteronomy, Exodus, and Leviticus have these elements [of] ancient treaties [throughout, implying that] the entire nation Israel has been put into the role of a vassal king—men, women, and children. [The Sh’ma], very succinctly, is a contract between an emperor and his vassals. . . .

In the ancient world, the treaty had to be read aloud to the vassal king on a regular basis. Part of the vassal’s responsibilities was to hear it recited. In the Sh’ma’s first paragraph, we are [likewise] told that we have to recite it morning and evening. . .

[When they] say that accepting the commandments is “accepting the yoke of heaven,” the rabbis are preserving a much older interpretation. Even when the form was forgotten, the meaning was passed on in the oral tradition. . . . Often the rabbis were preserving an older tradition that goes back to the Bible itself.

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Read more at Jewish Standard

More about: Ancient Near East, Deuteronomy, Hebrew Bible, Prayer, Religion & Holidays

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy