How Religious Ritual Makes It More, Not Less, Meaningful to Seek Forgiveness

In Anger and Forgiveness, the philosopher Martha Nussbaum criticizes Judeo-Christian notions of repentance and forgiveness on the grounds that they for place excessive emphasis on formulaic statements and rituals. Shalom Carmy, although acknowledging the merit of “some of the pitfalls she sees in the standard framework of forgiveness and atonement,” takes others of her assumptions to task:

[W]hen Nussbaum calls religious repentance “anxious and joyless,” I don’t recognize the experience as my own. To be sure, the classical Jewish texts she [cites] are prescriptive or hortatory. They set down formal requirements for contrition, repentance, and atonement, devoting relatively little attention to particular interpersonal dynamics. If this is all there is to it, one is left with mere ritual; abrupt, often sullen apologies; and perfunctory, compulsory grants of pardon, like the shallow remorse expected of small children. But when we put away childish things, we discover that legal requirements create the room for a variety of fine-tuned realizations. . . .

Ritual, in fact, provides a structure for the sorts of deeply human encounters Nussbaum cherishes. People who are graceful in apology and, even more so, people who are gracious in forgiving devote enormous attention to preparing encounters of reconciliation, seeking the right words and the right moment for those words, trying to anticipate obstacles and unexpected sensitivities, working hard to minimize the unavoidable pain, embarrassment, and awkwardness on all sides. . . . As with music, the moral and spiritual beauty of genuine reconciliation looks effortless because this difficult and often painful feat is the result of relentless preliminary work.

Is this dependence upon ritual, formulas, and law “anxious”? Yes, in the sense that all creativity that really matters is anxious, precisely because we cannot predict the other person’s response or even micromanage our own. Anxious, because the risk of failure is inseparable from the task of getting it right. Anxious, because the difficulties Nussbaum warns about may doom to failure our efforts to apologize and to forgive, no matter how punctilious our conformity to the law.

This is all the more true today. Our therapeutic and politicized society preserves only jumbled fragments of religious practice. Alienated from their roots in man’s relationship to God, apology, confession, and other instruments of healing and redemption are more and more likely to succumb to the flaws she detects.

Read more at First Things

More about: Atonement, Forgiveness, George Eliot, Judaism, Religion & Holidays


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