In this week’s Torah reading of Mishpatim, God communicates to Moses a catalogue of civil laws, addressing such issues as torts, property, punishments for theft, and so forth. The German-born Spanish rabbi Jacob ben Asher (ca. 1269-1343), in the introduction to his codification of the corresponding body of talmudic law, attempts to explain the purpose of judges, courts, and the legal system itself, arguing that without such institutions, society would disintegrate into a war of all against all. Contrasting Jacob ben Asher’s approach with that of another Spanish talmudist, Nissim of Gerona (1320-1376), Shlomo Zuckier examines their radically different interpretations of Jewish law:
Is Jewish Law an Expression of Heavenly Ideals or a Pragmatic Measure for Bringing Order to Society?
Hamas in Gaza Claims to Be Protecting Jerusalem by Firing Rockets at It, and Other Ironies of the Current War
To many left-leaning Western activists and journalists, writes Matti Friedman, Jews going to pray on the Temple Mount are in fact “storming” al-Aqsa mosque, a Hamas spokesman calling on his followers to decapitate Jews is “a call for social justice,” and “Hamas rockets are no longer being fired at Israeli civilians, [but] at ‘Israeli apartheid.’” And what of the reality behind these distortions?