The Prophet Haggai’s (Zionist) Message of Repentance

The Hebrew month of Elul, which began yesterday, has traditionally been considered a time of soul-searching and self-improvement in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—respectively the first and tenth days of the following month. While ancient midrashic sources tie this tradition to an exegesis of the story of Moses at Mount Sinai, Tzvi Sinensky argues that a clearer justification can be found in the minor prophetic book of Haggai, which is set in the land of Israel following the return from Babylonian exile—when the rebuilding of the Temple had been temporarily halted:

The book’s two chapters, particularly the first, are dedicated to urging the people to overcome their hesitation and proceed with the reconstruction [of the Temple]. Haggai delivers his first prophecy on the first day of Elul, repeatedly invoking the language of repentance: “Is it a time for you to dwell in your paneled houses, while this House [of God] is lying in ruins? Now thus said the Lord of Hosts: Consider your ways!” . . . Further, the verses go on to state that “They came and set to work on the House of the Lord of Hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month” [the Bible’s usual term for the month later named Elul], indicating that Elul opens with a call to repentance and continues with this theme throughout the month. . . .

Seeking to stir the people, Haggai exhorts four times in his book, “consider your ways,” a locution not found elsewhere in Scripture. . . . And it is not so much a spiritual message as a practical, albeit religious, one. Haggai is the pragmatic Religious Zionist, calling on all people to drop their excuses, roll up their sleeves, and engage in the rebuilding efforts.

Why then, did neither ancient nor medieval rabbis cite Haggai in their discussion of Elul’s significance? Sinensky considers several possible reasons, including this:

Haggai’s prophecy was delivered during a period of Judean resettlement, with lessons that were particularly poignant at that time, but less so in later stages of Jewish history. . . . If [this] reason for the historical sidelining of Haggai’s prophecy is correct, today’s period of return to Zion might be precisely the moment to reintroduce Haggai’s clarion call. As Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik argued passionately in his 1956 meditation on Zionism, albeit at a very different moment in Israeli history, we can in no way be lackadaisical in our support of the Jewish state. . . . Further, Haggai’s exhortation of “consider your ways,” an attack on apathy, is acutely relevant in our time, although ironically perhaps most of all in Jewish communities beyond Israel’s borders.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Haggai, Hebrew Bible, High Holidays, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Religion & Holidays, Zionism

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