Faith and Doubt in Psalm 27

In many Jewish communities, the 27th psalm, which begins with the words “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid?,” is read daily in the month before Rosh Hashanah and continues to be read until the end of Sukkot. It opens, as some modern commentators have noted, with expressions of the speaker’s unshakable faith in God and the confidence it gives him. A few verses later it abruptly changes tone, while switching from referring to God in the third person to addressing Him directly, as the speaker pleads that God not abandon him. The final verses return to expressions of faith, but this time in a hopeful—albeit not confident—key. Benjamin Sommer tries to make sense of this progression:

The movement from faith to doubt is the opposite of what many readers might have expected of a religious text. Our worshiper does not grow into a more conventional piety over the course of the psalm, casting aside doubts to take up the armor of faith. Rather, the worshiper sets aside a seemingly ideal faith to take on a more realistic one. . . . While the faith of [this] section seems on the surface to be stronger, the truth is that in that section, the worshiper speaks of God—always in the third person—as something he knows about, but not someone Whom he knows. . . .

It is precisely when the worshiper first speaks directly to God that doubt becomes prominent. God is no longer something the worshiper claims to know all about; now God is a partner (though of course the senior partner) in a relationship, and relationships are slippery and unknowable in a way that does not conform to the simplistic faith of the first stanza. . . .

The direction of the psalm’s movement is crucial, because it models the maturing of an authentic relationship with God. A simple faith that asks no questions and admits no anxieties is not the most religious faith. . . . A faith that allows no doubt is hubris: when it claims to know for sure what God will and will not do, it denies God’s freedom and invests far too much in the believer’s impregnable security. . . . The wavering faith of Psalm 27 is humbler and more honest. It . . . is realistic about the fact that God seems absent at times.

This form of faith is quintessentially Jewish in ending neither with fear nor with complete confidence but with hope. Its final verse, [“Put your hope in the Lord! Be strong and courageous, and put your hope in the Lord.”], recalls the Pentateuch, which does not conclude with entry into the Land of Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promises but the death of Moses. It is significant . . . that the Torah ends on a note of hope rather than fulfillment. That tendency made it natural that the anthem of the Zionist movement and later of the state of Israel is ha-Tikvah, “The Hope.” Hope rather than perfect confidence characterizes the most mature Jewish faith.

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Read more at theTorah.com

More about: Faith, Hatikvah, Hebrew Bible, High Holidays, Psalms, Religion & Holidays

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin