Is It a Sin to Elicit Donations Through Social Coercion?

The Torah readings of both last week (Leviticus 6-8) and this (Leviticus 9-11) describe in detail the eight-day inauguration ceremony for the Tabernacle, performed by Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai. Among the special sacrifices brought during this ceremony is a “sin offering.” Puzzled as to what sin it could atone for, Sifra—a rabbinic commentary on Leviticus probably produced around the 4th century CE—suggests that it is the sin of taking money during the massive fund-raising drive for the Tabernacle that yielded gifts given in response to social coercion rather than voluntarily. Shlomo Zuckier comments:

Sifra assumes that a donation made under pressure may be regarded as ill-gotten gains requiring atonement. [Thus] Sifra argues that, when people act to avoid censure, rather out of an understanding of the value of their actions, something is fundamentally amiss. . . . Coercion, of the softer or harder varieties, is sometimes necessary. But it always has a cost, and there is a point at which forcing someone else to fulfill the commandments becomes an act of theft.

That Sifra offers this teaching specifically regarding the Tabernacle [is] crucial to appreciating its message. . . . People often assume that, the more important the cause, the less important the means; arriving at the proper outcome is paramount, and the process must take a backseat. Sifra argues precisely the opposite. . . . Extracting charitable donations through social pressure might not be ideal, but no sin-offering is required to atone for doing so. The Tabernacle has loftier standards.

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Read more at Modern Tora Leadership

More about: Charity, Jewish ethics, Leviticus, Midrash, Religion & Holidays, Tabernacle

 

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