Can Jewish Thought Flourish as Judaism Becomes Increasingly Out of Step with American Culture?

Stepping down after fifteen years from his post as editor of the Orthodox academic and theological journal Tradition, Shalom Carmy reflects on the future of Orthodox thought in an America very different from the one that existed at the time of the journal’s founding in 1958:

Since then the conflict between dominant secular attitudes and philosophies and the foundations of a Torah outlook has become sharper, broader, and deeper. The common ground between Judaism and the ideas taken for granted by secular elites is progressively eroding. Consider the ethos of the family, the understanding of human nature and human destiny, the absoluteness of religious commitment and many other fundamental principles. The profound incompatibilities manifest themselves not only via the mass media and the classroom but behaviorally and spiritually as well.

Maybe this is tolerable. Perhaps American Orthodox institutions and communities can get along by compartmentalizing, upholding one set of implicit standards for individuals in the formal religious sphere while conforming to another set of standards the rest of the time. True, this is neither healthy nor, for many individuals, possible. Nonetheless, so long as the number of defections is relatively low, one may accept them with a degree of resignation, ascribing bad outcomes to psychological problems, social and family dysfunction, and economic pressures and preoccupations, and act as if these are unconnected to our intellectual deficiencies.

If, however, the goal is not only social survival but spiritual growth in our communities, the decline in Orthodox intellectual life [since the mid-20th century] is unfortunate. A promising young rabbi [and] scholar, pondering that decline, recently wondered whether the kind of Orthodox intellectual life he had envisioned and prepared for was a lost cause. Is there more for him to do than to salvage what he can of the minority of receptive individuals—his term was “surviving remnant” [in reference to Ezra 9:14]—and otherwise keep the machinery of Orthodoxy running?

Yet Carmy unexpectedly sees a more hopeful approach in an essay by the great poet (and sometime anti-Semite) T.S. Eliot, who wrote that “there is no such thing as a Lost Cause because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause. We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successors’ victory.”

Read more at Tradition

More about: American Judaism, Jewish Thought, Orthodoxy, T.S. Eliot

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