How the Hebrew Bible, and the Apocrypha, Created Models for Sustaining Judaism in Exile

Most of the Bible deals with experiences very different from those of Jews living in the Diaspora, who must struggle to uphold their religious obligations in the face of persecution and/or social pressure. But the figures of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon stand out as archetypes of piety in exile. Phillip J. Long writes:

In both stories the hero is described as committed to the Law and therefore as successful. Both Joseph and Daniel experience the blessings of the covenant and rise to powerful positions in the administration of a foreign government.

Joseph and Daniel [each confront] a crisis when they are pressured to do something that is against Torah. In Genesis 39, Joseph resists adultery; in Daniel 1, the issue is unclean food; in Daniel 3 and 6, it’s prayer to an idol. The hero is then persecuted and stripped of his position, yet nonetheless remains faithful. Because of their continued faith, they are restored once again to a state of blessing.

This pattern appears yet again in the apocryphal book of Tobit, which was written by Jews, most likely in the 2nd century BCE. Although Jews included the book in the ancient translation of the Bible into Greek known as the Septuagint, and it remains in the scripture of some Christian denominations, the rabbis eventually rejected it from the canon. But its themes are familiar to Jews today:

The book begins with Tobit in captivity in Assyria. Tobit claims to do all that the “everlasting covenant” requires, and to be the only Jew in the Diaspora who attends festivals in Jerusalem. He makes all of the appropriate tithes and offerings required by the Torah. . . . He marries within [his extended] family rather than marrying either outside the clan or outside of the people of Israel.

Like Daniel, Tobit states he has kept himself from Gentile food, despite the fact that many Jews ate this potentially unclean food. Because he was “mindful of God” with all his heart, the Lord gives him favor and good standing in the government of Shalmaneser. Tobit [also] does “acts of charity.” . . . Like both Joseph and Daniel, Tobit’s commitment to core elements of his Jewish faith result in real-world prosperity despite suffering as a result of his commitment.

Read more at Reading Acts

More about: Apocrypha, Daniel, Hebrew Bible, Joseph


Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security