In Their Interpretations of the Exodus Story, a Great Rabbi and His Great-Grandson Offered Two Opposing Conceptions of Jewish History

April 7 2020

In Genesis 15—a passage cited in the Haggadah—God tells Abraham that his descendants will be “strangers in a land not their own,” where they will be enslaved and oppressed. The great 20th-century sage Joseph B. Soloveitchik, noting that this passage says nothing about Egypt, imagined an alternative version of the biblical narrative where this exile is instead in the land of Haran, where according to Genesis Jacob spends many of his years working for his father-in-law. In this reading, Jacob’s own actions, and those of his sons, led to the Egyptian exile; if events had gone differently, God would have led the Israelites out of Haran and immediately into a messianic era.

David Curwin points out that this approach directly contradicts an interpretation of the Haggadah given by Rabbi Soloveitchik’s great-grandfather and namesake, the renowned 19th-century talmudic scholar Yosef Ber Soloveitchik, who cites as a prooftext the Haggadah’s peculiar exegesis of the verse “On that day, you must tell your child, ‘It is because of this that God acted for me when I left Egypt.’”

The elder Soloveitchik claims that despite the simple assumption that we eat matzah because of the events of the Exodus, the essence of the commandment is the opposite: we left Egypt because of the pre-existing commandment of matzah, [conceived of by God prior to creation]. He adds that we should not tell our children that “Because I left Egypt, I perform this commandment,” but rather the opposite: “Because of these commandments, the Exodus from Egypt came about.”

These two varying approaches to Jewish history, argues Curwin, manifest themselves in the younger Soloveitchik’s embrace of Zionism.

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Exodus, Haggadah, Jewish history, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Zionism

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela