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

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.

Read more at Lehrhaus

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

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security