Both Rage against God, and Acknowledgment of His Justice, Are Appropriate Responses to National Tragedy

Sundown tonight marks the beginning of Tisha b’Av, the day of the year that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples, the concomitant exiles, and many other catastrophes that have befallen the Jewish people over the centuries. Of the many kinot (liturgical dirges) recited in synagogues tomorrow morning, some of the best known were written by the great Spanish philosopher-poet Judah Halevi (1075-1141). Yosef Lindell focuses his attention one of Halevi’s less famous dirges, which he interprets as grappling with the problem of theodicy—of how a just God could have allowed such terrible suffering to befall His people—in a way that captures the stance of the day as a whole:

In the first chapter of Lamentations, [read on the eve of Tisha b’Av], the narrator begins by acknowledging guilt and proclaiming that God is just. He states, “Jerusalem has greatly sinned; therefore she has become a mockery” and “God is in the right, for I have disobeyed Him.” Yet this . . . piety does not last. At the beginning of the next chapter, the author strikes a different tone, saying that God “bent His bow like an enemy, poised His right hand like a foe; He slew all who delighted the eye.” . . .

As the book progresses, the narrator goes back and forth between submission and confrontation. The very last lines, in fact, challenge God: “Take us back, O Lord, to Yourself, and let us come back; renew our days as of old! For truly, You have rejected us, bitterly raged against us.” Lamentations’ narrator is possessed by questions of theodicy, and does not reach the same conclusion at every moment in the book.

The kinot are much the same. Some follow traditional patterns of guilt and remorse. . . . But others. . . strike a far more accusatory tone. . . . The Tisha b’Av’s liturgy teaches that in mourning the tragedies of Jewish history, we not only cry, lament, and reflect on sin, but also confront God.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Book of Lamentations, Judah Halevi, Judaism, Theodicy, Tisha b'Av

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict