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

July 29 2020

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


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship