How the Biblical Conception of Repentance Revolutionized Ethics

July 31 2020

Even in our secular age, the Hebrew Bible’s ideas are so deeply rooted in the minds of both Jews and Gentiles that it is hard to see what a stark departure they were from pagan thinking. Jeremiah Unterman shows this to be the case with regard to the Torah’s teachings about penance and forgiveness:

According to the Torah, no remorse or confession is acceptable once a perpetrator has already been apprehended—for the Bible’s innate and wise psychological assumption is that such an expression of regret would be insincere and simply a ruse in order to get a reduced punishment. (Why such expressions are not forbidden in modern criminal trials at the sentencing phase is incomprehensible).

Examining in detail the laws of property theft found in Leviticus, Unterman notes a stepwise restitution process with profound moral meaning:

True repentance requires that the wrongdoer not only confess his or her crime but must make restitution to the victim; repentance mitigates the penalty payable to the victim—from the value of the stolen object plus a 100-percent fine to the value of the stolen object plus a 20-percent fine; . . . a reparation offering is made by the perpetrator at the sanctuary. . . . The reparation offering was an ethical obligation, because in the Torah a crime against a human is a crime against God.

The restitution to the victim precedes the reparation offering at the sanctuary—therefore, compensation to the victim takes precedence over reparation to God! This . . . innovation reverses the sacrificial norm in the ancient world—that offerings to the deity take priority over the needs of humans. Only in the case of repentance in the Torah’s laws do obligations to humans—in the form of restitution to victims—delay the duty to God. For the first time in the ancient world, repentance as an act of social justice is perceived as required by God and sacrifice placed in a secondary position—even though that sacrifice is necessary. . . .

To put it differently, in the case of restitution as part of repentance, one’s ethical responsibility to one’s fellow human takes priority over one’s ethical responsibility to God.

Read more at Center for Hebraic Thought

More about: Ancient Near East, Hebrew Bible, Jewish ethics, Repentance, Sacrifice

The Assassination of a Nuclear Scientist Is a Reminder That Iran Has Been Breaking the Rules for Years

Nov. 30 2020

On Friday, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the chief scientist behind the Islamic Republic’s nuclear-weapons program, was killed in what appears to have been a carefully planned and executed operation—widely thought to have been Israel’s doing. In 2011, Fakhrizadeh was given a new position as head of the Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research (known by its Persian acronym SPND), which was a front for Tehran’s illegal nuclear activities. Richard Goldberg explains:

Last year, the State Department revealed that SPND has employed as many as 1,500 individuals, including nuclear-weapons scientists [who] “continue to carry out dual-use research and development activities, of which aspects are potentially useful for nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-delivery systems.”

How could Fakhrizadeh and SPND continue to operate during the 2015 Iran nuclear deal when the deal was premised on Iran’s commitment to an exclusively peaceful nuclear program? Indeed, the existence of SPND and the discovery of Iran’s nuclear archive [by the Mossad in 2018] paints a picture of regime that never truly halted its nuclear-weapons program—but instead separated its pieces, keeping its personnel fresh and ready for a time of Iran’s choosing.

That reality was deliberately obfuscated to sell the Iran nuclear deal. Iran-deal supporters wanted the world to believe that the ayatollahs had left their nuclear ambitions in the past. . . . We now know Iran lied to the International Atomic Energy Agency, [which is charged with policing Tehran’s compliance], and to the participants of the nuclear deal. Today, the IAEA is again investigating Iran’s concealment of undeclared nuclear material, activities, and sites.

President-elect Joe Biden can no longer pretend that the Iran deal prevented the Islamic Republic’s nuclear advancement. It did not. Nor can Biden’s incoming secretary of state or national security adviser—both of whom were instrumental players in putting the deal together—pretend that Iran can return to compliance with that flawed deal without addressing all outstanding questions about the archive, SPND, and its undeclared activities.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy