Prayer, for All Its Public Features, Is an Affair between Man and God

July 15 2020

In the decades after World War II, one of the most salient differences between Orthodox and Conservative synagogues was that the latter had mixed-sex seating, and the great controversy within Orthodoxy was whether it was necessary to change this practice to keep up with the times. Shalom Carmy considers those debates in light of the changes to public prayer inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic:

Beneath the conflict about ritual propriety lurked a deeper question of religious orientation. At the time, many Orthodox leaders thought that the clamor for mixed pews reflected a spectators’ conception of communal prayer: The rabbi and cantor performed as MCs at the “services” at which the postwar upwardly mobile American laity played the part of the appreciative or critical audience. By this way of thinking, the Orthodox congregation, by -contrast, was presumed to consist of individuals who knew how to pray on their own, who grasped the structure and the basic content of the prayers for Sabbath, festivals, and weekdays, even if they were not experts on the texts and regulations. This triumphant sense of superiority was bolstered by one’s overall impression of lay commitment, observance, and lack of literacy when the uninitiated attended Orthodox synagogues.

I rehash this ancient piece of Orthodox triumphalism not because it is entirely wrong but because, like many partial truths, it manifests certain blind spots. When social isolation became the norm in March, the Orthodox synagogues that I know locked their doors almost immediately. Everyone knew the fundamental regulations; nobody had any doubts about the importance of health. Overnight, people who made their way to shul three times a day transferred their time of prayer to their homes, reciting the same liturgy, with the necessary adjustments, while requiring hardly any rabbinic guidance.

This smooth shift into the home, necessitated by the public health crisis, confirmed the creed that prayer, for all its public features, is fundamentally an affair between man and God.

Read more at First Things

More about: American Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Coronavirus, Judaism, Orthodoxy, Prayer


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

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