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

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

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

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