What Medieval Rabbis Thought about Christianity

This month, Mosaic has offered a series of essays on Christian attitudes toward Judaism and the Jewish state. David Berger, the foremost authority on Jewish-Christian polemic in the Middle Ages, tackles Jews’ attitudes towards Christians in this interview with Elliot Resnick—among many other topics. He begins with the opinions of Rabbi Yeḥiel of Paris, whose disputation with a Catholic clergyman in 1240 was followed by the mass burning of Jewish religious texts:

Jews [involved in disputations] may have said things they didn’t mean in order to avoid persecution. . . . In Rabbi Yeḥiel’s disputation, he says the Talmud’s laws [prohibiting certain forms of intercourse with] non-Jews don’t apply to Christians. They only apply to the [pagan] nations of antiquity. [As in other cases], the question of Yeḥiel’s sincerity has been raised.

But Rabbi Menaḥem Meiri of Perpignan (1249-1315), who did not have a disputation with Christians, actually says the same thing even more vigorously and systematically. He says these laws don’t apply to umot g’durot b’darkhey ha-datot, which literally means “nations who are limited by the ways of religions”—that is, nations that have decent moral codes and believe in one God. So that means Christians and Muslims are exempted.

Read more at Jewish Press

More about: Halakhah, Jewish history, Jewish-Christian relations, Medieval disputations

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security