What the Story of Phineas Teaches about Morality, Politics, and Plague

July 10 2020

Much public discussion today—in America, Israel, and elsewhere—centers on the difficult problem of how to balance the dangers of the coronavirus with the economic and psychological costs of lockdowns. In this week’s Torah reading of Pinḥas (Numbers 25:10-26:4), Jonathan Sacks finds guidance in the actions of the titular character, Moses’ nephew Phineas. When the Israelites participate in a pagan orgy with the Midianites, God immediately punishes them with a plague, which Phineas stops by simultaneously skewering a Hebrew chieftain and a Midianite woman with his spear. To Sacks, the lesson here is about the distinction between moral and political decisions:

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Read more at Jewish Press

More about: Biblical Politics, Coronavirus, Hebrew Bible, Morality, Numbers

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Do More Harm Than Good

Aug. 12 2020

With its size, budget, and remit greatly expanded following the 2006 war between Israel and Hizballah, the United Nations International Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is tasked with keeping both sides’ forces out of the southern portion of the country. While the IDF has indeed abided by the armistice, UNIFIL has failed spectacularly at compelling Hizballah to do the same. Eugene Kontorovich argues that, unless the peacekeeping force can be reorganized so as to be effective, it would be better to scrap it, or at the very least reduce its size:

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Read more at Kohelet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations