How to Transform Jewish Law into a Tool of Spiritual and Ethical Cultivation

In the 19th century, a Russian rabbi named Israel Salanter founded what came to be known as the musar movement, after a Hebrew word that can be translated as “ethics” or “admonishment.” Its purpose was to inculcate in the rabbinic elite a constant striving for virtue and inner perfection that went beyond practical adherence to the demands of halakhah. In conversations with Alex Drucker and Aryeh Grossman, David Silverstein and Shayna Goldberg explore the relationship between law and virtue in Jewish theology, the reasons many Modern Orthodox institutions have shied away from the teachings of musar, and the pedagogical challenges of ethical and spiritual self-cultivation in the 21st century. (Audio, 87 minutes.)

Read more at Koren

More about: Jewish education, Judaism, Modern Orthodoxy, Musar


How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy