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

Sept. 9 2020

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.)

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

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship