An Idiosyncratic Rabbi Who Learned from the Best and Dismissed the Worst of Postmodernism

Oct. 30 2020

Born in Buenos Aires to a family of Damascene Jews, the rabbi and polymath José Faur died this summer at the age of eighty-six. His great-niece, the scholar Mijal Bitton, reflects on his unusual intellectual life, informed by both Sephardi and Ashkenazi rabbinic traditions as well as postmodern philosophy:

There were many aspects to Faur’s [understanding of the] rabbinic tradition. One of the important aspects central to his thinking was a focus on methodology. For Faur, it was not enough to have information, one needed to acquire wisdom in a systematic way and follow consistent and coherent rules for the application of knowledge. . . .

This approach was different from many . . . streams in the Jewish tradition, according to which one can demonstrate that something is forbidden or permitted by citing some prominent names whose statements have been memorized, without explaining the statements themselves. . . . [S]tudents of Faur would not believe it is enough to quote Maimonides and cite his authority. Rather, they are tasked with following Maimonides’ carefully laid out journey through the sources and understanding his conclusions.

The key to understanding Faur’s [theology] is in approaching God as a writer. Once God is a writer, then anything that God created—be it people, nature, galaxies, or the Torah itself—is a text that we are supposed to read. Faur’s genius was in utilizing the tools and techniques of the academic study of semiotics to generate new ways of approaching the Torah and the world as a “text” meant to be read by us. But [Faur] made no use of scholars like, say, Michel Foucault, who sought to deconstruct discourse in search of genealogies and power dynamics.

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Read more at Sephardi Ideas Monthly

More about: Jewish Thought, Mizrahi Jewry, Postmodernism, Sephardim

 

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine