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

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.

Read more at Sephardi Ideas Monthly

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

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7