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.

Read more at Sephardi Ideas Monthly

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

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations