In Our Abnormal Times, the Jewish Calendar’s Month without Holidays Brings Some Welcome Normalcy

Yesterday began the second month of the Jewish calendar, known either as eshvan or Mareshvan. While the month’s name derives from the Akkadian, folk etymology explains it as meaning “bitter Ḥeshvan” (mar being the Hebrew word for “bitter”) in reference to the fact that it is the only Jewish month with neither fasts nor feasts, or any special days at all. Tevi Troy reflects:

The emptiness of Ḥeshvan contrasts with Tishrei, the month that precedes it. Tishrei is full of holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and continuing with Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and the lesser-known days of Shmini Atseret and Simḥat Torah. All told, Tishrei has seven holy days on which Jews can do no work, meaning that an observant Jew might have to take off up to seven workdays in a four-week period.

Because it lacks special observances, Ḥeshvan can potentially make Jews feel less connected to God, or to one another. This is especially true now, thanks to COVID-19; the synagogues, if open, are mainly available for truncated outdoor services only, and not for traditional communal activities. Holidays, even if celebrated remotely, can remind us of shared religious connections.

But while this year’s Ḥeshvan still has some of its traditional bitterness, it will also feel less abnormal than the High Holy Day month of Tishrei did. In this year of isolation, these holiday were an especially strange time. Instead of the traditional observances with large crowds in services and meals with friends and extended families, there were Zoom gatherings, outdoor prayers, and meals only with immediate family. A COVID Tishrei feels very different from a regular Tishrei, but a COVID Ḥeshvan feels pretty normal. And in these uncertain times, getting back to normal sounds pretty good.

Read more at First Things

More about: Coronavirus, High Holidays, Jewish calendar, Jewish holidays

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy