No, People Who Disagree with You about Politics Aren’t Idolators Who Must Be Shunned

Log on to social media or turn on a cable news network, and one can easily find Americans—of many political persuasions—speaking of their partisan rivals as not only wrongheaded, but even as evil. Leon Morris and Zvi Hirschfield find in the Talmud a model for a more constructive approach:

In the Bible, the worst thing a person can be is an idolater. . . . The Bible also sees idolatry as an assault on truth, the foundation upon which a good society is built. In its day, idolatry was the sin of monumental proportions that was always threatening the vitality of the Israelite community. . . . The Bible’s punishment for the sin of idolatry is utter destruction.

The rabbis of the 2nd century CE changed this conversation in a clear way. Their approach was decidedly different from the literal approach of the Bible they studied. Many of them lived in mixed cities alongside populations that worshiped idols. They understood that they would not have the power to conquer Rome. The talmudic tractate of Avodah Zarah, [literally, “foreign worship”], is replete with attempts to draw boundaries that enable faithful Jews to avoid inadvertently supporting the idolatrous practices they disagreed with, while simultaneously embracing a shared public square.

America, it seems, is rediscovering the Bible’s approach to idolatry—but it is the rabbinic approach that is most desperately needed in our time. We simply cannot afford to see our diverse society with its very significant political and ideological differences in biblical terms. The rabbinic tradition helps us to understand that we cannot remove or wipe out difference. We do have to draw lines, of course, as they did. Yet, we need to learn to live with difference.

Read more at Jewish News of Northern California

More about: Hebrew Bible, Idolatry, Talmud, U.S. Politics

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy