The Anti-Utopian Message of God’s Revelation amid Lightning and Thunder

June 23 2021

In the Hebrew Bible, lightning makes its first appearance after the Exodus from Egypt, when God appears to the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai to give them His commandments. Dov Lerner contrasts this sparing usage to the ubiquity of lightning in so much of the Western tradition:

Of all the so-called “acts of God,” lightning was seen as the most striking. For the Greeks, it was the weapon of the chief god Zeus; for Nordic peoples, it was the product of an otherworldly hammer; for Shakespeare, it accompanied witches and signaled both speed and evil; for medieval bestiaries, it signaled the singular conditions under which the wolf is born; and in the modern age, it spawned Frankenstein’s monster and marked Harry Potter as chosen. And yet, from man’s first breath to Moses’ last, lightning strikes only one time in the Bible.

Why does lightning strike at Sinai? Unlike the chief gods of Nordic and Greek myth, the biblical God does not conduct electricity on arrival or in every speech. Most often, His presence speaks for itself, and His entrances are quite pacific. He has no need for weather to demonstrate His power. So why, if weather is so incidental to God’s presence, does lightning strike at Sinai?

Lerner surveys the opinions of several rabbinic commentators, many of whom argue that the lightning at Sinai was no ordinary storm, but something supernatural. Then he then presents an alternative view:

[One] way to see this meteorological phenomenon [is] not as a breach of nature but as a fact of life, a lesson to former slaves as they became a nation: namely, that though they were now free, the storm was not over.

The Hebrew people were taught that there would still be wars and want and allures beyond the pomp of revelation. The code of law, heaven’s guide for life, was revealed not in a utopian field defined by quiet and tranquility and calm, but at the foot of a mountain in the throes of a storm. The Hebrews were, as a nation, storm-born—forged in the shadow of a tempest, beneath a sky struck by lightning and roaring with thunder.

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: Hebrew Bible, Mount Sinai, Paganism, Revelation


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy