How the Bible Gave the World the Idea of Human Equality

In the description of the revelation at Sinai in Deuteronomy 5:4, read this Sabbath in synagogues, Moses tells the Israelites, “Face to face God spoke with you at the mount, from amid the fire.” Joshua Berman observes a precedent for this phrase in ancient Egyptian iconography:

[A]ll over Egypt, you see images of the pharaoh staring at various gods, eye-level, face to face. The pharaoh is on equal footing with the god, because the pharaoh is beloved to the god, and divine powers are given over to him. . . . Why would the Torah appropriate a pagan Egyptian image to describe God’s encounter with Israel? In Egypt, the gods communicated face to face with the kings alone. In the Torah, God communicates that way with the entire people. The people are elevated to the status of kings.

It is in the five books of the Torah that we find the birthplace of egalitarian thought, where the common person is raised to the level of a king and kings are reduced to the level of the common person.

But the Torah’s transformation of the king into a commoner is no less striking. The Torah was determined that the king should be but a shadow of what a king was elsewhere. . . . [W]e are witness in the Torah to the transition from the law of rule to the rule of law. Elsewhere in the ancient world, the kings composed and promulgated law, but were above it, not subject to it (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). . . . All public institutions in the Torah—the judiciary, the priesthood, the monarchy, the institution of prophecy—are subordinated to the law.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Egypt, Biblical Politics, Equality, Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Mount Sinai

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