Political Sermons Squander a Precious Opportunity to Engage with Judaism

Across America, rabbis of various denominations are at work preparing to address their congregations on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Especially given the upheavals of the past twelve months, many no doubt feel a need to reckon with major political and social questions. Rebecca Sugar urges them not to give in to that temptation, and not because sermons tend to be too left-wing or two right-wing:

[The High Holy Days are an] opportunity to speak to American Jews about the enriching legacy of their faith exactly at the moment they are most open to it. There are not nearly enough moments . . . like this. To use the ones that we do have to promote political ideology is neither a good use of precious time nor a service to Jews looking for a bit of elevating spiritual guidance.

It is also a bad strategy. At a dinner a few weeks ago with two couples who are longtime members of a prominent Reform temple in Manhattan, one friend was recommending Rabbi Meir Soloveichik’s daily online Bible class. He said something every Reform and Conservative Rabbi should take note of. “I learned more about my faith and Jewish thought in the first few sessions of this class than my temple has taught me in more than 40 years of attending services there.” Surprised by the biblical text’s sophisticated insights into human nature and its inspiration for contemporary living, he said that he felt deprived by his rabbi, whose Rosh Hashanah sermon last year focused on race in America.

If rabbis continue to send the message to their twice-a-year Jews that religion is simply a lens for politics, those Jews will continue to do what they have been doing—lose the lens and access the politics directly through other venues better-suited to the task.

Read more at JNS

More about: American Judaism, High Holidays, Judaism

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security