Why the Pope Was Wrong about Jewish Law

Sept. 20 2021

In an address at the Vatican last month, Pope Francis stated that the Mosaic law “does not give life [and] does not offer the fulfillment of [God’s] promise.” A few weeks later, Francis clarified that he was concerned about the influence of “fundamentalists” within the church whose legalism “leads us to a rigid religiosity, a rigidity that eliminates that freedom of the [Holy] Spirit.” Some Jewish figures saw in both addresses a resurfacing of anti-Judaic ideas that have been muted in Catholic doctrine since the Second Vatican Council, and the Vatican has responded with appropriate reassurances. Warren Goldstein, the chief rabbi of South Africa and himself an active participant in Jewish-Christian dialogue, comments:

Whatever the pope’s intentions, his remarks reflect a classic Christian objection to the Torah’s perceived [legalism] and convey a common misconception that Judaism prioritizes legal minutiae over the moral and spiritual ideals these laws are meant to express.

At the heart of Judaism is the understanding that grand concepts on their own are abstract and intangible. What good are profound values if we don’t know how to put them into action? For great ideas to take shape, we need to know what to do with them. For ideals to make a difference, we need to live them. . . . It takes work to translate grand ideas into good character, for lofty concepts to make a better world.

The transformative power of the Torah lies not in its big ideas, alone, but in its unique synthesis of philosophy and practice. . . . For example, we know we should have compassion for others, but it is the Torah that offers . . . detailed directives on comforting mourners, visiting the sick, burying the dead, and other methods for alleviating human suffering. . . . We know we should take opportunities to step back from the frenzy of life to restore our energy and reconnect with our values, but it is the Torah that offers explicit instructions for what it means to “rest” on Shabbat, and what we should do to enhance the tranquility and spiritual connection of the day.

Read more at JNS

More about: Jewish-Catholic relations, Judaism, Law, Pope Francis


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

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