Why the Pope Was Wrong about Jewish Law

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 Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security