Would God Rather Be Abandoned Than His Law Disobeyed?

As a young man, Shalom Carmy found himself impressed by the radical skepticism embraced by so many great philosophers, including Socrates and René Descartes. Even as his own attitude to these philosophers became more nuanced, Carmy recalls that he still believed the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” At the same time, he writes,

I took seriously the comment of my revered mentor Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein that this sentiment, however noble, was not the way to be followed by Jews, who are “believers, the sons of believers.” I have pondered, without coming to a settled opinion, what exactly he meant by this. . . .

The tension between doubt and conviction can be painful, which is why we often avoid confronting it with an eye toward resolution. As a participant in, and commentator on, religious life, I was, from an early age, aware that many practicing Jews, and many Christians for that matter, do not enjoy a robust intellectual commitment to the principles of their faith. Even on an emotional or experiential plane, they are often divided between affirmation and doubt. What was I to make of this situation? Many seem to have furnished themselves with a comfortable niche of intellectual and religious indecisiveness. They are more interested in what they can wryly or dramatically doubt than in agonizing and struggling over the life-and-death questions that are answered by our religious traditions.

Pace Rabbi Lichtenstein, I could not help judging that among those who classified themselves as “honest doubters” were some who led more strenuous, perhaps more authentic spiritual lives than did their placid neighbors, who practiced their religion either blissfully ignorant of, or willfully oblivious to, the questions and crises that should have troubled their serenity. Lichtenstein himself acknowledged this reality. If one must choose between a religious life of commitment marked by anguished doubt or one of observant superficiality, then the former seems the better path, the one that promises richer and more ennobling spiritual rewards.

Jeremiah rebuked his generation, accusing them of “abandoning Me” (that is, God) and “not observing my Torah,” implying that violating the Torah is somehow worse than departing from God inwardly (2:12). Well-known rabbinic statements elaborate. They explain that God would rather be abandoned than that His Torah be disobeyed, because people who persist in their engagement with the Law may be brought back to God through the illumination that such a life provides.

Read more at First Things

More about: Aharon Lichtenstein, Faith, Jeremiah, Judaism, Philosophy

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden