The Problem of Writing about Prayer

After a Jew takes three steps forward, utters the words “My Lord, open my lips, and let my mouth tell of your praises,” and begins the silent devotion known as the Amidah, Jewish tradition expects the worshipper to enjoy complete intimacy with the Creator. Are these moments translatable from one person to another, let alone from one religion to another? John Wilson, a Christian, addresses the first part of this question in his review of Romantic Prayer: Reinventing the Poetics of Devotion, 1773-1832:

I have often wanted to write about prayer in various contexts but have done so only rarely, in part because I often feel great disjunction between my own experience of prayer and what many people say about it—not only in books, but in conversation, in church, and in many other settings. I hasten to add that I don’t simply assume that this sense of disjunction means that what other people say or write is wrong! In fact, one reason I read is to be reminded of the infinite variety of human experience, including “religious experience.”

I read all of Stokes’s book (relatively short, but with small print and densely argued) in this mood of exasperation. But then again, I am often irritated, baffled, or otherwise dissatisfied with what I read or hear people saying about prayer, even as I remind myself how different our experiences of prayer may be from one another.

Read more at First Things

More about: Prayer


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy