The Pentateuch contains hundreds of laws, which today still govern the lives of Jews around the world. Nonetheless, explains Jeremiah Unterman, comparison to the legal codes of the ancient Near East—of which thousands have been uncovered by archaeologists—show various ways in which the Torah is entirely unlike these works. Above all, it is the only one where laws are embedded in narrative. The Torah is also unique in presenting law as something given by God rather than a human ruler; in telling of the law being delivered to the people and regularly read publicly, rather than being the sole domain of royal scribes and officials; and showing concern for the poor. (Interview by Dru Johnson. Audio, 34 minutes.)
Why the Torah Isn’t a Law Book
Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It
On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:
President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.
It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.
The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.
It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.