The Jewish Metaphysics of Sin

Sept. 20 2022

According to Jewish tradition, Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the second set of Tablets—a symbol of God’s reconciliation with the Israelites after they worshipped the golden calf—on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which is Yom Kippur, a day thus dedicated to atonement and forgiveness. Using this passage as a point of departure, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik analyzed the meaning of sin and repentance in this 1974 lecture, given nearly one year after Syria and Egypt launched a surprise attack on the Jewish state on its most sacred holiday. Soloveitchik, as was his wont, drew here on his grandfather’s system of talmudic analysis, which makes much of the legal distinction between a person, or gavra, and an object, or ḥeftsah. (Video, 28 minutes. Yiddish with English subtitles.)

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More about: Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Mount Sinai, Yom Kippur War

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship