The Return of a 60-Year-Old Dispute between Two of American Jewry’s Leading Theologians, and Why It Matters

In 1964, Eliezer Berkovits of the Orthodox Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois and Abraham Joshua Heschel of the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan were two of the leading lights of rabbinic thought in America. Both men were born and educated in Eastern Europe (Berkovits in Hungary, Heschel in Warsaw) in the early 20th century, both attended the University of Berlin, and both were committed Zionists. That year, Berkovits wrote an essay in Tradition—then as now the flagship journal of Modern Orthodox thought in America, closely associated with Yeshiva University—sharply criticizing Heschel’s theology, and in particular his idea that God suffers in ways only humans can fix. To Berkovits, this approach came far to close to the Christian doctrine of Jesus suffering on the cross. Todd Berman, writing in Tradition, recently wrote an essay in in the same journal defending Heschel against Berkovits’s attack.

The revival of this 60-year-old dispute has provoked a number of responses. Although the controversy hinges on rarefied theological and kabbalistic concepts, it ultimately involves the limits of Orthodoxy, the legitimacy of the mystical tradition, and Heschel’s famous notion of “God in search of man.” It also reflects the gap between Heschel’s ḥasidic upbringing and Berkovits’s non-ḥasidic one. Berman writes:

In brief, Heschel created a theological interpretation of the prophetic experience, which he termed “divine pathos.” The construct incorporates three interlacing aspects: that God cares about the world, that the prophets experience and sympathize with God, and that, as a result, the prophets press humans to act in ways that impact God’s feelings towards the world. Berkovits challenged all three components of Heschel’s theology and argued that Heschel’s theology reflected Christian interpretation of the Bible.

Heschel claims that God communicates some sort of “feelings” and that the role of the prophet is to have sympathy with that emotion or, in other words, to share the emotional state of the Divine, to understand God’s aspirations for the world, and respond by helping to bring them to fruition. For Heschel, without the notion of pathos, there can be no prophecy. “The fundamental experience of the prophet is a fellowship with the feelings of God.”

For Berkovits, it is inappropriate to attribute any form of emotions to Him. Even if one claimed that God has an emotional stake in the world, how would the finite human bridge the gap and sympathize with Him? At Heschel’s hand God becomes too human.

Read more at Tradition

More about: Abraham Joshua Heschel, American Judaism, Eliezer Berkovits, Kabbalah, Theology

Despite the Toll of War at Home and Rising Hostility Abroad, Investors Are Still Choosing Israel

When I first saw news that Google wasn’t going through with its acquisition of the tech startup Wiz, I was afraid hesitancy over its Israeli founders and close ties with the Jewish state might have something to do with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong: the deal is off not because of Google’s hesitancy, but because Wiz feared the FTC would slow down the process with uncertain results. The company is instead planning an initial public offering. In the wake of the CrowdStrike debacle, companies like Wiz have every reason to be optimistic, as Sophie Shulman explains:

For the Israeli cyber sector, CrowdStrike’s troubles are an opportunity. CrowdStrike is a major competitor to Palo Alto Networks, and both companies aim to provide comprehensive cyber defense platforms. The specific issue that caused the global Windows computer shutdown is related to their endpoint protection product, an area where they compete with Palo Alto’s Cortex products developed in Israel and the SentinelOne platform.

Friday’s drop in CrowdStrike shares reflects investor frustration and the expectation that potential customers will now turn to competitors, strengthening the position of Israeli companies. This situation may renew interest in smaller startups and local procurement in Israel, given how many institutions were affected by the CrowdStrike debacle.

Indeed, it seems that votes of confidence in Israeli technology are coming from many directions, despite the drop in the Tel Aviv stock exchange following the attack from Yemen, and despite the fact that some 46,000 Israeli businesses have closed their doors since October 7. Tel Aviv-based Cyabra, which creates software that identifies fake news, plans a $70 million IPO on Nasdaq. The American firm Applied Systems announced that it will be buying a different Israeli tech startup and opening a research-and-development center in Israel. And yet another cybersecurity startup, founded by veterans of the IDF’s elite 8200 unit, came on the scene with $33 million in funding. And those are the stories from this week alone.

But it’s not only the high-tech sector that’s attracting foreign investment. The UK-based firm Energean plans to put approximately $1.2 billion into developing a so-far untapped natural-gas field in Israel’s coastal waters. Money speaks much louder than words, and it seems Western businesses don’t expect Israel to become a global pariah, or to collapse in the face of its enemies, anytime soon.

Read more at Calcalist

More about: cybersecurity, Israeli economy, Israeli gas, Israeli technology, Start-up nation