Making Sense of Maimonides

Moses Maimonides’ philosophical magnum opus, the Guide for the Perplexed, is one of the most consequential works of Jewish theology. Since its completion in the late 12th century, it has been the subject of much controversy—about both the rightness of its ideas and what exactly its author is trying to argue. Having just completed (with Phillip Lieberman) a new English translation of the Guide, and currently working on a companion volume, Lenn Goodman puts forth his own judgments about these matters in conversation with J.J. Kimche. Goodman seeks to explain the work’s purpose and to place it in its philosophical context, while reflecting on the problems of translation and explaining what great Jewish thinkers of the 20th century got right—and wrong—about it. (Audio, 75 minutes.)

Read more at Podcast of Jewish Ideas

More about: Jewish Thought, Leo Strauss, Moses Maimonides, Theology

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship