What Makes the Jewish Ideal of Friendship Different from Aristotle’s

In last week’s Torah reading of Re’eh, the punishment for someone who encourages another Israelite to worship idols is introduced thus (Deuteronomy 13:6): “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, who is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers . . . ” This vivid description of a friend stands out in the context of the Pentateuch, which, unlike other parts of the Hebrew Bible, rarely mentions friendship. Kate Rozansky takes this passage as an opportunity to compare the biblical, talmudic, and Aristotelian views of friendship:

The first and only Hebrew [in the Pentateuch] who is said to have a friend is Judah. But when Judah makes a friend we also start to notice that Judah’s life goes in a new and disturbing direction. . . . Given this rather murky beginning, isn’t it fascinating that the Oral Torah, and the rabbinic Judaism that follows from it, depends on friendship? The Oral Torah was transmitted to us through [companions studying together].

Rabbinic Judaism strongly disagrees with Aristotle’s assertion that a friendship of ideas—sharing in excellent speeches and thoughts—is the essence of what it means for human beings to live in community, as opposed to living like cattle. Jewish life makes those herd-animal activities—eating together, just simply being near each other—holy.

Sometimes I fear that the Greeks teach us that it is only what makes us excellent that makes us human (or to put it another way, that excellence of mind is the source of human dignity), while for the Torah, humanity itself is a source of dignity, even when it is messy, or deeply flawed. The Torah teaches us that our whole selves are a reflection of the Divine, and thus, merely by being present, we are able to participate in something transcendent.

This is why, when someone texts in the [synagogue’s] WhatsApp, “We need a few good men for the minyan!” [referring to the quorum of ten necessary for public prayer], the rabbi can add, “They don’t even have to be so good.” Because your presence is enough.

Read more at Kate Rozansky

More about: Aristotle, Friendship, Judaism, Torah

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University