To Moses Maimonides, No Penitent Is an Island

The section of the Mishneh Torah—Moses Maimonides’ compendium of talmudic law—titled Hilkhot T’shuvah, or the Laws of Repentance, is one of Judaism’s most profound works of moral theology. In the fourth chapter of this section, Maimonides enumerates and examines 24 sinful behaviors that “prevent repentance,” drawn from the work of the 11th-century North African sage Isaac Alfasi (a/k/a the Rif). Alan Jotkowitz subjects this passage to a close reading:

Alfasi simply lists 24 items that hold back t’shuvah. Maimonides rearranged the list, divided the items into five categories, explained why each holds back t’shuvah, and added the crucial caveat that “All of the above, and other similar transgressions, though they hold back repentance, do not prevent it entirely.”

The first thing one notices, [upon closer examination], is that the majority of the sins in all five categories are . . . between man and his fellow man, such as causing others to sin, or not returning lost objects. The few sins that on the surface don’t seem to fit into this paradigm have an interpersonal aspect as well. For example, the sin of gazing at someone’s private parts is certainly a sin between man and God, but it is also treating another human being as an object. In fact, the theme of the whole chapter is the relationship between the community and the t’shuvah of the individual. Indeed, the only word repeated in the entire chapter is kahal (community). . . .

The theme of the chapter is that a person does not live on an island and needs the help of friends, teachers, and community to do t’shuvah. But one also needs the help of God, as He is also part of the community. [By the same token, if] you cause other people in the community to sin, God won’t help you repent.

Repentance has traditionally been viewed as a solitary experience of the individual standing before his or her Creator, but the crucial theme of the chapter is the vital role community can play in this process.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Judaism, Moses Maimonides, Repentance

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security