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

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy