Why Abraham’s First Stop in the Promised Land Was at a “Place Ordained for Calamity”

This week’s Torah reading of Lekh-l’khah contains the Torah’s first reference to the city of Shechem—a place that comes up in multiple incidents throughout Genesis, and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. According to the Babylonian Talmud, it is “a place ordained for calamity,” because of several tragic events that took place there. Tamar Weissman takes a careful look at this assertion, and Shechem’s paradoxes:

Each of Shechem’s tragic stories always starts promisingly. . . . For all of the negative associations cataloged [by] the Talmud, Shechem is equally evocative of fraternity, and the yearning to find commonality.

The calamities associated with Shechem are all the more shocking because we are oriented to expect the warmth of brit (covenant) there. This is because the Bible’s introduction of the city is so redolent with promise. Shechem was the very first place that Abraham arrived in his destined land; it was the very first place where God ever appeared to him in a vision (Genesis 12:6-7). . . . In that formative moment, when dreams and plans materialized into firm reality, when Abraham’s feet were on the good plain between two mountains in the land destined for him, God assured him: “to your seed will I give this land.” So began the love story between Abraham’s family and the land of Canaan, there in Shechem. And so we are primed to consider Shechem as a special place, a redemptive place.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Abraham, Genesis, Hebrew Bible

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security