The Anti-Christian Polemic Hidden in the Haggadah

In one of its many puzzling moments, the Passover Haggadah, in a midrashic reading of a section from Exodus, makes a point that God alone was responsible for the slaying of the Egyptian firstborn: “I and no angel. . . . I and no seraph. . . . I and no emissary. . . . It is I and no other.” Steven Weitzman offers an explanation as to why:

Some scholars view this [passage] as a response to a Gnostic belief that a divine logos (a personified Wisdom) helped God to redeem the Israelites. However, it is more likely a response to Christianity and its claim that God redeemed humanity through a messianic Jesus. No, this midrash retorts, God did not rely on an intermediary. Israel’s redemption was far greater than the redemption conceived by Christians, because God intervened directly to save his people.

Weitzman continues in this vein in explaining the following segment, which makes a point of reading a verse as referring to God’s sword and the revelation of His presence, although these appear nowhere in the biblical narrative from which the verse is drawn:

Just as the first part of Haggadah’s midrash counters the Christian understanding of redemption—God did not need an assistant (like Jesus) to save his people; He and no one else delivered them—so this second part extends the anti-Christian polemic, countering a tradition known as the Arma Christi, “the weapons of Christ,” with its own catalogue of the powers that God used to deliver Israel from slavery and death.

In later European culture, the Arma Christi were used to stigmatize the Jews—hands shown in a slapping gesture or pulling Christ’s hair are not attached to bodies, but it was understood that they belonged to Jews, and some depictions also include a grotesque face of a Jew spitting at Jesus.


More about: ancient Judaism, Haggadah, Jewish-Christian relations


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict