The Solar Eclipse as Evil Omen, Heavenly Eulogy, and a Sign of Divine Displeasure

On Monday, a total eclipse of the sun will pass over Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. Mira Fox delves into the ways Jewish texts have understood this celestial phenomenon, suggesting that biblical passages such as Amos 8:9, “I will make the sun set at noon, I will darken the earth on a sunny day,” refer to eclipses. She then turns to later sources, which tend to see an eclipse as a bad omen, but not always:

In the talmudic tractate Sukkah, for example, the rabbis say that an eclipse where the sun appears red means war is coming, while a black shadow predicts famine. Thankfully, not all of the meanings are quite so threatening. Later in the same tractate, the sages say that solar eclipses are sometimes the Heavens’ eulogy for someone who was not mourned properly. . . . Other times, they’re a punishment for people chopping down fruit-bearing trees, or forging false documents, or not coming to the aid of a woman being raped.

Regardless, though, solar eclipses seem to always be some sort of marker of bad behavior. The Maharal [Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, ca. 1512–1609], a renowned talmudic scholar from Prague, wrote that if humanity did not sin, we would live in eternal light. That’s why, while most natural phenomena have blessings in Judaism—there are a specific brakhot for rainbows, as well as thunder, lightning, and earthquakes—eclipses don’t merit a prayer.

Read more at Forward

More about: Amos, Judaism, Maharal, Talmud

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy