Thoughts of a Mormon on Buying Whiskey from Jews

At this time of year, observant Jews are arranging, usually via their rabbis, to sell their hametz (leavened and fermented grains) to non-Jews, in order avoid violating the biblical prohibition on owning such products during Passover. Nathan Oman, a Mormon legal scholar, comments on his experience of being the designated purchaser:

In a lovely spring garden in suburban Philadelphia, I handed cash and a handkerchief to my friend’s rabbi. It was the first time that I, an observant Latter-day Saint (Mormon), had ever purchased whiskey. (Latter-day Saints are prohibited from consuming alcohol, although they are permitted to own it.) For the next two weeks, however, I would own a large store of booze, along with a number of half-used boxes of breakfast cereal, and a lease on a very nice apartment in Jerusalem. . . . At the conclusion of the holiday, I could—if I so chose—sell the whiskey back to its original owners.

Of course, the whiskey and cereal boxes remained in the homes of the sellers, and Oman didn’t sample any of the products he purchased. But, in his mind, the fact that the sale has many hallmarks of a legal fiction makes it all the more significant:

In my mind, it is the double-mindedness of the legal fiction that is brilliant. Sitting in the suburban garden in Philadelphia, it was impossible not to feel the authority of Jewish law. Indeed, several members of the synagogue were there to witness the transaction with their children for precisely that reason. The forms and signatures literally had no other purpose than to comply with the demands laid down in Exodus. The dynamics of equity and legislation that tend to erase the very traditions from which they spring were wholly absent from the transaction. If anything, the very particularity of the legal formalities mitigated against the Christian danger of dissolving religion into spirituality.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Halakhah, Jewish-Christian relations, Mormonism, Passover


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