What Does the Bible Mean When It Forbids “the Practice of the Land of Egypt”?

Oct. 30 2014

Leviticus 18:3 commands “Like the practice of the land of Egypt where you have dwelled, you should not practice, and like the practices of the land of Canaan to which I am bringing you, you should not practice, and in their laws you should not go.” This verse is both ambiguous (what practices?) and potentially far reaching (does it apply to practices of other non-Jewish nations as well?). A recent study by Beth Berkowitz examines the different ways Jews and Christians have understood this verse over the centuries. This discussion continues into modern times, as Jonathan Boyarin writes:

[Berkowitz’s] concluding—and longest—chapter deals with the complex, imaginative, and in certain ways surprisingly pragmatic and generous readings of the verse by perhaps the two most prominent decisors of the latter half of the twentieth century, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. The former relied on his own assertion that non-European Jews had not been subjected to the same degree of pressure to assimilate as their Ashkenazi brethren in holding that some of the strictures based on observed non-Jewish practice need not apply to Sephardim in Israel. The latter permitted Orthodox Jewish men in America to dress in business suits just like those of their non-Jewish neighbors. Yet both evinced profound ambivalence about customs that, on one hand, had certainly not been observed by their ancestors (Thanksgiving is a prominent example), but on the other did not clearly involve halakhically prohibited acts and did not seem to be religious practices of non-Jews.

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Read more at Marginalia

More about: ancient Judaism, Bible, Halakhah, Jewish history, Ovadiah Yosef

 

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism