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

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.

Read more at Marginalia

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


Why Saturday Was a Resounding Defeat for Iran

Yaakov Lappin provides a concise and useful overview of what transpired on Saturday. For him, the bottom line is this:

Iran and its jihadist Middle Eastern axis sustained a resounding strategic defeat. . . . The fact that 99 percent of the threats were intercepted means that a central pillar of Iranian force projection—its missile and UAV arsenals—has been proven to be no match for Israel’s air force, for its multilayered air-defense system, or for regional cooperation with allies.

Iran must now await Israel’s retaliation, and unlike Israel, Iranian air defenses are by comparison limited in scope. After its own failure on Sunday, Iran now relies almost exclusively on Hizballah for an ability to threaten Israel.

And even as Iran continues to work on developing newer and deadlier missiles, the IDF is staying a few steps ahead:

Israel is expecting its Iron Beam laser-interception system, which can shoot down rockets, mortars, and UAVs, to become operational soon, and is developing an interceptor (Sky Sonic) for Iran’s future hypersonic missile (Fattah), which is in development.

The Iron Beam will change the situation in a crucial way. Israell’s defensive response on Saturday reportedly cost it around $1 billion. While Iron Beam may have to be used in concert with other systems, it is far cheaper and doesn’t run the risk of running out of ammunition.

Read more at JNS

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Iron Dome, Israeli Security, Israeli technology