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.

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Read more at Marginalia

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

 

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin