Mixing Yoga and 19th-Century Jewish Pietism

In a recent book, Edith Brotman seeks to combine yoga with musar, a Jewish pietistic movement founded in 19th-century Russia that focused on rigorous introspection and the ethical perfection of the individual. Pairing spiritual improvement through exercise as promised by yoga with spiritual improvement through strict self-discipline as promised by musar sounds appealing as far as it goes, writes Abe Socher, but how far does it go? Among much else, it misses something of the original message of Israel Salanter, founder of the musar movement:

Brotman may be correct in diluting [musar] for her readers now (though when one sees a headline like “I love me,” one may wonder how much is left), but it did produce some truly saintly personalities. The main stories about Rabbi Salanter are not about his talmudic genius or his ritual piety but rather the extraordinary care he took in ordinary interactions: the time he missed kol nidrei to take care of a stranger’s crying baby, the lengths he took to avoid embarrassing recipients of charity, the afternoon he spent trying to lead a lost cow back to its farm, and so on.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Israel Salanter, Jewish ethics, Musar, Spirituality, Yoga

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security