Geography has not changed much in the Middle East over the past several thousand years

Geography has not changed much in the Middle East over the past several thousand years. Modern Israel remains at the crossroads of the Middle East and in the crosshairs of potential regional and extra-regional great power rivalries. Egypt is certain once again to emerge as a strong regional force; so too, for that matter, will powerful states to the north, be they Iraq or its successor state, Iran/Persia, or Turkey. The dilemma of whom to choose as an ally, if anyone, and how to resist predations by external powers will never be far from the thoughts of future Israeli policymakers, just as they were for those of the rulers of the ancient Jewish kingdoms.

Dov S. Zakheim, “The Geopolitics of Scripture,” The American Interest (July/August 2012), 12.

, ,

No phenomenon more accurately reflects the life and character of the Jewish people than the Halakhah

Nothing has made its influence more profoundly felt on the course of the history of the Jewish people, shaping its way of life and giving it form and substance, than the Halakhah. There is, therefore, no phenomenon that more accurately reflects the life and character of the people than the Halakhah.

Ephraim E. Urbach, The Halakhah: Its Sources and Development, trans. Raphael Posner (Ramat Gan: Massada; Jerusalem: Yad la-Talmud, 1986), 1.

The Sacred texts in the Christian tradition most prone to sacrilegious use are those that deal with the suffering (passion) and death of Jesus

The Sacred texts in the Christian tradition most prone to sacrilegious use are those that deal with the suffering (passion) and death of Jesus. These texts, the “passion narratives,” give rise to a narrative that is fundamental to Christian identity; collectively, they give rise to a story as elemental to Christianity as the Exodus is to Judaism. Yet, they have been used in ways that I can only call sacrilegious in their disparagement and vilification of Jews and Judaism. The charge, initially leveled in the New Testament, developed with considerable rhetorical effect in early church writings, and a common staple of church teaching for nearly two millenia, constitutes the theological core of anti-Judaism. In short, the passion narratives seem to be a case study in problem texts precisely because they are both deadly and life-giving. All depends on the telling.

Mary C. Boys, “Redeeming Sacred Texts From Their Sacrilegious Uses,” in May Smith Lecture on Post-Holocaust Christian/Jewish Dialogue: March 10, 2008 (Boca Raton, FL: Florida Atlantic University, 2008), 2.

Sometimes, Jews feel as they are in PR for their people

…many of our friends in Okinawa don’t know what to make of our Judaism. If they’ve met Jews before, they’ve certainly never had an opportunity to have an honest and open exchange with someone of our faith. (Sometimes, I feel as though I work in public relations for the Jewish people.)

Leora Skolnik, “From The West Side To The Far East,” The Jewish Week (24 May 2013), 50.

Experiential education for Emerging Adults vs. Formal

Experiential education, which partakes of certain characteristics of formal education but rejects others, aligns with one of the key realities of emerging adults: They are ambivalent about institutions. On the one hand, they rightly sense that legacy institutions frequently are more motivated by concerns about institutional self-preservation than mission or innovation. This leads to suspicion of institutional life. On the other, they are adept at navigating the institutional demands of large institutions (most notably universities and often large corporations), and some easily identify with institutional life.

Rabbi Josh Feigelson, “Emerging Adulthood: Finding One’s Place as Jewish Educators”, eJewish Philanthropy (21 May 2013).

, ,

The Goal of a Jewish Educator…

The goal of a Jewish educator should not be to remain in the sublime, deeply personal experience…, but to build upon it, recognizing that only by facilitating a community comprised of individuals of rich, meaningful experience will Jewish communities be compelling enough to want to join.

Dr. Stephen Hazan Arnoff, “Jewish Peoplehood and the Biblical Landscape”, eJewish Philanthropy (21 May 2013).

How Different the romanticized chubby little love-master of our Hallmark traditions is From Greek Literature

As Bruce Thornton notes in his study of erōs in Greek literature, the romanticized chubby little love-master of our Hallmark traditions fails to capture the fundamentally chaotic and destructive power of erotic desire: erōs was a force that must be tamed and controlled, and it is but a small step from an unleashed erotic desire to an unrestrained lust for absolute power.

Jason von Ehrenkrook, “Effeminacy in the Shadow of Empire: The Politics of Transgressive Gender in Josephus’s Bellum Judaicum,”  The Jewish Quarterly Review 101:2 (Spring 2011), 152-153.

Similarity of Kingdom of David & Solomon re: Peripheral Powers & Alliances

The original post-1948 Israeli policy of relying on an “outer circle” of friendships—Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia—to counter the hostility of neighboring Arab states proved modestly useful for a time. It came apart when Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in March 1979, which seemed to reduce the need for a peripheral strategy. It came completely apart when Iran was taken over by the mullahs that same year. Israel’s strained relationship with Turkey after a kind of golden age of cooperation lasting no more than two decades, and the general regional unrest of the past two years, have forced Israel to look further afield for support, to India and China, for example. But it has no real alliances other than with the United States. Should America indeed pull back from the Middle East, even if it were to continue to arm Israel, the Jewish state would in effect have become a kind of super Sweden—a de facto non-aligned regional superpower, much as was the kingdom of David and Solomon in its day.

Dov S. Zakheim, “The Geopolitics of Scripture,” The American Interest (July/August 2012), 11.

,

Considering Rules & Rods re: Hillel & Shammai

Whether or not the challenger literally stood on one foot, and whether or not Hillel had a regula (measuring rod) in his hand as Shammai did, Shammai’s regula was used to reject the challenger, whereas Hillel’s regula (= מדה = rule) was used to bring him to the Torah.

Raphael Jospe, “Hillel’s Rule,” The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 81, No. 1/2 (July-October, 1990), 56.

,

The modern binary model of gender is perhaps inappropriate for the ancient Mediterranean world

The idea of gender as a cultural system rather than a biological given has led to the recognition that the modern binary model of gender, rooted in a taxonomy of permanent, anatomically determined opposite sexes, is perhaps inappropriate for the ancient Mediterranean world. This is not to suggest that biological sex played no role in ancient conceptions of gender, but that the presence or absence of certain types of external genitalia constituted only one part of a vast and complex array of gender signifiers. Moreover, it is now widely agreed that gender in antiquity was viewed, at least from the perspective of the surviving male elite literary sources (an important qualification indeed!), through a single-gender, and not surprisingly androcentric, conceptual framework.

Jason von Ehrenkrook, “Effeminacy in the Shadow of Empire: The Politics of Transgressive Gender in Josephus’s Bellum Judaicum,”  The Jewish Quarterly Review 101:2 (Spring 2011), 147.