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Religious Faith Depends on a Way of Life, Not the Other Way Around

In a series of blog posts, Moshe Koppel has systematically described the differences in worldview between two archetypal Jews: the educated, secular “Heidi” who grew up in postwar America and the deeply traditional, Polish-born Holocaust survivor “Shimen”—touching on nearly every topic but belief in God. He argues that the latter issue isn’t as fundamental as it may seem:

[You might ask]: aren’t the disagreements between Shimen and Heidi about how to live merely second-order differences that follow inevitably from their irreconcilable beliefs about nature, history, and theology?

Well, if you insist, we can talk about these irreconcilable differences of belief. But, I’ve got to tell you right up front that the answer to your semi-rhetorical question is no. Young Shimen didn’t contemplate nature and history and conclude, like the biblical Abraham [is described as doing in various midrashim], that there must be a “ruler of the castle.” He was raised to honor particular values and traditions long before he had the most rudimentary ability to contemplate the stuff of belief. And among the traditions that he honors is the affirmation of certain claims about the world.

Simply put, the direction of the causality implicit in the question above is exactly backward: in fact, values and traditions are primary, and beliefs are derivative.

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More about: Belief, Judaism, Religion & Holidays

 

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations