06 March 2012

The three "no" of Rabbi Michael Knopf

Ha'aretz (who else but?) published an amazing essay titled Would God want Israel to attack Iran? penned by Michael Knopf, Assistant Rabbi of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania.

Being an atheist, I could hardly argue theology, especially of this high level of complexity with the learned Rabbi. Frankly, I don't even know whether Israel itself is that eager to attack Iran. What I do remember from theology is that the ways of God are inscrutable, which makes the whole essay rather pointless to start with. Who knows, maybe exactly at this same moment (which passed when I was correcting a typo in the word "same") God was guiding the hand of a ground crew member that was fixing in place one of these humongous bunker busters on an F16 (or F15 or Piper, for all I know).

But, as I said, I wouldn't argue theology - or fitting various fashion accessories to a warplane, which is another closed book for me. What drew my attention was the following quote from the Rabbi's essay (reposted here with the links, which are important for the purpose of this post):

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, does Iran meet the Talmud’s standard for preemptive killing? Iran is clearly developing nuclear technology, but do we know Iran is planning to build a weapon? No, we do not. And even if we knew that Iran plans to build a nuke, do we know it plans to use it? No. And even if we knew that Iran planned a nuclear attack, do we know its intention is to kill Jews or destroy Israel? No. And even if we knew that Iran planned to attack Israel, do we know that it is imminent? No; most experts believe Iran is still years away from building a weapon. The Talmud implies that we may not “rise up early to kill first” unless those standards are met.
Now, even assuming that God, whose ways, as you must remember by now, are inscrutable, is following* the Talmudic dictum "If one comes to kill you, rise up early to kill him [first]" to the letter, after reading the above quote the following questions must be inevitable:

Would God base his decision and the act that follows that decision on:
  1. A long, jumbled and mumbled article from New York Times that uses available (public) information very selectively to make its point?
  2. A comical piece from Washington Post that masticates again (time # 1025) Juan Cole's "expertise" in Farsi language?
  3. A totally irrelevant (why it was linked at all is a mystery) and obsolete report on US nuclear arsenal? Check the link again if you think I am barmy. Somebody is, apparently...
With all due respect to theological prowess of our Rabbi, I don't see any alternative to the following answers:
  1. No.
  2. No.
  3. No.
All three, of course, qualified (see the inscrutability issue).

Too bad.

(*) This is one tall assumption, keeping in mind Gods' inscrutability. Why would He follow any dictum, even his own as expressed in Talmud?


BHCh said...

Hmmm... I guess the fact that Iran already attacked Israel multiple times through Hamas and Hezbollah isn't relevant.

Then again, the learned Rabbi might well be right.  G-d always enjoyed an odd genocide here and there, so hoping against hope that Iran isn't going to get a nuclear weapon would be aligned with G-d's ways.

I especially liked this part: "And even if we knew that Iran planned a nuclear attack, do we know its intention is to kill Jews or destroy Israel? No".  

Mr Knopf must consider getting his head out of his ass every now and again.  He might get an entirely different perspective. 

SnoopyTheGoon said...

 Nothing could be more alien to the good Rabbi than a sudden change of position. Remember, it is all about stability. So I guess your proposal that he moves his head out of his current state will be rejected.

Pisa said...

Maybe the good Rabbi knows what God would or wouldn't want us to do, but how does one know what Allah wants iranians to do? We can only hope Allah reads the New York Times, too....

SnoopyTheGoon said...

 Allah has a family discount subscription.

Altalena said...

I agree, except for the conclusion you draw from G-d's inscrutability. The Talmud says that the Law was given to us and therefore interpretation of it was given to us as well.
There is this story in the Talmud where the rabbis argue on how to interpret something, and one of them eventually calls for HaShem to varify him, which the heavenly voice does... and the other rabbis still don't accept it because the Torah is no longer in Heaven.

See the details of the story at the middle of this page:

This of course doesn't contradict what you say about the NYT etc.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I wouldn't argue the point, for the simple reason of not being wired to do so.

And thanks.

Rob Miller said...

Hi Snoops. FTR, Rabbi Knopf is a fairly left leaning assistant Rabbi in a Conservative Jewish congregation. In spite of the name, a great many 'conservative'  Synagogues in America espouse extremely Leftist politics.

Trust me on that one. I've attended a few of them. For instance the 'conservative schul nearest my home is run by a proud 'Rabbi for Obama.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Why wouldn't I trust you?

Still, "left" shouldn't imply a total absence of common sense...