Thursday, June 23, 2011

Divine Providence and the Iranian Nuclear Program: A Roundup


Mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb at Nagasaki

In Aristotelian philosophy, God is the unmoved mover, whose act of constant self-contemplation is the object desire of the entire universe and thereby the purpose of its existence and motion. Despite the fact that the deity's self-contemplation is continuous and all-encompassing, it is thought to be a paradox that God could have particular knowledge of this world, since that would so to speak 'lower' Him from His lofty level.

In Jewish sources, this paradox is embraced, and God is conceived of as both lofty, transcendent, complete and perfect, and at the same time, possessing full and complete knowledge of the world to the greatest detail. God's knowledge of this world can be compared to a person's effortless awareness of the limbs of his own body. (Yet as opposed to a person, who knows only the feeling of his limbs, a more appropriate yet still incomplete metaphor would be an imaginary all-knowing scientist, who knew every microscopic detail of all the processes transpiring in his physical being).

In any event, Judaism posits that there is no contradiction between a perfect, transcendent God and His complete knowledge of this world. What's more, God's knowledge of this world is inseparable from His overseeing of this world. If we were to extend the metaphor, this would be a mega-scientist, who is not only all-knowing of his internal processes, but also has the supernatural ability to control these processes--more precisely, whose very awareness of these processes is also the means by which they come into being. In other words, God's contemplation of the world is at the same time God's direction of the world, such that there is not a blade of grass over which there is not an angel telling it: grow, grow! 

If God's intimate knowledge applies to nature, all the more so for the human being, the pinnacle of nature, created in the divine image. And if God's providence extends over all of humanity, all the more so for the Jewish people, the apple of God's eye, and for Israel, the political entity whose growth is both the manifestation and the springboard for the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people and the world. The Land of Israel - the land over which God's eyes rest, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

The Hebrew word for Divine Providence, hashgacha, derives from a Hebrew root related to no other words of the language. The verb form of the word, hishgiach--to watch over--appears as a description of the Beloved of the Song of Songs (2:9):
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young hart; behold, he stands behind our wall, he looks in (=mashgiach) through the windows, he peers through the lattice=
According to some interpretive traditions, God is compared to a gazelle because a gazelle runs off with its head turned backwards, its gaze locked on the point from where it escaped. In this sense, the verses about the gazelle in the Song of Songs correspond to the Jewish people's cry to God: If you are to run off (as it appears that the Divine Presence departed after the destruction of the Second Temple), then please, we beg you to do so as a gazelle, and continue to gaze back at us, despite the distance between us. In this sense, God's gazing, or the Divine Providence discernible in an individual's life and in a nation's history, is the reshimu - the impression left of the Divine Presence in the world, after its contraction and despite its hiding. The task that remains for us is to discern God's involvement in our lives on both a personal, national and global level--and if the destruction of the Temple meant the disappearance of such clarity, then the reconstruction of such clarity is the reconstruction of the Temple. A person who has knowledge - it is if the Temple has been rebuilt in his days.


March 12, 2011: Japan's nuclear program received a massive blow when a tsunami hit its Fukushima nuclear power plant and led to an international nuclear crisis on par with Chernobyl. One less-known facet of Japan's nuclear energy program is the country's ties with Iran: Several weeks before the Fukushima accident, Japan's deputy minister for foreign affairs, Bessho Koro, visited Tehran to meet with Iranian Foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi and carry the message of a pro-Iran Japan. Moreover, one month prior to the Fukushima meltdown, a Washington source anonymously disclosed that Japan and Iran had recently agreed that 70% of Iran's low enriched uranium would be moved to Japan and delivered back to Iran in the form of nuclear fuel rods, intended for "medical use". 

May 9, 2011: Iran's first-ever nuclear power plant in Bushehr begins fuel consumption, and is slated to begin to generate electricity in two months' time. Less than a day after the plant became active, a 4.8 earthquake hit the city of Reig in the Bushehr province, not far from the plant. The earthquake occurred not long after Japan's tsunami led to an international nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant. Days before Bushehr was activated, the French ambassador to the IAEA expressed concern regarding the Bushehr plant. A week earlier, after a cooling plant at Bushehr shattered, an expert on Iranian nuclear issues for the Carnegie Endowment emphasized the international community's concerns on Russia's decision to move forward on Bushehr.

June 23, 2011: Russian news sources reported that five Russian scientists who assisted in the design of the Bushehr plant were among the victims of Monday's plane crash near Petrozavodsk in northern Russia. According to YNet, the five nuclear experts were the individuals responsible for ensuring the plant would withstand natural disasters. (The Bushehr nuclear power plant is located at the junction of three tectonic plates along the Persian Gulf). Russian news sources reported the deaths were "a great blow to the Russian nuclear industry." 

Yet despite the connection between the Iranian nuclear program and the crash, Russian investigators are not pointing fingers. Investigators have thus attributed the crash to human error and technical malfunction. According to a Russian source: "Although Iranian nuclear scientists have in the past been involved in unexplained accidents and plane crashes, there is no official suspicion of foul play."

Because sometimes, Hashem is the best Mossad operative.


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