The Tikvah Podcast

On October 6, 1973, on Yom Kippur, the forces of Egypt and Syria invaded Israel and launched the Yom Kippur War. Fifty years and one day later, Hamas terrorists invaded southwest Israel, killed some 1400 Israelis, took some 200 hostages, and, in so doing, opened up a new front in the simmering conflict that pits Iran and its supporters—China and Russia among them—against Israel and its chief supporter, the United States. 


After the Yom Kippur War of 1973, an Israeli board, known as the Agranat Commission, issued a report investigating the failings of the IDF leading up to the war. No commission has yet been established to investigate the intelligence and operational failures that allowed the October 7 massacre to take place. But there are clearly some echoes and similarities between the two attacks. To explore them, Michael Doran joins Mosaic editor and Tikvah Podcast host Jonathan Silver for a discussion.


Doran is the author of the October essay at Mosaic, “The Hidden Calculation behind the Yom Kippur War,” which argues that Israeli leaders made a conscious choice not to preempt the Egyptians and take the initiative, as they had so successfully in the 1967 Six Day War, because they were thinking about the U.S. Israel relationship. They didn't know that war was looming, exactly, but they knew that something might happen. They certainly didn't know the intensity of the offensive campaigns against Israel, or about the proficiency or tactical deployment of anti-aircraft missile technology layered into Egyptian defenses—much the same as, this year, they didn't know about Hamas's ability to use drones and gliders. 


Doran is also the instructor of a free new online course on the same subject, which can be found at


The conversation took place on a live broadcast on October 18 to subscribers of Mosaic /and to Tikvah's online course supporters, who also got the chance to ask questions.


Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Doran-2_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 6:16pm EDT

Pidyon shvuyim, the redemption and release of captives, is an old and urgent task that Jewish communities are obliged to meet. It is an obligation derived from the Hebrew Bible, developed in the writings and reflection of the rabbinic sages, and deepened and explicated in the work of Jewish medieval thinkers whose communities were situated inside Christian and Muslim host cultures. At the moment when these laws were conceived, the buying and selling of human lives was common; thankfully, slavery of that kind is rare today. Then, since persons had a market value, the Jewish community often had to raise the funds necessary to purchase the freedom of their hostages. This led to much debate about the practice. Did meeting the demands of the captors incentivize further hostage-taking? If the hostage’s family was wealthy and eager to pay any price for release, did they nevertheless have an obligation not to, lest they increase the price for the rest of the community? These questions are not merely historical any longer. There are 203 Israelis captive and bound in Gaza. Some of them are young children. Some of them are elderly. Some of them have disabilities and handicaps. The current situation introduces new questions, too. In the times before the modern state of Israel, Jewish communities did not have a sovereign state to act on their behalf, nor did they have a military. And today's captors do not seem to want money, as their predecessors did. They aim instead at a different sort of currency: leverage, shame, and power. What can and should be done to secure the freedom of Israel's hostages? This week, the rabbi Ethan Tucker, president and rosh yeshiva of Hadar, joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss the history and development of pidyon shvuyim. Together, they try to uncover the roots, the extent, and the limits of the obligation at a moment that presents a difficult set of moral tradeoffs.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.
Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Tucker_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 4:20pm EDT

Jews typically honor the dead by saying the phrase zikhrono livrakha, “may his memory be a blessing.” But when a Jew is murdered because he is a Jew, he is considered a martyr, and his name is then honored by the use of a different phrase, hashem yikom damo, "may God avenge his blood." Today, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to discuss his 2018 essay in Commentary on this subject, and to share his first thoughts on one of the worst weeks in modern Jewish history.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Solly_Oct_Final.mp3
Category:Great Jewish Essays and Ideas -- posted at: 9:55pm EDT

Sixty years ago, outlawing racial segregation was a dominant civil rights priority of liberals. Today, in the name of racial equality, many progressive thinkers and activists champion policies and actions that promote segregation. The story of how that moral transformation took place is one of the central preoccupations of the professor Yascha Mounk, the author of The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time.

In that book, released last month, Mounk plots the relevant intellectual history, from the postmodern philosophy of Michel Foucault to the post-colonial writing of Edward Said to early expressions of critical race theory in the work of Derrick Bell and to the articulation of the governing idea of intersectionality in the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw. Mounk explores how the architects of what he calls “the identity synthesis”—his term for what alternatively goes by identity politics or wokeness, terms that he avoids because he believes they are overly polemical—are not accidentally but conscientiously opposed to the race-blind aspirations of their liberal predecessors.

All this he discusses this week with Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver. The two also turn to the question of what this revolutionary moral transformation has to do with the Jews. Does the very notion that Americans should be categorized and evaluated in political, civic, and educational settings on the basis of race—and that, moreover, Jews are often fit into the racially white, oppressor category—mean that logic of the identity synthesis tends toward anti-Semitism? Does the legitimating of racial categorization give ammunition to white supremacists to reject the whiteness of Jews, and indulge their own Jew-hatred? And what does all this mean for the central goal of Jewish education—to teach children to assume responsibility for and pride in the Jewish tradition?

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

Direct download: Tikvah_Podcast_Mounk_Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:12pm EDT