Deadly images on television tear at our heart. We wish for the violence in Israel to end.
This land, sacred to three global religions, seems endlessly mired in conflict. Does religion just promote division or hatred? Is it because of its religious significance that Israel remains a place of tension? Or is faith, at its core, a force of peace?
If we listen to most voices in the media and pop culture, we would answer this question without hesitation. Religion is bad, primitive, and dangerous.
We would agree with late writer Christopher Hitchens, who said “The Bible
I just finished writing a book on Passover and the Exodus from Egypt. One of the parts I struggled most with is Pharaoh’s violence and God’s hardening of his heart.
Recall the setting: It is Exodus chapter nine, and Moses and Aaron have urged Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Thus far, Pharaoh has refused, and God has responded by inflicting five plagues on Egypt.
The Egyptian people are miserable. They want Pharaoh to just let the people go. Even Pharaoh’s top advisors are urging him to relent and tell Moses the Israelites can leave.
Yet, we then read “But God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them.” (Exodus 9:12)
While sometimes political correctness can rise to the level of foolishness, the words we use do matter. My book editor recently reminded me of this truth.
I had used the phrase “Southern leaders” in referring to political leaders of the Confederacy. My editor pointed out that Blacks in the South were Southerners as well.
To equate Confederate and Southern does an injustice to those African-American Southerners. I should, she suggested, refer to political leaders in the South as “White” or “Confederate” Southern leaders. Lesson learned.
How “Pharisee” Became an Insult
Do You Know What Hurts Me?
A great rabbi went into a bar. He overheard a conversation between patrons.
One said to the other, “Friend, do you love me?” “Of course I do,” the second man replied. “We’ve known each other our whole lives.”
“Then tell me, friend,” said the first man, “What hurts me?” The friend had no reply.
The first man continued “How can you love me, when you don’t know what hurts me?”
It feels like a bad dream. Last week, while hundreds of Jews prayed in two synagogues In Paris, rioters surrounded the buildings and trapped them inside.
It took the arrival of battalions of French police to secure a safe exit. The story triggered my heart and mind. See, while I have never experienced overt antisemitism, I have studied it.
My focus in college was modern European history. One of its defining moments was the so-called “Dreyfus Affair,” in which the highly-decorated Jewish French Colonel Alfred Dreyfus was accused of treason.
The accusation was accompanied by riots in Paris in which thousands yelled “Death to the Jews.”
10 Rabbis Explain God
Enriching Ideas and Inspiration from the World's Oldest Religion