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When Change Happens

By Mark Gerson

The life of our father Jacob—and with it, the book of Genesis—is coming to an end. On his deathbed, Jacob says perhaps the most beautiful and moving expression of love and gratitude ever spoken, “I had not expected to see [even] your face, and behold, God has shown me your children too.” 

Joseph, we are told in Genesis 48:12, “removed them [his sons] from his knees and he prostrated himself with his face toward the ground.” 

As the Jerusalem Rabbi Benji Levy notes, this would be an entirely explicable expression of parental fealty—a classic example of honoring one’s father—until one considers what we just learned about Jacob: He was blind! Jacob would not have known if Joseph were prostrating himself, standing, or doing jumping jacks. Joseph could honor his father with his words, but not with his body. 

Why, then, does he prostrate himself?

Because the act of honoring a parent—or doing any mitzvah (“good deed”)—is not only for the recipient. Doing a good deed reflects and improves the character of the doer. Joseph does not prostrate himself to send a message of respect to his father. He does so because that is just how he acts in the presence of his father, and because treating his father with this respect refines him. 

In the beginning of Exodus, God is ready to start the plagues. As a prelude to the first plague, God instructs Moses to tell Aaron to use his staff to get the Nile to change its water to blood. This raises two questions. First, why would God want a person to do the act that causes the plague? As God, he could have made the water turn to blood unaided. As Joseph did with prostrating himself before his father, God is teaching us that the purpose of an action is not only to accomplish its objective. God wants the Nile to turn to blood, but he is also showing us he wants to operate in the world with a human partner. 

Why, then, does God tell Moses to tell Aaron to strike the river? Moses had a staff and could have easily struck the river himself. The Rabbis explain: The Nile River had saved the life of the baby Moses by delivering him safely, in the basket, to Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses, therefore, owed the river gratitude—so God would never ask him to strike it.

How can a person owe an inanimate object gratitude or anything like it? The river, of course, could neither think nor feel and so could not have taken offense if Moses struck it. That, the Rabbis state, is not the point. Moses owed the river gratitude, whether or not it could have appreciated or known about it. By having Aaron strike the river, Moses was inculcating himself into the discipline and the habit of gratitude that would define his character and condition him to express gratitude to people. 

Every Friday night, we Jews exercise the most joyous aspect of our faith as we welcome Shabbat and get ready to enjoy Shabbat dinner. We bless God over the wine and the challah (the bread). The challah is always dressed with a beautiful covering. Why do we cover the challah? Because the wine is blessed first, and we do not want to embarrass the challah. Can challah be embarrassed? Of course not. But if we are conditioned to respect the challah this way, we will begin the Sabbath by reminding ourselves to always be very careful to avoid embarrassing anyone. 

Each of these three examples is very different from the others. Yet they all illustrate the same Jewish truth: Every action we take changes us. This makes intuitive sense. When we look back upon a period of our lives—perhaps a birthday, an anniversary, a school reunion—we acknowledge how much we have changed. And if we pause for a moment, we would realize something that is both obvious and important. All that change didn’t happen in the moment before we considered it. Like a child’s growing or an adult’s aging, the process happens continuously. 

Consequently, the answer to the question, “When did this change happen?” is the same as the answers to the questions: “When do I grow?” and “When did I look older than I did before?” The difference is that we can take ownership and control over the first question—and Joseph, Moses, and the Jewish parent who blesses the challah show us how. 

We can take ownership of our non-physical changes by acknowledging that they happen at every moment. Every writing we read, every video we watch, every conversation we have, every person we meet, every reaction we have—they all change us. Of course, some change us more than others. A conversation with a spouse about how one can be a better parent or communicator is likely to change us more than a conversation with a grocery clerk about whether or not (to quote a Saturday Night Live bit from my youth) the snack pack counts as one item or six in qualifying for the express lane. But they all change us. 

Upon acknowledging that the answer to the question, “When did I change?” is “continuously” or “always,” we realize something else as well. If every encounter changes us—and we can usually control a significant part of each encounter—then we can change ourselves in accordance with who we want to be. 

Joseph decided he wanted to be respectful and religious. So, he prostrated himself before his blind father. God decided Moses, whom God had determined would lead the Jewish people out of slavery and toward freedom, should be grateful. So, God told Moses to tell Aaron to strike the Nile. And some wise Jews a long time ago wanted us to be sensitive to publicly embarrassing anyone, so they devised the otherwise strange custom of dressing the challah. 

Who does each of us want to be? What qualities do we want to cultivate and resist? Once we make those decisions, each day will present literally hundreds of opportunities for us to change ourselves accordingly. 

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a forthcoming book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.  

Website: therabbishusband.com
Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

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Iran’s Nuclear Quest, Twelvers, and Growing Christian Conversions

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Readers, on January 12, just after I completed my column, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., with explosive new intelligence. He stated, “Al-Qaeda has a new home base: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a result, Osama bin Laden’s wicked creation is poised to gain strength and capabilities.” CBN News will cover this new revelation in depth, but what I have written here will provide historical context for his remarks.

On February 11, 1979, the authoritarian ruling monarchy of Iran became a relic of the past. That day, the exiled Imam Ayatollah Khomeini was greeted with overwhelming public joy. In April, a national referendum officially proclaimed it the Islamic Republic of Iran, locking in the power of the Imams who devoutly adhered to “Twelver Shiism.”

Little did Iran’s citizenry or, indeed, the world realize that Twelver Shiism, the largest branch of Shiite Islam, would set into motion a theocracy as the driving force to welcome in the Twelfth Imam, the “Hidden Imam.” Twelvers call him the Mahdi and view him as their coming Messiah who will set up a worldwide caliphate. Some believe he will even return with Jesus to bring peace into a world of chaos and war.

On November 4, 1979, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the 444-day Iran hostage crisis began—a shocking crisis for America and the world. Television captured the appalling moment when 52 American staff were led out of Tehran’s U.S. Embassy by hundreds of gleeful Iranian students, members of the Muslim Students of the Imam Khomeini Line. Finally, the hostages were set free on January 20, 1981, the day of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. Since then, the emboldened Shia Twelvers have advanced their apocalyptic goals, laying the groundwork for the return of their Mahdi.

Up until the 1979 Iran Revolution, Israel and Iran had for 30 years shared a generally congenial relationship, including many cooperative initiatives based on each nation’s varying situations after the Cold War ended. Jews, among our favorites Esther and Mordecai, had lived in Persia (Iran) for 2,700 years, considering it a refuge under its ruler Cyrus the Great (sixth century B.C.), who freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity. That cordiality changed with the Shia Islamic revolution, where hatred became the Imam’s predominant disposition towards Israel. 

As time passed, Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons went into overdrive. The Imams and their elite Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have run a tight ship. Their dictatorship has produced international terror, including threats to destroy Israel and the United States and now calls for assassinating President Trump. In their Shia theology, they say they want peace, but they are now the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. In fact, some experts believe Iran might use nuclear weapons to bulldoze a path for the Mahdi’s return.

In the last 42 years, Iran’s steps to dominate the Middle East make for a deadly list. My summary here is just a taste of their toxic “accomplishments.”

Iran supplies weaponry to their three proxies on Israel’s borders: Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria. In its effort to set up beachheads nearer to the U.S. mainland, Iran has placed many embassies in Central and South America, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Iran’s leaders are also closely allied with the dictators of Venezuela and North Korea.

Regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the nation has at least seven nuclear facilities, some of which house thousands of centrifuges that spin uranium into weapons-grade material. Their Fars News Agency recently announced adding 1,000 more centrifuges at Fordo, one of their underground facilities. This reflects Iran’s decision to increase their uranium enrichment capacity. They have assorted sizes of precision-guided intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which they want to tip with nuclear warheads. And just last week, the IRGC proudly announced an underground missile base right along Iran’s Persian Gulf coastline.

The Obama-Biden administration aggressively pushed the Iran deal, culminating in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015. I think they meant well in wanting to stop Iran, but their strategy was naïve. It prematurely gave Iran many rewards without requiring any substantial demonstrated commitments beforehand to halt their nuclear ambitions. I still worked as staff with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in 2015. We were deeply involved in opposing the Iran deal. Although we educated Americans, and specifically Congress, on Iran’s danger to Israel and beyond, we were unfortunately not successful.

My personal opinion about the Iran deal is that the negotiating team ignored the Iranian leadership’s devout Shia Islam underpinning. Its ruling Imams and Foreign Minister Jarif cleverly played their chess game of moderation and promises, never intending to keep them. The theocratic Twelver devotion to a modern caliphate and to the Mahdi’s return took precedence. The result five years later is proof positive. Iran is more dangerous than ever and distrusted not only by Israel but the Arab states in the region.

President Trump withdrew from the defective Iran deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. More sanctions were added recently, when Iran announced its increase for uranium enrichment. Also, in 2018, Israel’s Mossad—in another legendary covert operation—broke into a storage warehouse in Tehran. They left Iran just hours later with 110,000 documents, videos, and photographs in hand that proved Iran’s secret nuclear activities. It was a genius intelligence operation.

President-elect Biden is scheduled to take office on January 20, 2021. He has already announced his intention to re-enter the futile Iran deal, reappointing some of the 2015 negotiators. Hopefully, the team is now familiar with Iran’s deceptive chess moves. Already, Israel and the Gulf Arab states have contacted Mr. Biden urging him not to re-enter the JCPOA.

Iran has continued its destructive terrorism and nuclear quest at a great cost to their citizenry, both before and during the COVID-19 crisis. Over the past several years, Iran’s military spending has ranged between $18 and 20 billion annually. The IRGC also receives off-book income through smuggling and other industrial outlets. Much of Iran’s 83-million population is suffering economically, with the World Bank naming Iran as one of the worst-run governments, as well as one of the most corrupt.

The Imams and IRGC are living well. “There are more Maseratis on the streets of Tehran than in Beverly Hills and the ones driving them are children of the country’s mullahs,” comments Reverend Hormoz Shariat, founder of Iran Alive Ministries. Yet drug addiction, depression, and prostitution are rampant. Food shortages are increasing, along with high inflation.

Iranian leadership’s Twelvers, though, are no match for our Lord’s love, redeeming those who seek Him. CBN News coverage reports that “Christianity is growing faster in Iran than anywhere else in the world.” Says Mike Ansari, who runs one of the most popular Christian satellite channels in Iran—Mohabat TV—”We are calling this a pandemic of hope.” He describes the government’s increase in internet bandwidth to keep the population at home, resulting in more Iranian conversions. Around 3,000 Muslims a month have become Christians since the COVID-19 virus hit the country in March 2020.

The callousness of Iran’s Islamic government was in full view when one of its religious leaders said he hoped the coronavirus would spread to speed up the return of the Shiite messiah. Our Lord Jesus, though, whom Iranians call “the man in white,” desires to bring new life. He is appearing to some Muslims in dreams and in person. Iranian ministries are distributing millions of New Testaments, which Iranians call the Red Book. Satellite channels are also reaching new believers on how to form house churches.

Reverend Hormoz Shariat also reports that their satellite TV Christian programs are reaching “an estimated 6 million people.” Iran has closed church buildings, so house churches have proliferated but must remain secret, since members are subject to arrest. Reverend Shariat remarks, “Christians have no church they can physically attend so we are their church.” The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) is also a “church” offering Persian-language programs and discipleship teaching.

Iran’s evil Evian Prison is sometimes a destination for believers who were arrested in small house churches or at any demonstration of Christianity. One believer, Alireza Asadi, was among 12 other Christians executed in 2016. In his last post on Facebook he declared, “My new season is much, much more pleasant than the worldly life.” He went on to say that meeting Jesus was the “best experience” in his life.

Some say that in 1979, 500 Iranians were known Christians. Now, estimates range from 500,000 to 2 million secret believers. Elam Ministries, founded in 1990, reports that “More Iranians have become Christians in the last twenty years than in the previous thirteen centuries put together since Islam came to Iran.”

One believer, Reza, with Global Catalytic Ministries, talks about a wonderful vision. “Imagine the most radical nation in the world, exporting radical Islam, as a Christian nation.”

This week CBN Israel will begin our prayers for Iran with a request from Reza:

  • Pray “that the dark powers of evil in Iran would be defeated by Christ.”
  • Pray for Iran to become a Christian nation that no longer finances terror.
  • Pray for small, secret house churches to thrive and remain undiscovered.
  • Pray for an infusion of donations to ministries that are making such a significant impact for persecuted Iranian Christians.
  • Pray for safety in the Middle East for both Israel and Arab Gulf nations.
  • Pray for Iranians who describe Iran as a prison, “a living coffin!”


Arlene Bridges Samuels
pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Holocaust Survivor | Tanya’s Story

Tanya was just 14 years old when the Nazis invaded Ukraine, bringing on the Holocaust. Looking back, she admits sadly, “I remember life was so normal until that day. The war started, and everything changed.  Many of our family and friends died.”

Fortunately, her mother worked at a local hospital—so they narrowly escaped on a hospital train. As the train accompanied the Red Army along the frontlines, Tanya cared for the wounded. She recalled, “It was very difficult to be around all that blood and death, but we knew what the Nazis were doing to the Jews. I would have felt shame not doing my part to help.”

As a result, the Soviets honored her heroic service during the war. Yet today, as a Holocaust survivor living in Israel, Tanya faces a different battle. The stress of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown has caused those terrible memories of the war to resurface. Added to that, she has had to self-isolate to stay safe—which means she can’t leave home to get food.

But thanks to friends like you, help arrived. CBN Israel brings her groceries, while taking precautions to keep her safe. She is getting the food and the encouragement she needs during this crisis, and says, “Thank you so much… It’s a very noble thing for you to want to help me and other Holocaust survivors, without even knowing us. I’m so grateful to God to have met you!”

CBN Israel is blessing so many in need with food, shelter, financial aid, and much more—and sharing God’s love during this pandemic and beyond. As the needs in the Holy Land increase, your support is crucial in offering help to single mothers, immigrant families, and the elderly. Please let us hear from you today!

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Biblical Israel: Magdala

By Marc Turnage

The site of Magdala sits a little over three miles north of Tiberias, on the southern edge of the plain of Gennesar, on the shore of the lake of Galilee. Ancient sources seemingly refer to this site by three names; Greek and Latin sources refer to it as Taricheae; Hebrew and Aramaic sources use the names Magdala or Migdal Nunaya. Although a question remains whether all three names refer to the same site, many accept that they do. Since the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries A.D.), tradition has identified this site as the home of Mary Magdalene, mentioned in the Gospels, but Mary’s connection with this site is by no means certain.

The ancient sources written in Greek and Latin, dating to the 1st century, refer to the site as Taricheae. Taricheae served as an important administrative center from the 1st century B.C. into the 1st century A.D. Its name in Greek refers to “factories (vats) for salting fish.” The city’s location on the shores of the lake of Galilee indicate that fishing and fish processing served as its primary industry. The administrative role of the city, as well as its size, suggest that its fishing and fish processing involved smaller villages that lay within its toparchy, like Capernaum.

Gennesar (Gennesereth) is a large fertile plain on the northwest corner of the lake of Galilee. The name refers to the region of the fertile plain. Magdala functioned as the largest city and port serving the Gennesar Valley; thus, when Jesus arrives by boat to Gennesar (the region) in the Gospels, he likely used the port of Magdala.

Archaeologists first excavated a small section of the site in the 1970s. Excavations since the 2000s have provided a number of significant finds that shed light on Jewish life around the lake of Galilee during the ministry of Jesus. Excavations have uncovered installations that likely served for the processing and salting of fish, indicating the identification of the site as Taricheae. They also uncovered a series of streets laid out in an urban grid pattern, and along some of these streets, houses were uncovered that speak to the wealth of the people that lived in them. They were built with finely cut stones having mosaic tile floors. Pottery and glass vessels discovered in these homes further speak to the wealth of the inhabitants. These homes also had private Jewish ritual immersion baths (mikva’ot). Ground water filled and refilled these pools. Their presence is rather unique since the lake itself could serve Jewish ritual purity needs. The owners of these homes apparently desired a high degree of ritual purity, which required them to include private ritual immersion baths in their homes.

Excavations uncovered the ancient Hasmonean (1st century B.C.) and early Roman (1st century A.D.) harbor of Magdala. Pottery and coins provided a clear date for the structure, which had the mooring stones still in place. This harbor served the fishing industry of Magdala, as well as provided transit for travel around the lake. Magdala sits just below Mount Arbel, which overlooked a pass through which a road led from the northwest corner of the lake west into Galilee, and which could also be used by Galilean pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem.

Excavators uncovered a modest public building, which they have identified as a synagogue. This building consists of three phases. The middle phase dates to the early-mid 1st century A.D. This structure consists of an entrance with a narrow rectangular hall from the west, possibly a room for study known as a beit midrash. One passes from the entry vestibule into the main hall, which is surrounded on all sides by benches. This placed the focal point of the hall in the center of the room (this is a common layout for first century synagogues). The aisles had mosaic floors, and the columns of the main hall were covered with frescoed plaster. The walls also had frescoes plaster upon them. In the center of the main hall, archaeologists discovered a stone with four short legs. This decorated stone preserves a number of images, the most striking of which is the seven branched menorah that resided in the Jerusalem Temple. The iconography of this stone seems to tie to the Temple in Jerusalem indicating that those in this synagogue connected their worship with the worship in the Temple.

In the land of Israel in the 1st century, the primary function of the synagogue was the reading and teaching of the Torah. We see this with Jesus in the Gospels. The layout and orientation of 1st century synagogues in the land of Israel, like the one in Magdala, focus on the center of the hall where the Torah would be read and expounded upon. This stone discovered in Magdala has been identified as the base for a Torah reading stand. Jews read the Torah standing; they sit to teach (just like Jesus; see Luke 4:16-20). This decorated stone likely served as a base for a stand for the Torah reading, when all eyes would be fixed on the one reading and explicating the Torah (Luke 4:16-20).

The Gospels do not mention Jesus in Magdala. Yet, he sailed to the region of Gennesar where Magdala was located. He taught in all the synagogues of the villages and cities of Galilee. The Magdala synagogue dates from the time of his ministry; he could have taught there. Excavations at Magdala reveal that the population of the Galilee in the 1st century was Jewish, and devout Jews at that. Some had wealth, but they adhered to Jewish concerns of purity and worship.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV).

Jesus expected His followers to be instruments of peacemaking. Those who do so, according to Jesus, will be called children of God. For Jesus, the peacemaking efforts of His followers is the condition for them being children of God. 

Jesus didn’t often speak in terms of His followers as children of God. He did so in only one other instance: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48 NASB). 

The common language of “children of God” in both passages indicates a connection between the two passages. In both passages, the efforts of His followers make them children of God: They are peacemakers, and they love their enemies and pray for those persecuting them. The passage of Matthew 5:44-48 defines what Jesus meant by being a peacemaker. It’s not about brokering peace agreements between parties in conflict; rather, it’s demonstrating love for enemies and praying for those persecuting you. This makes one a child of their Father in heaven. 

Peacemaking, then, is not running around crying out for peace; it’s loving those who hate us. It’s being perfect (merciful: see Luke 6:36) as our Father in heaven is perfect. 

We hear the term “peacemaker” and think about the making of peace between people, but within the world of ancient Judaism and the early church, peacemaking involved a three-way relationship between one person, another person, and God. 

For instance, charity and good deeds are actions we do to and for others, like loving those who hate us and praying for those who persecute us. These actions toward others, however, make peace between humanity and God. 

How we treat those made in God’s image impacts our relationship with God. At the same time, behaving toward others like this unleashes God’s redemptive power within the world. Actions of love and charity for our enemies opens a way to make peace between God and humanity. 

We hear cries for peace throughout our world. Peace does not come from bringing an end to the conflict. Peace comes when the followers of Jesus love those who hate us and model that for the world to see. When we do that, we show that we are children of our Father in heaven.

PRAYER

Father, strengthen us to show love toward those who hate us. Through our love for them, build a path of reconciliation between us. Amen.

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Manasseh and Ephraim

By Mark Gerson

Every Friday evening at sundown, we Jews engage in one of the most sacred experiences of being a Jew—and the happiest of being a person. We cease work, turn off all electronics, and focus entirely on the important matter at hand: welcoming God’s special day, Shabbat. We dress in our finest, light the candles, welcome the Sabbath in song, bless our children, say a blessing over the meal, and enjoy a night of family and friendship under the watchful eye of the Lord.

What is one of the most special parts of this remarkable evening? I think the answer would be nearly universal among Jews and Christians: the blessing of the children. We bless our kids with the words of the biblical Jacob from Genesis 48:20: “May God make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh.”

There are many fascinating and instructive aspects to this blessing. One is that it is from a grandparent, as Jacob was the grandparent to Joseph’s boys, Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob was not merely a grandfather—Abraham and Isaac were, as well. But Jacob never had a conversation with Abraham, and his children never had a conversation with Isaac. Jacob is the first and only person in the Torah to have a relationship with his grandchildren. Thus, this blessing focuses our attention on this characteristic of Jacob—and raises a question.

Why do we Jews—as we have for thousands of years—bless our children with the blessing from a grandfather? There is a lot to consider there, and readers who are grandparents (or even grandchildren) will certainly have fruitful ideas. As the book of Genesis demonstrates, parent-child relationships can be fraught with all kinds of complications. Relationships between children and their grandparents are much more likely to be pure, complete, and full of simple love, joy and delight. So of course we want our children to have this kind of relationship with God!

Moreover, this wholeness comes—perhaps counterintuitively—with responsibility. Jewish grandparenthood involves plenty of fun and some spoiling but, perhaps more importantly, with the obligation of transmission. The grandparent-grandchild relationship embodies the connection between the past and the future—between memory and yearning—and Jewish grandparents have the responsibility to use their wisdom, experience and relationships to sow the Jewish future by instilling Jewish virtues, customs and practices in their grandchildren. This is magnificently illustrated by the biblical Jacob. We know a lot about Jacob’s grandfather and his father. Then we have Jacob, followed by Joseph and then Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob was the direct link between five generations, as grandparents often are.

The ages given to biblical figures demonstrate that the Torah is not a history book, as Jacob died relatively young at 147. But how long are five generations today? My oldest grandparent was born in 1903. My youngest grandchild will probably die in around 2140. That means this typical story is only one generation younger than the history of the entire United States of America.  No wonder Judaism places the responsibility of transmission upon grandparents.

So it is entirely appropriate that we invoke grandparenthood with the blessing we give our children on the most sacred day of the Jewish week. But this raises another important question: Why do we bless our children to be like Ephraim and Manasseh, in that order?

This is an interesting question because Manasseh was older. In fact, the only things we know about these two brothers personally is their names and what they mean. Joseph, we are told in Genesis 41:51, named his elder son Manasseh because “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s household.” He named his younger son Ephraim because “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” 

The order of the names in the blessing Jacob gave to his grandchildren and that we, in turn, give to our children derives from the way in which he gave the blessing. When Jacob realized he was going to die, Joseph brought his boys to Jacob for a blessing. Joseph arranged his boys in age order, to enable the blessing from his nearly blind father. Jacob, however, crossed his hands expressly to give the superior blessing to the younger child. Joseph thought his old father was experiencing a senior moment, but Jacob assured him he knew exactly what he was doing.

Why did Jacob give the superior blessing to Ephraim? There are two potential reasons, both of which fit with Jacob’s existential purpose as the ultimate transmitter: to instruct us how to live better, happier and more meaningful Jewish lives today. First, the Torah constantly subverts the idea of primogeniture, which was the primary organizing principle of the ancient world. God’s sacred text is clear that being born first does not entitle one to special privileges. The responsibility of transmission is too important to be accorded by accident of birth. It might be given in accordance with one’s demonstrated abilities to enact it. Thus, Abel gains primacy over Cain, Jacob gains primacy over Ishmael, and Judah, Moses and David gain primacy over their older siblings. Genesis would almost have to conclude with a subversion of primogeniture, as it certainly did.

The second reason is revealed in that all we know of the brothers individually is what is explained by their names. Both names express how one can perpetuate the moral and religious life. Manasseh represents overcoming the obstacles imposed by one’s past, and Ephraim represents advancement and growth. In other words, Manasseh is defense and Ephraim is offense.

Jacob makes it clear that both preventing the negative and striving for the positive—defense and offense—are important, as both boys receive blessings. The question of which should be emphasized is core to the religious life. Should the transmission of a faith system or moral order be oriented toward what we cannot do and who we risk becoming, or toward what we can do and who we should become? Jacob—our father Jacob—is, through the swapping of hands, making his preference clear. We must emphasize the positive, the potential, the growth, the dreams and the work to achieve them, the love of God, and the joy in it all. This, as Jews and our Gentile friends who love Shabbat intuitively understand, is the secret to transmission.

The Torah is the ultimate book for all seasons, with life lessons taught by almost every figure. If the Torah were a play, Ephraim and Manasseh would be considered supporting characters, with the main characters being Adam, Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and, of course, God. Why, on the sacred night of Shabbat, would we choose to bless our children to be like Ephraim and Manasseh?

First, the book of Genesis is a story of family dysfunction. The dysfunction is between parents and children, siblings, cousins, and in-laws. Manasseh, who is upstaged by his younger brother, has every reason to be jealous, angry or vengeful. But he is not. Instead, he chooses family harmony and allows Genesis to end with its first instance of family unity.

Second, Manasseh and Ephraim are born and raised fully in a foreign land. They are, effectively, Egyptian princes. Yet they maintain their Jewish identity and become—we see later in the Torah—key to the transmission of the Jewish future.

Third, we do not bless our children to be like just Ephraim, or just Manasseh, perhaps dependent on the personality of each one. We bless each child to be like both. In so doing, we acknowledge that the transmission of Judaism—or any moral system—will require defense and offense. Some children will, in accordance with the uniqueness with which God has made them, tend more toward Ephraim or Manasseh. But in this blessing, we acknowledge a Jew in full should cultivate both characteristics—even if the traits of Ephraim are ultimately those that will help us most to create a dwelling place for God on earth.

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a forthcoming book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.  

Website: therabbishusband.com
Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

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Worldwide Religious Persecution: Where Does Israel Stand?

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

As we enter a new year, religious persecution will undoubtedly continue to impact millions across the globe, with such atrocities as Nigeria’s Christians being massacred, China’s Muslim Uighurs enslaved, and Jews murdered in their synagogues. For three years, an organization called Church in Need tracked Christian persecution in particular saying in their 2017 report, “Anti-Christian persecution is worse than at any time in history.” The 2020 numbers are now estimated at 260 million and growing.

Purveyors of persecution use numerous methods, which can include everything from media slander and banning Bibles to razing houses of worship, secret police harassment, imprisonment, and mass murder. Worldwide, Jewish communities have been the targets of unbridled hatred for centuries, while Christian persecution is considered to be at its highest levels and other faith communities continue to be threatened.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) keeps track of such atrocities, with 14 nations at the top of its list—among them China, North Korea, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Gary L. Bauer, a commissioner at USCIRF and the President of American Values, has actively spoken out against anti-Semitism and advocated for Christian minorities in the Middle East. He observes, “It is not an accident that persecution of Christians and Jews is increasing around the world. Judeo-Christian civilization is hated and under siege from both God-less communism and radical Islam. Even in Europe and here in the U.S. there are growing threats to religious liberty.”

Thankfully, the United States and Israel rest on a solid foundation of Judeo-Christian principles they can call upon when challenges arise. The United States enshrined religious freedom in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Israel embedded religious freedom in its Declaration of Independence when it became a modern Jewish state in 1948. Israel’s Basic Laws—which enumerate the country’s fundamental rights—protect “freedom to practice or not practice religious beliefs, including freedom of conscience, faith, religion, and worship, regardless of an individual’s religion.”

In addition, Basic Law designates Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” Israel also recognizes its patriarchs in the Declaration: “The State of Israel … will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the Prophets of Israel.” International human rights covenants are incorporated into domestic law that applies to both citizens and non-Israeli residents, alike.

Israel is the only Jewish state in the world; its ancestral homeland is a refuge for a people who for centuries had been scattered across the world. Israel enters 2021 with a population of more than 9 million people, of whom 6,870,000 are Jewish (73.9%) and 1,956,000 are Arabs (21%). The small nation is also a refuge for its 175,000 Christians, as well as Druze, Arab Christians, Bahai, and other faith communities. It is the safest place for Christians in the Middle East and also protects and guarantees religious freedom for the other two monotheistic faiths—Judaism and Islam.

One of the clearest examples of Israel’s religious freedoms is the Gold Dome on the Temple Mount, called Haram al-Sharif by Muslims. After Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, its leaders made the decision to allow the Jordanian Waqf Foundation, a religious committee, to continue administrating the Temple Mount. Under the Jordanian occupation of 1950–1967, Jews had been forbidden to pray at their most revered holy site, Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Jordanians occupied the Old City, where they looted and then destroyed 58 synagogues and expelled its Jewish residents. Christians were also under tight restrictions.

Yet despite such hostilities directed against them, Israel today allows Muslims freedom to worship at their Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, with Israeli police providing protection of the 32-acre compound.

Regrettably, Israel’s decision was not met with gratitude. Since 1967, the Temple Mount (in Hebrew, Har Habayit) has been a tinderbox of controversy that can flare up at any moment. Sometimes it is due to an imam’s hate-filled incitement in his sermon, or a lie spread by the Palestinian Authority. Religious freedom is not always simple—and certainly not in Israel with animosity pouring out of the Temple Mount mosque.

This Jerusalem compound is likely the most contentious acreage in the world. Yet it’s surrounded with church bells ringing, a Muslim muezzin sending out calls for prayer on a minaret loudspeaker five times a day, and Jewish families praying and celebrating bar-mitzvahs and bat-mitzvahs at the Western Wall (in Hebrew, Kotel). Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics estimates that 546,100 Jews, 328,600 Muslims, and 15,900 Christians live in Jerusalem, totaling nearly 900,000 people. Muslim, Druze, Christian, and other faith communities are located throughout the rest of the country. 

When it comes to making sacrifices for religious freedoms, history is full of examples. For instance, United States laws stand on the shoulders of Saint Thomas Becket’s martyrdom on December 29, 1170. Henry II, King of England, insisted that the church obey the monarchy. Becket, the powerful Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of England, disobeyed, proclaiming, “I give my life so that the Church will attain liberty and peace.” His martyrdom set the stage for England’s Magna Carta—which ensured the right to free exercise of religion—and for future modern democratic civilizations to assure religious liberty for their citizens.

On December 28, 2020—the 850th anniversary of Becket’s brave end—President Trump issued a proclamation honoring that sacrifice. “No right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous, and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions. … A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure—because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God.”

Unimaginable sacrifices by Jews, Christians, and others under persecution have also been borne by individuals like Pastor Richard Wurmbrand and his wife, Sabina. Both were born into Romanian Jewish families and later embraced Jesus as Messiah. Pastor Wurmbrand spent 14 agonizing years in prison under Romania’s communist regime for the public witness of his faith; Sabina spent three. With the help of Christian friends, the couple was finally released from prison. They moved to the United States and in 1967 founded Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian organization that focuses on rescuing persecuted Christians and educating the public about the plight of those living under religious tyranny.

In recounting sacrifices for Jews, we must note that German theologian Reverend Dietrich Bonhoeffer possesses a towering stature. The anti-Nazi dissident was known for his tireless advocacy, risk-taking, and devotion to the Resistance. Arrested by the Gestapo for his role in the plot to assassinate Hitler, Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging in Flossenburg Concentration camp in 1945. 

Israel’s religious pluralism is not without controversy. Much like Christian denominational differences and arguments, Judaism has its share of disagreements among the varying Jewish denominations. For instance, while the Ultra-Orthodox are small in numbers, they exert tremendous influence in Israel’s daily life. Ultra-Orthodox and secular Jewish citizens clash, and citizenship for Messianic Jews is still controversial. It’s estimated that between 15,000 and 50,000 Messianic Jews live in Israel, with around 130 congregations. The Messianic Jewish community is positively recognized for organizing multi-millions of dollars in humanitarian aid shipped into Israel since 2001.

In closing, the plight of Nigerian Christians is finally becoming more well known. Since 2015, more than 15,000 Nigerian Christians have been murdered by terror groups such as Boko Haram. While Israelis have reached out to Nigeria for decades with agricultural and educational aid and programs, Gary Bauer at USCIRF is calling for more public pressure on the Nigerian government and for the U.S. to withhold foreign aid if necessary. Last year, Nigeria was added to the U.S. State Department’s Special Watch List.

Commissioner Bauer told me, “The international human rights community must find its voice now. The war being waged by radical Islamists against Nigerian Christians has been ignored for too long. The Nigerian government is not doing enough to provide security in Christian villages and places of worship. Genocide is a real possibility, but sadly Christians being murdered and persecuted is often ignored by the U.N. and other international organizations.”

Yet we hope that Nigerian Christians, Jews, and others will benefit from the love of those who can help bring about true peace, healing, reconciliation, and religious freedom.

Please join CBN Israel in prayer for persecuted communities:

  • Pray that persecuted Christians will find hope in John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
  • Pray for non-Christians who are suffering religious persecution, that they will come to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Pray that the world community, especially churches, will devise solutions and supply aid for communities facing varying kinds of persecution.

Finally, may we hold firm to these encouraging words from Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. … Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.

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Biblical Israel: Capernaum

By Marc Turnage

Mentioned more than any other location in the Gospels, apart from Jerusalem, Capernaum sits on the northern shore of the lake of Galilee. The Gospels indicate it served as an important base during Jesus’ ministry around the lake, with Matthew referring to it as “his own city” (9:1). He performed miracles in the village casting out a demon in its synagogue on the Sabbath, healing Simon’s mother-in-law, and caring for many who suffered. Jesus taught in the synagogue built by a centurion (Luke 7:5).

Capernaum does not appear in ancient sources prior to the first century where both the Gospels and the first century historian Josephus mention it. Its name means the “village of Nahum,” although no indication of who Nahum was is known. Archaeological excavations indicate that some settlement at the site existed as early as the third millennium B.C.; however, the village that Jesus knew began around 330 B.C. and continued until the Arab conquest in A.D. 640, when the layout of the village was significantly altered. Archaeological excavations indicate a population shift and growth took place in the first century B.C., in which the population became markedly Jewish.

The site of Capernaum today consists of two sites, one controlled by the Franciscans, which contains some houses, the synagogue, and the Christian shrine, and the other site belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. Excavations on the Greek Orthodox property have been limited. Most of what they excavated dates to the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries A.D.). They did discover a bathhouse (2nd-3rd century A.D.), a tomb, which dates to the 1st century, and some suggest that the sea wall of the harbor goes back to the first century as well. The more popular and developed side of Capernaum belongs to the Franciscans; however, most of the remains that visitors see date to the Byzantine period.

The synagogue that stands in the site today was constructed out of limestone, which had to be brought to the village since the local stone is the black, volcanic basalt. Certain architectural elements of the structure suggest a 3rd-4th century date; however, pottery discovered under the floor indicates that the current building was constructed in the 5th-6th century. The limestone building rests upon a basalt wall. While visitors to the site are shown this wall and told it dates to the first century, the time of Jesus, this simply does not seem to be the case. The wall supports the limestone structure above it. It is possible that they built this structure on top of the earlier, first century synagogue, but the synagogue of Jesus would have been much smaller, as excavations under the floor of the Byzantine period synagogue have revealed houses in use during the first century.

The excavated houses date primarily to the Byzantine period; however, excavators uncovered a large courtyard to a house, which dates to the first century. The homes in Capernaum reflect a style of home popular within the ancient world known as the insula. These homes surrounded a central courtyard in which much of the domestic life of the family took place. This style of home illustrates many stories in the Gospels.

Visitors to Capernaum encounter a large modern church built over a series of ancient ruins, which consist of three phases. The earliest phase consists of an insula home (200 B.C.-A.D. 135). The second phase reflects an insula sacra in which a certain portion of the house became a shrine (2nd-4th century A.D.). The final phase (5th-6th century A.D.) preserves a Byzantine shrine with three concentric octagonal walls with mosaic floors. This structure architecturally reflects a Byzantine shrine, built over a sacred site, but it is not a church. The excavators explained these three phrases as evidence of this site being the “House of Saint Peter.”

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Website: WITBUniversity.com
Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

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Going When You Don’t Know Where

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise” (Hebrews 11:8-9 RSV).

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go’” (Genesis 12:1 NASB). God didn’t tell Abram (Abraham) where he was going. He didn’t tell him the challenges, pitfalls, or blessings that awaited him along the way. God simply said, “Go,” and Abram went. 

Throughout Abraham’s life, God made promises to him. His descendants would inherit the land. He would have progeny. His progeny would come through Isaac, the child of Abraham and Sarah in their old age. Some promises Abraham lived to see; others he did not. Yet no matter what, when God told him to “Go,” he went. 

God didn’t lay out the road map or blueprint for Abraham at the beginning. In fact, if you read the story of Abraham, bit by bit He revealed His plan and promise to Abraham. As Abraham proved faithful through his obedience, God led him further down the path. 

Abraham stumbled at times, but when God said, “Go,” he went, not knowing where. 

We often want God to reveal the path before we walk it. We want to understand His plan and where He’s leading us. God doesn’t work that way, however. He simply bids us “Go.” Will we? Do we trust Him enough to lead us? Do we trust His promises even when we will not see their fulfillment? 

Abraham never experienced most of the promises God made to him. His descendants did. Still, Abraham went. Still, he remained faithful, even when he was not the recipient of the promise. 

Too often we look to God for what He can do for us. We seek His promises for us, in our lives, during our lifetimes. The problem, however, is that usually the really big things in life, those things that have long-lasting impact, do not materialize in one lifetime. They take years and decades—even centuries—to come to fruition. 

Do we have that kind of faithfulness to see beyond ourselves and look to God’s promises and what He can accomplish through us, even beyond our lifetime, if we will simply “Go?”

PRAYER

Father, we hear Your call to “Go.” May we follow You, even when we do not know the way. May we trust You, even when the promise extends beyond our lifetimes. Amen.

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Looking Old

By Mark Gerson

The two greatest people in the world meet. The first is the great man of faith, who lives according to the undeniable and clear direction of God. The second is the most powerful ruler in the world. The person who arranges this meeting is the son of the first man, who himself is the most talented person in his generation.

If such a meeting were to happen today, there would be loads of commentary running up to the event—where and when it would be live streamed, televised, and played on the radio. There would be special issue magazines in supermarkets dedicated to this meeting, online media channels constructed just for the purpose of commenting on it, and millions made off commemorative clothing and associated trinkets.  

The commentators would have different questions and perspectives, ranging from the attire of each person to the outcome of the meeting. But perhaps every commentary would ask the same question: “What did they talk about?” Then the guesses would start: the meaning of life, world peace, political philosophy, and the current state and future of the human condition probably would-be contenders. 

Well, such a meeting did happen—and it was recorded in the media. The meeting was between Jacob and a Pharaoh, and the media is the Torah. So, we can answer our question: What did they talk about? 

The Pharaoh, as we see in Genesis 47, says, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” 

Jacob answers, “The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years. Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not reached the days of the years of the lives of my forefathers in the days of their sojourns.”

They talked about how old Jacob was. And why would this be the first thing on Pharaoh’s mind? As the always-brilliant Rabbi Moshe Schneiner (drawing from ancient commentary) points out, it must have originated from how Jacob appeared to Pharaoh. That is the only explanation why this would be the first, and seemingly only, thing on Pharaoh’s mind. 

So, the conversation starts with one great man noticing the appearance of the other and thinking—and saying—you look old! And the other great man acknowledges this and proceeds to complain about his life. 

This is how two of the greatest men in the history of the world interacted? God has blessed my wife and me with four children. If one of them met an elderly person and said, “You look really old. Just how old are you?” we would be mortified. Indeed, this conversation sounds more like one we would use to educate a kindergarten class about how not to behave than one between two of the great men of the Bible.

What is going on?

It turns out the Rabbis don’t like it either and heap all of the blame on Jacob. That is instructive in itself—we Jews believe everyone is significantly flawed, that we should be forthright and honest about the failings of our heroes, and we can and should learn from the significant imperfections of even our greatest people. So, we must ask: What did Jacob do wrong? 

The Rabbis point out that Jacob’s life was 33 years shorter than his father’s, with each lost year a penalty for each word in his response. It was wrong of Jacob, the Jewish tradition instructs, to focus on the negative. Yes, he had a very hard life. He was exiled from his home, threatened with fratricide, tricked into marrying someone he didn’t want to, forced into indentured servitude by his father-in-law, lost track of his beloved son Joseph for two decades because of an attempted fratricide, and lived through the aftermath of the rape of his daughter that was enabled by at least one of his mistakes (settling in the wrong place). 

He also had a loving relationship with his mother and a more complicated one with his father, had consistent and direct guidance from God, experienced the most romantic moment in the Torah that turned into a lifelong love and marriage, was very prosperous wherever he went, and was blessed with 13 children and numerous grandchildren.  

Yet Jacob described his life in entirely negative terms. An ancient Jewish source imagines God saying to Jacob: “‘I saved you from Esau and Laban, I returned Dinah to you, and also Joseph, and you complain about your life that they were few and bad?!” 

But there is a problem. The words Jacob used to describe his life do not add up to 33. For that, we need to include the Pharaoh’s question: “How many are the days of your life?” 

Why, Rabbi Scheiner asks, would Jacob lose years because of the Pharaoh’s question? Jacob, after all, was the recipient of a (perhaps) rude question. The answer was provided by one of the giants of 20th-century Judaism—Esther Jungreis—known sometimes as “The Rebbetzin” and other times as the “Jewish Billy Graham.” Rebbetzin Jungreis was born in Hungary in 1936. When she was eight years old, she was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Her father told her to be sure, in the hell of Bergen-Belsen, to always smile. The smile of a child, her father instructed her, will bring some joy and hope to people in even the worst circumstance.

Rebbetzin Jungreis, drawing from the Bible and from her father’s wisdom, taught that one’s face is “public property.” The way one chooses to portray oneself to others will affect the experience of others. Jacob, in the Jewish imagination, is criticized for portraying himself with a countenance that stuns the Pharaoh into asking—effectively—why he looks so old. 

But this exchange—even this part of the exchange—has additional lessons for us. Why did both Jacob and the Pharaoh speak about “the days of the years” of his life? If someone asked any of us how old we are, we would likely respond with just a number corresponding to a year. But that is not how great people like Jacob and the Pharaoh think. Great people value, treasure, and account for every moment. They don’t measure in terms of years—but, at the most, days. 

We intuitively understand and do this. The more important a moment in time is to us, the more precisely we measure it. If someone asked, “When were the Middle Ages?” we might respond, “I don’t know, maybe a thousand years ago.” This imprecision would derive from the fact that we don’t really care when the Middle Ages were or what exactly happened during them. 

But if someone asked, “When was your first child born?” it would be weird to answer: “I think it was around ten or 20 years ago.” More likely, we would answer with something like, “On July 17, 2008, at 10:36 p.m.”

Similarly, genuinely great people like Jacob and the Pharaoh do not think in terms of years. The value they put on time, and of everything that occurs in a unit of time, is seen through the precision of their measurement. And we Jews are, as inspiration and for instruction, called: “Children of Jacob.” 

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH) and the author of a forthcoming book on the Haggadah: The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life.  

Website: therabbishusband.com
Twitter: @markgerson
Podcast: The Rabbi’s Husband

 

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