Inherit the Land

Thought Tools are meant as practical, real-world application of specific principles in Ancient Jewish wisdom.  Before submitting them for publication we ask ourselves whether they would have made sense to our grandparents and if they will make sense to our grandchildren. In other words, are they ‘evergreen’?  Little gets stale more quickly than political columns, while God’s Biblical blueprint is always current.

Occasionally we make an exception and when we do, it’s because politics is nothing more than the practical application of someone’s deeply held moral beliefs.  The World Health Organization (WHO) began in 1948 because of some people’s belief that it would be good for this United Nations agency to exist.  Advocating for universal health care as one of its mandates was someone’s idea of morality. It isn’t mine, but it was someone’s. 

WHO issues a list of the countries with the best healthcare systems. The United States ranks at number 37.  France and Italy occupy positions 1 and 2 respectively. The list of 36 countries with supposedly superior health care than the United States includes Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Cypress, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Dominica. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that it would be better to need urgent medical care in Columbia or Cypress or even France than in Wichita, KS.  WHO’s chief criterion for ‘best’ healthcare is actually ‘most equal’ healthcare. Poor or even appalling healthcare delivered equally to all puts you up high on the WHO list.

Early in 2020, even before investigating, WHO echoed China’s lie that there was no evidence for human transmission of coronavirus.  Although, as is now widely known,  China concealed life-saving information from the world for over a month, WHO loudly praises China for its helpful medical transparency.  WHO also prevents Taiwan’s participation although the small independent nation handled its virus outbreak far more competently than its giant neighbor over the straits.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches how the world REALLY works and part of that is knowing that large organizations tend to take on a life of their own. Instead of focusing on the cause they were formed to serve, they  devote themselves far more to these three ends:

1.  Ensuring their own immortality by expanding their power and influence.

2.  Serving the financial and social interests of their managers, operators, directors, and members. 

3.  Promoting a social and political climate in which the interests of large organizations fare better than those of small organizations and individuals.

This political principle is true for most large groups of people gathered beneath a banner or attracted by a crusader.  We can watch it in action with most bureaucracies, trade unions, and advocacy groups.  Witnessing it play out in the World Health Organization as well as in Pharaoh’s government in Egypt helps us shed new light on these two passages in Genesis.

And He [God] said to him [Abraham] I am the Lord who took you out from Ur Kasdim
to give you this land as an inheritance. And he [Abraham] said,
“Oh Lord God, with what shall I know that I shall inherit it?” 
(Genesis 15:7-8)

Many readers mistakenly believe that Abraham was asking for proof to help him believe God’s promise about the land of Canaan coming to him as an inheritance.

However, if Abraham was skeptical about God’s promise, the time to have expressed his concern was 3 chapters earlier:

And the Lord appeared to Abraham and He said, “To your seed, I will give this land.”
(Genesis 12:7)

In any event, if Abraham was really asking “How can I trust you to keep Your promise?” God’s answer (Genesis 15:13-16) that the Hebrews would be slaves for 400 years makes no sense.

Not for a minute did Abraham doubt God’s intention to give the land to Abraham’s seed.  However, it was quite possible that after some period of occupancy, those descendants would be permanently evicted.  After all, the current occupiers were on notice for eviction! 

The second time God promised Abraham the land (Genesis 15:7)  God used the word inheritance. Inheritance means forever and Abraham asked explicitly about the inheritance aspect when he said: 

Oh Lord God, with what shall I know that I shall inherit it?
(Genesis 15:8)

Inheritance of the land puts it outside the normal patterns of human habitation; it is permanent. Normally, nations acquire land and eventually lose it in one of two ways— through war or national dissolution. When God gave the land to Abraham as an inheritance, Abraham knew that his descendants could never permanently lose the land through external enemies.  But what about dissolution? Descendants faithful to walking God’s path as Abraham did would deserve to keep the land, but what if after the passage of time his descendants lost all spiritual affiliation to his values? Such people would no longer be a party to the inheritance covenant.

This was Abraham’s question in verse 8. “…with what shall I know that I shall inherit it?”  In other words, how could Abraham know that his descendants will always be his spiritual children and thus worthy of the land? 

To this question, God’s answer makes perfect sense. I am going to subject your descendants to a traumatic experience from which they’ll eventually emerge together.  Typically, soldiers who come through combat together tend to form strong bonds towards one another and the nation they protected. God’s answer is that the Egypt enslavement will bond Abraham’s children to one another while the Exodus and the subsequent Mount Sinai experience will forever bond (at least some of them) to Abraham’s values forever.

6 thoughts on “Inherit the Land”

  1. Wilson M. Nguyo

    Hi Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Its always greatly refreshing and inspiring to listen or read your posts and podcasts. I also renew my belief that am a happy warrior and get to know how the world really works! Keep up the good work. Most of all i appreciate the Ancient Jewish wisdom that helps me relate to my faith as a Christian from my Rabbi.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Wilson–
      Your kind words truly delight me. We love helping to bring people back to their faiths. Onwards and upwards.

  2. Dear Rabbi Lapin,

    We have some Jewsh friends and I love to celebrate the seder with them one of these days. Unfortunately we just returned from the UK and we are in self isolation. I think our Jewish friends were confined to their own home as well.

    There is one question that bothers me much. We have friends who went through several miscarriages and really desire to have a family of their own. My question is what does the Torah say about little children that are miscarried or aborted? Will they be waiting for their mommies and daddies in heaven. Or does Judaism not believe in Heaven?
    We would really like to know the answer to this question.
    Thank you Rabbi and Susan,
    mark from Victoria, BC

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Mark–
      Good to hear from you. On account of the enforced isolation, we created this Lead Your Own Seder resource which large numbers of enthusiasts all around the world are enjoying.
      Of course there is a heaven, or, if you like, an eternal spiritual life after death. It is obvious that we humans are both body and soul and it is also obvious that the physical can and does eventually deteriorate and end whether by rust, decay, or death. Whereas the spiritual has no expiration date. And we call that eternal spiritual reality Heaven. It is a widespread mistake that Jews don’t believe in heaven; I once heard an ignorant NPR reporter state so on the air.
      The error derives from a superficial reading of the Five Books of Moses and discovering that they do not mention an afterlife. We have covered this in our Ask the Rabbi section of the website which you can easily search. Your question on miscarriage is also there. If you have any trouble simply submit your question about it to the Ask the Rabbi page because this comment section is not a good venue for us to respond fully to big questions.
      Spring is coming to Victoria, as I hope are the Lapins.

  3. Rabbi
    I listened with my son to your latest podcast and wanted to let you know how much we appreciated your message on Coronavirus death rates and why people are motivated to expand the numbers.
    Secondly the history of the recent returning of the Jewish people is excellent, As a result of your teaching I had planned to journey this year to the promised land and the more I learn the greater the pull. Your teaching gives me a belief that these men and women never knew how their lives would form part of the rich tapestry of the spiritual realm being played out on earth and encourages me that if we just keep going all of us can have a important and rewarding part in the plan of God for the nations.
    Bless you sir

  4. Thank you for another timeless truth (how I wish the part about the WHO and UN was not timeless). I downloaded your Passover teaching last week. Just the vaccine I needed to get through these frustrating times. I would encourage any Christian who wants to understand more about the Bible to obtain and listen. I plan to relisten to it in the coming weeks. Your friend and student, Tal

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