Posts tagged " Genesis 12 "

Inherit the Land

April 13th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

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.

To this day, the one religious observance most retained even by alienated and secularized American Jews is the Passover Seder reliving the traumatic Egypt experience and the dramatic Exodus. The impact still resonates.

We have prepared an instantly downloadable program that lets you “sit”  at our Passover Seder. See how Pharaoh served his own narrow interests even at the great cost of his entire nation (and ponder how that pathology relates to our lives today). Explore how the  Hebrew nation was forged in the furnace of Egypt and discover how challenge produces strength. The audio walks you through the entire Seder experience and gives a deeper understanding of how Passover serves as an annual injection that lays the ground for intergenerational continuity, just as God promised Abraham.


How to Lead Your Own Passover Seder download
3 volumes available individually or as a set
Chart Your Course: 52 Weekly Jounaling Challenges with Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Please note that our office and store will be closed from Tuesday evening through Thursday night in honor and observance of the closing days of Passover.

Should we emigrate or stay put?

February 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments


 Firstly I would like to sincerely thank you for every podcast, thought tool, answer to every question with so much thought and wisdom.  It’s been life changing listening and reading everything you and your wife share.  

We live in Namibia, a country bordering South Africa and linked to the South African Rand.  We are going through a huge recession and as the saying goes here – if South Africa has a cold, Namibia has Pneumonia. Everything that happens in SA has a huge impact on us.  

We are seriously contemplating if we should emigrate. Why?  The main reason – to create a better future for our children.  There is little to no future for them in Namibia.  As the economy worsens, corruption and violence increases.

 Moving to another country like New Zealand means we can create a new life with new possibilities together.  They can go on and study at numerous universities.  They can get married and we can see our grandchildren grow up together…

 …or we can stay and they will most probably move away themselves somewhere in the future, and with our weak currency visiting them anywhere in the world will be next to impossible…

We don’t know the future of our country but for now the future does not look great. We are by no means doom and gloom people and as mentioned earlier we are still safe but when does one get to the point where one actually takes a step toward something like what you call “the American dream”? When does your children’s future take preference before your own comfortable life(or seemingly comfortable life)?

Do we have a lot to give up? TONS!!! Both our families are all here.  We are a very close knit family.  We live on a stunning plot outside town with lots wide open spaces, My daughter (age 11) has her own quarter horse, the boys (ages 13 and almost 4) can climb trees and hunt birds. They love the animals and freedom. Here everyone knows who you are. You’ve already made your name. Basically our whole life- 14 years of marriage.  Everything we worked for… we will have to leave that behind and look to the future, for our children…or stay and pray it gets better…

When is considering to emigrate a good option?

We have done a lot of research. We’ve made our lists of pros and cons. My head says go, my heart says no.

 Any advice/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 Thank you so much,

The B. family

Dear B. Family,

Thank you for writing and thank you for your kind words regarding our teachings.  We derive great joy from hearing that our work benefits people’s lives. 

While we shortened your letter a bit for this column, we hope we haven’t removed the emotional impact. As with so many other important life decisions, twenty years from now you will know what was the best thing to do, but by then you will be living the consequences of whichever decision you make.  The good news is that by far and away, most decisions are not matters of life/death.

In all probability, twenty years down the road people will still be living, for better or for worse, in both Namibia and New Zealand.  Occasionally the wrong decision places people in the heart of terrible war zones.  Think of Jewish families who fled frightening rural parts of Poland in 1938 and settled in Warsaw only months before the Nazis invaded.  Or the people who wanted to get away from it all and relocated to the Falkland Islands just before the war of 1982.


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