The Torah (Bible) is the fundamental text of Biblical and Western thought and it is a guidebook for our lives. Mark Gerson, The Rabbi's Husband, will explore the greatest hits of Jewish thought in conversation with some of the most interesting thinkers from varying religious persuasions.
The discussions on this show will reflect the understanding that the Torah and all associated books are intended to guide us through our challenges and in our decisions today. We will strive to understand how Torah passages, Biblical verses and ancient teachings can guide us towards happier, clearer and more meaningful lives today. We will show how the most helpful answers to the pressing contemporary questions are provided in the Biblical stories, characters, laws and commentaries that constitute our ancient heritage.
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Gil Troy on Genesis 12:1-3 – “The Moment When the Jewish People Are Born”
Award-winning American presidential historian and leading Zionist activist, Gil Troy, joins Mark on the podcast today. Gil’s many books include The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland – Then, Now, Tomorrow, as well as The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, and Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight against Zionism as Racism, and he is also a Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University. The passage he has chosen to discuss with Mark today is Genesis 12:1-3.
The conversation begins with Gil sharing his summary of the passage, the meaning it holds for him, and his ‘Oreo’ analogy regarding Judaism, which is woven throughout the episode. He and Mark discuss the application of the ‘law of first mention’ within the passage, the multiple Jewish identities, and the importance of the trilogy of peoplehood, religion, and land. Gil goes on to explain the need to be both a good nationalist and a good universalist, his definition of ‘Pilates Judaism’, and the notions of mission and ‘going’ which the Bible presents. He concludes the episode with some details regarding his new book and the lessons he has learned about mankind, highlighting their connection to the theme of today’s passage. A skilled educator, Gil’s ability to take his remarkably enlightening analysis and render it thoroughly accessible and entertaining is on full display here today, bringing out so much meaning and so much relevance to our contemporary lives from this magnificent passage.
Gil’s summary of the passage and the meaning it holds for him
His ‘Oreo’ analogy regarding Judaism
‘Law of first mention’ within the passage
The multiple Jewish identities
Peoplehood, religion, and land
Being a good nationalist and a good universalist
A sense of mission
The notion of going, where to go and why to go
The book that Gil wrote with Natan Sharansky, Never Alone: Prison, Politics, and My People
The lessons that he has learned about mankind
“For me, it’s the moment when the Jewish people are born.”
“The Jewish people are both a nation and a religion.”
“You know you’re a part of this people, you’re never alone.”
“In that passage, we have Zionism, we have Jewish religiosity, we have Jewish peoplehood.”
“This passage invites us into that wonderful muddled middle.”
“Once you realize that you can achieve something great for God, and derivatively for yourself, you can do anything.”
“What the Bible brings us to is a sense of forward looking…we have a sense of mission.”
“We need a nationalism that isn’t about building walls, but is about…how to use our…religion and our nation to make ourselves better, and to make the world a better place.”
“We can…stand up for ourselves, but also we can help others…it’s not a false choice.”
“We humans have a remarkable capacity to endure, and I think this is an important message right now during this ongoing and seemingly never-ending crisis, and through that endurance, not just survive, but thrive and do good.”
The LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.”
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Rick Pino on 1 Samuel 16:7 – “God Seeing into the Heart”
Mark is delighted and honored to welcome his friend, Rick Pino, to the podcast today. Rick is the founder of the Heart of David Movement, a community passionate about seeing Jesus glorified through day and night worship manifested through internships, schools, conferences and summits. He is a world famous Christian musician who performs concerts all over the world, and, in fact, he and Mark met through Eagles’ Wings in Jerusalem about a year ago when Rick performed in a concert that Mark describes as an unforgettable ‘beautiful Israel moment’. The passage Rick has chosen to discuss is
1 Samuel 16:7.
Their conversation begins with Rick explaining the passage, its context, and its meaning for him. He and Mark then discuss the themes of God looking into one’s heart and seeing potential, often in the least likely person. They also discuss how David will be defined, Rick’s perspective on the meaningful properties of music, and his remarkable experience with David Van Koevering. Rick also shares his analysis of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, the meaning for him of his trip to Jerusalem with Eagles’ Wings, and, of course, the lessons regarding mankind which he has learned. Rick’s abundant knowledge of both scripture and music render him particularly qualified to analyze today’s passage, and you will discover that his unique insights here today are as fascinating as they are informative.
Rick’s explanation of the passage, its context, and its meaning for him
God looking into the heart
God seeing potential
How David will be defined
Rick’s perspective on the meaningful properties of music
The genius of God behind music
Rick’s experience with David Van Koevering
Rick’s analysis of the opening lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ and David’s ‘secret chord’
What Rick’s trip to Jerusalem meant to him as a Christian music leader
The lessons about mankind that Rick has learned
“You cannot disciple a culture that has already discipled you.”
“God is actually looking supremely at the heart posture of humanity.”
“I believe that God…sees us at our whole potential.”
“Because I was faithful with little, I will be powerful with much.”
“What God sees in David is a young man committed to growth, committed to improvement.”
“I feel like music and singing is so powerful because it is a way to gigantically amplify the expression of a person’s heart, whether that’s for good or for evil.”
“Music touches every single part of who a human is.”
“God himself is a singer.”
“I think one of the things that we’re learning in the 21st Century is proving the truths that the biblical author knew.”
“It is actually one of the most life-changing trips that I have ever experienced.”
“Mankind deeply needs God.”
“The potential of mankind is absolutely limitless.”
1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Pay no attention to his appearance or his stature, for I have rejected him. For not as man sees [does the LORD see]; man sees only what is visible, but the LORD sees into the heart.”
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Zachary Karabell on Genesis 41:46-53 – “The Economics of Joseph: How to Manage a Country During a Famine”
Mark is delighted to welcome Zachary Karabell to the podcast today. Zachary is an author, columnist, podcast host, founder of the Progress Network at New America, and president of River Twice Research and River Twice Capital. He is also the most thoughtful commentator in the United States about macroeconomics, broadly defined, and his books and columns consistently articulate his distinctive philosophy of American economic optimism. The passage he has chosen to discuss today is Genesis 41:46-53.
Zachary begins by confirming his summary of the passage, which leads to a thorough discussion of its relevance to the current situation within the world, and the lessons it can teach everyone in this regard. He and Mark review these lessons intently by looking at the preparation for the pandemic, the human tendency to extrapolate the present to the future, the power of optimism as opposed to the paralytic effect of fear, and just how people should be acting during this crisis. Zachary wraps the episode up with his perspective on historical analogs to the current situation, and the lessons he has learned about mankind particularly as they relate to the topics discussed here today. As Zachary states, ‘biblical texts remain resonant’, and the many lessons that he draws from today’s passage are directly applicable to precisely what everyone in the world is experiencing at this very moment – yet another profound example of the Torah’s eternal gift of guidance.
Zachary’s summary of the passage and its economic lessons for all of us
How these lessons relate to current circumstances in the US and other parts of the world
Preparation for the pandemic
The human tendency to extrapolate the present to be the future
Hoping for a better future and the pushback it currently generates
The paralytic effect of fear
How we should be acting in this pandemic
Shifting the conversation to ‘What do we do to live in the face of a threat?’
Zachary’s perspective on historical analogs to the current situation
The lessons Zachary has learned about mankind
“That seemed apropos our current weird, weird national and global moment.”
“The time to manage a famine is before and not during.”
“We had a lot of plans on paper, but that didn’t mean that anyone was able to execute them.”
“It was the same push toward more revenue regardless of whether it was a private or public system.”
“Six months ago no one could imagine this was going to happen. And six months later, we have a failure of imagination for this no longer being the dominant reality of all of our lives…it saps people’s energy.”
“You’re not honoring my suffering.”
“Literally, life will go on.”
“I call your optimism a deeply rigorous optimism.”
“In the midst of a storm it’s very hard to take measured steps to build shelter – that’s the world we’re in right now.”
“It is incumbent upon all of us to try to be less scared.”
“We should be aware of the fact that part of what is going on is that we are less resilient in the face of death.”
“The reason why biblical texts remain resonant, is that, while there’s been massive structural change in how humanity lives, I don’t know that there’s been massive emotional change in how humanity is.”
Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.—Leaving Pharaoh’s presence, Joseph traveled through all the land of Egypt.
During the seven years of plenty, the land produced in abundance.
And he gathered all the grain of the seven years that the land of Egypt was enjoying, and stored the grain in the cities; he put in each city the grain of the fields around it.
So Joseph collected produce in very large quantity, like the sands of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.
Tali Farhadian Weinstein on Bava Metzia 30b – “The Imperative of Justice: Going Inside the Law”
Prosecutor, professor, and proven criminal justice reformer, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, is Mark’s guest on the podcast today. Tali came to America as a refugee in 1979, having fled the violence and ant-Semitism of revolutionary Iran, and went on to earn degrees from Yale College, Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and Yale Law School. She has served as a Law Clerk for Judge Merrick B. Garland at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and most recently as the General Counsel of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. She has taught immigration law and policy at Columbia Law School, is currently Adjunct Professor of Law and Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law at NYU Law School, and is also running for the position of Manhattan District Attorney, for which she has the full support of the Rabbi’s Husband. Tali has chosen the Talmudic text, Bava Metzia 30b, to discuss with Mark today.
Tali begins by sharing her summary of the selected text, the meaning it holds for her, and the rhythm and surprise that she finds within it. Together, she and Mark analyze the notion of going beyond or inside the letter of the law, as well as their differing readings of the text. This leads them to explore the learning and use of prosecutorial discretion, the lessons to be learned through visiting jails and prisons, and the human capacity for change. Tali draws their conversation to a close by recounting the lessons she has learned about mankind, and how they relate directly back to today’s selected text. Tali’s vast experience as a prosecutor and a professor combine strikingly here today as she shares her remarkable insights while drawing out both the questions and lessons inherent to this ‘awesome rabbinic passage’, and their very real and highly impactful application in our world today.
Tali’s summary of the text and the meaning it holds for her
The rhythm and surprise of the passage
Going beyond or inside the law to practice law enforcement in a fair and just way
Being a ‘schmuck with Torah license’
Mark and Tali’s differing readings of the text
Judging when to pursue or not pursue a case as a prosecutor
Learning to exercise prosecutorial discretion
Lessons learned through visiting jails and prisons
The human capacity for change
The lessons about mankind which Tali has learned
“They upheld the law rather than doing this thing of going beyond it or inside of it.”
“The passage you chose says we’re following Torah laws, therefore the worst thing happened.”
“This is my life’s work…to practice law enforcement in a way that is fair and just which is what I think this Talmudic text is trying to nudge us toward understanding.”
“Maybe what it means to go inside or beyond the letter of the law is to bring the learning from those acts of meeting people at their most vulnerable into law enforcement. And maybe that’s the source of knowing…when to pursue, when not to pursue - how to indict a case not just based on the facts but on your sense of justice.”
“There’s no way that even the author of the Torah, which is the greatest book ever written beyond compare, could anticipate every circumstance where law would have to be applied.”
“In the best interpretation of your tradition, develop your character…and in so doing, you will learn when and how to exercise prosecutorial discretion, among many other things.”
“I’m making a point about what happens in these acts, and in these human encounters of the kind that our text is urging us to make before we get into the business of law enforcement.”
“There’s a whole other way of learning that is demanded of us.”
“Study leads to action.”
“None of us should be defined by the very worst thing that we’ve done, or the very wo
Dr. Rick Hodes on Psalms 106:3 and Deuteronomy 4:6– “Doing Righteousness at All Times”
Dr. Rick Hodes, Medical Director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is Mark’s very special guest today. Rick has dedicated his life to helping the people of Ethiopia through his work with both Mother Teresa’s Mission and the JDC, has adopted five Ethiopian children and raised countless others over the years. He is also the subject of the HBO documentary, ‘Making the Crooked Straight’, and the book, This is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes, by Marilyn Berger. Mark considers it a great honor and pleasure to call Rick his friend, noting that he ‘exemplifies what it means to be both a good and a great man’. Rick has chosen Psalms 106:3 to discuss with Mark, and, in a surprise move, Mark has chosen Deuteronomy 4:6 to discuss with Rick today.
Their conversation starts off with Rick offering his summary of his chosen passage, the Talmud’s answer to doing righteousness ‘at all times’, and how he has fulfilled this responsibility throughout his life and work. Rick also shares his experience of blessing and happiness in his life, a detailed account of his first two adopted children and their journey to receive the surgery they so badly needed, and his account of the ‘fax’ that God sent him. Much of the podcast showcases some of Rick’s extensive examples of living out Deuteronomy 4:6, the happiness he finds in his work, and his startling stories of those moments when God has arranged things amazingly in his life. As with all guests, Rick brings this lively discussion to a close by recounting the lessons about mankind which he has learned - lessons which are illuminated in so many of the stories he shares here today. Dr. Rick Hodes is a man whose devotion to relieving the suffering of some of the most vulnerable in our world clearly renders him, as Mark notes, ‘reason enough to be proud to be a Jew’.
Rick’s summary of the passage and its meaning for him
The Talmud’s answer to doing righteousness ‘at all times’
The children Rick has adopted and raised
How he experiences the blessing or happiness of doing righteousness
The story of Rick’s first two adopted children and their journey to get them the necessary surgery
God’s ‘fax’ to Rick
Some of Rick’s many stories of living Deuteronomy 4:6 and changing the attitude of others toward Israel and the Jewish people
The happiness he finds in his life’s work
Some of his many examples of how ‘God arranges things in the most amazing ways’
The lessons about mankind which Rick has learned
“By raising an orphan 24 hours a day, you are doing righteousness all the time.”
“I know that I am personally making a difference in the world and that’s just the greatest feeling in the world.”
“I’m offering you a chance to help these boys. Don’t say ‘No’.”
“You’re a Jew and she’s a Jew. That’s all you needed.”
“What kind of Ambassador gives you clothes from her own kids?”
“In America, doctors are afraid to pray with their patients, and in Ethiopia, patients like to pray.”
“We all believe in God, and we all want what’s best for the kids. So, just take a moment, speak to the Almighty from your heart, and ask Him for success.”
“In her mind, when she thinks of Jews, when she thinks of Israel, she thinks about her healthy kid and it puts a completely different picture on everything.”
“The Jewish people were asked by God to be an example to the world of three things: honesty, morality, and kindness.”
“Sometimes God just arranges things in the most amazing ways.”
“Happiness comes from inside.”
“The amount of good that can be done with a financial donation to support Rick’s work through the Joint is astonishing. It’s the best ROI there is.”
“Thank God for steering this young man to you.”
Dr. Amy-Jill Levine and Dr. Marc Brettler on the Book of Jonah – “A World in Four Short Chapters”
Mark is delighted to be joined by Dr. Amy-Jill (AJ) Levine and Dr. Marc Brettler, the editors of the Jewish Annotated New Testament, on today’s episode. AJ is a Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University, and Marc is a Professor in Judaic Studies at Duke University. Both prolific authors, Marc has taught at Yale University, Brown University, Wellesley College and Middlebury College, and AJ has taught at Swarthmore College, Cambridge University, and in 2019 was the first Jew to teach a New Testament course at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. Together, they have chosen the Book of Jonah, which Mark considers ‘word for word the best book ever written’, to discuss today.
Their conversation is a dynamic and thought provoking one that embodies the nature of the book they have chosen. While exploring the complexity of the text, they share questions and interpretations regarding it, delving into such aspects as the prevalence of animals within it, its lessons regarding repentance, its differing meaning for Christians and Jews, and the potential content of a fifth chapter. AJ and Marc share the lessons they have learned about mankind which also relate directly to the Book of Jonah, and they offer a preview of their new book, particularly its demonstration of the differences between Christian and Jewish readings and approaches to biblical texts as well as the mutual respect that can grow out of these differences. Together with Mark, these two learned scholars bring out so many of the ‘endlessly profound lessons and teachings both for children and adults that this great book offers’, rendering this a thoroughly fascinating and informative episode.
AJ and Marc’s summary of the Book and its meaning for them and all of us
The difference in the way Jews and Christians read the story
The original short story
The prevalence of animals in the story
The complex theology of the story
What makes this story so complicated
Questions the book raises for children and adults
What makes some Biblical books so great
The meaning of Jonah’s story for Christians
The book’s question about repentance
Creating a Jonah Chapter 5
The lessons AJ and Marc have learned about mankind
Their new book, The Bible With and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently
The differences between Jewish and Christian approaches to biblical readings
“This is a book about care, it’s a book about divine care.”
“Part of the Jewish reception history which recognizes the story is a profound meditation on issues of repentance and responsibility, and at the same time it’s rollickingly funny.”
“Although the book itself is fictional, there was a real prophet named Jonah.”
“You can have more than one reading and they can both be right.”
“Jonah may be interested in preserving his people. He’s also just a remarkably whiny, passive-aggressive, self-centered puppet who may want to see this destruction because it makes him look like a great prophet who got it right.”
“It’s big, it’s big, it’s big!”
“God usually gets a pass on things, right?”
“His passive-aggressive arguments don’t seem to work.”
“What is the responsibility for having done evil if you repent of your ways?”
“I think that humanity has an infinite imagination.”
“There are many different ways of reading the same text, and really can learn to respect each other through the same text even read differently.”
“The Jewish tradition will always say, ‘But what does this text mean to me?’”
Book of Jonah
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:
Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim judgment upon it; for their wickedness has come before Me.
Jonah, however, started out to flee to Tarshish from the LORD’s service. He went
Customer ReviewsSee All
There are truly great discussions of the Torah and Bible here — Mark and his guests show how these passages are always interesting and so relevant to our lives today.
Loving this show!
Cannot recommend this enough. It’s interesting, insightful, and incisive. Definitely give it a listen!!
A brilliantly constructed contemporary discussion on Judaism
Insightful, out of the box thinking with truly unique practical thoughts on modern day judaism. Most importantly- Mark, the Rabbi’s husband, asks the right questions in today’s complex universe.