This week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, has a most unique line when reading it in a proper Torah scroll. We read of a future time where “… Hashem removed them from upon their soil, with anger, with wrath, and with great fury, and He cast them out [וישלכם] to another land, as this very day.” (Deuteronomy 29:27) The Torah prophecies that a time will come when Israel will be exiled out of their land. The word וישלכם, “cast them out” is written with an enlarged letter lamed (ל). As is known, there are instances in the Torah where certain letters are written larger or smaller than normal. What is the significance of this enlarged lamed?
In this week’s parasha, Pinchas, we read about the five daughters of Tzlafchad, named Machlah, Noa, Chaglah, Milkah, and Tirzah. After the partitioning of the Land of Israel, the daughters approached Moses with a complaint. Because their family only has girls, and no boys, the daughters worried about what would happen to their father’s land and inheritance. Moses took the case up to God, who answered that daughters are able to inherit just as sons are in such situations. This is one example in the Torah of what might today be described as “gender equality”. The Torah (and Judaism more broadly) is sometimes criticized for its apparent gender inequality. One of the most common points of contention today is that blessing in Birkot HaShachar where men thank God for “not making me a woman”. Traditionally, women recite the blessing that thanks God “for making me kirtzono”, loosely translated as “like His will” Where did these blessings come from and what do they really mean?
Abraham Lincoln is generally considered the greatest president in American history. This is a view held not only by American citizens: a recent poll of nearly 200 political scientists also ranked Lincoln as America’s greatest president. Indeed, Lincoln distinguishes himself from other presidents in many ways. One of these ways is that he is the only president in American history to not be a member of any church.
Although his family was officially Baptist on paper, Lincoln himself was never baptized. He often spoke disparagingly of Christianity, but toned it down when he realized how much it hurt his chances for the presidency. In all of his celebrated speeches, he never once invoked the name of Jesus. This has led many to suggest that Lincoln was an atheist. Yet, he did speak of God many times, and did write that “I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures”.
The term “Scriptures” is quite vague, and might very well refer only to the Tanakh, ie. the “Old Testament”. This may be all the more likely when we keep in mind how he spoke negatively of Christianity, avoided mentioning Jesus, but did speak of God regularly (and that it was “God’s will” to abolish slavery). Dr. Yvette Alt Miller writes:
According to historian Jonathan Sarna, Lincoln quoted from the Old Testament much more often than from the New Testament. In his surviving letters, Lincoln mentions God over 420 times, yet remarkably never refers directly to Jesus.
So, what if Lincoln was secretly Jewish?