This week we start reading the fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar, more commonly known as “Numbers” since it begins with a detailed census of the Israelites. The Torah concludes that there was a total of 603,550 men at this point in the Wilderness, implying a general population of about 3 million people. Or does it? While these are the numbers one generally hears when it comes to the question of how many Jews were present at the Exodus (about 600,000 men, and something like 3 million people when accounting for their families), there is an alternate way to read the Torah which might actually make far more sense.
(Please read the following with an open mind, and do not jump to any conclusions until you’ve read through to the end!)
This week’s parasha, Yitro, begins: “So Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, took Tzipporah, Moses’ wife, after she had been sent away, and her two sons… to the desert where [Moses] was encamped, to the mountain of God.” (Exodus 18:2-5) After the Israelites safely made it to Mt. Sinai following the Exodus, Moses’ family returned to join him. However, we had previously read that when Moses first left Midian for Egypt before the Exodus, he had taken his family with him! (Exodus 4:20) Where did they go? Continue reading →
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.