41 minutes | Dec 14th 2020

S1E112 - Rabbi Marc Schneier on Genesis 21:9-20 – “Opening Our Eyes to Our Blessings”

Rabbi Marc Schneier, Founder of The Hampton Synagogue, one of the most dynamic synagogues in the United States, is Mark’s very special guest this week. Rabbi Schneier is also the founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, whose mission began as rebuilding the historic Black-Jewish alliance in the United States, and, for nearly the past 15 years, has grown to also build Muslim-Jewish relations globally. The passage he has chosen to discuss today is Genesis 21:9-20.

Rabbi Schneier begins the conversation by sharing his summary of the passage and its context, comparing the treatment of Isaac and Ishmael by the Qur’an and the Torah, and looking at differing definitions of ‘a great nation’. He and Mark then delve into the messages of gratitude and opening our eyes to our blessings when seeking salvation that are found in the passage, highlighting how they are pertinent to everyday life and in the counseling which he provides. The episode concludes with the lessons about humankind that the Rabbi has learned, the need for leadership, empathy and understanding in our world, and some exciting breaking news regarding his synagogue and JBS. As you will undoubtedly agree, this is both an ‘extraordinary and very difficult passage’ providing a wealth of wisdom and advice for our modern times through the ‘powerful, powerful lessons’ it offers us all, and which are revealed here today.

Episode Highlights:

· Rabbi Schneier’s summary of the passage and its context · Comparing the Qur’an and the Torah’s treatment of Isaac and Ishmael · Differing definitions of a great nation · How Ishmael was saved in the desert · Overlooking the obvious · The resonance between this passage and the story of Balaam · The message of this passage for everyday, especially during the pandemic, and in the counseling which the Rabbi provides · The definition of Judah · Looking in front of you, behind you, and inside of you · The lessons that Rabbi Schneier has learned about humankind · The need for leadership, empathy, and understanding · Breaking news about the Hampton Synagogue and the Jewish Broadcasting Service (JBS)


“Abraham is asked to sacrifice both his sons.”

“There’s no creature whom God does not test.”

“Abraham is really the embodiment of being tested.”

“Often, all we have to do is open our eyes and the source of our salvation is right in front of us.”

“This has been one of the most powerful, powerful lessons in the Torah, in the Bible.”

“Gratitude exists before I do.”

“We thank before we think.”

“The very essence of being Jew means to give thanks.”

“In life, we have to learn how to maximize our blessings, and not to exaggerate our troubles.”

“You don’t need any divine intervention.”

“It’s easy to overlook the obvious.”

“Let me help you open your eyes and see the opportunities and see the blessings and maybe your salvation is right there.”

“People need to be led. People need to be challenged. People need inspiration. They need to be galvanized.”

“Where there is hope, nothing is impossible.”

“It’s all about balance.”

“When it comes to synagogues, there’s no business like shul business.”

Genesis 21:9-20 Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing. She said to Abraham, “Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you. As for the son of the slave-woman, I will make a nation of him, too, for he is your seed.” Early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them over her shoulder, together with the child, and sent her away. And she wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water was gone from the skin, she left the child under one of the bushes, and went and sat down at a distance, a bowshot away; for she thought, “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting thus afar, she burst into tears. God heard the cry of the boy, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and let the boy drink. God was with the boy and he grew up; he dwelt in the wilderness and became a bowman. https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.21.9-20?lang=bi&aliyot=0


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