Dec. 14, 2020

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 -


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