July 30, 2020

Rabbi Ari Lamm on Deuteronomy 4:6: "The Essential Calling for Jews"

Rabbi Dr. Ari Lamm, Chief Executive Officer of the Bnai Zion Foundation, joins Mark for a lively discussion on today’s episode. Rabbi Lamm is a graduate of Yeshiva University, and has served as Special Advisor to the President of that illustrious university. He has also completed his PhD in ancient Judaism and Christianity at Princeton, and his writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Jerusalem Post, Tablet Magazine, and First Things Magazine. The passage he has selected to discuss with Mark is Deuteronomy 4:6.

Rabbi Lamm begins this discussion by sharing the context of the passage and his reasons for selecting it. He and Mark then examine the significance of Moses’ oration in Deuteronomy, how it outlines the mission of the Jewish people, and how it establishes the role of ‘wisdom and understanding’ in both religion and politics. They then explore the many ways that this passage lives on today in its call for the Jewish people to be role models for the world, the need for them to have a land in which to build and display this beacon, and they also demonstrate the influence the Bible had with America’s Founding Fathers and in the US Constitution. Rabbi Lamm finishes the episode by relating the lessons he has learned regarding mankind – lessons that present a moving tribute to the legacy of his grandfather, and which are acutely relevant to the times we are living in now. Today’s conversation is a thoughtful and dynamic analysis of no less than ‘the speech that built our civilization’, filled with the passion and insight that such a singularly formidable text requires and deserves, and one that will undoubtedly keep you thinking long after you have listened to it.

Episode Highlights:

  • The context of today’s passage and Rabbi Lamm’s reasons for selecting it
  • The significance of Moses’ oration in Deuteronomy
  • The mission statement of the Jewish people
  • The role of ‘wisdom and understanding’ in religion and politics
  • Becoming role models for the world
  • The reason for the Jewish people to have a land
  • The influence of the Bible on America’s Founding Fathers and the US Constitution
  • Lessons Rabbi Lamm has learned about mankind
  • The legacy of Rabbi Lamm’s grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm


“Not only is this the first, as you put it, biblical commentary in history…it’s also where Moses, for the first time, defines his earlier life as a work.”

“Religion practiced correctly is politics.”

“What Moses is basically saying is that the Hebrew Bible itself, the Bible, is the best and most ideal expression of political life that could possibly exist.”

“It means building a just and virtuous and loving society that can be a beacon of light to all the other nations of the Earth, to inspire them, not to become exactly like us, but to become the best version of themselves.”

“If the US Constitution is America’s founding and binding legal founding document, then the Hebrew Bible is really America’s founding moral document.”

“At the core of the human experience, the thing that will save us is the ability to laugh and the ability to smile.”

“There is no limit to what you can accomplish as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”

“I find it very comforting to know that his shoulders are available for all of us to stand on.”

Deuteronomy 4:6 Observe them faithfully, for that will be proof of your wisdom and discernment to other peoples, who on hearing of all these laws will say, “Surely, that great nation is a wise and discerning people.” https://www.sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.4.6?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en


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