Aug. 3, 2020

Alan Dershowitz on Genesis 22:2 -- “Abraham’s Ultimate Test of Faith” - S1E20

Mark’s very special guest on the podcast is none other than the distinguished Alan Dershowitz. Alan’s career is perhaps the most storied, consequential and important one in all of American legal history. He has taught at Harvard Law School for 50 years and is the celebrated author of dozens of books, including Mark’s favorite, The Genesis of Justice: Ten Stories of Biblical Injustice that Led to the Ten Commandments and Modern Law. While he has defended numerous high profile clients, he devotes half of his practice to pro bono work, particularly in the defense of women who have defended themselves against abusive husbands. He and Mark grew to know each other through their work with United Hatzalah, where Alan is a generous contributor and is always willing to do anything to help save Jewish, Christian, and Muslim lives in Israel. The passage he has chosen to discuss with Mark is the Akeida.

Alan begins the discussion by sharing his experiences with both the constructive and destructive power of words, and then he and Mark embark upon a thoroughly insightful analysis of today’s passage. They discuss Abraham’s argument with and faith in God, the paradox of defending strangers which continues to this day, and the nature of questions, balance, absolutes and law as presented in the Bible. Alan offers intriguing thoughts about the Bible verses to which he frequently returns in his legal work, reviews one of his cases in which he invoked the Akeida story, and summarizes the nature of Judaism. To cap off this fascinating conversation, Alan shares the lessons he has learned about mankind throughout his extensive career. This episode is one which exemplifies its opening premise extolling the sheer power of words as host and guest passionately examine ‘the most profound words, not only in the history of Judaism, but in the history of law’.

Episode Highlights:

Alan’s experiences with the power of words His analysis of the Akeida and the lessons it contains Arguing with God God’s test of Abraham The paradox of defending strangers Questions, balance, and absolutes in the Bible The concepts of law presented in the Bible The Bible verses to which Alan returns in his legal work One of Alan’s case which he one based on the Akeida story The nature of Judaism The lessons that Alan has learned about mankind


“Words can create a career, and words can try to destroy a career.”

“I wish people would take ‘bearing false witness’ more seriously.”

“God, you’re not above the law.”

“It’s the only religion I know of in the world in where a person is praised, praised for arguing with God.”

“We have to strike a balance between defending the rights of others and defending our own rights.”

“The Bible is the best book of questions ever written.”

“You can’t have statutory law until you’ve lived through the experiences of searching for justice and trying to define justice in the activities in imperfect human beings.”

“I think Abraham did not believe in the end that God would allow him to kill his completely innocent child…it was more a test of his faith.”

“We have to learn how to argue the way that God argued with Abraham and Abraham argued with God, and dialogue is so incredibly important at a divisive time such as the one that we’re now living through.”

“There are no perfect answers to difficult questions.”

“Let’s strive to be better.”

Genesis 22:2 And He said, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.


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