Sept. 29, 2020

Gil Troy on Genesis 12:1-3 – “The Moment When the Jewish People Are Born”

Award-winning American presidential historian and leading Zionist activist, Gil Troy, joins Mark on the podcast today. Gil’s many books include The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland – Then, Now, Tomorrow, as well as The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, and Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight against Zionism as Racism, and he is also a Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University. The passage he has chosen to discuss with Mark today is Genesis 12:1-3.

The conversation begins with Gil sharing his summary of the passage, the meaning it holds for him, and his ‘Oreo’ analogy regarding Judaism, which is woven throughout the episode. He and Mark discuss the application of the ‘law of first mention’ within the passage, the multiple Jewish identities, and the importance of the trilogy of peoplehood, religion, and land. Gil goes on to explain the need to be both a good nationalist and a good universalist, his definition of ‘Pilates Judaism’, and the notions of mission and ‘going’ which the Bible presents. He concludes the episode with some details regarding his new book and the lessons he has learned about mankind, highlighting their connection to the theme of today’s passage. A skilled educator, Gil’s ability to take his remarkably enlightening analysis and render it thoroughly accessible and entertaining is on full display here today, bringing out so much meaning and so much relevance to our contemporary lives from this magnificent passage.

Episode Highlights:

  • Gil’s summary of the passage and the meaning it holds for him
  • His ‘Oreo’ analogy regarding Judaism
  • ‘Law of first mention’ within the passage
  • The multiple Jewish identities
  • Peoplehood, religion, and land
  • Being a good nationalist and a good universalist
  • ‘Pilates Judaism’
  • A sense of mission
  • The notion of going, where to go and why to go
  • The book that Gil wrote with Natan Sharansky, Never Alone: Prison, Politics, and My People
  • The lessons that he has learned about mankind


“For me, it’s the moment when the Jewish people are born.”

“The Jewish people are both a nation and a religion.”

“You know you’re a part of this people, you’re never alone.”

“In that passage, we have Zionism, we have Jewish religiosity, we have Jewish peoplehood.”

“This passage invites us into that wonderful muddled middle.”

“Once you realize that you can achieve something great for God, and derivatively for yourself, you can do anything.”

“What the Bible brings us to is a sense of forward looking…we have a sense of mission.”

“We need a nationalism that isn’t about building walls, but is about…how to use our…religion and our nation to make ourselves better, and to make the world a better place.”

“We can…stand up for ourselves, but also we can help others…it’s not a false choice.”

“We humans have a remarkable capacity to endure, and I think this is an important message right now during this ongoing and seemingly never-ending crisis, and through that endurance, not just survive, but thrive and do good.”

Genesis 12:1-3 The LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.”


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