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September 01, 2006


Brother Mel


Indeed, there is a lesson to be learned in the stars:

"And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: HE MADE THE STARS ALSO."-- Gen. 1:16

"And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and has not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will MULTIPLY THY SEED AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN..."--Gen. 22:15,16.

God has fulfilled His promise to the Jewish people.

God is faithful.

Perhaps that evening, as the author and his daughter looked up at the stars, would have been the perfect opportunity for the author to have said to her:

"Daughter, do you see those stars? The God who created those stars promised to our father Abraham--His friend--that because of Abraham's faithfulness, God would be faithful to multiply Abraham's descendants as the stars of the sky. And YOU are one of those stars, and so am I."

Kind Regards,
Brother Mel


That is a very warm and sweet affirmation from Brother Mel. I only wish he had extended that second quote a little further:

15. And an angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven.
16. And he said, "By Myself have I sworn, says the Lord, that because you have done this thing and you did not withhold your son, your only one,
17. That I will surely bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand that is on the seashore, AND YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL INHERIT THE CITIES OF THEIR ENEMIES.


Brother Mel

I did not quote the rest of the Scripture, about possessing the gates of their enemies, because it did not seem to fit in with the awe-inspiring wonder of the moment that the author and daughter were experiencing as they gazed up at the stars.

Also, I'm not sure how well a child would understand the concept of "enemies," or that even if she did understand, that that particular moment was the time to emphasize it.

Hatred and enemies are concepts that belong to the adult world she will someday enter. Her father will have plenty of time yet to prepare her for that.

Kind Regards,
Brother Mel


For Jewish children, especially in Israel, being hated and having enemies can't always be postponed to adulthood. My own children, growing up in America, were exposed to Jew-hatred at ages younger than I would have liked. It's not something that we choose to emphasize or not, it just constitutes part of the context of one's life. It never goes away completely, but rather alternates between foreground and background.

Jews have a tradition of dipping bread in salt, and it is said that the bitterness actually brings out the sweet. And so it is with moments of great awe like that described so incredibly by Lileks. Such moments are all the sweeter, stars seem all the brighter, when you live with the experience of being hated and the reality of having enemies.

I wanted to include the rest of the sentence from Genesis because for me, it forms the inescapable context. From my perspective, that doesn't detract from Gd's blessing and promise... it enhances it.

Brother Mel

Thank you.

Your post puts this in a little bit different light than I had thought of before. And clearly, as a Jewish person who has experienced Anti-Semitism, your perspective will be different than mine.

But for the sake of discussion, allow me to ask a question. And I ask this respectfully, not argumentatively. To use your analogy of dipping bread in salt to bring out its sweetness: Does the tradtion consist of dipping an occasional piece of bread in salt, or does it require that every single morsel of every meal be dipped in salt? If it consisted of every bite of food being encursted with salt, the Jewish people would all have died off long ago from high blood pressure.

Similarly, I would agree with you that a Jewish father needs to caution his daughter from time to time about Anti-Semitism. But does every single wonderous experience have to be encrusted with the bitter salt of the ugly things that can happen in life?

Surely not.

As an adult, the rest of the Scripture, "...and thy seed shall possess the gates of his enemies," no doubt brings you great comfort as you face the challenges of life. As an adult, it is reasonable for you to be "far more comfortable with the whole truth."

However, I believe and perhaps you would agree, that surely a Jewish father can have one single evening with his daughter, enjoying the awesomeness of nature and God without it having to be turned into a lesson about Anti-Semitic enemies.

Such is not a matter of having "an urge to edit out the unpleasant, the ugly, the socially problematic, or politically incorrect," as an honorable person once wrote.

It is just a realization that not every meal has to be all salt all the time.


At every Jewish wedding, the ceremony concludes with the breaking of the glass, a ritual intended to recall the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, even at the moment of a couple and a family’s greatest rejoicing.

It does not spoil the ceremony; it completes it; it makes it whole.

There are not only stars in the sky but enemies on the ground. Taken as a whole, the biblical passage should produce awe, gratitude and faith in the ultimate outcome of adversity. The concluding phrase does not take away from what preceded it. It completes it.

Brother Mel


Again it seems to me that the wedding analogy has the same flaw as the bread and salt analogy.

Because one wineglass is broken at what is hopefully a once in a lifetime event for a couple--their wedding, does it mean that they then have to break every wineglass, at every meal, for the rest of their lives? And do they have to break all their children's glasses also?

That's an awful lot of glassware.

If Jewish adults can eat many bites of food at many meals without dipping all of them in salt, and if Jewish adults can drink out of glass after glass all their lives without breaking every one of them, it seems reasonable to me that a Jewish child could have one single awesome experience with her father, nature, and God without the bitterness and cutting of Anti-Semitism being included.

Perhaps because I'm not Jewish, I simply don't "get it." (lol).

Thank you for this conversation. I have found it enlightening. I'll yield to you the last word.

Kind Regards,
Brother Mel


No one need have the last word. This has been an interesting and stimulating discussion. Thank you James Lileks, Brother Mel and Yael.

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