Bibi Fails AIPAC Bible Test

For me the most significant part of Bibi’s AIPAC speech last night came at the very end, when he invoked the famous Leviticus verse on the Liberty Bell:

Now, as Prime Minister of Israel, I can walk down the street and see an exact replica of that bell in Jerusalem’s Liberty Park. On both bells is the same inscription. It comes from the Bible, from the book of Leviticus “Proclaim liberty throughout the land.”

Actually, what’s most significant is what he left out. Bibi only quoted the first half of Leviticus 25:10 – the entire verse reads:

Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.

(Emphasis mine.)


13 Comments on “Bibi Fails AIPAC Bible Test”

  1. ARTH says:

    That is the point, and the distinction, isn’t it?

  2. Cotton Fite says:

    How nice to have you earning your keep, Rabbi, as a biblically literate resource.

    I heard thoughtful presentations in D.C. yesterday from Khaled Elgindy (Saban Center at Brookings Institute) and Naomi Chazan (former Knesset Deputy Speaker; now with New Israel Fund) both commending the Palestinians for “liberating” themselves from the peace process and pursuing statehood at the UN. At the least, it irritates the U.S. and Israel (which must mean it has merit) and it changes the discourse.

  3. Richard Kahn says:

    I’m not sure you’re going to win this one. In context, the verse is very clearly referring to all of the Jewish inhabitants.

    • Ah Richard, everything is always so “very clear” to you!

      • Richard Kahn says:

        Bibi quoted a verse. You then make a drash on his quote, showing that he left out the other half of the verse, showing that he doesn’t care about Palestinians. It’s a cute drasha.

        My problem is the title. If Bibi failed the Bible test, you definitely failed. If you’re going to say that Bibi misrepresented the text, you should at least represent it well yourself. Please open the Torah and tell me that you can honestly read that passage as referring to “all the inhabitants” of the land in the literal sense. See the Encyclopedia Judaica’s entry on Jubilee. It is “very clear.”

      • I’m glad you think my drasha is cute, Richard. For the record, I think you’re pretty cute too.

      • Eric Selinger says:

        My Metzudah siddur translates Leviticus 19:18 “Love your fellow Jew as yourself,” since in context the verse is very clearly referring to other members of “your people.”

        As I recall, other rabbis read the verse differently–notably one from Nazareth, whose take on it seemed to catch on.

  4. Brian Walt says:

    What an important post. Gut gezogt/Well said!

    Recently, I was studying this teaching by the Hasidic rebbe of Lvov, Penei Yehoshua:

    The Torah does not address “all the slaves” (who are freed in the Jubilee year) but “all the inhabitants” because in any country where freedom is incomplete, even if this the case with only some of the people, all the people are enslaved”

  5. Sam Neff says:

    Your observation is exactly right. I noted on a bible website a cross reference to Jeremiah 22:3 – This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

    it seems approproate as well.

  6. Ross says:

    Rabbi Akiba said ” ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is the greatest. Ben Azzai said “The greatest principle is ‘This is the written record of the human line from the day God created human beings, making them in the likeness of God.’ ”

    It wasn’t just a rabbi from Nazareth who made the argument that all of humanity is our kinsmen.

  7. Eric Selinger says:

    Believe me, I know, Ross! Just pointing out that verses out of context sometimes take on meanings we prefer–and that make later attempts to put them back into context seem rather sad by comparison. And the Samaritan / Jewish relationship wasn’t much better than the Palestinian / Jewish one; indeed, I can imagine a parable of the Good Settler, although I’m not sure who would tell it (alas).

  8. Clif Brown says:

    Rabbi Brant – I am so proud to have JRC in Evanston. I am no expert on the Bible but surely there is a passage that calls upon people to first examine their own behavior before denouncing others – perhaps what Jesus said about casting the first stone?

  9. Piotr Berman says:

    I wonder what Netanyahu should say about Liberty Bell according to Richard Kahn. Perhaps: >>On both bells is the same inscription. It comes from the Bible, from the book of Leviticus “Proclaim liberty throughout the land.” Of course, the inscription in Philadelphia is kind of strange, because Leviticus referred only to Jews, and it meant only release from involuntary servitude and not political freedom that Americans had in mind when they made their Bell. But that is OK, the inscription in Jerusalem does not make sense either, it is not like we canceled mortgage debts of credit card debt at any time, and Israel exists for more than 50 years.<<

    I cannot judge the correctness of such interpretation of Leviticus, but it is surely uninspiring.


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