Podcast: Leon Kass on the Formation of the People of Israel

The author of our April essay joins us to talk about how to read the book of Exodus, how the Israelites became a people, and plenty more.

From Pharaoh Notes the Importance of the Jewish People by James Jacques Joseph Tissot, c. 1896-1902. Jewish Museum.

From Pharaoh Notes the Importance of the Jewish People by James Jacques Joseph Tissot, c. 1896-1902. Jewish Museum.

May 15 2020
About the authors

A weekly podcast, produced in partnership with the Tikvah Fund, offering up the best thinking on Jewish thought and culture.

Leon R. Kass is dean of the faculty at Shalem College, professor emeritus in the College and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and scholar emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute. A physician, scientist, educator, and public intellectual, he served from 2001-2005 as chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

This Week’s Guest: Leon R. Kass


The biblical book of Exodus “not only recounts the founding of the Israelite nation, one of the world’s oldest and most consequential peoples, . . . but also sheds light on enduring questions about nation building and peoplehood.” So writes Leon Kass in the introduction to his new reading of Exodus, Founding God’s Nation (forthcoming from Yale University Press in January 2021). From that starting point Kass masterfully draws out, line by line and chapter by chapter, the enduring moral, philosophical, and political significance of this most important biblical book. We’re excited for you to read it.

And, as you may know, you needn’t wait. Last month, Mosaic published an excerpt from Kass’s book as “The People-Forming Passover.” The essay focuses on the events of the night before and the morning of the Israelites’ departure from Egypt—events rehearsed each year at the Passover table—and on their significance to the formation of the Israelite exiles into a single nation. Now, in this week’s podcast, Kass sits down with Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to explore and elucidate his essay. Didn’t get enough of the essay? Listen in. Didn’t read it yet? Listen and then read.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as “Ulterior” by Swan Production.



For more on the Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic, which appears roughly every Thursday, check out its inaugural post here.

If you have thoughts about the podcast that you’d like to share, ideas for future guests and topics, or any other form of feedback, just send an email to [email protected].

More about: Exodus, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays