A Lesson from the Voice of Cecil B. DeMille’s God

March 24 2023

In preparing his production of The Ten Commandments, Cecil B. DeMille asked his head of research for advice about how the voice of God speaking from the burning bush should sound. The researcher came back to him with an ancient rabbinic commentary stating that God spoke to Moses on that occasion with the voice of Moses’ own father, Amram. Meir Soloveichik comments:

The midrashic passage is a profound reflection of the drama at the center of Moses’ life. According to Exodus, Moses was born a Hebrew, but he was raised in the palace of Pharaoh. He had every incentive to ignore the travails of the people to whom he was bound by blood and yet could not resist making their cause his own. According to this magnificent midrash, it was a sense of connection to his familial past that never left Moses; what called him back was the recollection of a voice from the past, a father that he might never have seen since entering the Egyptian palace. Moses, in other words, embraced his Hebrew heritage because he was drawn by what Lincoln called the “mystic chords of memory.”

DeMille’s movie, and the midrash that it utilized, reminds us that Moses’ story is one of family loyalty and identity, one that speaks to our own age. “Several centuries of Western thought,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reflected, “have left us with the idea that when we choose how to live, we are on our own. Nothing in the past binds us. We are whoever we choose to be.” And yet, Sacks adds, it is against this idea that “Jewish life is a sustained countervoice. To be a Jew is to know that this cannot be the full story of who I am. . . . The part has meaning in terms of its place within the whole, so that if history has meaning, then the lives that make it up must in some way be joined to one another as characters in a narrative.”

The Exodus is a tale that changed the world, its impact extending far beyond the Jewish people, but the story of the hero that brought it about is one that speaks particularly to Jews who, in this age of assimilation, still continue to gather every year to retell and re-experience its story.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Hebrew Bible, Hollywood, Jonathan Sacks, Moses

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan