rosh hashanah blog imageThe Jewish new year celebration is not a raucous holiday, but rather a two-day period of prayer, reflection and family. The Torah portions read every year at synagogue for Rosh Hashanah are significant and troubling; the banishment of Hagar and the binding of Isaac. Both stories recount disturbing, transformative events.

Chapter 21 of Genesis, the birth of Isaac, opens the Torah reading on day 1 of the holiday. Isaac’s birth prompts Sarah to turn on her maid servant Hagar, the mother of Abraham’s first son, Ishmael.

In the first video segment posted below, Dr. David Neiman translates these chapters from the original Hebrew and places these dramatic events in historical context:

Video: Rosh Hashanah Bible portion Day 1– Isaac and Ishmael

The moral conflict intensifies on day 2 of Rosh Hashanah with Chapter 22, the sacrifice of Isaac. Dr. Neiman recounts these chapters and discusses the tradition of child sacrifice practiced in the region during Abraham’s lifetime:

Video: Rosh Hashanah Bible portion Day 2 – The Binding of Isaac

CONTEXT is a blog devoted to providing historical background to the situation in the Middle East. The history has been provided through video and audio recordings of my late father, Dr. David Neiman –an expert on the history of the ancient near east and the relationship between the Church and the Jews. He based his theses on historical records, linguistics and a deep understanding of the Bible and its origins. Dr. Neiman was a member of the theology department at Boston College and taught there for 25 years.