An Old Vision for a New Beginning

Temple_Sinai_Circa1905In this message, drawing partly from Biblical passages, and partly from records of the dedicatory service of Temple Sinai in 1903, Ross shared an old vision for a new beginning for Roots of Faith from the Historic Temple Sinai Synagogue in Saint Francisville, Louisiana. Inspired by the hopes and dreams of Saint Francisville’s former Hebrew citizens, Ross set forth to encourage his listeners to seize their vision and bring it into fruition. You will not want to miss this inspiring message.

Click here to listen to this class.

Gleanings from Genesis

Over the years I have come to the view that the books of Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah are the most fundamental to a summary expression of the Hebrew faith as it unfolded and developed over time, from Moses through the Exiles. Of these three however, Genesis seems to be the most foundational in terms of reflecting the key concepts of the Hebrew view of life. Here are a few basic “gleanings” from just the first eleven chapters, before the narrative picks up with the story of “one man’s family,” namely Abraham and his descendants.

1. That the creation is considered to be good, good, good, good, good, good, and VERY good! There is no sense that this world is a dark place into which we have fallen, but a lovely world of light and life to celebrate.

2. That the sun and the moon are given to mark off our sacred times (appointments), days, months, seasons, and years–and observed sacred calendar visible to the entire world.

3. That human beings are made in the “likeness and image” of Elohim, every bit as much as our children/offspring are in our “likeness and image,” and that male and female TOGETHER make up the ADAM or “Humankind.” The male alone is incomplete, as is the female alone. Thus Elohim is also reflective of male/female qualities. So it is not so much a matter of human making Gods in their own image, as projections of themselves, but that the true God made humans to reflect and carry the divine image on a microcosmic level.

4. The the first commandment is to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, thus putting a divine blessing on human sexuality, family, and life rather than the negative values of celibacy and deprivation for some future “heavenly world,” as became common in all Western and Eastern religions. L’Chaim! To Life!

5. That humans are put in charge of the stewardship of the good earth, we are all to be good managers, and to dress and keep it, as Adam began to do in his little assigned area in Eden. Here we get the entire foundation of ecology, an area of concern that has just come of age in our own day.

6. That humans are given the ideal diet of every plant yielding seed and tree bearing fruit whose seed is within–this is the diet Daniel asked to have (Daniel 1:12) as opposed to the Babylonian court diet of his day–it is called there zero’im–of the seeds. Cultures that follow this (see Robbins’ classic book, Diet for a New America, as well as his latest, Healthy at 100) are free from heart disease, strokes, various forms of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, etc.

7. That the seventh day Sabbath is for all humankind, a memorial of creation, binding us to past, to one another, and to our Creator. Imagine a world (Isa 66!) in which from Sabbath to Sabbath and New Moon to New Moon the entire world focuses upon the Creator and our common human ties through creation.

8. That the “knowledge of good and evil” (coming of age, Deuteronomy 1:39) is a necessary part of our development as beings in the image of the Elohim, but with it comes freedom and responsibility and the full possibilities of choice as God-like beings, not merely children of innocence–the possibility of infinite good, but also tragic evil, as unlimited knowledge can lead to “nothing being impossible for them” in both areas of good and evil.

9. That the ‘Ish (man) needs the ‘Isha (woman) to be complete and is restless and unhappy until the “two become one,” which, combined with “leaving father and mother,” becomes the only definition of “marriage” in the Bible. The ‘Isha is a partner to the ‘Ish, “corresponding to him,” meaning opposite him as a lock to a key, as a glove to a hand.

10. That life outside Eden (innocence) is a life of toil (strain, sorrow, hardship) for both the man and the woman, each in their own spheres. The same word is used (‘itzbon) for both.

11. That jealousy and human self-centeredness can lead quickly to even murder of a brother and the breakup and fracture of families and clans leading to wars and all sorts of cultural divisions and violence.

12. That the children of Cain and the children of Seth went their separate ways and have reflected down through history very separate paths and outcomes and the production of almost opposite cultures.

13. That the children of Seth kept the vision alive and “walked with God,” as evidenced by Enoch and culminating in Noah, who was “righteous in his generations.” I understand this lineage to be the “children of the Elohim” of Genesis 6, contrary to later Jewish tradition that makes these heavenly beings.

14. That human departure from God into the “way of Cain,” led to all kinds of violence (presumably toward animals and other humans) and corruption in the earth, so much so that “every thought of the imagination of the heart was only evil continually,” and the flood was the only solution to try and preserve once again the line of Noah, who was righteous in his generations.

15. That Noah and his sons were given a new covenant, reflected in the later tradition of the “Seven mitzvot of the sons of Noach,” and sealed with the rainbow. The eating of the flesh of animals was allowed provided they were slaughtered properly and the blood removed. The sanctity of life was particularly emphasized.

16. Of the three sons of Noah the line of Ham began to go in a different direction, first with a sexual act with his father and then leading to Nimrod and the building of war machines and great Kingdoms that sought to conquer, culminating in the tower of Babel.

17. Hope remained in the line of Seth through Noah and Shem and down to Abram, in whom God recognized the potential to preserve the world and put things back on track–thus the Plan and the Project implied in Abraham’s calling.

And the rest of the Hebrew Bible, beginning in Genesis 12, is that unfolding story of “one man’s family” and its divine calling to bring all nations back to the knowledge of the Creator…


Tears of the Sphinx: Anwar Sadat and the High Cost of Peace; Part II

 Please read Part I first if you have not yet here.

On October 6, 1981, Anwar Sadat sat in a reviewing stand in Cairo, a commanding figure in gold-braided hat, starched dress uniform and green sash. As the Egyptian President watched an extravagant military parade celebrating his 1973 surprise attack on Israel, a junior lieutenant in crisp khakis stepped from a truck and walked toward him. Sadat rose, expecting a salute. Instead the young officer tossed a grenade and a band of accomplices scrambled from the truck and opened fire. Sadat fell mortally wounded, thus leaving the Middle East facing a dangerous political void and the world without one of the few leaders whose bold imagination and personal courage seemed to have made a difference to history.


As far back as 1971, Sadat displayed his willingness to break Arab taboos about Israel.

He suddenly offered to negotiate a peace treaty with the Israelis, going far beyond his predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom he succeeded as President in 1970. While a radical step forward, his terms were stiff and preconditions unacceptable. With no progress toward peace, Sadat considered war with Israel inevitable.

On October 6, 1973, while Israelis fasted on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces attacked Israel. The account and political outcome of this war can be read in part one.

In 1975, President Assad of Syria, personal friend and chief ally of Sadat, broke with him, angered that Israel was returning more land to Egypt than to Syria under the disengagement agreements negotiated through the shuttle diplomacy of Henry Kissinger.

As overall Arab unity dissolved, Sadat became more realistic, and more devoted to settling issues alone with Israel.

Egypt’s rapprochement with Israel began with a vision in Sadat’s mind: he saw himself praying in the Al Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem. For Sadat, the decision was made, the rest was only timing. Fellow Arabs at first believed he had lost his senses when he informed the Egyptian People’s Assembly that he would go “to the ends of the earth,” even to the Israeli Knesset, for peace. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin would later take him at his word and extend an invitation.

“This man is either truly great or he is mad” one of Sadat’s aides said just before the President left for Jerusalem. “Everyone will know he is great if he succeeds. Only his friends will know he is great if he fails.”

Sadat was certain of his own greatness. “I am Egypt,” he said. “I am going to Jerusalem and others will have to fall in line.” This from the man who once said “He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality and will never, therefore, make any progress.”

On November 19, 1977, Anwar Sadat arrived in Jerusalem and addressed the Knesset. It is difficult to understate the impact of Sadat’s gesture. It was a remarkable psychological breakthrough that could not have been accomplished with regular diplomacy. For the first time, Israelis saw an Arab leader extend his hand in friendship-and in their capital.

Talks would continue even amid growing tensions in the region. This would eventually lead to the summit meeting at Camp David inspired and arranged by US President Jimmy Carter.

On September 5, 1978, the three heads of state and their aides arrived at Camp David. A news blackout was subsequently imposed for the duration of the talks. They argued, they haggled and at one point personal relations became so badly strained it appeared that the talks might collapse. In the end there were breakthroughs and the framework of a successful peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Two agreements were signed on September 17, 1978 that came to be known as the Camp David Accords.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians lined Cairo’s streets when Sadat returned from Camp David. He was hailed as the “hero of peace” and called a Pharaoh by some, but in the rest of the Arab world, not so much.  Seventeen hard-line Arab nations, reacting to the separate peace with Israel, adopted political and economic sanctions against Egypt.

To the end, Sadat continued to back the Camp David process.

Throughout his life, one of the supreme virtues for Sadat was loyalty. It was demonstrated in his earlier friendship with Nasser. One of the meaningful examples was his courageous offer of hospitality to the dying Shah of Iran. He felt he owed a debt to the Shah because the Shah had supplied emergency oil to Egypt in an oil crisis after the October War. In 1980, an ailing Shah was given brief sanctuary by the governments of Mexico, the United States and Panama. Despite the fact that Sadat would be dangerously exposed to the fury of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Muslim fundamentalists, he never hesitated in urging the Shah to live out his life in Egypt. After offering refuge to the dying Shah, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, asked him why he was risking certain vilification from fellow Arabs. Sadat replied: “I don’t understand you. He was my friend. Of course, I will give him sanctuary.”

Following the assassination at the hands of a radical faction of Islamic fundamentalists called Al Taqfir wal Hijra, the extremist Arab camp greeted the news with macabre jubilation. In war-torn Beirut, left wing Lebanese militiamen and Palestinian guerrillas paraded and celebrated in the streets. In Palestine, PLO officials called Sadat’s slaying an “execution” with PLO security chief Salah Khalaf boasting that he would “shake the hand of him who pulled the trigger.” In Damascus, the government newspaper Tichrin headlined “Traitor Falls, Egypt Remains.” and in Libya, Col. Muammar Kaddafi joined in the chorus.

Throughout the long process of pursuing peace, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, himself viewed as a grizzled hardliner, became close. Close enough to exchange personal notes about family events such as the birth of a grandson or Jihan Sadat receiving her master’s degree. They addressed extremely difficult political issues, shared moments of humor and developed an enormous measure of mutual respect, one for the other. In 1978 Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin would both be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Jerusalem, Begin’s sorrow at Sadat’s death “went beyond matters of state” said an Israeli policymaker. “Begin mourned the death personally.” When official word of the assassination reached Jerusalem, Begin immediately instructed his staff to organize a trip to Cairo to attend Sadat’s funeral on Saturday. The decision was more complicated than it seemed. As a religious Jew, Begin could neither fly nor ride on the Jewish Sabbath. Thus he was forced to fly to Cairo a day early and spend the night, multiplying the security risks. He wanted to demonstrate his respect, both for Sadat and for his successor.

In Washington, the decision was made that President Ronald Reagan would not attend the funeral because of the security risks and neither would George Bush. Instead, the blue chip delegation of former Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter was a safer security risk than a sitting President or Vice President.


Anwar Sadat was buried in a muted ceremony under tight security. New President Hosni Mubarak led the funeral procession, taking the hand of Sadat’s son, Gamal.

Sadat’s body would be entombed under a black marble tombstone inscribed with the simple epitaph: “President Mohammed Anwar Sadat, hero of war and peace. He lived for peace and he was martyred for his principles.”

It has been 36 years since the Camp David Accords and 33 years since a courageous leader would be cut down for his role in bringing peace between his country and the State of Israel.

I’ve often wondered how many lives have been spared and how much hell averted in the 36 years following this historic step.

If the accumulation of evil is what condemns us, making the consequences of our actions inescapable, would not the biblical injunction to turn from evil and do good-from injustice to justice, bear a measure of redemptive fruit?

Or as Sadat expressed: “changing the very fabric of our thought to change reality and bring about progress.”

Please read Part I of Tears of the Sphinx here.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

The Feast of “Shelters”

Last night on the Jewish calendar marked the beginning of the strangest festival in the biblical calendar.  The moon reaches its fullness, marking the 15th of the lunar month. It is called the “festival of shelters,” literally and it lasts for seven days. The word is Sukkoth in Hebrew, which literally means “huts” or some other kind of temporary dwelling. Its meaning is very close to our English “homeless shelter” today. Though it is often translated “tents” or “booths” the idea is some kind of arbor or lean-to under which one can get a tiny bit of needed shelter, but nothing permanent and still very much exposed to the elements and the sky. This was one of the three ancient pilgrim feasts of Israel. We are not told too much about it, but one simple meaning seems clear.  Israel, settled in permanent dwellings and cities in the land, is never to forget its “wilderness” origins, so that once a year, in the Fall, they are to actually “go back to nature” and camp out or live in huts, tents, or temporary dwellings, for a week, so as to remember that YHVH made our ancestors live in this nomadic, temporary way in the time of Moses. This festival then vividly reminds us of that, of the camp of Israel, of the time when the Column of Cloud/Fire was visible, when there were no sacrifices or Temple, just the simple “tent of meeting,” when everyone was fed morning and evening with the mysterious “manna,” and when YHVH spoke face to face with Moses.

You can find the descriptions in the Torah, particularly in Leviticus 23: 39-43. But what is really interesting about Sukkoth is that it not only looks back, but also forward. Notice these words of the Prophet Hosea:

I have been YHVH your God since your days in Egypt, and I will make you DWELL IN SUKKOTH again, as in the days of MEETING.
I will speak through prophets, I will give vision after vision and through the ministry of prophets will speak in similies” (12:9-10)

This is really a fascinating verse, as it pictures a time of Israel’s restoration, when Prophecy returns, no more “hiding of the Face,” and the days of “meeting” could well refer to that “Tent of Meeting,” from those wilderness times. Here we have that same motif that we find elsewhere in the Prophets, the idea of an Exodus II that parallels Exodus I of the time of Moses. Thus Micah the Prophet declares: “Once again YHVH will show marvelous things as in the days when you came out of Egypt (Micah 7:14-15)

Zech 14 also tells of a time when the whole world will come up to Jerusalem and dwell in Sukkoth/tents/shelters during this week….

Some other relevant readings for this time are Hosea 12, Micah 7, Psalm 80-81, Isaiah 24-35…

Some folk camp out in tents, others gather at campgrounds or even hotels, some just stay out on their porches or balconies and many build shelters on their property, as is the custom within Judaism. The more one can actually “live” in the Sukkoth, the better in terms of getting the meaning of the festival. The moon during Sukkoth is full. On a clear night everything is bright and lovely, almost magical. The experience can remind us of a more simple and primitive time, getting away from all the “modern conveniences,” more or less what we mean when we talk of “camping out.”

Tears of the Sphinx: Anwar Sadat Assassinated 33 Years Ago Today

This two-part exclusive by our Executive Vice-President Ralph Buntyn, who was in Cairo the day of the assassination 33 years ago today is truly relevant and timely as we continue to wrestle with the complexities of the Middle East conflicts.

 For some, the number 33 seems to hold special prophetic significance.

For me, it’s an appropriate time for a look back. 33 years ago, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated.

I was in Cairo on the day it occurred. Realizing the magnitude of the event, I made an effort to witness, capture and chronicle as many details as possible of this tragic story as it unfolded. Additional research has revealed an incredible story about the Egyptian leader who would dare to make peace with Israel.

I will be presenting a two-part account of this historic event that includes little known facts that shaped the tragic outcome.

Part one of this series that follows is a revision of an article first published in 2007 under the title “Tears of the Sphinx”. It is a personal account that includes a historical narrative.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 3.04.38 PMDateline October 6, 1981. Another of those days that was destined to live in infamy and one that would make a lasting impression on me. I can still recall that suddenly out of a hushed silence, there were gasps, screams and cries that erupted from the passengers. One woman, sobbing uncontrollably, cried out “there goes the peace”.

The day had progressed uneventfully as my wife Rebecca and I boarded our El Al plane in Tel Aviv for the short flight to Cairo, Egypt. After spending ten days in Israel, we planned to stay in Cairo for a few days where we would visit the Cairo Museum and take in the sites of ancient Egypt. Just before we were scheduled to land, the announcement came over the public address system; President Anwar Sadat had been shot and critically wounded while attending a military parade. The moment remains forever etched in my memory. What followed was the reality that we were witnessing one of the defining moments in modern Middle Eastern history. After finally landing, we experienced more of the display of raw emotions and anguish amid a highly tense situation as we made our way through the airport and finally to the Cairo Concorde Hotel where we would be staying.

We were confined to our hotel for twenty-four hours as a part of the security clampdown around the city. Egyptian soldiers and security guards were stationed around the hotel. Tanks and military vehicles rumbled down the streets to wherever. We later watched as planes landed bringing world dignitaries to attend the state funeral, including Air Force One as it arrived with the U. S. delegation.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 3.06.29 PM

Anwar Sadat was born on Christmas day, 1918 in the Nile Delta village of Mit Abul Kom, the son of an Egyptian clerk and his part Sudanese wife. It was the year the War in Europe ended and the year that Egypt demanded, in vain, total independence from Britain. A religious child, he attended both Muslim and Coptic Christian schools. Later while attending a Military Academy, one of his classmates was the late President Gamal Abdul Nasser.

All his life, Sadat flirted with danger. His courage and a kind of reckless self assurance was one of the keys to his success. He took desperate chances as a young man, plotting against King Farouk and the colonial domination of Great Britain. As President, Sadat infuriated the Soviet Union when he abruptly threw 18,000 Soviet military personnel out of Egypt. In 1971 he raised the possibility of signing an agreement with Israel provided all the occupied territories captured by the Israelis were returned. With no progress toward peace, Sadat began to say that war with Israel was inevitable. Throughout 1972 and much of 1973, he threatened war unless the United States forced Israel to accept his interpretation of Resolution 242 – total Israeli withdrawal from territories taken in 1967. In April, 1973 Sadat again warned that he would renew the war with Israel, the same threat he had made in 1971 and 1972. Most observers remained skeptical of the rhetoric.

On October 6, 1973 on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan it happened. Egypt and Syria opened a coordinated surprise attack against Israel. The equivalent of the total forces of NATO in Europe was mobilized on Israel’s borders. On the Golan Heights, approximately 180 Israeli tanks faced an onslaught of 1,400 Syrian tanks. Along the Suez Canal, fewer than 500 Israeli defenders with only three tanks were attacked by 600,000 Egyptian soldiers, backed by 2,000 tanks and 550 aircraft. Nine Arab states, including four non-Middle Eastern nations actively aided the Egyptian-Syria war effort. The Soviets gave wholehearted political support to the Arab invasion while pouring weapons into the region. This would lead to the October 12 emergency airlift order of supplies and arms by U. S. President Nixon. Between October 14 and November 14, 1973, the US would provide 22,000 tons of equipment transported to Israel by air and sea. The airlift alone involved 566 flights. To pay for this infusion of weapons, Nixon asked Congress for and received 2.2 billion in emergency aid for Israel.

Thrown on the defensive during the first two days of fighting, Israel mobilized its reserves and began to counterattack. What followed, history tells us, was an epic period of intense engagement. In the greatest tank battle since the Germans and Russians fought at Kursk in World War II, roughly 1,000 Israeli and Egyptian tanks massed in the western Sinai from October 12-14. On the 14th, Israeli forces destroyed 250 Egyptian tanks in the first two hours of fighting. By late afternoon the Israeli forces had routed the enemy, accomplishing a feat equal to Montgomery’s victory over Rommel in World War II. By October 18th, Israeli forces were marching with little opposition toward Cairo. About the same time Israeli troops were on the outskirts of Damascus. This reversal of fortune would bring us to the brink of nuclear war.

The Soviets began to panic and on October 24th they threatened to intervene in the fighting. Responding to the Soviet threat, Nixon put the U. S. military on alert, increasing its readiness for deployment of conventional and nuclear forces. The danger of a U. S –Soviet conflict was real. In fact, this was probably the closest the superpowers had come to a nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. What followed was an intense period of diplomatic efforts to gain a cease-fire with which Israel reluctantly complied, largely because of U. S. pressure, and because the next military moves would have been to attack the two Arab capitals, action few believed to be politically wise.

By the end of the fighting, 2,688 Israeli soldiers had been killed. Combat deaths for Egypt and Syria totaled 7,700 and 3,500, respectively.

Ironically, the United States had helped save Israel by its resupply effort and then rescued Egypt by forcing Israel to accept the ceasefire. In January 1974, Israel and Egypt negotiated a disengagement agreement thanks to Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy.

The risks Anwar Sadat later took for peace overshadowed his risks in war. In 1977 defying the wrath of most of his fellow Arabs he did the unthinkable and traveled to Jerusalem, the heart of his enemy’s camp, and so began a march to a Mideast peace. His performances in Jerusalem and at Camp David shattered an insidious myth: that Arabs and Israelis could never negotiate face to face. In 1978 Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize with another old conspirator turned statesman: Menachem Begin.

On October 6, 1981, exactly eight years to the day that he launched the Yom Kippur attack on the Jewish nation, Anwar el-Sadat, the villager who hero-worshipped Mahatma Gandhi as a young boy and would one day rise to lead Egypt, this one who would dare seek peace with the Jewish nation, would be cut down by the enemies of peace. The fanatic Islamic group Al Taqfir wal Hijra, the largest such fundamentalist group in Egypt and whose roots were tangled in the Muslim Brotherhood, would darken the whole political landscape of the Middle East.

We would later visit the Giza Plateau, where stood the timeless pyramids and the great Sphinx. The Sphinx, sitting as if guarding the tombs of past Pharaohs, with a weathered face and empty stare, like one who had already seen too much.

In part two, we get a glimpse of the personal side of Anwar Sadat and his motivation for making the decision that would cost him his life.

Please be sure and read Part II of “Tears of the Sphinx” here.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

Yom Kippur: The Two Goats

One of the strangest ceremonies of ancient Judaism was that carried out on Yom Kippur with the “two hairy goats.” The ritual is described in Leviticus 16 in full detail.

Hairy Goats Two male goats were selected for Yom Kippur, one is “for YHVH” and the other “for Azazel.” Both are said to be “for a sin offering” (v. 5).

One is slain and the other is sent away into the wilderness. What has been confusing to many is that both goats are spoken of as somehow providing “atonement,” or better translated “covering.” So why the difference? Why two goats, essentially identical, rather than one?

One common interpretation makes the two goats positive and negative, and it is the case that Azazel in ancient Jewish texts (1 Enoch, etc.) is the name for an “angel” who opposes YHVH. But if one is negative and one positive, how can both provide “covering”?

In looking more closely at the text one notices that the first goat, the one that is “for YHVH,” that is slain, makes “covering for the Holy Place because of the uncleanness of the people and because of their transgressions, all their sins” (v. 16). In other word, the blood of that goat is to cleanse the Tabernacle that has become unclean because of the sins of the people, NOT to remove the sins of the people per se.

In contrast, the sins of the people themselves are put on the head of the live goat. That goat is not killed, yet that goat too is spoken as a “sin offering” (v.5), ,making atonement/covering (v. 10), and that goat “bears all their iniquities” into a remote area.

This distinction might be an important one in trying to understand the meanings intended in this ancient ceremony. Early Christians were able to find in the slain goat, given Paul’s interpretation of the death of Jesus by crucifixion, a symbol of “Christ” dying for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews elaborates this point in great detail (Hebrews 9). But there seems to be no reference in the text to the blood of the slain goat related to the forgiveness of the sins of the people. The second goat, the one sent away into the desert, is not dealt with at all in the interpretation given in Hebrews, and yet in the biblical text of Leviticus that goat is clearly the “sin bearer.”

The Christian overlay to this text is perhaps an obstacle to reading it with new eyes. One often hears a quotation from the New Testament book of Hebrews that asserts: “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” Clearly such is not the case as this example of the “live goat” makes clear.

The goat that really “bears the sins” is the one sent away, into the desert (v. 22). All the sins and iniquities and transgressions are put on the head of this live goat and he is send away to Azazel. The sending away of this living goat effects the removal of the sins of the people. What this implies then is that in this ancient ceremony the ultimate “covering” of sins that comes on Yom Kippur is not by shedding of blood but by casting far away, away from the camp of the living to the desert places where Azazel and the demons dwell.

This means that the main image of “atonement” or covering on this day is not that of an animal slain for the forgiveness of sins, but the removal of sins from the land of the living. The rabbis seem to pick up on this in arranging the Haftarah readings for Yom Kippur. There are the special supplementary readings from the Prophets. First, the story of Jonah is read, which is a story of an entire city being saved from destruction because of repentance from sin. Then Micah 7:18-20 is read, where sins are cast away into the depths of the sea.

Being “washed in the blood of the lamb” has become a more appealing cultural image to our minds than “washed in the blood of the hairy goat,” but it seems that neither image, in connection to the removal or “atonement” of sins, is related to the Day of Atonement or Covering.

Remembering David Horowitz: He Walked with Kings and Rulers

Born in Malmo, Sweden in 1903, David and his family emigrated to the United States in 1914 during World War I, settling in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was one of eight children of Cantor Aaron and Bertha Horowitz.

As a toddler at the synagogue where David’s family worshipped in his hometown of Malmo, the rabbi once placed his hand on David’s head and proclaimed, “David, you will go before kings and rulers”.

This would literally and metaphorically prove to be the case.

David made his first visit to what was then British-occupied Palestine as a young Zionist pioneer in 1924 and remained through the end of 1927. This was to be the first of many trips to pre-independent Israel where he would work in Jerusalem while mastering Hebrew and developing an extensive knowledge of Judaism.

It was in late 1927 when Horowitz would have a remarkable encounter with a prophetic figure, one Moses Guibbory who at the time was living in the northwest area of Jerusalem in the Sanhedria tomb area. This association changed and shaped his entire life. Horowitz details this meeting in his 1949 autobiography “Thirty-Three Candles”.

Following an intensive year working with Guibbory, Horowitz would become editor and publisher of the mammoth 2000 page compendium of biblical research based on the work of Moses Guibbory.

Following a sharp break with Guibbory in 1943, Horowitz’s life would be profoundly redirected. Out of the pangs of the past, grew a movement, a world structure, founded upon the principles of Israel’s ancient laws. It came at a time when, as Horowitz expressed, “when it appeared to me that I had been forsaken by God and man, this development vindicated my faith in the One in whom I had always placed my trust”. The movement was named United Israel World Union. It became incorporated on April 17, 1944, under the laws of the State of New York, as an educational, Mosaic Institution to function in all countries.

Another amazing development would follow the next year-1945.

Horowitz would obtain press credentials at the newly formed United Nations under the auspices of World Union Press, which was formed as an arm of United Israel World Union. He was present at the opening sessions in San Francisco and at Lake Success, NY.

The many contributions of David Horowitz, with his decades of chronicling the official affairs of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Secretary General’s office, would make him an authority on the world organization without parallel.


“He was the institutional memory of the United Nations” stated CNS news U. N. Bureau Chief, Serge Beaulieu.

It is this period, post 1945, and the rich history of the founding of two world organizations that will be the subject of the Horowitz saga. His role in both could only be described as providential.

Journalist Vanni Cappelli, son of David’s longtime friend and press associate, John Cappelli, wrote a moving tribute to David Horowitz following his death in 2002. (John Cappelli was a UN correspondent for Paese Sera, a left wing publication out of Rome, Italy who shared room 371 of the press section with Horowitz at the UN for more than 40 years, starting in 1960). I would like to quote a portion of his fitting tribute published in The Jewish Press on March 6, 2003:

What everyone will always remember about him with loving joy is his smile. It is the exact same smile that captured the hearts of Metropolitan Opera greats like Enrico Caruso and Geraldine Farrar when he was an office boy at the Old Met from 1918, and is preserved in a group photograph taken on the occasion of the legendary tenor’s last visit to the opera house shortly before he sailed back to Italy and died in the summer of 1921.

It is the exact same smile which shines forth in numerous pictures taken over the course of almost six decades at the United Nations which hung above his cluttered and picturesque desk. They show him greeting and engaging with the great and the obscure, the saints and the sinners, the statesmen and the journalists, Wiesel and Khrushchev, Begin and Vyshinsky, Hammarskjold and Netanyahu, Eleanor Roosevelt and U Thant.

The UN is supposed to be about dialogue, and David was always ready to answer invective with its opposite-a calm reason based on passion. That is why everyone loved him, and everyone was willing to talk to him. And when you talked long enough with David Horowitz, invective became dialogue-you just couldn’t help it.

There was a simple, compelling reason for this, and it went far beyond his venerable age or his standing as the dean of UN correspondents. It was that David represented, as no one else I have ever met, the ancient ideal upon which the world organization was supposed to be founded, and which it has so often fallen short of in its troubled history-the Brotherhood of All Mankind. His own adherence to this truth was a constant reproach to the hypocrisy of the world body. Yet, incredibly, this passionate defender of the State of Israel was never anti-UN.

John Cappelli once said “In all my 40 years and more of knowing him, not once did he ever raise his voice in anger. That was the reason that all of the other correspondents, even those from the Arab world who would refuse to attend a press conference given by an Israeli diplomat, would come to see, and talk with, David”. In later years many more would come to pay homage, Jews and Gentiles, faithful and unbelievers, advocates of freedom and supporters of tyranny”.

As if being led by a distant echo, Vanny Cappelli would fittingly entitle his tribute to Horowitz “He Walked With Kings And Rulers”.

Bio PictureRalph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.



Remembering David Horowitz: A New Series Inaugurated

We are pleased to announce a new featured series on our Web site titled “Remembering David Horowitz.” The monthly feature will chronicle events and little known facts from the life and times of this remarkable man.


David Horowitz was the dean of the United Nations Press Corps, serving since the founding of the world organization in San Francisco in 1945. He was also the President and Founder of “United Israel World Union” (1943-44). You can read more of his remarkable life and career here.

Those familiar with United Israel World Union will recognize many of the stories, but hopefully benefit from much of the detail and facts that form “the rest of the story”.

For those unfamiliar with the Horowitz saga, we are pleased to share these incredible episodes as a way of honoring Horowitz for his selfless, untiring devotion for the cause of universal Torah faith, the establishment and well-being of the State of Israel and humanitarian ideals.

Bio Picture

The series will be written by Ralph Buntyn, executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets. He is currently working on a biography of David Horowitz covering the years 1945-2002, providing a sequel to the Horowitz autobiography “Thirty-Three Candles” published in 1949.

Who Was Gedaliah and Why a Fast Remembering His Murder?

Ross Nichols has a fascinating article on Gedaliah–a biblical figure whose name would register with very few people today outside of observant Jewish circles. Today marks one of the four “minor” fast days of Judaism, called “the fast of Gedaliah,” commemorating the murder of Gedaliah in the days of Jeremiah following the Babylonian invasion of Judah and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple in the 6th century BCE. These four fast days (sunrise to sunset) are all associated with the disasters before, during, and after the great Destruction, and they are alluded to in Zechariah 8:18-19. What is particularly fascinating about Gedaliah, which Ross explores in his article, is the connection between him and his family (especially his father and grandfather) with Jeremiah and his priestly family–reaching back to the days of King Josiah when the “book of the Torah” was discovered. Nice Sunday afternoon reading…here is the link to Ross’s article.

Destroying Jerusalem

A Silent Message for a Day of Shouting

IMG_4364The teaching today is an important, and yet silent message for a day that is most often associated with making noise. This class is on the biblical instructions concerning a day that is called Yom Teruah. This ancient festival is mentioned two times in Scripture (Leviticus 23:23-25 & Numbers 29:1-6). It is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. Ross sets forth to uncover insights into the meaning of this Festival of YHVH. He seeks to answer several questions related to this first day of the seventh month. What is Yom Teruah? When is it celebrated, and finally how is it to be kept? In this teaching, Ross carefully works through the two passages from the Torah that mention this festival and then he shares a message that is rarely discussed on what many have come to call the Festival of Trumpets. What is the silent message the Ross proclaimed on the day of “shouting?” You will not want to miss this teaching.

Click here to listen to this teaching.