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Jonathan Sarna on Lincoln and the Bible

Rabbi Ari Lamm speaks to the legendary Brandeis historian and author of several books on the Lincoln era about Lincoln’s leadership, his attitude towards antisemitism and more.

The emperors of Rome traditionally promoted themselves as deities—as human beings who had ascended to godhood by virtue of their political might. In America, of course, we do not have god-kings, nor do we deify the great leaders of our past. But if there were any political figure in American history about whom it could be said that he had achieved some sort of genuine transcendence beyond the usual political acclaim, it would be Abraham Lincoln.

So what made Lincoln great? What were his flaws and triumphs? What does the success of the Lincoln presidency tell us about the American story at large? How, in particular, did his unusual embrace of the American Jewish community make sense within the wider context of the American experiment?

On this week’s episode, Rabbi Ari talked unpacked all this with legendary historian at Brandeis, and author of several books on the Lincoln era, Jonathan Sarna. They spoke about Lincoln’s leadership; his attitude towards antisemitism; his Biblical wit and wisdom and his relationship with the Holy Land; whether it’s a hindrance or a help to have political heroes; and much more! Listen here:

About Good Faith Effort: The Hebrew Bible is every bit America’s moral founding document as the Constitution is our political founding document. Every week, Rabbi Dr. Ari Lamm speaks with thinkers, writers, artists, and faith leaders to explore how the Bible continues to inform our lives today, from politics to psychology to pop culture, bringing Americans of different traditions and persuasions closer together as so much else threatens to pull us apart.

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