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The First Love Story

Adam, Eve, and Us

flsfinal3dFrom the New York Times bestselling author of Walking the Bible and Abraham comes a revelatory journey across four continents and 4,000 years exploring how Adam and Eve introduced the idea of love into the world, and how they continue to shape our deepest feelings about relationships, family, and togetherness. READ MORE

 

The Secrets of Happy Families

Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More

The Secrets of Happy Families book coverBest-selling author and New York Times family columnist Bruce Feiler found himself squeezed between aging parents and rising children. He set out on a three-year journey to find the smartest ideas, cutting-edge research, and novel solutions to make his family happier. READ MORE

 

The Council of Dads

A Story of Family, Friendship & Learning How to Live

The Council of Dads book coverWhen bestselling author Bruce Feiler was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his leg, he could only imagine all the walks he might not take with his daughters, the ballet recitals he would miss, the art projects left undone, and the aisles he might not walk down. READ MORE

Read Bruce’s cancer diary.

Bruce's latest news

Check this Events List to see if Bruce will be appearing in your town on The First Love Story book tour.

Bruce discusses the Secrets of Happy Families on the latest Digital Dads podcast.

Announcing Bruce’s forthcoming book, The First Love Story, from Penguin Random House

Archive for August, 2009

Which Kennedy Was Moses? John or Ted?

Monday, August 31st, 2009

THIS WEEK IN MOSES: The Kennedys and the Promised Land.

In The Making of the President 1964, Theodore White compared the death of John F. Kennedy to the death of Moses on Mount Nebo. Moses had led the Israelites out of slavery into freedom, put up with their kvetching and complaining for 40 years, only to be stopped short of the Promised Land, following a cryptic incident in which he drew water from a stone. With Kennedy stopped short of his dream, Johnson would be his Joshua.

“It was as if Kennedy, a younger Moses, had led an elder Joshua to the heights of Mount Nebo and there shown him the promised land which he himself would never enter but which Joshua would make his own.”

This week a similar analogy was tossed about following the death of John’s younger brother. Ted Kennedy was called the Moses of Health Care.

“Sen. Ted Kennedy and Moses had a shared destiny,” wrote the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Like the flawed patriarch who led his people to the Promised Land but never set foot inside it, Mr. Kennedy died last week having led the nation toward universal health-care coverage that he would not live to see.”

The Kennedys were not alone. This analogy with Moses was used frequently on the death of George Washington in 1799, in which two-thirds of the eulogies compared the “first conductor of the Jewish nation” to the “leader and father of the American nation.” It was the single-most commonly cited comparison on the death of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. As Henry Ward Beecher said, “Again a great leader of the people has passed through toil, sorrow, battle, and war, and come near to the promised land of peace, into which he might not pass over.”

And of course Martin Luther King, Jr., quoted the same passage in his speech the night before he was assassinated. “I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over. I’ve seen the promised land. And I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land.”

For Barack Obama, who has compared himself to Joshua, the consistency of this analogy from Washington to Bush, is a stark reminder that he picks up the fight that Ted Kennedy pioneered that failure is, indeed, an option. Even the greatest leaders often fall short of their dreams.

Moses vs. the Death Panels. Obama Quotes the Ninth Commandment

Monday, August 24th, 2009

THIS WEEK IN MOSES: Harry and Louise meet Moses.

In a conversation with religious leaders last week, Barack Obama hit back against some of the more outlandish attacks against his health care proposals. Responding to rumors of “death panels” that would “decide whether elderly people would live or die,” he referred to the “Great Words of Sinai,” the Ten Commandments. “There are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” he said.

The dictate against “bearing false witness” first appears in Exodus 20:16, when Moses climbs to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments after leading the Israelites across the Red Sea. The line reads: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Obama deftly didn’t mention which of the Ten Commandments this is, as different traditions count the commandments differently. In the Jewish, Protestant, and Orthodox tradition, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor” is commandment number nine. In the Catholic and Lutheran traditions, it’s number eight.

Despite harsh criticism that Obama is injecting religion where it doesn’t belong, “bearing false witness” has a long presence in American jurisprudence, as do most of the Ten Commandments. A Connecticut law from 1642 promised death “if any man rise by false witness.” Similar laws appeared in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. As recently as 1988, the Supreme Court of Mississippi cited the Ninth Commandment in reproaching prosecutorial misconduct:

When the State or any party states or suggests the existence of certain damaging facts and offers no proof whatever to substantiate the allegations, a golden opportunity is afforded the opposing counsel in closing argument to appeal to the Ninth Commandment. “Thou shalt not bear false witness . . . ”

More striking: Obama’s use of the Ninth Commandment echoes Kay Hagan’s use of the same line to hit back against claims by Liddy Dole in last year’s Senate campaign in North Carolina. That Democrats are now using the Ten Commandments as a weapon against Republicans continues a longstanding tradition that has been appalling absent in recent years: The Bible can be used by used by both sides in the culture wars.

Specifically, Moses, wielded by presidents from Washington to Reagan, Lincoln to Obama, may be the one figure in American history who transcends Red and Blue. The question of the moment is whether he’s strong enough to take on the forces that include Blue Cross & Blue Shield.

Charlton Heston the Face of the U.S.A.? How Moses Was Chosen for the Great Seal

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

THIS WEEK IN MOSES: The biblical hero becomes the face of America.

Immediately after approving the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress formed a committee to design a new seal for the United States. As proof of its importance, the committee had three members, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Franklin and Jefferson independently proposed that Moses appear as the public face of the new country. (Adams proposed Hercules, but declared his own selection unoriginal.)

The parallels between a small beleaguered band colonists fighting for freedom against the greatest empire in the world and the small, beleaguered community of Israelite slaves fighting against the greatest empire in the world was widely popular in 1776. Thomas Paine, in the best-selling book of the year, Common Sense, made the connection explicitly. He called King George “a pharaoh.”

On August 20th, the seal committee submitted its official recommendation:

Pharaoh sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his head and a Sword in his hand, passing through the divided Waters of the Red Sea in Pursuit of the Israelites: Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Cloud, expressive of the divine Presence and Command, beaming on Moses who stands on the shore and extending his hand over the Sea causes it to overwhelm Pharaoh.

The committee’s report offers vivid, behind-the-scenes evidence that the founders of the United States viewed themselves as acting in the image of Moses. Three of the five drafters of the Declaration of Independence and three of the defining faces of the Revolution – Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams – proposed that Moses be the face of the United States of America. In their eyes, Moses was America’s true founding father.

Bible Story: “Moses” Wins Presidential Medal of Freedom

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Moses has finally made it to the White House.

On August 15, 1620 – nearly 400 years ago this week – the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower from Southhampton with 102 passengers on board. Their leader, John Robinson, described them as the chosen people, casting off the yoke of their pharaoh, King James. William Bradford, their first governor, proclaimed their mission to be as vital as that of “Moses and the Israelites when they went out of Egypt.”

“The leader of a people in a wilderness had need be a Moses,” Cotton Mather said. “And if a Moses had not led the people of Plymouth Colony,” he wrote of Bradford, then the colony would not have survived.

Yesterday, August 12, 2009, Barack Obama stood up in the East Room of the White House and awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom to a group of diverse leaders that included Harvey Milk, who was called the “Moses of his people.”

Obama made the connection to the Bible’s greatest story explicit in awarding the nation’s highest honor to civil rights pioneer Joseph Lowery. “Preaching in his blood,” Obama said, “the Reverend Joseph Lowery is a giant of the Moses generation of civil rights leaders.” The president went on to quote the Rev. Lowery in words that would have made Moses proud: “There’s good crazy and there’s bad crazy — and sometimes you need a little bit of that good crazy to make the world a better place.”

All the Moseses in American life – from William Bradford to Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King, Jr. – had a bit of that good crazy. Including most of the occupants of the White House.

Obama is not the first president to make the connection between the American spirit and the story of Moses. George Washington compared the American Revolution to the Exodus; Thomas Jefferson quoted Moses in his second inaugural. Jefferson, along with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, proposed that Moses be on the seal of the United States.

Two-thirds of the sermons on Washington’s death compared him to Moses, as did the same number for Lincoln. Wilson was compared to Moses for his leadership during World War I, as was FDR during World War II. Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush all invoked the biblical leader. And, of course, Barack Obama claimed to be part of the “Joshua Generation” that would take the work of the “Moses Generation” and finally lead his people to the Promised Land.

This week, 400 years after those pilgrims first invoked the Exodus to inspire their quest for freedom, Americans were reminded once more why the Exodus story is America’s story and why Moses is our real founding father.

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This entry is part of a series, “This Week in Moses,” chronicling the 400-year relationship between the United States and its true founding fathe. For more information, and to read the entire series, visit www.brucefeiler.com, or sign up at twitter.com/brucefeiler. America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story, by the New York Times bestselling author of Walking the Bible and Abraham, tells the little-known story of America’s connection to the Exodus and shows how Moses continues to inspire Americans today. It goes on sale October 6.

This Week in Moses: Pilgrims Set Sail for New World

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

The 400-year love affair between America and Moses began this week in 1620. On August 15, the Mayflower set sail set from Southampton with 102 passengers on board. Their leader, John Robinson, described them as the chosen people, casting off the yoke of their pharaoh, King James. William Bradford, their first governor, proclaimed their mission to be as vital as that of “Moses and the Israelites when they went out of Egypt.”

“The leader of a people in a wilderness had need be a Moses,” Cotton Mather said. “And if a Moses had not led the people of Plymouth Colony,” he wrote of Bradford, then the colony would not have survived.

Yet these leaders did have a choice. For centuries, European explorers had set out for new lands without using expressions like pharaoh and promised land, Exodus and Moses. By choosing these evocative lyrics, the founders of America introduced the themes of oppression and redemption, freedom and law, that would carry through the next four centuries. Because of them, the story of Moses became the story of America.

Me 4.0

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

I first set up a website in March, 2001, on the eve of publishing Walking the Bible. I did it because I had the vague notion that authors should have websites and in the hopes that it might make it easier to communicate with readers. It changed my life. Not just my career, my life life.

Suddenly writing, which has largely been a one-way source of interacting with the world, became a two-way source. Readers began to write, at first a trickle, then much larger. They wrote the most moving stories of their encounters with my work, their discussion groups, their dreams of someday making some of the journeys I made. They sent symphonies they had composed, poems they had written, photographs they had taken. They were young, they were dying, they were awake in the middle of the night, they were stopped by the side of the road.

To be sure, some were angry. Some would have canceled their subscriptions – you know, back when people had subscriptions – or would have asked for their weekend back if I could give it. Some found me annoying, or not to their faith, or some words I can’t print (but they could!). But mostly, people were warm, wanted a connection, and encouraged me to keep going. For a writer in lonely room on a sometimes empty road, those wishes were the best kind. Thank you.

This is the fourth iteration of this site and it’s designed to keep that conversation going in some new and exciting ways. After some time off working on a new book, and dealing with a family matter over the last year, I am coming back with a burst of enthusiasm, momentum, and excitement. I will be publishing two books in the next nine months. The first, America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story, goes on sale October 6. It tells the little-known story of one figure has inspired more Americans than any other. You can read a description of the book here, see some videos of Moses here, and see the 20 plus cities where I’ll be speaking about the book this fall here.

This new redesign features some familiar features: A bio, a description of my books, a list of speaking events, downloadable discussion guides. It also features a way to email me. In the eight years I’ve had a site, I am proud to report that I have personally answered every email that I’ve received. Sometimes it takes me a while (and more often than you think, people enter the wrong email address), but I promise you’ll hear back from me.

I’ve also introduced some new features. For the first time, I now have a small library of magazine articles I’ve published in the last decade or so, including many of the articles I wrote for Gourmet. I also have a collection of videos of me from around the web, and another of Moses. More will be coming soon. Finally, in an attempt to consolidate and facilitate the many conversations that take place about my work into one place, I’ve started a page on Facebook. You can connect to it here, or via the link at the bottom of this page. I also have an account at Twitter. I hope you’ll join conversation and encourage others to do so.

Thanks for visiting, for adding thoughts of your own, and for reading. I hope to see you on the road this fall.

Until then, happy travels.

Bruce Feiler

PS: Special thanks to Shawn Nicholls for all his help in launching this new site.