Bar-Ilan News

Spokesman office Tel.: 03-531-8121 Fax: 03-738-4079 Spokesman.Office@mail.biu.ac.il
  • Left to right: Shamir Bible Department Chairman Prof. Michael Avioz, event organizer and emcee Dr. Leeor Gottlieb, Dennis Prager, University President Prof. Arie Zaban and Faculty of Jewish Studies Dean Prof. Ellie Assis

    Left to right: Shamir Bible Department Chairman Prof. Michael Avioz, event organizer and emcee Dr. Leeor Gottlieb, Dennis Prager, University President Prof. Arie Zaban and Faculty of Jewish Studies Dean Prof. Ellie Assis

    US Radio Talk Show Host Dennis Prager Lectures at Zalman Shamir Bible Department

    Date: 2017-10-31 Hour: 12:05

    Calling the Torah "the most remarkable book in human history", staunchly defending the State of Israel, and blasting the BDS Movement, US nationally syndicated radio talk show host Dennis Prager captivated a packed auditorium at Bar-Ilan University with a spirited lecture on "The Rational Torah: Why the Torah Should be as Important to You as It Was to Moses".

    In introducing Prager Dr. Leeor Gottlieb, of the Zalman Shamir Department of Bible, said, “One has but to listen to the people who call into Dennis’ radio show to understand the role he plays in their lives. They do not address him merely as a talk show host, but regard him with reverence and respect that was once reserved for teachers. Dennis Prager is, in effect, a teacher par excellence who through modern technology and moral conviction has fashioned the Dennis Prager Show into a daily three-hour classroom the size of which the world may have never seen before.”  Gottlieb initiated Prager's visit to the University and organized the Shamir Bible Department's inaugural event of the new academic year featuring Prager.

    Despite his tremendous expertise in the Hebrew Bible and his highly sought-after Torah commentary, Prager said, "To be invited to speak to people who know more about the Bible than I do is really an honor."  

    Prager said that insularity and non-interest in the outside world was his biggest problem growing up as a religious Jew in Brooklyn, New York.  "I would interview the non-Jewish mailman to find out what was going on outside my community."  As a result his first perspective on the Torah actually negates this insularity.  "The Torah was given to the Jews, but it is meant for all people and speaks to everyone," he asserted.  In this spirit, Prager said his Torah commentary must "move a person in the most remote place or I have failed to make my commentary applicable." 

    The Torah is rational, continued Prager.  "We are told to honor our mother and father.  This is a very powerful commandment.  The Torah tells us to love God, to love our neighbor, to love strangers.  But it doesn't tell us to love our parents.  It's as if God gave us permission not to love our parents, but said that we must honor them.  The Torah doesn't care about how you feel, but about how you behave.  You know who cares how you feel?  Your psychiatrist and maybe your spouse – the other seven billion people in the world don't care about how you feel. It's how you act that's important.  How you act shapes how you feel." Prager bemoaned the fact that in the United States "there is an epidemic of adult children who do not speak to their parents". 

    Speaking out against anti-Israel propaganda on university campuses, Prager said that the chief center of Israel hatred in the western world today is the university, adding that he encourages non-Jews to send their children to Israel for as long as they can after high school so that when they get to college they will know that they are being told mistruths and lies about Israel.

    In an ensuing, lively exchange with students, Prager confided that he believes America is "being brought down by the left" and he is "worried sick about America's future".  He said there are a number of things -- including universal service and strong emphasis on family life and children -- that the United States could learn from Israel.  "In Israel, unlike in America, everyone has to serve his country.  It creates a bond.  In America there is no mandatory service and this creates disunity."  Regarding children, he said, "In America if you have more than two children you are either a Mormon, an Evangelical Christian, or an Orthodox Jew.  The child orientation of Israeli society is very strong and we can learn from that in America."   

    One student credited Prager's powerful lectures as the driving force behind his immigration to Israel.    

    Prior to the lecture, Prager was welcomed to campus by Bar-Ilan University's new president, Prof. Arie Zaban.

    "Our mission, like at all universities, is to teach and conduct research," Prof. Zaban told Prager.  But universities today also pursue a third mission, which is to make a contribution to society.  Judaism is our third mission.  Over the next decade we intend to position Bar-Ilan University as the most important place in the world to discuss the challenges facing Judaism in Israel and the Diaspora today.  We have a tremendous Jewish studies faculty, Bible department, and Talmud department, and we are a hub where Judaism runs across campus in every discipline." 

    Faculty of Jewish Studies Dean Prof. Elie Assis added that with its 18 scholars and nearly 250 students – religious and secular, Jewish and non-Jewish, Koreans, Japanese, and a variety of other cultures -- the Zalman Shamir Department of Bible is the largest in the world and a center where all viewpoints are respected.  

    Prager expressed eagerness to be involved in this mission and to return for additional speaking engagements on campus.