Providence Today: National Museum of American Jewish Museum

Dr. Lillback:
This is Providence Today. We’re here in Philadelphia, and we’re right outside of the Jewish History Museum. That’s right on Liberty Mall, just a block away from Independence Hall. Right behind me is the Jewish Museum. Across the street in the Wells Fargo building is where the American Bible Society has moved back. On the lower level, they’re putting together the National Liberty Discovery Center. It’s all about the faith of our founders, and it’ll be a wonderful place to view when it’s finished. Something like a $60 million project, and they’re just in the process of developing it. But right behind me, immediately with the Jewish Museum, you see the statue here that celebrates the Jewish legacy for freedom. Philadelphia became a great place for religious liberty for Jewish people because of William Penn’s commitment to religious liberty, loving your neighbor as you love yourself. That was a right to protect conscience.

Dr. Lillback:
Jewish people were welcome to Philadelphia, even though they were often persecuted all around the world. As you look at that statue carefully, you’ll see a number of symbolisms. You’ll notice that there is a lady with the 13 golden stars on her head representing the spirit of liberty in America. You see that there’s a little child reaching their hand up to be blessed, the future generation. And then you can see an Eagle. The Eagle is representing American liberty, but notice underneath the Eagle is a serpent. You can see that biblical image of the serpent being destroyed by liberty. The Jewish people realized that persecution was not only against liberty, but it was something that had to be overcome by divine providence, by God’s care. The idea of the spirit of liberty bringing a blessing of freedom to a child is symbolized in a way that you might not fully appreciate, unless you know a little bit about the Jewish language.

Dr. Lillback:
Well, you notice the hand of the lady reaching out. Her hand is actually very unusual. It’s like this, and you can see the child’s hand is like this. There’s a blessing coming down, a blessing to be received. You might say, well, what does that stand for? Well, if you know the Hebrew alphabet, that’s the letter shin. In English, we would say S-H. That is the beginning of the name El Shaddai, the name for God, the God who supplies all the needs of his people. That comes right out of the Bible in Genesis 17:1. The spirit of liberty is a gift from God himself. The Apostle Paul in the New Testament says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” The spirit gives us this gift. Now in terms of popular culture, some of you may be Star Trek fans. Maybe you remember Leonard Nimoy, the man who played Mr. Spock. Do you remember what his Vulcan symbol was?

Dr. Lillback:
He actually tells a story in a background of his life where he says, “I’m from a secular Jewish background. And once I went to worship in a Jewish synagogue, and a group of men were in front and they had their hands something like this, celebrating.” And he never forgot it. And so he said, “I’m going to take that symbol for my character.” Well, actually, if you think about Star Trek and you think about this symbol, you’re reminded that the blessing of liberty is out of this world. It comes from heaven itself. It’s something that man cannot do in our fallenness and sin. It’s something that God needs to give to us. And so if we remember our founding symbol of America and the Liberty Bell, Leviticus 25 verse 10, right out of the Old Testament, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land onto all the inhabitants thereof.” Liberty is a gift from God himself taught in the Bible.

Dr. Lillback:
If you’re enjoying some of what you’re hearing today about faith and freedom in Philadelphia, we hope you’ll take our downloadable app as a free gift from us to you. You can find it online very easily, and you can go to providenceforum.org and get a great deal more information. It’s a real privilege to be with you, and this is Providence Today.

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