Akedah: How Jews and Christians Explained Abraham’s Faith.


    God promised Abraham that Isaac would be his heir, yet God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. What did Abraham believe that allowed him to reconcile this divine contradiction? (By Dr.  Devorah Schoenfeld).

    ‘This is the sacrifice of Isaac on the altar and the ram caught by its horns’. (From The Northern French Miscellany, 13 century. British Library).

    The Contradictory Command:

    In the story of the banishment of Ishmael, God tells Abraham that his son Isaac will be the progenitor of his future line (Genesis 21:12), but in the Akedah (Genesis 22:2), God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. At the end of the Akedah story (Genesis 22:12), there is another internal contradiction in the Divine command when God tells Abraham not to kill his son.

    The challenge of contradiction posed by this text occurs on two levels:

     God’s apparent self-contradiction presents a theological problem.


      1. Abraham’s lack of confrontation with God, or not calling out this contradiction—is also problematic.


    Jewish Interpretations.

    Genesis Rabbah: Interpreting God’s Words Midrashically.
    Some midrashim address these problems.  For instance, the mid 1st millennium C.E. compilation, Genesis Rabbah (56:8), deals with the seeming contradiction in divine commands by creating an imagined conversation between God and Abraham. Rashi quotes this midrash on Genesis 22:12 as follows:




    “Now I know” (Gen 22:12) – Rabbi Abba said: Abraham said to him [God]: I will set my words before you. Yesterday you said to me: “In Isaac will be called your seed” (Gen 21:12). Then you went back and said, “Take your son” (22:1). Now you say to me, “Do not send forth your hand against the boy” (22:12).

     God [the Holy Blessed One] said to him: “I will not profane my covenant and the utterance of my lips will not change” (Ps 89:35). When I said to you, “take,” the utterance of my lips will not change. I did not say “slaughter him” but rather “bring him up.” You brought him up, now bring him down. 

    This conversation turns Abraham into a rabbinic interlocutor, pointing out contradictions and asking questions about them. God, through the words of Psalm 89:35, affirms that despite appearances, God’s words never contradict, although some people may misunderstand God’s words and think so. God’s instruction in Genesis 22:2, ‏הַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם לְעֹלָה means only “bring him up [the mountain]” or “bring him up [on the altar].”

    A literal interpreter would have been forced to concede the noun עֹלָה always refers to a burnt offering. But the midrash is not so constrained.  Once Abraham brought his son “up”, he may bring him down again, unharmed.

    Ibn Ezra: God’s Changing Command.
    Abraham ibn Ezra (1089–c. 1167), a famous medieval exponent of peshat, explicitly rejects the midrash and other various attempts to reconcile the contradiction. He explains (22:1):

    And these great scholars required these interpretations because they said, “it is not possible for God to command something and then say not to do it.” But they did not note that the firstborn were replaced by the Levites after a year. Since the text says at the start “And God tested Abraham,” it removes any doubt. God tested him in order for him to receive a reward.

    Ibn Ezra believes that God’s word sometimes changes.  For example, Numbers 3 states that the firstborn originally had a priestly role before they were replaced by the Levites. Likewise, God first tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and then tells him not to. 

    For Ibn Ezra, then, the faithful person may believe that God’s mind will sometimes change.

    Rashbam: Abraham’s Interpretive Mistake.
    Another prominent peshat commentator, Rashbam (Samuel ben Meir, c. 1085–c. 1158), explained the text as follows:




    And it came to pass, after these events. Every place where it says “after these events,” [the text] is connected to the preceding section… So too, here, “after these events” [refers to the previous section where] Abraham made a covenant with Avimelech [king of the Philistines], on behalf of himself and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and he gave him the seven ewes. God was angry about this, for the land of the Philistines was within the borders of Israel, and God had commanded regarding them “do not let anyone live” …

     Therefore, “And God tested Abraham” … that is to say, “You were boastful with the the son that I gave you to establish a covenant between your children and their children. Now, go and offer him as a burnt offering, and we will see what good the covenant you made was.” 

    Rashbam reads “And it came to pass at this time” (‏אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, Gen 22:1), which might be seen as a simple transition between units, as indicating a causal relationship between the story of the binding of Isaac and the narrative that preceded it, which described a treaty that Abraham made with Avimelech. In making this treaty, Abraham was arrogant to think that he could make a covenant with Avimelech’s people on behalf of his descendants, when God actually plans to have Abraham’s descendants annihilate them in the future. Thus, Abraham here is punished for misreading God’s intention in granting him land and progeny.

    To Rashbam, then, the work of being a faithful reader of divine command is difficult and challenging — so challenging that even Abraham can get it wrong. 

    Radak: Abraham as Example to the Nations.
    For another peshat scholar, Radak (R. David Kimhi, 1160–1235), Abraham, far from being mistaken, serves as an example of faith:

    But the truth is that this test was in order to show the nations of the world Abraham’s complete love of God. And this was not done for those generations, but rather for the later generations that believe in the Torah that Moses, peace be upon him, wrote by God’s word, and in its stories, so that they would know how far Abraham’s love of God extended and would learn from it to love God with their whole hearts and their whole souls.

    Radak explains that the entire Akedah was designed to show future generations a model of faithfulness, part of which is that Abraham does not point out contradictions in God’s command but simply trusts and obeys:

    He did not ask and he did not argue, “Did you not say to me, ‘for through Isaac will your seed be called’?”

    Radak goes on to note the success of Abraham as an example of faith:

    Today, some years after the worship of idols and statues has been abolished, most of the world believes in the Torah of Moses our teacher and in its stories. They only disagree with us about the commandments, in that they say that they were given to us by way of parable.

    Abraham’s display of love, expressed by not pointing out contradictions in the divine word, was for the benefit of “everyone in the world” both Jews and Christians.

    Christian Interpretations.

    Christian responses differed from those of Jews for two reasons:  within Christianity, the Akedah was seen as prefiguring the death and resurrection of Jesus, so Isaac in a sense could die, and a particular New Testament text that pointed toward a particular line of interpretation, i.e., resurrection, became foundational.

    Hebrews: Abraham’s Faith in Resurrection.
    The Epistle to the Hebrews, a New Testament book of unknown authorship (c. 100 C.E.),[3] cites Abraham’s offering of Isaac as an example of faith:

    By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17–19)

    According to this passage, Abraham reconciled the ideas that he would be the father of many nations even though he must kill Isaac, by having faith in resurrection.  On the basis of this faith, Abraham could sacrifice Isaac and still believe that he would be resurrected and become the father of Abraham’s descendants.

    The Glossa Ordinaria: Abraham’s Faith in Spite of Contradiction.
    The Glossa Ordinaria (or: The Gloss), compiled by Gilbert of Auxerre, was one of the most influential Christian commentaries of the High Middle Ages. In the twelfth century, it was more widely copied than any other book. It was a standard text for Bible study for at least two centuries after its composition and it remained in use through the Reformation.

    One of the authors quoted in the gloss, Alcuin of York (735-804), sees Abraham’s confidence and faith as stemming from his ability to draw correct theological conclusions from an apparent contradiction in God’s word:


    5.3m Alcuin.  The boy and I: He was willing to sacrifice his son with an undoubting soul, praiseworthy in the constancy of offering and in his trust in resurrection.  For he knew with greatest certainty that God could not fail, and although the boy might be sacrificed, God’s saving promise would yet endure. Whence the Apostle (Hebrews 11:17-19): “Abraham did not hesitate in his faith, when offering his only son in whom he received the promise, believing that God was able to revive him even from death”.

    Alcuin understands Abraham to have derived the doctrine of resurrection from the contradiction between God’s promise that Isaac will be his heir and the command to sacrifice him.
    The interlinear gloss also includes the approach of Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636), who understands the story of Abraham as a sign of what will happen in the future, namely that God will offer his own son, Jesus, as a sacrifice.

    Thus, in interpreting God’s command to Abraham to take his only begotten son, the Gloss quotes John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” Abraham is keenly aware that the command to sacrifice Isaac contradicts God’s previous promise:

    2.2i By the reminder of love and the mention of the name the test is piled high, and the fatherly emotion is moved by the memory of the promise: because it was said that in Isaac your seed will be called (Genesis 21:12, Romans 11:18), so if he would be killed, all the hope of the promise would be frustrated.

    The Gloss solves the problem in its interpretation of the command to “go to the land of Vision”:

    2.3i where it will be revealed to you what I will foretell with this sacrifice.

    For the interlinear gloss, Abraham will only understand God’s intention on the mountain, when God reveals that the sacrifice was not meant to be carried out in fact, but only as a “sign” for the future of what God will do with his own son. Thus, despite the possibility of resurrection, Abraham has no need to sacrifice Isaac, since the true sacrifice will be the sacrifice of Christ that was to come. The purpose of Abraham’s act was simply to foretell this sacrifice.

    Martin Luther: Belief in Resurrection and Acceptance of Contradiction.
    Possibly the most famous interpreter of the literal sense among either Jews or Christians was Martin Luther (1483–1546). One of his guiding principles was sola scriptura, or “scripture alone,” namely that no text outside of the Bible (which for him, of course, included the New Testament) could be used to interpret the Bible. In particular, he meant to exclude by this the body of patristic and medieval interpretation that had become central to medieval Christian exegesis, and which, like midrash, was very effective in resolving contradictions. As a literal interpreter, Luther shared the dilemma of the Jewish peshat commentators: do you accept contradictions, or do you find some other way to reconcile them? 

    Luther’s lengthy commentary on the near-sacrifice of Isaac extends for over ninety pages in translation. In this commentary, he attempts to explain the technical details of the story, resolve contradictions, show how Abraham can function as an example of faith, and he uses the Abraham story to discuss what faith means for him. 

    To Luther, the contradiction in God’s words to Abraham is the essence of Abraham’s test. He writes:

    I have stated what Abraham’s trial was, namely, the contradiction of the promise… Human reason would simply conclude either that the promise is lying or that the command is not God’s but the devil’s. For there is a plain contradiction.  If Isaac must be killed, the promise is void; but if the promise is sure, it is impossible that this is a command of God.

    The contradiction in God’s word has, for Luther, disturbing theological implications:

    This trial cannot be overcome and is far too great to be understood by us.  For there is a contradiction with which God contradicts himself.  It is impossible for flesh to understand this; for it inevitably concludes either that God is lying — and this is blasphemy – or that God hates me – and this leads to despair.

    Either God’s word is internally self-contradictory or God is capricious and senselessly cruel.  Both of these are, for Luther, untenable positions.  The only possible way for Abraham to resolve this contradiction, for Luther, is to derive from it the concept of resurrection:

    Even though there is a clear contradiction here – for there is nothing between death and life – Abraham nevertheless does not turn away from the promise but believes that his son will have descendants even if he dies… Thus Abraham relies on the promise and attributes to the Divine Majesty this power, that He will restore his dead son to life; for just as he saw that Isaac was born of a worn-out womb and of a sterile mother, so he also believed that he was to be raised after having been buried and reduced to ashes, in order that he might have descendants, as the Epistle to the Hebrews (11:19) states: “God is able to give life even to the dead.

    Abraham is here a model interpreter of the Bible.  Because he fully accepts both parts of the contradiction, he is able to, on his own, come up with the concept of resurrection which would later be stated in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  

    Abraham also teaches his interpretation to his son Isaac, in a reconstructed dialogue reminiscent of midrash. As Luther writes:

    Now that the altar was built, the knife ready, and the fire kindled, some conversation between the father and son must have occurred – a conversation through which Isaac was appraised of the will and command of God.  The father said: “You, my dearly beloved son, whom God has given me, have been destined for the burnt offering.” Then the son was undoubtedly struck with amazement and in turn reminded his father of the promise: “Consider, father, that I am the offspring to whom descendants, kings, peoples, etc., have been promised. God gave me to my mother Sarah through a great miracle. How, then, will it be possible for the promise to be fulfilled if I am killed? Nevertheless, let us first confer about this matter and talk it over.

    All this should have been recorded here.  I do not know why Moses omitted it.  But I have no doubt that the father’s command to the son was extraordinary, and I think its main topic was the command of God and the resurrection of the dead. He probably said: “God has given a command: therefore we must obey Him, and since He is almighty, He can keep his promise even when you are dead and have been reduced to ashes.”…Thus it was the father’s address to his son which reconciled these two contradictory propositions: Isaac will be the seed and father of kings and of peoples; Isaac will die and will not be the father of peoples.

    Luther here presents Abraham as an interpreter of God’s word based on a belief that God cannot actually be contradicting his promise.  Abraham is able to sacrifice Isaac since “he knows that his son will have descendants, even after a thousand years.” Abraham’s faith was reflected in his ability to reconcile contradictory divine commands and to derive from them the concept of resurrection, and even to communicate this doctrine to his son.

    Like his Christian predecessors, Luther ultimately interprets Genesis 21–22 through the lens of the New Testament, specifically Hebrews 11. And like Radak, he locates Abraham’s faith in his acceptance of divine contradiction. This (unwitting) agreement with a Jewish source is notable, given that Luther’s work contains lengthy and harsh anti-Jewish polemic.

    Resolving and/or Sanctifying Contradictions.

    Medieval Jewish and Christian interpreters of the Hebrew Bible, despite their different canons and theological assumptions, often asked similar questions and sometimes came to similar conclusions. Jewish commentators offered many different answers such as, God only said to bring him up (Genesis Rabbah), God does contradict himself at times (ibn Ezra), the Akedah was a punishment for making a treaty with Avimelech (Rashbam), or that it was all just to show future generations a true model of faithfulness (Radak).

    Christian interpreters also offered a range of answers, but all of them following the basic approach outlined in Hebrews, that the answer to the contradiction was that Abraham assumed God would resurrect Isaac.

    Although it would seem that such an avenue would be closed to Jewish interpreters as too Christological in nature—and for the most part it was—the idea that Isaac was resurrected actually appears in some Jewish sources, such as the ca. 8th cent. C.E. midrashic work, Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer (ch. 31):




    Rabbi Judah says: “Once the sword reached his throat, Isaac’s soul left his body. Once [God/the angel] made his voice heard between the two cherubs, and said (Gen 22:12): “Do not lift your hand against the boy” his soul returned to his body. [Abraham] untied him and he stood on his feet.

     Isaac thus came to see [or “know”] that resurrection is a Torah principle, that all of the dead are destined to rise. At that moment, [Isaac] opened his mouth and said: “Blessed are you, O God, who resurrects the dead.” 



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    UK will back total ban on bee-harming pesticides, Michael Gove reveals.


    Exclusive: Research leads environment secretary to overturn government’s previous opposition, making total EU ban much more likely.

    (Oilseed rape crops being sprayed. The seeds are treated with neonicotinoids and the flowers visited by bees. Photograph: Juice/Rex/Shutterstock).

    The UK will back a total ban on insect-harming pesticides in fields across Europe, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, has revealed.

    The decision reverses the government’s previous position and is justified by recent new evidence showing neonicotinoids have contaminated the whole landscape and cause damage to colonies of bees. It also follows the revelation that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield, a discovery Gove said had shocked him.

    Michael Gove: With more and more evidence emerging that these pesticides harm bees and other insects, it would be irresponsible not to restrict their use

    Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticide but in 2013 the European Union banned their use on flowering crops, although the UK was among the nations opposing the ban. The European commission now wants a total ban on their use outside of greenhouses, with a vote expected in December, and the UK’s new position makes it very likely to pass.

    "The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood,” said Gove. “I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.”

    In an article for the Guardian, Gove said: “As is always the case, a deteriorating environment is ultimately bad economic news as well.” He said pollinators boost the yield and quality of UK crops by £400m-£680m every year and said, for example, gala apple growers are now having to spend £5.7m a year to do replace the work of lost natural pollinators.

    Gove said the evidence of neonicotinoids’ harm to pollinators has grown stronger since 2013, including a landmark field trial published in July that showed neonicotinoids damage bee populations, not just individual insects, and a global analysis of honey revealing worldwide contamination by the insecticides.

    Will pollinator populations naturally recover if pesticide use falls?

    Drastically cutting pesticide use, as appears perfectly possible on most farms, will certainly help. The insecticides called neonicotinoids are now pervasive around the world, affecting both wild pollinators and kept honey bees. But wild insect numbers, which may well have plummeted by 75% in recent decades, are also greatly affected by the ongoing destruction of natural habitats and the food they contain. In the UK alone, the areas inhabited by common insects has fallen by 30-60% over the last 40 years. Honey bees can also suffer from outbreaks of disease like the varroa mite and nosema parasite. Finally, climate change also appears to be damaging some insect populations. So slashing pesticide use is necessary - but not sufficient - to allow insects to recover.

    This and other research was examined by the UK’s Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP), which published its updated advice on Thursday. “Exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides under field conditions can have an unacceptable effect on honeybee health” they concluded. “Such unacceptable effects are occurring at a landscape level and between seasons.”

    Three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany have vanished in 25 years, with serious implications for all life on Earth, scientists say. Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific advisor at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “The important question is whether neonicotinoids’ use results in harmful effects on populations of bees and other pollinators as a whole. The available evidence [now] justifies taking further steps to restrict the use of neonicotinoids.”

    Boyd warned in September that the assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false. This followed other highly critical reports on pesticides, including research showing most farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses and a UN report that denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world.


    (Tractors sow seeds treated with neonicotinoids. Photograph: Paul Weston/Alamy Stock Photo.)

    Gove’s decision has delighted campaigners and scientists who have long argued that heavy pesticide use, along with the destruction of habitat and disease, are having a devastating impact on insects.

    “Michael Gove is to be congratulated for listening to the experts on this issue and backing tougher restrictions,” said Friends of the Earth’s chief executive Craig Bennett. “But lessons also need to be learned – we now need to move away from chemical-intensive farming and instead boost support for less damaging ways of tackling persistent weeds and pests.

    “We warmly welcome the UK’s change of position,” said Matt Shardlow, at insect conservation group Buglife. “Brexit will give the UK more control over the health of our ecosystems and it is essential in doing so that we apply the highest standards of care.”

    Neonicotinoid insecticides are found in 75% of global honey samples and half contain a cocktail of chemicals

    He said the EU had been stuck on the issue of a full neonicotinoid ban, unable until now to get sufficient votes from member states: “In taking this ‘unfrozen moment’ in British politics to put bees and science at the centre of our priorities for sustainable agriculture, Michael Gove may also unfreeze the EU and secure an EU-wide ban that will benefit insects across the continent.”

    Chris Hartfield, the National Farmers Union’s acting chief science adviser, said: “Farmers are acutely aware that bees play a crucial role in food production and have done an enormous amount to help them.” But he said the committee’s finding of “unacceptable effects” came despite their acknowledgement of a gap in understanding in whether neonicotinoids damage overall ecosystem services: “In our view, the ECP has leapt beyond its brief.”

    But Gove said: “While there is still uncertainty in the science, it is increasingly pointing in one direction.” He said a post-Brexit farming subsidy system would channel more money into environmentally sustainable ways of farming.



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    Why It's Easier To Reinvent Yourself Living Abroad.


    As the founder of Best Places in the World to Retire, I’ve heard many of our expat contributors say that one reason they moved abroad was to “reinvent” themselves. And based on what they’ve told me, I’d say it’s easier to reinvent yourself living abroad than while you’re living in the United States.

    To reinvent yourself requires a belief in free will; that you are the inventor who created you. Very few expats I’ve met, and none who told me their reinvention stories, could be described as fatalists. Many, like Anne Dyer, defied stereotypes and faced what most people would consider to be long odds, though.

    Credit: Shutterstock

    Reinventions Out of Facing Long Odds

    Dyer came to Mexico from Oklahoma more than 30 years ago, relocating to what was then a male-dominated village, at a time when doing so was nowhere as common or easy as it is today. Not only that, she opened a business from scratch and succeeded — all as a middle-aged, single woman. (Dyer still operates several successful businesses today.)

    In more extreme and unexpected cases, American women like Anne Gordon (now Anne Gordon de Barrigón) didn’t know they were searching for something or that they would be so open to reinvention. She arrived in Panama as an animal trainer in 2004, to work on a film that hired the Emberá tribe as actors. Gordon de Barrigón was so touched by the warmth of the Emberá people, she wound up staying in Panama and marrying an Emberá man. Now she shares her love of the Emberá on tours she runs in the rainforest.

    The concept of reinventing oneself is fundamentally optimistic and outward-facing, traits shared by those two women along with the other reinventing expats described below. They believe that they are in charge of their own future and could alter what otherwise would be called their destiny.

    Many of the expats had reached middle age or close to it and were re-thinking their lives, especially in light of a heightened awareness of their mortality. Going forward in the same way as before was not satisfactory to them. Instead, they were searching for a way to change their lives to create themselves anew along the lines of their own, newly more self-aware design.

    Very few of the expats wanted to completely discard their past and change everything. For most, reinvention involved only a part of their lives, while they retained the rest “as is.”

    Phil McGuigan used to be a partner in high-powered law firm in Chicago. Now, he puts some of these skills to use directing an umbrella organization of charities in Boquete, Panama that regularly brings in large containers of supplies for locals in need. McGuigan raises the money from his previous partners and well-heeled clients. He has gone from top-floor boardrooms to rural outposts with no running water, and clearly loves it.

    4 Reasons Reinventing Abroad Is Easier.

    Here are four reasons expats said it was easier for them to reinvent themselves while living abroad:

    The shock of being in unfamiliar circumstances.

    By definition, expats intentionally put themselves in unfamiliar circumstances, where they cannot act exactly as they did in their home country and get the same outcomes. I have been told that this can foste a re-evaluation and a new perspective, along with new opportunities for growth.

    Chris Frochaux is a “serial re-inventor,” at first, out of necessity, because his father was a diplomat and the family moved from country to country. As an adult, Frochaux chose a life of constant reinvention. He has lived in France, Italy, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Switzerland, the U.S., Argentina, and now Panama. About his life in Panama, Frochaux says: "I love this country. And you will too, if you choose to embrace it on its own terms instead of expecting it to conform to your country's standards.”

    2. The shock (and joy) of being around new people.

    Just as expats are in a new cultural and physical environment, they are also in a new social environment, within which they’re not bound by the grooved-in interpersonal kabuki dance they performed in the past.

    Expats have told me how liberating it was to start fresh relationships. Describing their past, they told me about the growth-inhibiting triad of behaviors being heavily influenced by: what others expected of them, others expecting them not to change and then their tending to conform to others’ expectations of not changing.

    But as expats meet new people, they are free to create relationships intentionally to help become their best, reinvented selves.

    When Greg Gunter came to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, he created new social connections, including a serious ongoing relationship with a Mexican woman and her family. Two parties held back to back made a big impression on him. The first was with mainly Mexicans, and lasted about eight hours. The next night, Gunter went to a party of mainly expats, which lasted just a few hours. When he was asked by his Mexican friends why the expat party was so short, it hit him. “In Mexico, work is always secondary to spending time with friends and family, unlike in the U.S. If I had stayed in the U.S., I probably never would have experienced a different way to interact with people, and changed my perspective because of it,” Gunter said.

    3. The lower cost of living, allowing for more free time and generates less stress.

    Expats have told me that because of lower costs, they could take the time to paint or form that rock and roll band they always wanted to; many have had the time to volunteer, which further changed their view of themselves and fostered positive change and growth.

    Mike Cobb is involved in several offshore businesses and was recently instrumental in building a health clinic to bring primary health care to rural Nicaraguans. “I wouldn’t have the time to reflect or get involved as much if it weren’t for the ‘silly inexpensive’ cost of living here,” says Cobb. “Living here, we can easily afford housekeepers, gardeners and handymen. Not only do we have more time, but our stress is less, all our relationships better and we’re able to get involved in things that matter to us on a deeper level.”

    4. Seeing and being around people who see and do things differently than you do.

    Many expats told me that being around locals in places like Mexico, Panama, Belize and Nicaragua who had materially much less than they did helped them reinvent themselves for many reasons.

    One is that this gave the expats more of an understanding for others who were not as fortunate. Another: When they saw these people seemed to be much happier than those they knew back home, it challenged their previous assumptions that more material goods make people happier. This caused them to reevaluate what made them happy (almost always to become less materialistic) and to gain new focus and dedication to that.

    Dave Drummond, now based in Belize, has been working in international real estate development and international financial services for 14 years. If he had those careers in the U.S., he says, they would keep him cloistered among higher-echelon business investors and allow precious little interaction with anyone else. Not so for him in Belize.

    Drummond related a story of watching a group of local children in Belize playing. “There were no parents, no babysitters, no one supervising; just young kids enjoying life with nary a care in the world. They were laughing, giggling, and shouting as children should while playing with nothing other than a simple ball and a stick. They didn’t have a gaming device, they didn’t have a tablet or any electronics at all. They only had what they could find and yet, they had more than they needed. They had the safety of the village, the simplicity of their game, and the freedom to enjoy having fun,” he said.

    His conclusion: “It is not what you have that makes your life enjoyable; it is being able to do what you enjoy in life that does; a simple life concept I’m fortunate to be reminded of in Belize almost every time I walk out my office door.”

    The Worst Reason for Moving Abroad.

    A common answer our expats give on our site to the question “What is the worst reason for moving abroad?” is: “To run away from something.” Moving abroad alone won’t reinvent you. You are the one who has to reinvent you.

    If you really wanted to, you could do it from your home country, in the same house you’ve lived in for decades. Moving abroad just makes it a whole lot easier… (By Chuck Bolotin).



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