“The flight into Egypt.” Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus are dwarfed by the mountainous landscape and by the imposing walled city of Bethlehem, at right, in this painting by the British artist John Martin (1789–1854).

In the story of the flight into Egypt and the subsequent slaughter of the innocents, author Neusner believes Jews and Christians can begin to understand the other’s faith. Matthew describes Mary going into exile and weeping for the murdered children just as Rachel before her was said by the prophet Jeremiah to weep for her offspring killed or exiled by the Babylonians.

Though the Christian understanding of Jesus’ driving of the money changers from the Temple and his institution of the Eucharist (the partaking of bread and wine) as a means of atonement cannot be shared by a believing Jew, the role played by Mary—a woman whose prayers carry a special weight with God—can readily be likened to the role played by Rachel in Jewish tradition.