Kiddush Hashem: The Jewish Task

18 November 2019 | The way of Judaism is particular, but the concern of Judaism is universal Avraham was promised that ‘Through you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ Yeshayahu said that we are called on to be G-d’s ‘witnesses’. Our message is not for ourselves alone.

How so? We do not seek to convert others. We believe that the righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come. But we do seek to be living examples, reflections of G-d’s light, an inspiration to others to find their own way to G-d. That, we believe, is the only way of honoring the fact, after Bavel, of a world of many cultures and civilizations. G-d is one; we are many, and we must learn to live together in peace. That is why we do not seek to impose our faith on others. Truth is communicated by influence not power, by example not by force or fear.

Others have understood this about us. Winston Churchill, for example, said that the West owes to the Jews ‘a system of ethics which, even it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other learning and wisdom put together.’

At a time when we have witnessed the resurgence of antisemitism, the world’s oldest hatred, it is important to know that yes, we have enemies, but we also have friends. We have critics, but there are those who, without seeking to become Jewish, have drawn inspiration from Jewish life. We owe it to them, not just to ourselves, to be faithful to our task: to be G-d’s ambassadors on earth.

Future Tense, pp. 135-136

[Our] destiny was to create a society that would honor the proposition that we are all created in the image and likeness of G-d. It would be a place in which the freedom of some would not lead to the enslavement of others.. Judaism is the code of a self-governing society. We tend to forget this, since Jews have lived in dispersion for two thousand years, without the sovereign power to govern themselves, and because modern Israel is a secular state. Judaism is a religion of redemption rather salvation. It is about the shared spaces of our collective lives, not an interior drama of the soul.. because Judaism is also the code of a society, it is also about the social virtues: righteousness (tzedek/tzedakah), justice (mishpat), loving-kindness (cheesed), and compassion (rachamim). These structure the template of biblical law, which covers all aspects of the life of society, its economy, its welfare systems, its education, family life, employer-employee relations, the protection of the environment, and so on.. None of this was possible without a land..

Judaism is the constitution of a self-governing nation, the architectonics of a society dedicated to the service of G-d in freedom and dignity. Without a land and state, Judaism is a shadow of itself. In exile, G-d might still live in the hearts of Jews but not in the public square, in the justice of the courts, the morality of the economy, and the humanitarianism of everyday life. Jews have lived in almost every country under the sun. In four thousand years, only in Israel have they been a free, self-governing people. Only in Israel are they able, if they so choose, to construct an agriculture, a medical system, an economic infrastructure in the spirit of the Torah and its concern for freedom, justice and the sanctity of life. Only in Israel can Jews today speak the Hebrew of the Bible as the language of everyday speech. Only there can they live Jewish time within a calendar structured according to the rhythms of the Jewish year. Only in Israel can Jews live Judaism in anything other than an edited edition. In Israel, and only there, Jews can walk where the prophets walked, climb the mountains Avraham climbed, lift their eyes to the hills that David saw, and continue the story their ancestors began.

Rousseau: An Astonishing Phenomenon (The manuscript is to be found in the public library at Neuchatel, Cahiers de brouillons, notes et extraits, no. 7843)

 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was one of the most influential political thinkers in modern times: his book, “The Social Contract,” helped inspire the French Revolution. After his death, the following note was discovered among his unpublished papers.

But an astonishing and truly unique spectacle is to see an expatriated people, who have had neither place nor land for nearly two thousand years, a people mingled with foreigners, no longer perhaps having a single descendant of the early races, a scattered people, dispersed over the world, enslaved, persecuted, scorned by all nations, nonetheless preserving its characteristics, its laws, its customs, its patriotic love of the early social union, when all ties with it seem broken. The Jews provide us with an astonishing spectacle: the laws of Numa, Lycurgus, Solon are dead; the very much older laws of Moses are still a live. Athens, Sparta, Rome have perished and longer have children left on earth; Zion, destroyed, and has not lost its children.

They mingle with all the nations and never merge with them; they no longer have leaders, and are still a nation; they no longer have a homeland, and are always citizens of it.. Any man whosoever he is, must acknowledge this as a unique marvel, the causes of which Divine or human, certainly deserve the study and admiration of the sages, in preference to all that Greece and Rome offer of what is admirable in the way of political institutions and human settlements.

Mark Twain: All Things Are Mortal But The Jew (Mark Twain, Concerning the Jews, Harper’s Magazine, June 1899)

Mark Twain was the pen name of American novelist Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1836-1910). The following famous passage is taken from a magazine article he wrote in 1899 in answer to a request to clarify his views about the Jews.

If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way.

Properly the Jew out hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is a prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of the proportion to the smallness of his bulk.

His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind.

All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

Rabbi SacksTen Paths to G-d

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