CLERGY CORNER: What is a Jew?

Posted on 01 November 2018 by LeslieM

One of the greatest writers of all times, Leo Tolstoy, wrote:

What is a Jew? Let us see what kind of peculiar creature the Jew is, which all the rulers and all the nations have separately abused and molested, oppressed and persecuted, trampled and butchered, burned and hanged – and in spite of all this yet alive.

What is a Jew who has never allowed himself to be led astray by all the earthy possessions which his oppressors and persecutors constantly offered in order that he should change his faith and forsake his own Jewish religion?

The Jew is that sacred being who has brought down from Heaven the everlasting fire and has illumined with it the entire world. He is the religious source, spring and fountain of which all the rest of the peoples have drawn their beliefs and their religions.

The Jew is the pioneer of liberty. Even in those olden days, when the people where divided into but two distinct classes, slaves and masters – even so long ago had a law of Moses prohibited the practice of keeping a person in bondage for more than six years.

This Jew is the pioneer of civilization. Ignorance was condemned in olden Palestine even more than it is today in civilized Europe.

The Jew is the emblem of civil and religious toleration. ‘Love the stranger and the sojourner.’ Moses commands, ‘Because you have been strangers in the land of Egypt.’ And this was said in those remote and savage times when the principal ambition of the races and nations consisted in crushing and enslaving one another.

The Jew is the emblem of eternity. He whom neither slaughter or torture of thousands of years could destroy, he whom neither fire nor sword nor inquisition was able to wipe off the face of the Earth.

He who was the first to produce the oracles of G-d. He who has been for so long the guardian of prophecy, and who transmitted it to the rest of the world – such a Nation cannot be destroyed.

The Jew is as everlasting as is eternity itself.”

Agents of love and hope

This is what hundreds of generations of Jews believed and lived. It is what they taught their children, it is what every Jewish mother shared with her child through lullabies and conversation. This is what our grandmothers, over thousands of years, taught us:

At Sinai, we were given a torch to illuminate the world with love, goodness, kindness, holiness and give history the dignity of purpose.

At Sinai, we were provided with the strongest argument for peace between people: that we were all created by the same G-d, and we all reflect G-d. Without this belief, is there anything that really unites us all?

At Sinai, we were entrusted with the Torah, a blueprint, a manual to heal the world, to reveal the innate organic oneness in every human being, as well as in all of humanity and the entire universe, and bring the world, step by step, to a state of redemption, to the coming of Moshiach.

At Sinai, we were summoned to pierce the veneer of materialism which eclipses the inner soul of every person and the inner soul of the world. The entire Torah and each mitzvah teaches us how to access our inner soul, our inner G-dliness, and the inner G-dliness of the universe. Our responsibility is to blast this truth to the world, with the way we live, the way we interact with people, the way we treat our children and our neighbors, until the entire world will bespeak the truth that “G-d is One and His name is One.”

At Sinai, we were given the opportunity to experience intimacy with our Creator, with the source of all life. With the study of Torah, we kiss G-d. With the action of a mitzvah, we embrace G-d.

And when Jewish children got this message, they naturally proclaimed:

How fortunate we are! How Good is our portion; how sweet is our lot; how splendid is our inheritance!”

This article is in Memory of the 11 souls ripped from this world by an act of Anti-Semitism.

May their Memory be an everlasting Lesson to us all That we all need to illuminate this world with love, goodness and kindness!

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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