Few in Number: Demographics & Survival Response on Ask the Rabbi
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Few in Number

I'm doing research on Jewish history and I came across an amazing statistic: when the Common Era began, Jews comprised 10 percent of the Roman Empire. Yet somehow the number of Jews today has failed to keep pace with the expected population growth over a period of 2,000 years. What happened?!

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Let's start from the beginning of Jewish nationhood. It is estimated that 3 million Jews left Egypt at the biblical Exodus (based on 600,000 male Jews between ages 20-60). To get a sense of perspective, 3,000 years ago the number of the Chinese in the world was roughly the same as the number of Jews. Simple demographics tell us that the Jewish people today should number in the hundred of millions.

The reason why our numbers have not grown substantially is due to thousands of years of persecution, servitude, pogroms, expulsions, Crusades, forced conversions, the Holocaust, etc.

Also, the phenomenon of assimilation has sapped Jewish numbers – as we see today in America and elsewhere with over 50% intermarriage.

Amazingly, the Bible predicts this as a historical reality: Deuteronomy 4:27 and 28:62 declares: "You shall remain few in number among the nations where God shall lead you."

How have other nations, China or India, for example, managed to stick around for so long? There have definitely been historic conquests of these civilizations. Why didn't they disappear?

Their sheer numbers! There are so many of them that when the conqueror comes in, the conqueror gets swallowed up! There are just too many of them to simply fade into extinction.

But the Jews keep diminishing and diminishing, yet we're still hanging in there, bouncing along at the bottom of the graph.

Despite the fact that our tiny size would almost guarantee extinction, the Torah predicts that the Jews will be an eternal nation.

The Torah tells us, "Zechor yemot olam." Keep your eyes on history. And when you do, you begin to perceive that something or someone is pulling the strings. It doesn't matter if the world hates you, persecutes you, scatters you throughout the globe... somehow you're going to remain with your identity intact, even if you're the tiniest nation in existence.

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