GOOD MORNING! Over 300 years ago, King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great Christian philosopher, to give him proof of God. Pascal answered, "Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!"
That the Jewish nation -- such a tiny group of people -- survived two thousand years of exile and persecution was nothing short of a supernatural phenomenon. Pascal wasn't the only one who was so amazed by the survival of the Jewish people. Other thinkers, philosophers and historians have noticed something unusual about the Jews.
Mark Twain, an agnostic and self-acknowledged skeptic, penned this in 1899 in Harper's Magazine:
"The Egyptian, Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away. The Greek and Roman followed, 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?"
Why were Pascal, Mark Twain and many others so amazed by the survival of the Jews against all odds? In answer, for the next three weeks I present to you the Seven Unique Wonders of Jewish History:
1. ETERNAL NATION
It has been prophesied in the Torah that Jews would be an eternal nation: "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your descendants after you, throughout the generations. An eternal covenant to be your God, and the God of your descendants after you" (Genesis 17-7).
This promise is repeated many times throughout the Torah (Leviticus 26:43, Deuteronomy 4:26-27, Deut. 28:63-64). And it has come true. Even though Jews did not have a homeland, a common language or a shared history (the factors that historians use to define a nation), they have remained a distinct people.
2. EXILE & DISPERSION
It has been prophesied in the Torah that Jews would be exiled and dispersed: "And you, I will scatter among the nations, at the point of My drawn sword, leaving your country desolate and your cities in ruins" (Leviticus 26:33).
Jews have remained a people despite exile and dispersion. In all of human history, there have been less than ten exiles of an entire people out of their country. It's a highly unusual phenomenon to take a whole people and throw them out of their country.
Multiple exiles are unheard of, since after the first one the people generally disappear -- they simply become assimilated among other peoples. In human history, multiple exiles and dispersion are unique only to the Jewish people.
The dispersion of the Jewish People to the four corners of the globe is a completely unique phenomenon in human history. Jews have wandered and settled in almost every land on earth -while somehow managing to maintain their distinct national identity.
Next week we will continue with the Wonders of Jewish History -- that we will survive while being few in number, that we will be persecuted, that we will be a Light Unto the Nations, that the land of Israel will be barren except when the Jewish people are there and that we will return to the land of Israel.
Portion of the Week
The Jewish people had received the Torah on Mt. Sinai and were ready to enter the land of Israel. There was a consensus of opinion amongst the people that we should send spies to see if it was feasible to conquer the land. Moshe knew that the Almighty's promise to give the land included a guarantee to conquer it. However, one of the principles of life which we learn from this portion is: the Almighty allows each of us the free will to go in the direction he chooses. Even though one man and the Almighty is a majority, Moshe by Divine decree, sent out the princes of the tribes (men of the highest caliber) to spy out the land.
Twelve spies were sent. Ten came back with a report of strong fortifications and giants; they rallied the people against going up to the Land. Joshua ben Nun and Calev ben Yefunah (Moshe's brother-in-law) tried to stem the rebellion, but did not succeed. The Almighty decreed 40 years of wandering in the desert, one year for each day they spied in the land of Israel. This happened on the 9th of Av, a date noted throughout Jewish history for tragedy -- the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain amongst them.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "And Calev stilled the people towards Moshe and said, 'We should certainly go up and possess the land for we are well able to take it" (Numbers 13:30). Rashi, the great commentator, cites the Midrash Tanchuma that before the above statement, Calev cried out, "Is it this the only thing that the son of Amram (Moshe) has done to us?" The one who heard this was under the impression that Calev was about to speak in disparagement of Moshe; since they had hard feelings towards Moshe because of the words of the spies (that we can't conquer the land of Israel), they all became silent eagerly waiting to hear his words against Moshe. Why did Calev cry out in seeming condemnation of Moshe and what can we learn from his strategy?
By appearing to agree with the mass outpouring of anger, Calev was able to silence the crowd. Very often when a listener is not open to the ideas of the speaker, the speaker will attack the listener's point of view. This creates more hostility and then the listener does not pay any attention to what the speaker has to say.
When you speak with people, start in a positive and agreeable manner. (Calev did not say anything that was not true. They thought he was going to speak negatively, but he spoke positively.) Then, when they are open to what you have to say, you can tell them how you disagree with them. If you start by attacking them, they will frequently not give you a hearing at all. Be aware of your goal which is to have a positive influence on others and use this strategy to reach that goal.
CANDLE LIGHTING - June 15:
(or go to candlelighting.org)
Guatemala 6:14 Hong Kong 6:50 Honolulu 6:56
J'Burg 5:04 London 9:01 Los Angeles 7:48
Melbourne 4:49 Miami 7:55 Moscow 8:57
New York 8:11 Singapore 6:53
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Love's 3 A's:
Approved, Accepted, Appreciated
-- Bart Ostroff
Dedicated by...Happy 85th Birthday
Frieda Makovsky Englard
Evan and Family