GOOD MORNING! Last week I shared with you the first two unique wonders of Jewish history -- (1) it was prophesied that the Jewish people would be an Eternal Nation and (2) it was prophesied that we would survive though dispersed amongst the nations. Here are two more Wonders of Jewish History:
3. FEW IN NUMBER
It has been prophesied in the Torah that Jews will survive as an eternal nation despite dispersion and being few in number: "God will then scatter you among the nations, and only a small number will remain among the nations where God shall lead you" (Deuteronomy 4:27).
To every other people, a small population spells extinction. We know from the records that the Romans kept about 2,000 years ago, there were between 8-10 million Jews living in the world. How many Jews do demographers say should be in the world today?
If in the same period of time, the Chinese went from a population of 30 million to over 1 billion people, there should be approximately 500 million Jews alive in the world today. After the Chinese and the Indians, the third largest ethnic group on the planet earth should be the Jews! But there are only 14 million Jews alive today.
There are virtually no more Jews in the world today than there were 2,000 years ago and yet throughout all this time, the Jews remained a distinct people.
It has been prophesied in the Torah that Jews will be persecuted: "Among those nations you shall find no respite, no rest for your foot. There God will make you cowardly, destroying your outlook and making life hopeless. You will live in constant suspense. Day and night, you will be terrified, never sure of your existence. In the morning you will say, 'If only it were night,' and in the evening you will say, 'If only it were morning!' Such will be the dread that your heart will feel and the sights that your eyes will see" (Deut. 28:65-67).
No other form of racial hatred comes close to anti-Semitism in its virulence, its intensity and its irrationality.
As Professor Michael Curtis of Rutgers University put it:
"The uniqueness of anti-Semitism lies in the fact that no other people in the world have ever been charged simultaneously with alienation from society and with cosmopolitanism, with being capitalistic exploiters and also revolutionary communist advocators. The Jews were accused of having an imperious mentality, at the same time they're a people of the book. They're accused of being militant aggressors, at the same time as being cowardly pacifists. With being a chosen people, and also having an inferior human nature. With both arrogance and timidity. With both extreme individualism and community adherence. With being guilty of the crucifixion of Jesus and at the same time held to account for the invention of Christianity." (Colloquium on anti-Semitism, 1987)
If we look at the history of anti-Semitism, we see one unceasing chain of slaughter, pogroms, pillaging, expulsion, etc. There are horrendous levels of violence that lead up to the worst thing that can be done to a hated people: Genocide. Most nations in history have not been subjected to even one genocide. But in almost every generation there's an attempted Jewish genocide somewhere in the world on a macrocosmic or microcosmic scale.
Next week we will continue with the Wonders of Jewish History -- 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
This week's portion is exciting! There are two rebellions. First, Korach, a Levite who was passed over for the leadership of his tribe, challenges Moshe over the position of High Priest. No good rebellion can be "sold" as a means for personal gain, so Korach convinces 250 men of renown that they must stand up for a matter of principle -- that each and every one of them has the right to the office of High Priest (which Moshe had announced that God had already designated his brother Aharon to serve).
Fascinatingly, all 250 followers of Korach accept Moshe's challenge to bring an offering of incense to see who God will choose to fill the one position. This meant that every man figured he would be the one out of 250 to not only be chosen, but to survive the ordeal. Moshe announces that if the earth splits and swallows up the rebels it is a sign that he (Moshe) is acting on God's authority. And thus it happened!
The next day the entire Israelite community rises in a second rebellion and complains to Moshe, "You have killed God's people!" The Almighty brings a plague which kills 14,700 people and only stops when Aharon offers an incense offering (thus demonstrating that it is not the offering of incense itself which kills (i.e., the 250 followers of Korach), but the Almighty's decision upon those who rebelled.
To settle the question once and for all, Moshe has the head of each tribe bring a staff with his name on it. The next morning only Aharon's staff had blossomed and brought forth almonds. The people were shown this sign. Aharon's staff was placed in the ark as testimony for all time.
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "You shall not act similar to Korach and his company." What lesson for life do we learn from this verse? The forbids us to maintain disputes. The Talmud discusses this in Sanhedrin 110a and it is brought in halacha, Jewish law, in the Mishnah Brurah 156:4). Here are some guidelines for enjoying life:
- We must keep a distance from disputes. Besides the inherent severity of disputes, they are the source for other transgressions: unwarranted hatred, loshon hora and richilus (gossip and talebearing), anger, insults, humiliating words, revenge, grudges, curses and chilul HaShem (acting in a manner which desecrates God's Name by having people say, "This is the way God's people behaves?"). Avoid the desire to have the last word!
- If you find yourself in the midst of a dispute, you should withdraw immediately. If you feel embarrassed to back down, just recite the words of our sages, "It is better for a person to be considered a fool throughout his entire life by man, than to be considered wicked for one moment in the eyes of God."
- One should not even take part in a feud in which one's parents are involved. Because Korach's sons refused to side with their father in his dispute against Moshe, they were saved from being punished along with their father.
- It is a very important Mitzvah to stop a feud. Do not be discouraged if you try and fail. You might yet succeed!
- After making peace, don't bring up the reasons for your actions. It will likely rekindle the quarrel.
- Train your children at a young age to avoid quarrels. They have a tendency to grow angry and fight over trivial matters. Unless parents correct this fault, it can become ingrained.
- Often disputes begin over irrelevant and insignificant matters. Ask yourself (and the other person), "Does it really make a difference?" It might be an easy way out of the disagreement.
CANDLE LIGHTING - June 22:
(or go to candlelighting.org)
Guatemala 6:12 Hong Kong 6:48 Honolulu 6:58
J'Burg 5:05 London 9:03 Los Angeles 7:50
Melbourne 4:50 Miami 7:57 Moscow 8:59
New York 8:13 Singapore 6:51
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You can't shake hands
with a clenched fist.
-- Golda Meir
Dedicated by...Mazal Tov on
the Birth of a Son!
Irwin & Laura Tauber
Dr. Howard Weissman