A Godly Minority
In this week’s parsha, the Torah presents the ultimate challenge to any
minority group living in a society where the majority culture, mores and
lifestyle differ radically from those of that particular minority group.
Human nature abhors outsiders, aliens, those who are obviously different.
And therefore within all of us lies a deep seated drive to conform, to
belong, to become part of the perceived whole and not to remain so isolated
The Torah phrases it succinctly; “How is it that the many nations of the
world all worship pagan gods?” Is everybody wrong and only I am correct? Can
fifty million Frenchmen be wrong? And therefore “I will also do so,” I will
join the crowd and bow down before gods of wood and stone handcrafted by
In spite of the absurdity of this logic, it truly reflects human nature. The
Talmud teaches us that a great scholar once saw Menashe, the king of Judah,
the son of the righteous king Chizkiyah, in a dream. Menashe, at the
beginning of his long fifty-five year reign as king, installed paganism as
the state religion of Judah.
He later repented but the damage was already done. The scholar asked Menashe
how he could have, even for a moment, fallen victim to paganism as a serious
belief. Menashe answered him that had the scholar lived in his time and
social environment he would have “lifted the hem of the robe he wore to run
faster to worship that idol!” Menashe and his society were influenced by the
majority culture against all realistic evidence and Divine fiat to the contrary.
Jewish history, over the last three centuries especially, is littered with
the debris of majority cultures that have bankrupted and proven to be
disastrous. From being “Germans of the Mosaic persuasion” to Marxists of the
first order, disastrous results have emanated from Jews following majority
Today’s majority culture of not only tolerating but encouraging sexual
hedonism, the pursuit of wealth and gain at any cost, phony universalism and
distorted concepts of intellectual and academic rights, is slowly leading to
disaster for many unsuspecting Jews. Part of the problem lies in the fact
that most Jews, unaware and ignorant of any Jewish history or tradition,
simply cannot recognize the trap that they are falling into.
They “pick up the hem of their robes” to run faster to worship the currently
fashionable gods of the majority culture. Their attitude is a danger to the
very survival of the Jewish people. And yet, blissfully, no one is allowed
to speak against these current majority norms lest one be branded as an
obstructionist and old-fashioned.
In this week’s parsha, the Torah’s warning against blindly following
majority cultures certainly should resonate in our current “Jewish
democratic” world. We should be careful to choose wisely, listen to our
tradition and history and be content to be a Godly minority, unwavering in
our principles, ideals and Jewish way of life.
Rabbi Berel Wein