"The Way of G-d"
Part 2: “Divine Providence”
Chapter 4: “Israel and the Other Nations”
What sets us Jews apart from other people? We'll explore that for a while
now. For while last chapter dwelt on how G-d Interfaces with us individually,
this one will focus in on how G-d interfaces with the Jewish Nation as a
When Shakespeare's most famous Jewish character, Shylock, protested
anti-Jewish discrimination by intoning, "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew
hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" ("Merchant of
Venus" Act 3, Scene 1) his point was that we Jews are just like other people
in many, many ways. And that we're not to be feared or loathed, and forever
taken as "the other". But in a certain sense, Shylock was off-the-mark.
(After all, he was uttering Shakespeare's words and thus voicing a fine and
humanistic Non-Jew's indictment against anti-Semitism, and wasn't speaking
about us in the sense we'll be dwelling upon.)
For despite all appearances -- despite the fact that most of us would be hard
pressed to pick a Jew out in a crowd with assurity (unless one was wearing
the telltale outward signs of one) -- we Jews are different. Somehow, fold
after fold, layer after layer of physical, emotional, and social likeness to
others gives way to a different breed of person.
For like every other nation, the Jewish Nation has its unique national genius
which sets us apart from the others. The point is though that our's touches
on a very special realm: the ability to draw close to G-d. We Jews can draw
close to G-d as no one else can. The fact that we might be attractive,
intelligent, gifted, and the like isn't what sets us apart. It's that
all-important potential to draw close to G-d.
Many of us -- Jew and Non-Jew -- will squirm at the idea and grow ill at
ease, since it's a decidedly unmodern one that's awash in political
incorrectness. But be that as it may, the notion isn't our own; it's stated
outright in the Torah.
We'll thus spend time exploring the implications of our distinctiveness,
including the ideas that every other nation could have wound up being "the
Jewish Nation" had things worked out differently in antiquity; that Abraham
alone deserved to be the root of the Jewish Nation, and no one else; that
other nations had been given a "second chance" later on, but didn't take
advantage of it; that other nations thus function differently on a cosmic
level; and more.
At bottom there's no reason to grow arrogant at our standing as a nation. It
has nothing to do with us, per se, and everything to do with our G-d-given
task in this world.
This series is dedicated to the memory of Yitzchak Hehrsh ben Daniel,
and Sarah Rivka bas Yaakov Dovid.
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