I am a Jew. It is what I have always been, it is what I will always be, it is who I am. My Jewishness is embedded in my fiber, lodged in my cells, entrenched in my DNA. It is inextricably ingrained in my neshamah, indelibly imprinted on my psyche, ineradicably fixed in my heart.
Being Jewish runs in my veins. It is the oxygen I inhale, the nourishment I eat. It is the fire of my soul, the sweetness of my temperament, the pith of my emotions, the mainspring of my rationality.
It is not just an integral part of my constitution, it is my constitution. Every sight I see, every sound I hear, every joy I feel, everything I imbibe is with my inimitable fervor for being Jewish. Every step I take, every breath I breathe, every thought I formulate is carried out with my indomitable sense of being Jewish.
As a Jew I love Hashem with all my heart, with all my might, with all my soul, with all my strength. With ardor and humility I embrace that most fundamental tenet of Judaism – to believe in and to venerate the Almighty – and consequently I harbor a love of Hashem that is boundless and eternal and guides me in my life. With my unshakable belief, the glowing spark of Hashem within me lights my way.
As a Jew I immerse myself in the Torah and enrich myself with its wisdom. I endeavor to continuously etch into my body and soul the sacred words, laws, and commandments that help me maximize my potential as a Jew, father, husband, son, brother, friend, citizen, worker, human being.
As a Jew I strive to lead a righteous life. The tzaddik, or righteous Jew, shines a light not just on himself but on everyone he graces with his virtuous spirit. “Righteousness” embodies a litany of sublime qualities that ennoble the Jewish character: being moral, honorable, kind, fair, honest, understanding, thoughtful, loyal, generous, respectful – to name just a few.
As a Jew I champion freedom, equality, and peace. I stand with stalwarts who embrace these august ideals and join them in tearing down walls that strip innocent people of their basic human rights. Perhaps this intrepid determination to liberate the oppressed is rooted in Jews’ longstanding legacy of being deprived of their own basic rights, but it has now become axiomatic for Jews to be staunch defenders of inalienable rights and natural freedoms.
As a Jew I am compassionate and charitable. Jews veritably have empathy for and feel the pain of others. The sick, handicapped, maimed, infirm, oppressed, poor, hungry, downtrodden all tug at the heart of the Jew who spiritedly ministers to the unfortunate by providing solace, a sympathetic ear, a friendly hand, tzedakah, humanitarian aid, and myriad other forms of help.
As a Jew I remember the unbearable suffering of our Jewish forebears. I mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples at Jerusalem, the siege of Betar by the Romans, the expulsion of the Jews from England and Spain, the extermination of the six million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust. With throbs of anguish I recall our tragic history with its innumerable massacres, pogroms, genocides, calamities, persecutions. I bewail the rabid hatred of Jews through the millennia; the inhumane lack of mercy; the feral complicity of men and nations in perpetrating the most heinous crimes imaginable to purge themselves, and their worlds, of Jews.
In the fog of my sorrow, however, I summon the strength to recall how our Jewish ancestors faced their oppressors and liquidators with courage, resilience, perseverance, hope, and an inextinguishable flame for being Jewish that burned ardently within them and that made it possible for Jews everywhere to be alive and to practice as Jews today, and for the very miracle that is the reborn state of Israel.
About the Author: Harvey Rachlin, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is an award-winning author of thirteen books including “Lucy’s Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein’s Brain,” which was adapted for the long-running History Channel series “History’s Lost and Found.” He is also a lecturer at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.
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