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The Undivided Past

In the West, most Jews that non-Jews encounter are not particularly committed to being Jewish.
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Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90

As we start to read Genesis again, I am always amazed by the commentator Rashi’s famous question, a thousand years ago. Why did the Bible start with Genesis with its stories, instead of Exodus with its laws? Cannadine would say because any nation needs its myths and its epics. But Rashi says it’s because other people will always be telling us we have no right to the land. That’s why the Bible starts off with God creating the world, to let us know that there are greater forces than mankind that decide how things are going to be.

There’s a good series you can find on YouTube, Simon Schama on the history of the Jews. Now he’s Jewish in his fashion, but hardly a poster boy for Jewish continuity; yet he concludes that it is the Torah that has kept us going. And the Torah is the origin of our peoplehood and the connection with our land.

Way back we took on a mission to mankind in general and to a geographical location specifically. We have always had our delegitimizers. But no matter what others may say, enough Jews have the strength to defy the odds, to stand up and to fight for what is as much historically theirs for far longer than anyone else’s.

So here we go again, another year, another cycle, more threats, more hatred, and yet we are not only still around but, if anything, demographically and ideologically getting stronger despite laughable statistics, telephone surveys and prophets of doom. We are and have been a nation longer than anyone else. Although that has not always guaranteed victory, it has ensured survival.

About the Author: Jeremy Rosen is an Orthodox rabbi, author, and lecturer, and the congregational rabbi of the Persian Jewish Center of New York. He is best known for advocating an approach to Jewish life that is open to the benefits of modernity and tolerant of individual variations while remaining committed to halacha (Jewish law). His articles and weekly column appear in publications in several countries, including the Jewish Telegraph and the London Jewish News, and he often comments on religious issues on the BBC.


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