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Thursday, November 24, 2011

What has preserved Israel and the Jewish people?

This is a bit off the normal fare for this blog, but I think a lot of you will find it interesting.

The Jewish people has survived for thousands of years, including nearly two thousand since the destruction of the Second Temple. How have the Jewish people survived as a people when every other ancient people has disappeared? Good question, no?

Paul Eidelberg argues that God preserves Israel.
So what preserves Israel if not her military and political leaders? God, of course.

You don't have to be religious to draw this conclusion, because no secular explanation makes any sense given the location of this minuscule and dysfunctional state in a hostile Arab sea. In fact, God has given Israel the Best Enemies! After all, Israel secular leaders are tripping over each other trying to make peace with Arabs who can't even make peace with themselves—and this has preserved what is left of Eretz Israel!

Consider Israel's intelligent and mellifluous Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. He has gone so far as to endorse the creation of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria, Israel's heartland. All he wants is the impossible, that Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian authority, recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Abbas refuses.

But for this we must thank God, for if you look at what the Torah tells us about Ishmael and his descendants, of course they won't recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Netanyahu might as well ask Abbas to renounce the Quran! But do you know that the Quran, with its racist maledictions about infidels, is helping to preserve Israel as a Jewish state?

Of course, the Quran is only a negative reason for Israel's preservation. There are two positive factors working to sustain Israel—and for this we must also credit Israeli governments, notwithstanding their secular intentions.

One factor is the burgeoning number of Israel's yeshivas—unprecedented in Jewish history. These Jewish academies of learning are sanctifying the Name of God, and God is rewarding Israel by making it fruitful. While Muslims exalt death and want to destroy Israel, Israel exalts life and has become the greatest source of life-preserving discoveries in medical science and life-giving water technology.

The second positive factor that preserves Israel is that it is the most charitable nation on earth. Look how Israel has absorbed millions of refugees—and not all are Jewish! Consider its charitable organizations. Do you know that Israel has a group of people that is on call 24/7 to go to any place in the world that has suffered some catastrophe such as an earthquake or a flood? Israel set up clinics in earthquake shattered Haiti and even sent help even to unfriendly Turkey when that Islamist regime was recently struck by an earthquake.

So, what preserves Israel is its charity and sanctifying God's Name. This is why countless righteous Gentiles love Israel and rally to her support. They love Israel because Israel loves God and helps God's children, be they Jew or Gentile.

And by the way: the only way to bring peace to the Middle East is for Israel to become a light unto the nations.
Okay, I agree with all that. But how did we survive in the diaspora for all those years when most of us were there? And by what merit does God continue to Preserve us? We don't really know for sure why God does what He does, but this seems like a good guess even if it comes from (would you believe) academia.
Anthropologist Melvin Konner of Emory University, Atlanta, attributes the Jewish people's survival to their devotion to some of the mitzvot of the Torah, which he says were specifically suited to guarantee the continued existence of the children of Abraham.

According to Prof. Konner, circumcision and practicing family purity (Niddah) are mitzvot which allowed and encouraged the birth of a greater number of offspring, contributing to the people's continued existence.

He adds that the model of prolific mothers matches Darwin's Natural Selection theory, according to which many offspring improve the chances of survival. In other words, "be fruitful and multiply" is a winning formula.

Konner presented his theory last week at the conference on "Judaism in Evolutionary Perspective" at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

"The existence of the Jewish people throughout history, in light of the exiles and persecution, is a real challenge," says Konner. "Religious people see this as divine intervention.

"There is no doubt that their commitment to religious texts helped, but if we look at certain Jewish traditions, we can definitely examine their influence on the reproductive system."


Konner was born into an Orthodox family, but according to Israeli terms he is a former religious today. And yet, he view Torah and mitzvot as an essential asset for Jewish existence.

"I don't think we would have survived as a people without the Torah," he says. "Even though every generation has people like me, who draw away from observing the Torah's mitzvot, it remains the core of the Jewish people.

"Like most Israelis, I don't approve of religious extremism either and view it as a potential threat, but like Ben-Gurion realized – the Jewish people need religious people.

"In Israel today you can be completely secular without affecting your Jewish identity. In the Diaspora there is no such thing. In recent generations, secular Judaism has been a way out of Judaism. But three things have allowed the existence of the Jewish people in the past, and in the future: The people, Torah and God."
Read the whole thing.

I think he's got Ben Gurion wrong.

I heard from one of my rabbis that someone asked Ben Gurion why he permitted the Haredim to establish religious schools during the State's founding years. His response was "in another generation, they won't need them anyway, so let them have them for now.

Ben Gurion was dead wrong about that. Thank God.

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At 9:35 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Which explains why Haaretz is concerned about Israel getting more Jewish and more religious.

For those who think the Torah is a dusty book, Rabbi Chaim Miller's new lifestyle Torah might lead them to take another look at why its still relevant for us today. Its an interesting new project from Kol Menachem, a publishing house associated with the Chabad Lubavitch movement.


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