Sunday, June 2, 2013

7 Wonders of Jewish History

7 Wonders of Jewish History

Over 300 years ago, King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great Christian philosopher, to give him proof of God.
Pascal answered, “Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!”
The fact that the Jewish nation — such a tiny group of people — survived two thousand years of exile and persecution was nothing short of a supernatural phenomenon. We can find sources in the Torah that explain why -
1. The Jewish people are an eternal nation.
“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your descendants after you, throughout the generations. An eternal covenant to be your God, and the God of your descendants after you” (Genesis 17-7).
2. Exile and dispersion.
“And you, I will scatter among the nations” (Leviticus 26:33).
Multiple exiles are unheard of, since after the first one the people generally disappear — they simply become assimilated among other peoples. Jews have wandered and settled in almost every land on earth -while somehow managing to maintain their distinct national identity.
3. Few in Number.
“God will then scatter you among the nations, and only a small number will remain among the nations where God shall lead you” (Deuteronomy 4:27).
To every other people, a small population that is dispersed amongst other nations spells extinction. We know from the records that the Romans kept about 2,000 years ago, there were between 8-10 million Jews living in the world. How many Jews do demographers say are in the world today? Approximately 14 million.
Has any other nation remained so small in number for such a long period ?
4. Antisemitism.
“Among those nations you shall find no respite, no rest for your foot. There God will make you cowardly, destroying your outlook and making life hopeless. You will live in constant suspense. Day and night, you will be terrified, never sure of your existence. In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were night,’ and in the evening you will say, ‘If only it were morning!’ Such will be the dread that your heart will feel and the sights that your eyes will see” (Deut. 28:65-67).
‘But as my research into Jewish history progressed, I was surprised, depressed, and to some extent overwhelmed by the perpetual and irrational violence which pursued the Jews in every country and to almost every corner of the globe. If, therefore, persecution, expulsion, torture, humiliation, and mass murder haunt these pages, it is because they also haunt the Jewish story’.
- Martin Gilbert, “Jewish History Atlas” Oxford 1985
5. Light to the nations.
“…. you shall be My special treasure among all the nations ……… and you will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to Me…” (Exodus 19:5-6)
Despite our small numbers, the Jewish People seem to occupy a disproportionate place as a focus of world attention.
As Mark Twain wrote of the Jew:
“He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning, are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.”
6. The interdependency of the Jewish People and the land of Israel.
It has been prophesied in the Torah that the land of Israel will be rich and fertile when the Jewish nation is living in it:
“I have come down to rescue them from Egypt’s power. I will bring them out of that land, to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…”
(Exodus 3:8)
And when the Jews were exiled, it would become barren and desolate:
“So devastated will I leave the land that your enemies who live there will be astonished… Your land will remain desolate, and your cities in ruins.”
(Leviticus 26:32-33)
During the two thousand years of Israel’s exile from its Land, numerous empires have conquered the Land and countless wars were fought for its possession. And yet, astonishingly, no conqueror ever succeeded in permanently settling the Land or causing the deserts to blossom.
Mark Twain, who visited Israel in 1867, describes the Land of Israel:
“We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given wholly to weeds – A silent, mournful expanse… A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action . The further we went the hotter the sun got and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became.”
(“The Innocents Abroad” Vol. II)
7. The return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
It has been prophesied in the Torah that Jews would be exiled from the land and that they would return to the land:
“The Almighty will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you; and He will return and gather you from among all of the nations where he has dispersed you. If your dispersed ones will be even at the ends of the heavens, from there God Almighty will gather you and from there He will take you. And God your Lord will bring you to the land that your fathers inherited and you shall inherit it and He will do good for you and make you more numerous than your forefathers”. (Deuteronomy 30:1-5)
No other people has ever gone into exile and survived for thousands of years to come back to re-establish a national homeland. The return of the Jews from exile to the land of Israel was nothing short of a miracle.
However, not only was the physical return of the Jewish people prophesied, the re-blossoming of the land was as well.
‘As for you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for their return is close at hand. ….. I shall cause you to be inhabited as in your former times and I will make you even more bountiful than you were in your beginnings. You shall know that I am G-d’.
(Ezekiel 36:8-11).
The definition of a ‘nation’ is a group of people with a common land and a common language.
For 2000 years of Jewish history the Jewish nation didn’t have a common language or a common land, but nevertheless remained a nation despite antisemitism in almost every generation, dispersion and being small in number.
Against all odds the Jewish nation survived 2000 years of exile and (for the past generation) once again has a national homeland with a common language and the Land of Israel is once again flourishing.
Coincidence? Good luck? A roll of the dice? Perhaps — except that each and every phenomena was prophesied and predicted in the Torah 2000 years before the events. Who could possibly have written such things other than the creator of the universe ?
When we understand the value and importance of being Jewish then we will also understand why our grandparents and previous generations went through such pains (and many even gave their lives) to hold onto their Jewish identity.
The text summary above was taken from a lecture that was given by Rabbi Motty Berger of Aish HaTorah.

About Rabbi Motty Berger

Rabbi Motty Berger is a graduate of Loyola University and received his rabbinical ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore. Prior to moving to Israel he worked in anti-missionary activity and was the founder of Jews For Judaism. A world-renowned speaker, he is currently Senior Lecturer at Aish’s Discovery, Essentials, Fellowships Programs and the Executive Learning Center.

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