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What is the secret of Jewish ‘immortality’?

“If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of 1% of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.

by Benny Leon

His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvellous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendour, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished.

The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? Mark Twain on September 1897 (quoted in The National Jewish Post & Observer, June 6 1984) said:

“The very survival of the Jewish people through recorded time is nothing short of miraculous. The very fact that Jews exist as a nation today stands in testimony to the existence of God who acts in history. By any historical measure, the Jewish people should have disappeared long ago.

“Over 300 years ago King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great French philosopher, to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal answered: “Why, the Jews, your Majesty — the Jews.”

An astonishing answer. The best proof of the supernatural that Pascal could think of was: “The Jews.”

We don’t have to speculate what Pascal meant when he gave this answer, because he took the trouble to spell it out.
(See Pensees, paragraph 620, page 285.) Pascal said that the fact that the Jewish people survived until the 17th century — to the time period when he was living — was nothing short of a supernatural phenomenon.

There simply was no logical explanation for it.

As we have seen from this series, Jewish history simply doesn’t comply with the rest of history; it does not make sense.

Many scholars, historians and writers have noticed this and remarked about it.

Keeping the faith

There is another reason why the Jewish people survived as a nation through all this time and through all the persecutions that we have barely touched on in this series — they have clung to their religion.

“More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.”

One of the most important lessons of Jewish history is that the more the Jews have been connected to Judaism — in lifestyle, in education, etc. — the more likely that their children and grandchildren would have remained Jewish instead of assimilating into oblivion.

Today there are approximately 12 to 13 million Jews in the world, where there should be 500 million. The reasons are persecution and assimilation.

The greatest strength of the Jewish people is also their greatest weakness.

Jews are a “stiff-necked” people. They have stubbornly clung to their beliefs and as a result, outlasted all of the ancient empires of history while changing the way the entire world looks at morality and the concept of God. Jewish ideas of one God, of a loving God, of a universal vision for humanity — have been at odds with the philosophies of all these empires, and to hold up that vision has required an unbelievable strength of character.
And yet, what is the greatest weakness of the Jewish people? Their stubborn individuality makes them unbendable. Every Jew thinks he/she is right. The hardest job on earth must be to unify and lead the Jewish people.

The mission

Jewish history is like a 6 000-piece puzzle. At the beginning you dump the pieces on the table and it makes no sense. But as we assemble piece after piece, a picture emerges. A picture that records the action of God in history. And there’s no chance or randomness here. Everything happens for a reason.

By Jewish reckoning, we have assembled almost all of these pieces and have only a few hundred left to go. History is moving toward a conclusion, its final destination.

That final destination was described by Prophet Isaiah in these words:

“In the days to come, The Mount of the Lord’s House shall stand Firm above the mountains; And it shall tower above the hills. And all the nations shall gaze on it with joy, And the many peoples shall go and shall say: ‘Come, Let us go up to the Mount of the Lord, To the House of the God of Jacob; That He may instruct us in His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.’ For instruction shall come forth from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Thus He will judge among the many people. And arbitrate for the multitude of nations. And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares And their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not take up sword against nation; They shall never again know war.” (Isaiah 2:2-4; see also Micah 4:1-4)

Benny Leon is a member of the Jewish Community in Zimbabwe.

Feedback: vleon@ mango.co.zw

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