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What is the Secret of Jewish Survival?

by Rabbi Dovid Dubov


Library » Jewish Identity » Who/What is a Jew? | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Jewish history is one of the oldest in the world, beginning its national history with the Revelation at Mount Sinai some 3,300 years ago. In the course of these long centuries our people has lived under extremely varied conditions, in different times and different places all over the world. 

This type of diversity alone is sufficient cause for complete assimilation. It is hard to preserve anything spread that thin. Add to this: for 2000 years the Jews did not have a Homeland. For 2000 years the Jews were expelled from just about every land they resided in. For 2000 years myriads of religions, philosophies and isms either forcefully or seductively threatened Judaism.

And yet Judaism, the Judaism of Moses and Sinai, is still alive and present today. Wherein lies the secret of our survival?

The answer will be evident from the following illustration. When a scientist seeks to ascertain the laws governing a certain phenomenon, or to discover the essential properties of a certain element in nature, he must undertake a series of experiments under the most varied conditions in order to discover those properties or laws which under all conditions are alike.

No true scientific law can be deduced from a minimum number of experiments, or from experiments under similar or only slightly varied conditions, for the results as to what is essential, what is secondary or what is unimportant would then not be conclusive.

The only link which unites our dispersed and scattered people, regardless of time, is clearly Torah and mitzvahs.
The same principle should be applied to our people. If we wish to discover the essential elements making up the cause and very basis of the existence of our people and its unique strength, we must conclude that it is not its peculiar physical or intrinsic mental characteristics, nor its tongue, manners and customs (in a wider sense), nor even its "racial purity" (for there were times in the early history of our people, as well as during the Middle Ages and even recent times, when whole ethnic groups and tribes have become proselytes and part of our people).

The only link which unites our dispersed and scattered people throughout its dispersion, regardless of time, is Torah and Mitzvahs. This aspect of Jewish life has remained basically the same throughout the ages and in every place.

Torah and Mitzvahs are our eternal identity. A Jew from any era and any area could emerge anytime, anywhere, and immediately recognize Tefillin, Shabbat Candles, a Passover Seder and a Torah scroll; even if he is ignorant of the local politics, current world events, or common language. The Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar’s council, the Maimonidies of the Sultan Saladin’s palace, the Nachmandies of King James I of Aragon’s royal court, and the Joseph Lieberman of the United States Senate, all did/do not go to work on Shabbat.

The conclusion is clear and beyond doubt: It is Torah and Mitzvahs which has made our people indestructible in the face of massacres and pogroms aimed at our physical destruction, and in the face of ideological onslaughts of foreign cultures aimed at our spiritual destruction.

It is one of the vital tasks of our time to exert all possible effort to educate the young (in years or knowledge) and imbue them with a deeper understanding of Judaism, and a fuller appreciation of timeless Jewish values, which are perpetuated through Torah-true Judaism.

Only a proper Jewish education can guarantee the existence of Judaism within each and every Jew, at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance.


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Dispersal as a survival technique

Posted by: Jamie Cheyfetz, Calgary, Alberta, Canada on Dec 14, 2004

One of the most prominent arguments for Jewish Survival that I have heard is that of Dispersal. The argument goes something like, "Because the Jews were dispersed and in many places, they were never wiped out completely." i.e. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. The only problem with this argument is that many other groups have tried exactly this but failed. They were absorbed into the other cultures. As this article spells out so eloquently, the reason Judaism was not assimilated is exactly because of the Torah and mitzvot. It is a single thread binding us all together, guiding each of the individual "pockets" of Judaism in a common direction, to a common goal.
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Black leather boxes containing small scrolls with passages of the Bible written on them. Every day, aside for Sabbath and Jewish holidays, the adult Jewish male is required to wrap the Tefillin--by means of black leather straps--around the weaker arm and atop the forehead.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
Firstborn son of Rachel and Jacob. Because he was Jacob's favorite son, his brothers conspired against him and sold him into slavery He ended up in Egypt where he became viceroy of the land, and eventually brought his entire family to Egypt. Died in 1451 BCE.
1. A Jerusalemite exiled in Babylon after the destruction of the 1st Temple. He interprets dreams, gives accounts of apocalyptic visions, and is divinely delivered from a den of lions. 2. One of the 24 Books of the Bible, which describes the events of Daniel's life.