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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2007 / 26 Shevat, 5767

Why Study Jewish History?

By Rabbi Naphtali Hoff


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Lessons for life




“Remember the days of old; reflect upon the years of other generations. Ask your father, and he will tell you, your elders, and they will inform you.”

                       — Deuteronomy 32:7

Why study Jewish history? Simply stated, the study of Jewish history strengthens our national identity and pride, knowing that we are but a link on a mighty chain strengthened through countless centuries.

The Jewish historical record is the longest of its kind, spanning four millennia and countless settings. It has chronicled slavery and freedom, political autonomy in an established homeland and life in exile, emancipation and abject suffering. Through this narrative we analyze past events, gaining a valuable guide for the future.

In truth, the Jewish people pioneered its own unique approach to history, a theocentric model in which G-d serves as the Author, Teacher and Guide.

The Jews had two unique characteristics as ancient writers. They were the first to create consequential, substantial, and interpretive history…They knew they were a special people who had not simply evolved from an unrecorded past but had been brought into existence, for certain definite purposes, by a specific series of divine acts… No other people has ever shown, particularly at this remote time, so strong a compulsion to explore their origins… The Jews wanted to know about themselves and their destiny. They wanted to know about G-d and His intentions and wishes.

               — Paul Johnson, "A History of the Jews", p. 91 - 92, Harper and Row, 1987

The sacred historian understands that there is a Higher Cause to the events in this world, influenced by a G-d Who acts in history. It is He who ultimately influences historical outcomes. As such, in his study the sacred historian asks this most fundamental question: "In what way do the events being considered fulfill the Divine Plan?"

What are we on earth for? Is history merely a series of events whose sum is meaningless? Or is there a providential plan of which we are, however humbly, the agents? No people have ever insisted more firmly than the Jews that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny.

               — ibid, p. 2

To maintain that G-d is the Overseer and Influencer of the entire historical process is very powerful. It adds an entirely new dimension to the study of history, seeing it as a controlled progression leading to a specific destination. Our history is part of our ultimate destiny. History provides us with a roadmap in our quest for eternity, and the tools with which to uncover G-d's goals for mankind.

This powerful idea is also incredibly empowering. We know that we are involved in a pursuit, and that we play an active role in reaching our destination! However, it also demands much of us. The duty to achieve its mission lies squarely on our collective shoulders.

REVOLUTIONARY RELIGIOUS OUTLOOK
The story of the Jews is unique in the annals of history. It began with one individual's search for Truth in the confusing world of paganism. The result: a revolutionary religious outlook that would become known as 'ethical monotheism', the belief that there is only one G-d over mankind, and that His primary concern is the ethical behavior of man. "O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love loving mercy, and to walk humbly with your G-d" — Micah 6:8"

When G-d saw the tremendous spiritual longing and self-sacrifice exhibited by Abraham, He made a covenant with his devoted follower — recorded in Genesis chapter 15 — and placed him and his descendants at the very center of G-d's interaction with the world.

You are the Lord the G-d, who chose Abram, and brought him out of Ur of Chaldeans, and gave him the name of Abraham. And you found that his heart was faithful before you.

               — Nehemia 9: 7 — 8

G-d chose the Jewish People to serve as a "light unto the nations" (Isaiah 42:6 ) . With the Torah as our guide, we were entrusted with exemplifying His prescribed religious and moral code to others. He charged us to remind other nations of His active presence in this world, and of our collective need to follow His will.

In the four millennia since, the nation that grew out of Abraham's personal quest has impacted the way in which the world approaches fundamental areas such as understanding G-d, spirituality, the human condition, and Life itself.

The Jews gave us the Outside and the Inside — our outlook and our inner life. We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our best words, in fact — new, adventure, surprise; unique, individual, person, vocation; time, history, future; freedom, progress, spirit; faith, hope, justice — are the gifts of the Jews.

               — Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews, p. 240 — 241, Doubleday, 1998

Perhaps the greatest example of our astonishing influence has been the growth of monotheism throughout the world. Before the rise of Christianity nearly two thousand years ago, only the Jewish nation professed exclusive belief in one G-d. Since then, with the spread of Christianity and Islam — two religions rooted largely in Jewish thought and values — monotheism has become the dominant form of belief in the world.

The extraordinary influence of Palestine on world history has always been a paradox to historians with pragmatic bias. That such a poor little country could produce both Judaism and Christianity, and through them could exercise such otherwise unparalleled effects on the course of man's activity during the last two thousand years, seems absurd.

                             — William Foxwell Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, Great Britain, Penguin Books, 1954, p. 250

JEWISH IMMORTALITY

If statistics are right, the Jews constitute 1% of the human race. It suggests a nebulous, dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought to be hardly 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 commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk… The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded into dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat 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 and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

               — Mark Twain, "Concerning the Jews", Harper's Magazine, 1899

Thus, even while (the Jewish people) are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject or destroy them …I am the Lord their G-d; I will remember them because of the covenant I made with their ancestors whom I brought out from the land of Egypt, in the sight of the nations, so that I might be their G-d.

               — Leviticus 26:44-45

One of the most intriguing problems confronting historians is the question of Jewish survival. Every power of yesteryear has long disappeared from the historical landscape. Yet, the Jews have survived, and have often thrived. When you consider that the Jewish people have averaged to no more than a mere 1% of the entire world population, the question of our survival becomes even more perplexing.

Compounding the issue is the set of circumstances that our nation has endured. In all of human history, seldom has an entire nation been exiled out of its country. Multiple exiles are practically unheard of. No nation has ever survived exile with its national identity intact. Based on the "rules" of history the Jewish people should have been destroyed many times over or, at the very least, absorbed into other nations. How is it that we have managed to defy this trend? What is it that ensures our ability to continue on this incredible odyssey?

The answer is that our survival is in no way contingent upon our physical and numerical strength. Had it been so, we surely would have vanished from the world long ago.

Close to 350 years ago King Louis XIV of France asked the great French philosopher Blaise Pascal to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal answered, "The Jews, your Majesty, the Jews."

We are an 'Eternal Nation'. [ Isaiah 44:7] Our survival has been directly linked to our covenant with G-d, and our commitment to Him and His Torah. Such commitment is the sole guarantor of our national survival. In the words of the Talmud, "The People that is tired out by intensive Torah study will not be delivered into the hands of her oppressor."(Talmud, Sanhedrin 94b)

The Jew is the emblem of eternity. He who neither slaughter nor torture of thousands of years could destroy, he who neither fire, nor sword, nor Inquisition was able to wipe off the face of the earth. He was the first to produce the Visions of G-d. He has been for so long the Guardian of Prophecy and has transmitted it to the rest of the world. Such a nation cannot be destroyed. The Jew is as everlasting as Eternity itself.

               — Leo Tolstoy, 1908

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JWR contributor Rabbi Naphtali Hoff teaches at the Ida Crown Jewish Academy and serves as Associate Principal at Yeshivas Shearis Yisroel in Chicago.



© 2007, Rabbi Naphtali Hoff