The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs
The Essence of A Jew
By: Rav Aryeh ben-Yaakov
Mashgiach of Yeshivat Hesder Sha'alvim
Question: Is it my fault that I was born a Jew?
Answer: This question is predicated upon the assumption that being Jewish is an external factor in the constitution of an individual. Is this indeed the case?
A human being (not necessarily a Jewish individual) does not ask himself why he is human. Rather, he endeavors to behave in accordance with his human qualities, and to reach the maximum heights that a human being can achieve.
Gentile societies accept this concept. If an individual perpetrated a ghastly crime, would a defense predicated upon the fact that the accused preferred to have been born as a wild beast ("it's not my fault that I was born as a human being"), be acceptable? Rather, he is judged in accordance with his essential identity- as a human being.
This principle applies to a Jew as well. One's Jewish character is not merely an addition to his human character. Rather, it constitutes a unique, distinct creation. The Kuzari divides all of existence into five categories - inanimate, plant life, animal life, human beings (who exercise speech) and the Jewish Nation. As the prophet Yishayahu states in the name of Hashem "This nation I have created for Myself; My praise it will pronounce" (Yishayahu, 43:21). The Jewish Nation is a special Divine creation designed to facilitate the reign of Hashem in this world. This goal is achieved exclusively via our performance of Torah and Mitzvoth.
This concept was expressed when Hashem raised
The gemara in Masechet Nidah (31a) reveals that we are produced as a result of a triple partnership-Hashem and an individuals parents. The gemara details which items stem from which partner; Hashem bequeaths the breath of life (ruach) and the soul (neshama). Thus a Jewish person is inherently a Jew; he must utilize all of his talents and energies in accordance with his unique spiritual constitution.
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