Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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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 Mt. Sinai above us prior to  our receiving the Torah (seemingly equating a refusal to receive the Torah  with extinction). The message conveyed is that Torah and Mitzvoth are not  merely improvements to our lives. Rather, they constitute our life! Vital  needs of humans (eating and drinking) are essentially non-voluntary. The  same applies to acceptance and performance of Torah and Mitzvoth.

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.



Categorized under: 1: Machshava > General
Uploaded: 11/29/2005 12:33:59 PM