Are you afraid to be different?
If yes, why so?
Are the Jewish people different to all other people? Should we try to blend in a little more? If we do so, will the nations of the world respect us more for it?
This timeless dilemma has evoked intense debate as to the role of the Jewish people in society. Is it our purpose to fully integrate into our respective local communities. To what extent should we lose our unique identities.
Should we be a “nation like all other nations”. Or should we stand apart, separate ourselves from the society in which we live.
In this week’s Torah portion we can gain a profound insight into this dilemma. It is offered by Bilaam, who although was no friend of the Jews, was compelled through prophetic wisdom to pronounce the following phrase. “There is a people that dwells apart, Not reckoned among the nations”. (Numbers 23:9).
This phrase captures the essence of the relationship between the Jewish people and it’s role in history. Our strength as a people lies in our ability to be unique. This is our role and purpose in creation. To illuminate the world by being a beacon of light. This is especially true in a world lacking a sense of direction and purpose.
Each and every human being was created in the image of G-d. Yet at the same time every individual was empowered with unique strengths in order for them to fulfill their particular purpose.
The Jewish people as described by Bilaam in the same verse are “rock-like”, precisely because they recognise this truth. We as Jews will thrive and be respected by the nations of the world only when we embrace our true identity and purpose.
To be Jewish means:
Knowing and embracing who you are as an individual and as a people.
Becoming aware of and playing to your strengths.
Be a light onto the nations by adding value to the world around us.
Not being afraid of what other people think.