Why Are the Jewish People So Misunderstood?
Why are the Jewish people so misunderstood? Why have we had such a difficult time explaining even the simple things to non-Jewish people?
Nowhere is this more apparent than in our right to own land in which to live.
There are 193 countries in the world, and each one has its own unique culture, language, history, and geography. Yet, the Jewish people, who certainly meet this criteria, continue to be vehemently challenged to have a land they can call their own!
We can gain a profound insight into this enigma by delving into the first verse of this week’s Torah reading. It reads “And G-d said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you”.
G-d is speaking to the Jew for the first time. The verse seems straightforward enough. As you can imagine, there are an infinite number of interpretations. Perhaps we can discover in these words the embryonic seed, which contains the entire story of our people, including the secret to our survival.
First, a few obvious questions.
1. G-d tells Abraham to take a journey “to the land that I will show you”. Yet he does not
reveal to him its name?
2. The verse begins with the words “Lech Lecha”, which literally means “go to you”. If the mission is to go “to the land”, what is meant with the words “go to you”?
As always, it is these questions that lead us to discover profound insight into the greatest mystery of the Jewish people. In these cryptic opening words, we are instructed on how to reconcile the glaring dichotomy of the Jewish people.
On the one hand, we are the 'eternal people', yet at the same time, we are the most persecuted. More people have attempted to destroy us than any other nation.
We became a nation at Mount Sinai before we had a land. We have lived for more time as exiles in the diaspora than we have in the land of Israel. Yet, at the same time, the story of the Jewish people during Biblical times and thereafter has the land of Israel as the focus of our dreams and aspirations.
We are both spiritual centric. We pray, we study, we are preoccupied with discovering meaning and purpose in our lives. Yet at the same time, we are mundane. We are engaged with the physical world, constantly trying to improve its state, through technological and scientific innovations, in all fields.
Are we spiritual beings with our heads in the heavens? Or are we physical creatures focused on material comforts?
Are we like all other nations? Or is there something about us which makes us enigmatic?
The answer to this timeless dichotomy lies in the last phrase of the verse, “To the land that I will show you”.
The simple meaning is that the words “I will show you”, refer to the land, i.e. I will show you (the land).
The deeper meaning however is that the words “ I will show you”, refer to Abraham, i.e. I will show you (Abraham).
The timeless message to the Jewish people is that only through a journey of self discovery and spiritual refinement, as individuals and as a people, will we be able to arrive and settle in the promised land.
Our relationship with the Land of Israel is unique. It is both more intimate as it is eternal. It is here where our mission and purpose as the Jewish people is refreshed and invigorated.
It is here where we once again return to the days of old.
Where we are not afraid to be Jewish.
A place where we are not afraid of those who have hated us.
A place where we are not dependent on anyone else.
Where we are not afraid to express our unwavering faith in the creator of the heavens and the Earth.
A place where we can express our gratitude to our father in heaven who granted us the beautiful land of Israel.