top of page

Why Judaism is Obsessed with Distinctions?

One of the hallmarks of our Jewish faith is the continuous emphasis we place on the distinctions between contrasts.

This is especially apparent in the prayer we recite at the conclusion of Shabbat when we recite Havdala.

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who makes a distinction between sacred and profane, between

light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the Seventh Day and the six work days.”

No doubt, this text makes many of us feel most uncomfortable. Certainly in a postmodern society where we are vehemently opposed to any distinctions on any level. Almost to the point of an obsessive nihilist belief, beyond any connection to reality.

However, what is becoming increasingly clear is that such an approach is unsustainable. As Ayn Rand put it, “You can ignore reality, but you can't ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

At the core of the issue is mankind's most inner desire to achieve a sense of oneness within themselves and with others.

But as we all know from our life experience, there is a major hurdle. We are all uniquely different. As the Talmud puts it, “No two minds think alike”.

The Jewish mystics provide the formula. Each and every human being was created by an infinite G-d to make a unique contribution to the betterment of this world. The infinity is expressed in that each and every individual is indispensable. The world cannot realize its full potential without everyone playing their part.

This is the meaning behind the dictum “Unity in Diversity”. The ideal state of a unified existence can only be achieved by celebrating the unique roles we all have.

To achieve this, it is necessary to meet certain fundamental requirements. Recognition of the distinctions between our unique rolls. To fully appreciate both our strengths and weaknesses. While at the same time fully appreciating the strengths and weaknesses of others.

This can only be achieved through one method. The prerequisite is humility. There are no other options available.

Without it, there will inevitably be various degrees of destructive tension, chaos, and violence.

In fact, the very definition of good and evil is the appreciation of each person's recognition of their strengths and weaknesses, which allow for healthy coexistence.

The root of evil is the complete opposite of this. It is the belief that “I am, and there is none but me” (Isaiah 47:8). This is the most profound manifestation of a unity that has been corrupted. It is a call for complete submission to a selfish entity.

Judaism's vigilant preoccupation with the distinction between good and evil is the understanding that one cannot coexist with an entity that does not recognize one's existence. In order for good to thrive, evil must and will eventually be eliminated.

Yosef Vogel


bottom of page