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Wonders of Jewish History

August 20, 2011 | by

I am an avid student of history and it seems that the Jewish people have always held a special place in the world. They are always at the center of things – whether Israel or the media. I don’t mean just today – I mean ever since the dawn of recorded history. What’s behind this?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

King Louis XIV once had a discussion with the famous 17th century Roman Catholic philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal. The king asked for evidence of the supernatural, and Pascal responded. "The Jews, Your Majesty, the Jews!"

Jewish history is an incredible paradox. On one hand, we are promised to be the eternal nation: "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations, an eternal covenant, to be your God and the God of the descendants after you." (Genesis 17:7)

On the other hand, we are promised to be scattered into exile (not good odds for becoming the eternal nation!): "And you, I will scatter among the nations, at the point of My drawn sword, leaving your country desolate and your cities in ruins." (Leviticus 26:33)

But then on the first hand (again), we are promised to be a light unto the nations: "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand and keep you. And I will establish you as a covenant of the people, for a light unto the nations." (Isaiah 42:6)

But on the second hand (again), we are promised to be the victim of intense hatred: "Among those nations you shall find no respite, no rest for your foot. God will make you cowardly, destroying your outlook and making life hopeless. You will live in constant suspense. Day and night, you will be terrified, never sure of your existence." (Deut. 28:65-66)

But then again on the first hand, we are promised to be numerous like sand and stars: "I will surely bless you and greatly increase your offspring like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore..." (Genesis 22:17)

But then again on the second hand, we are promised to be few in number: "And you shall remain few in number among the nations where God shall lead you." (Deuteronomy 4:27)

I think you get the idea. Jewish history simply doesn't comply with the rest of history; it does not make sense.

Many scholars, historians and writers have noticed this and remarked about it. Mark Twain, an agnostic and a self-acknowledged skeptic, penned this in 1899 in Harper's Magazine:

"The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away. The Greek and Roman followed, made a vast noise and they are gone. Other peoples have sprung up, and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out and they sit in twilight now or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal, but the Jew. All other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"

So... what is the secret?

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