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November 28, 1980 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-11-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

56 Friday, November 28, 1980

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Gary R Miller &
Associates

Photography with
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Intense Dedication o Torah

By DVORA WAYSMAN

World Zionist Press

"How odd of God to choose
the Jews!", ran an epigram
composed when I was a
youngster. I was inclined to
agree with it.
I didn't think we were so
special. In fact, when I
thought about it at all,
which was--rarely, to me it
seemed a most burdensome
religion, full of negatives
and prohibitions.
Now I do think about it. I
have also been thinking
how different my life would
have been had my well-.
meaning teachers in Au-
stralia, where I was born,
attempted to explain to me
what it really means to be
Jewish.
Even today, talking to
young people who visit Is-
rael from abroad, things
seem not to have changed at
all. Many Jewish day
schools are just
euphemisms for schools for
Jews; and "Sunday Schools"
valiantly try to teach some

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ritual which is meaningless
to the vast body of children
who come from non-
observant homes.
But even in the limited
once-a-week classes, I
cannot believe thati was
not taught anything
about what it means to be
Jewish. I am not an
educator, but if I could
talk to Jewish children
abroad, I would tell them
the things I learned pain-
fully slowly on my own,
since coming to Israel
. . . things I believe
would have changed my
life had someone told
them to me all those years
ago.
First, I would tell them
that Judaism is not merely
•a religion of pots and pans,
where salvation depends on
not mixing the meat dishes
with the dairy. Nor is it a
crutch for the weak . .
"the opiate of the masses" as
religion has been derisively
defined; any more than
atheism or agnosticism is a
crutch for the immoral and
ill-read.
My family sent me duti-
fully every week to Sunday
school (we didn't even call it
"Talmud Torah") where, in
four years, all I learned was
to recite, parrot-fashion, the
names of the Hebrew
months; one verse of the
Sh'ma; the blessing over
wine and a few Bible stories.
About being Jewish, I
learned nothing.
The belief in one God, the
basis of Judaism, is a for-
midable intellectual posi.-
tion with which most of the
first-class minds of the
human race have agreed.
The Jewish people have
survived for thousands of
years — a fact which no
longer needs to- be taken on
faith, because archeology
verifies it with new dis-
coveries every day. How did
a people, a religion and a
culture survive through
three millennia of almost
impossible historical con-
ditions? What was the
secret?
The mystic occurrence
which changed the his-
tory of the world oc-
curred at Mt. Sinai, in the
desert, when Moses was
leading his people to the
Promised Land. When
the Israelites left Horeb
to continue their journey,
they were no longer a
tribe held together by
faith, but a nation living
under a law, the Torah —
the word of God, given at
the hand of Moses.
This Torah also contained
prophecy, that after a bril-
liant period of rule in the
Holy Land, the Jews would
succumb to materialism,
would slide into idolatry
like their neighbors,' with
resulting military defeat
and national destruction.
Only a remnant of the
people would survive in a
long agony of exile — wan-
dering and persecuted.
But they would survive,
eventually to return to Is-
rael to live by the Mosaic
law and to be a light unto
the nations. Most of this
vast drama has already
passed from prophecy into



history, and today Jews
have returned to live in and
rebuild their historic home-
land.
We are the only nation
that came into existence be-
fore it had a land. Jews are
peculiarly a nation in time,
descending from Abraham,
a wanderer. This is the key
to our survival — Israel is
our historic fulfillment, not
our origin.
What does "the chosen
people" mean? It means
we were given the task of
bearing witness to God's
moral law on earth — and
these laws have been
Judaism's greatest gift to
the human race. Our his-
tory is full of our own
failures and the resultant
catastrophes that befell
us, but the mission ra-
mains, and we live on be-
cause of it.

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