Holiday rerun- Biting question

Remember this? it’s from here, like two years ago. Somehow, no-one really engaged it, but there’s more attention here now, i’m wondering if we could come back to this question seasonally.
With all this terror of assimilation, we have to ask: what is the difference between Jews and Gentiles that is so worth defending and preserving? Is the corpus of Jewish tradition so uncompelling that if Jews stopped being Jewish, that our scriptures would stop being learned, and our values lost? How could it be?

2 thoughts on “Holiday rerun- Biting question

  1. A very provakative speculation. But haven’t we always been engaged in a constant rhythm of assimilation and attachment marked by an intellectual tension between exile and redemption? Jews weren’t supposed to have a king like other nations. But “there was no king in Israel, and each man did as he pleased,” so we got a king. And not just any king, we eventually learned, but an ideal model for univeral peace and justice. A redeemer. Now that other nations took the idea and ran with it, so to speak, every Xmastime we have to be intensely aware of how the other nations have monkeyed with our idea of messianic redemption. Eventually we may ask ourselves the question, who is assimilating with what?

  2. I think the answer to your question is this: Jewish life is not a collection of beliefs and/or values that can be maintained through study, learning, thinking and believing alone. A library or a museum of Judaism is not sufficient. Jewish life is a form of living, which – through a complex process over millenia – has brought great progress to humanity, and, hopefully will continue to do so. There are numerous ways to describe the essence of what characterizes Jewish life. One is: it is a way of living “before G-d” and “walking with G-d”, which blends our own individual and group wills with G-d’s, and makes G-d’s presence felt in this world. It is not that this would be “uncompelling” if there were no Jews to live this. It would just not exist. This world is flooded with competing perceptions – and ways of living – and ours would disappear if there were no Jews to live our distinctive way. On the grand scale, our tradition includes a promise by G-d that there will always be Jews – after all, we have a covenant with G-d and are carrying out G-d’s mission among humanity – so we need not worry, in this sense. On the other hand, since we care both about each other and about our ability to fulfill our part in our covenant with G-d, it is very painful to see individual Jews assimilating and being cut off from this process – losing out, themselves, on the possibility of living a most beautiful, deeply meaningful life – and setting back our fulfillment of our Jewish destiny.

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