Have the Jews Survived?

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    So everyone knows that the Jews have survived as a people longer than anyone else. But how true is that? How long has it been that we’ve actually survived in a way that is meaningfully connected, and to when is it meaningfully connected? During the First Beis Hamikdash, davening was self-composed, there was no gemara, at least not as we know it, and people were farmers who went up to Yerushalayim to bring karbanos. There were some similarities – Lulav, Matzah (although I imagine they ate the thick ones…), Tefillin, etc. But in more ways than we’ve stayed the same, we’ve changed.

    Our central limud nowadays is gemara, our central avodah is in shul – neither of these things remotely resemble the way things were then. We cannot be identified by affiliation with a Kingdom – at least not with one that is currently operational. In a way, saying that we’ve lasted the longest is similar to a modern day Egyptian saying that the Egyptians have been around for the longest. They don’t do anything similar to what they did then, but they live in the same place, they have sovereignty, and I’m sure they could find one or two cultural vestiges to hang their hats on. So is it true that we’ve been around the longest?


    Yes. We still identify ourselves with them, we have a direct mesorah from them, and there were shuls back then, just they weren’t central. We follow the same Torah (they learned Torah Sheba’al Peh, we have it written down), but we are at a lower madreiga then them, so Chazal composed davening for us. We are different though, as we have many cultural sects (S’fardim, Ashkenazim, Lityvaks, Chassidim, etc.), we have some new halachos (Chanuka, Purim, electricity on Shabbos, and so on), but altoghether we are the same people. Am Yisrael are unique in history.

    “Anyone who calls Judaism a religion falls into the fatal error of putting it in a category”

    -Rav Avigdor Miller, Sing You Righteous

    We are the same Am Yisrael who saw open miracles when we left Egypt, for forty years in the desert, for over four centuries in each Bais HaMikdash, who heard Hashem speaking before over three million people from a thundering, flaming mountain, who learned and expounded His Torah and did His Mitzos for over two thousand years.

    “You might inquire about times long past, going back to the time Hashem created man on earth, [exploring] one end of the heavens to the other. See if anything as great as this has ever happened, or if the like has ever been heard.

    “Has any nation ever heard Hashem speaking out of the fire, as you have, and still survived?… You are the ones who have been shown, so that you will know that Hashem is the Supreme Being and there is none besides him.

    “From the heavens He let you hear His voice admonishing you, and on earth he showed you His great fire, so that you heard His words from the fire”

    -Dvarim 4:32-35


    The Avos were shomer Torah and mitzvos. The Jewish nation is a tremendous link of chains of generations which dates back to Avraham Avinu’s discovery of monotheism. From that point, we have an unbroken chain of people, all following the same religion. The labour period of our nation began at yitziyas mitzrayim and ended with our birth at kabalas hatorah. Moshe rabbeinu received the entire torah at Har Sinai, he didn’t just get the chmisha chumshei, he got everything and they Jewish people kept everything from that moment. Admittedly, focuses and various practices MAY possibly be slightly different but the idea is an immutable, unwavering dedication to the one hashem. In this way, we are unique. Great nations rose and fell but none, in the way that we have, have remained in the way they were initially started. People who live in Egypt today have no more than a historical connection, at best to their ancestors. Theyve absconded their righteous dedication to Ra and the such like. Egypt is predominately Muslim, Islam is a religion which started way after ours and so yes, we have outsurvived the Egyptians.


    The korbonot and all that they had in those times were the means, not the ends. Everything had a purpose and that was to connect us to our creator. People forget nowadays that Judaism is more than a culture. Judaism isn’t just a list of dos and don’ts and traditions; everything has a purpose and meaning. We cannot bring korbonot but the Jewish heart is still the same. The korbonot were an objective correlative through which we were meant to connect to Hashem, and if we can do that through tefillah then our tefillos can hold us through until we are privileged to bring korbonot again.


    You really didnt think this through…

    Everything was the same, except we had more mitzvos then all 613, we had a bais hamikdosh, we were in EY and we had neviim. There was no permission to write Torah Shebbal Peh (the Gemara) down however Gemara Shebal Peh was learnt (minus all the parts from machlokesim of Tannaim and Amoraim because this was pre Machlokes Era)

    We are still the same nation descended of the same people from then keeping the same Torah (whatever still applies bizman hazeh) but we are in Galus and have been minimized. Hopefully soon Moshiach will come and we can reclaim our former glory.


    And HOW!!!!

    We have the same Ribono Shel Olam as always.

    ?? ??? ?’ ?? ????? ????, ??? ???? ?? ?????

    We were and are always His cherished and beloved people. And He has been our beloved G-d, our King, our Shepherd, our Father.

    The circumstances and appearance of our service, our avodah may have changed externally, but our true internal essence remains the same, if not stronger. Our Jewishness, the pintele Yid is alive and aflame as always.

    As Rabbi Miller ??”? pointed out, our great monumental works of Talmud and its commentaries were compiled in the diaspora, under much duress. Iv’e heard of a Rishon (maybe a Baal Tosafas) who wrote some of his thoughts, chidushim in prison with his own blood as ink!

    Our central limud is Gemarah. Right. It is. Know what that means? That one is in constant touch with all sages, through ALL ERAS, and in ALL AREAS of Torah. For one to say a chiddush today one must make it through all of Mishna, Talmud, Geonim, Rishonim (all Rif, Mordechai, Rambam, Tur etc.), Achronim, Roshei Yeshivos etc. We have a lot more to contend with. Actually there’s a Gemarah somewhere that points out something to the effect that the later ones learned a lot more than the earlier ones, but that the earlier ones were moser nefesh etc.

    Davening was then self-composed. Nu nu. So we don’t have the right frame of mind anymore to compose our own. So that’s why our ???? ???? ?????? composed a centralized composition, through ruach hakodesh. Know what that means? Even if one is so bogged down by the galus trappings, one doesn’t have any time or energy for contemplation, kavannah, devotion, one is still connecting oneself to HaShem through these most powerful words of Tefillah instituted by these great men of Anshei Kneses HaGedola (these very same ANGELS who were capable of doing away with the yetzer hora – for good!) Of course the optimal way of tefillah is to daven with utmost concentration, devotion, but in our current circumstance it is not always possible. That is our avodah now. HaShem just LOVES and ADORES our pithy little muttering and murmurings as we find time in our harried life and lifestyle to re-sync. And for those who can and do take their time and energy to daven properly – how much more uplifting are those words. We now have a basis and yesod of these great compositions upon which to base and direct our thoughts. Words that were conceived through ruach hakodesh have an extremely powerful effect. So in that aspect, again, we’re better off.

    Kingdom? Ha! That itself was not optimal. As Shmuel chastised the Jews, ????? ??? ??? ????? ????? ?’ ????? ??? ???. No, having a king is really a ??????, look up ??? ????? in the parsha of shoftim. Torah-true Jews have HaShem as our King today, as has always been.

    Farmers, Karbanos? We do that and much more with our learning! True. In the time of the beis hamikdash, there were a certian amount of koahnim who did their avodah as shluchim (for HaShem of His people). How many korbanos would you say they brought in one day? How many thousands of Karbanos are we effecting through our learning these ???????, areas in Talmud (and Tefillah).

    I believe I heard from Rabbi Miller ??”? that the Torah was given in a fashion suitable for the galus lifestyle. The ???? ?????? ???? had our current matzav in mind when shaping history. It’s no coincidence and not by chance that the majority of Jewishness has been in Galus, without a Beis HaMikdash. This is HaShem’s pure nachas from us, seeing us elevate ourselves from amid the trials and tribulations this great galus has to offer.

    If you need testimony from a goy, see what Reb Shmuel Clemens said on the matter. Even he understood (a bit of) The Jew.


    Basically the ideal state is the way it was in the times of the first Bais Hamikdash. Having a siddur and a Gemara are bidieveds and not the ideal optimal state. We were on a much higher level then and there was no need for the Siddur and Gemara.


    The Jewish People aren’t defined by a “religion” (whatever “religion” means.) We are defined by a nationhood.


    Naysberg: Be careful there. That statement sounds very much like secular Zionism. I honestly don’t know what you actually meant, but I’m assuming that that wasn’t it.


    Jews are a national religion. We’re a “family”.

    The family can change but it survives so long as it retains its identity.

    For example, in a few hundred years, the Jews went from a small family of herders to a nation of slaves to a nation of nomads to a nation of farmers and herders.


    Sam2, Naysberg is right. HKBH defined us as mamleches kohanim vegoy kodosh – both mamlocho and goy denote nationhood. If anything the secular Zionists took this piece of Jewish identity and made it out to be the whole thing – but 1800 years of exile did the opposite which isn’t good in isolation either – taking nationhood and national responsibility out of the definition of Judaism, and making it for all intents and purposes “only” a religious identity. It is both, and that is what makes Am Yisroel different than all other nations. Being a Jewish nation demands an attachment to the Jewish land; demands Jewish sovereignty; demands adherence to Torah; demands ahavas yisroel; demands yiras shomayim. Any one of these is a good thing, but without all of them, the Jewish nation is incomplete.


    Sam2: How is religious zionism different than secular zionism in this regard?


    Sam2, I figure Naysberg meant the following: Nationhood includes all sorts of things, many of them secular but one of them (in most cases and in most of history) religion. We never lacked territory either; we were physically barred from it.


    Naysberg, if I didn’t know any better, I would think you were Reconstructionist (forget secular Zionist). tsk tsk

    We are a nation that is defined by a common religion. So really, the religion is the ikkar, because without it, the nation would be meaningless. And the nation is naturally formed by our religion, so you wouldn’t even have the religion without the nation anyway.


    we are, as set out in the Rambam’s intro to the Yad, creatures of the Bavli. And we are the creation of the Anshei Knessses Hagedola who designed us as a nation going into an unknown limbo of landless and powerless golus, for a long haul. We were culturally distinct from our predecessors one we passed through Bavel, and we changed again in the Persian galus, and again in the present galus. in which Ramban likens us to the living dead. We can get a small sense of what we were from the Yerushalmi, but still, we must stick to the Rambam’s recipe. The trouble begins, when we are halfway restored to our birthright, then how should we be?


    Merriam-Websters’ first definition of religion is “Worship of God or the supernatural.” That certainly is not the defining attribute of the Jewish People. Otherwise we’d have a lot more in common with members of other religions that with some of our own brethren. And that certainly is not the case.

    yichusdik, your pshetl of mamleches kohanim vegoy kodosh in fact support my earlier point that the greatest common attribute of the Jewish People is our nationhood.


    Throughout the entire period of the mishkan and the first Bais Hamikdash, idol worship was rampant. When Ezra returned to Israel after the first galos, he found widespread intermarriage and ignorance. The second Bais Hamikdash saw the influence of

    Hellenism and the Tzidukkim. It’s nice to think of those generations as exalted but wishing it so doesn’t make it so.


    Naysberg, As you could probably tell from my post, I am of the belief that our nationhood has been neglected for far too long. For a long time, that neglect was borne of necessity, because it is hard to express nationhood and sovereignty when you are in terrible physical and spiritual golus, whereas personal religious observance and emunoh can strengthen one even in the worst of times. Now, though, that we have, with the help and blessing of HKBH, a capacity to end the physical golus, and the harbotzas Torah of these generations brings us closer to ending our spiritual golus, we have a responsibility to restore the meaning and practice of nationhood to our identity as God fearing Jews.

    A long way of saying that I agree with you.


    Actually nothing at all changed. We can’t bring Karbanos but I sure plan on doing so in the near future. We study Talmud, they studied Talmud; We Daven in a Shul, so did they. We have the same beliefs, the same goal, the same Torah, and the same family.


    Right. Nothing at all changed. Right.

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