This is a guest column by Rabbi Da-vid Rosenthal, from Aish Minnesota. Read Rabbi Da-vid’s Divrei Torah on his blog.
Have you ever experienced a “double take”? You’ll be looking at something you’ve seen before, when suddenly you feel like a light bulb has just appeared above your head (like in the cartoons). You suddenly perceive an object or thing in a whole new light.
For instance, you’ll be walking downtown, looking at the skyscrapers, and it hits you how massive a building is. How truly awesome it is for man to build such a monstrous edifice.
Or you notice an ant carrying some food and stand in awe how he manages to find his way back to his nest across such formidable terrain, considering his height is only measured in millimeters!
It’s these small changes in perception that can alter the way we think and understand.
I would like to propose such an idea for this past weekend’s parsha.
Our familiarity with the basic plot of the Exodus from Egypt is somewhat limiting. We all know the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, Moses came and brought the plagues from G-d, and the Jews left Egypt, stopping only briefly for a scuba diving adventure in the Red Sea, that left the Egyptian army a little short for breath.
Let’s take a step back.
According to Judaism, the Torah was given over 3000 years ago. The first recorded conclusive outside corroboration of the Torah dates back more than 2000 years. With that in mind, let’s examine the first few paragraphs in this past weekend’s parsha, the beginning of the book of Exodus.
“The Children of Israel are many, and mightier than us. Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they increase, and in a time of war, they rise up against us with our enemies and over take us.”
The next few lines go on to describe the process of enslavement and torture, climaxing with the decree to kill all male newborns. Keep in mind that the Jews of the time were not into political or military revolutions. In fact, assimilation was extremely high at the time, so much so that very little remained distinct about the Jews.
Do these few lines not sound all too frighteningly familiar. The first ever “blood libel”, false, unfounded accusations made to incite hatred against the Jews. At first glance, one is prone to nod and say, yep, that’s Jewish history for you.
But stop and think for a second. Let’s do a “double take.”
This was written before the Crusades. Before Jesus. Before the pogroms of the middle ages. Before the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” And yet in a few brief sentences, the Torah has managed to capture most of Jewish history. The irrational finger pointing and scape-goating. The national political movement to persecute the Jewish nation. The despicable actions of the tyrannical governments.
How was it possible for the Torah to so accurately predict such things? Was it so obvious that Jews had a big “Kick me” sign painted on their collective foreheads even 3000 years ago?
To this very day blood libels are being leveled at the Jews. On Palestinian television, children’s shows act out “taking blood from non-Jewish children to make Matzah”.
What is this book called the Torah? How could something written so long ago have such primary relevance to today?
Judaism claims that the Torah was not some book written by a very wise and charismatic man named Moses. Rather, it is the blueprint of creation, handed to us by G-d. It’s not some nice folklore or allegories in which one can find an occasional piece of wisdom. Rather, it’s the very building blocks upon which the world was created.
The Torah outlines the future history of the Jewish people with frightening precision.
- The eternality of the nation (Genesis 17:7).
- The impact they will have on the world (Exodus 19:5).
- The smallness of their number (Deuteronomy 28:62).
- The dispersion across the four corners of the world (Deuteronomy 28:63).
- The horrific anti-semitism (Deuteronomy 28:65).
Hindsight is always 20-20. But if we realize the Torah was written before all of these events occurred, we cannot but stop and marvel at the blueprint of history. Here we have the prediction of world events. Is this not awesome?
There is a famous quote from Mark Twain that cannot go unquoted:
“If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one per cent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.
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 the Roman followed, and 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?”
As Jews, we know the answer.