August 22, 2019

Judaism: A Blend of Nation and Faith

“The year is 1933. Two Jews are sitting in a Viennese coffee house, reading the news. One is reading the local Jewish paper, the other the notoriously antisemitic publication Der Stürmer. “How can you possibly read that revolting rubbish?” says the first. The second smiles. “What does your paper say? Let me tell you: ‘The Jews are assimilating.’ ‘The Jews are arguing.’ ‘The Jews are disappearing.’ Now let me tell you what my paper says: ‘The Jews control the banks.’ ‘The Jews control the media.’ ‘The Jews control Austria.’ ‘The Jews control the world.’ My friend, if you want good news about the Jews, always read the antisemites.”

Some of the most beautiful things ever said about the Jewish people were said by Bilaam: “Who can count the dust of Jacob. … May my final end be like theirs! … How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel! … A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.”

Bilaam was no friend of the Jews. Having failed to curse them, he eventually devised a plan that worked. He suggested that Moabite women seduce Israelite men and then invite them to take part in their idolatrous worship — and 24,000 people died in the subsequent plague that struck the people (Num. 25, 31:16). Bilaam is numbered by the rabbis as one of only four non-royals mentioned in the Tanach who are denied a share in the World to Come (Sanhedrin 90a).”

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