Wednesday, September 10, 2008

To Jew and Jew and Jew

Judaism is both a religion and a nationality. The Talmud teaches us (Shavuot 39a) “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh,” that all Jews are responsible (literally “guarantors”) for one another. In the most ancient interpretation of this idea, Jews have always felt a vital connection to other Jews, no matter the Jew’s citizenship (ie. Russian, Cuban, French, etc).

This is why Jewish hostages taken in Iran, a blood libel in Russia or Atlanta (GA), the Dreyfus affair in France, and the more recent anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and elsewhere have been met with rapid Jewish responses and intense activism. Jews care about other Jews.

There is a story told of a Jewish officer in WWI who had his eye on the enemy officer across the battlefield. He planned to personally “take care” of him when his unit surprise-attacked the enemy. Just before he fired on the enemy officer, the Jewish officer heard his intended target cry out, “Sh-ma Yis-ra-el A-doh-nai Eh-lo-hay-nu” (see the bottom of this e-mail). Instead of pulling the trigger, he offered a brotherly hand to the “enemy” as they concluded together “A-doh-nai Echad.” While war is a horrible reality, some human connections transcend the battlefield.

Jews embarrass easily when other Jews do something bad or are reflected on negatively in the press. We tend to take much pride in the great accomplishments of Jews (think of Einstein and Koufax). It’s all part-and-parcel of being a “guarantor” who takes responsibility for other Jews.

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