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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Galus- Is it good for the Jews or...

Some thoughts, then, about the diaspora as displayed in the book of Genesis.

It would seem that events from the time of Avraham lead inexorably to Yaakov and his family going down to Egypt. It is only in Egypt that the children of Israel become numerous and it is there that their national identity is forged. This would seem to be quite the opposite of any other nation! A nation, almost by definition, is formed by a people on a given parcel of land. The children of Israel find themselves, as it were, only when they are away from the land.

I think it is fair to say, also, that other nations in the ancient world defined themselves to some degree by their conquests and expansions. The children of Israel by contrast are defined by their subjugation or at least through their subjugation. They manage to maintain some connection to the God of their fathers which distinguishes them from the surrounding culture.

So maybe this becomes an essential part of the Jewish psyche: That we are Jews in or outside of our land. This is a key component of who we are by nature and has served us through not only the diaspora of Egypt but also of Babylonia and even to this day.

This is, I think, at least one important component of the diaspora theme.

Thanks to Sam for hashing some of this out with me.

We are sure to revisit this in the book of Exodus.

Shabbat Shalom!


  1. I agree that landlessness roots a people and becomes their renewable burgeoning.The Jewish people are thus rooted not in their land but in their beliefs and culture. Ultimately, I think, a seemingly less secure rooting turns out to be the stronger!
    Perhaps the analogy might be that a person who is a stay-at-home has less drive, is less exposed to challenges and danger and because of this does not need so much to hold onto their identity,their faith or their heritage.I also think that without a home base greater strength has to be forged, and at a distance, more importance is attached to cultural roots. Being home -sick engenders attachment that we don`t feel when we are secure and cosy!!!!
    Very Best,sam

  2. I tend to agree. It is also true that Jews in later times were prevented from fully integrating into Christian society with the creation of the first blood laws, categorizing Jews as a race and not allowing them to take on Church roles.

    Ironically, perhaps, it is the open societies such as in the US where we see the greatest assimilation of Jews and loss of Jewish identity. Sometimes adversity causes a people to push back and demand their rights whereas the laissez faire attitude of the 'melting pot' allows people to be far less particular about personal identity.