The na­tion of Is­rael, faith, his­tory and tra­di­tions

The Weekly Vista - - Opinion - DAVID WIL­SON

It has been 70 years since the modern na­tion of Is­rael was put in place.

But the Jewish peo­ple have pro­vided much for the world to con­tem­plate for far longer than 70 years.

They are a proud peo­ple with many ac­com­plish­ments and a rich her­itage.

Well-known Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin wrote a book years ago called “Thou Shalt Pros­per.”

It’s a great read, and one in which Lapin ex­plained the at­tributes that came about in Jewish cul­ture.

The book talks about Jewish faith, his­tory, and tra­di­tions; but it is not only about Jews and for Jews.

On the con­trary, it is a book that has a num­ber of prin­ci­ples that can be ap­plied in al­most any­one’s life.

Lapin said that some of the prac­tices em­ployed by the Jewish peo­ple tend to work the same way when they are ap­plied in the lives of oth­ers.

I won’t give you an en­tire run­down of the book here, ex­cept to say that it ex­plains how a large per­cent­age of the Jewish peo­ple have met with suc­cess down through the cen­turies.

Lapin ex­plained that the Jewish peo­ple have ben­e­fited from hav­ing a re­spect for lit­er­acy, read­ing, and knowl­edge that has long been in­grained in their cul­ture.

Else­where I’ve read that long be­fore the time of Christ, Jewish boys went to a school that was roughly the equiv­a­lent of our el­e­men­tary schools, but far more rig­or­ous. They stud­ied — and mem­o­rized — the en­tire first five books of Old Tes­ta­ment, sim­ply known to them as the To­rah.

The best stu­dents had the op­por­tu­nity to fur­ther their ed­u­ca­tion af­ter that, by studying — and mem­o­riz­ing—the rest of what is to­day the Old Tes­ta­ment. (That’s Joshua through Malachi for those who haven’t been to Sun­day school in quite some time).

Af­ter that, at about the age of 14, the Jewish boys who were the very best might have the op­por­tu­nity to be called by a rabbi for more ex­ten­sive train­ing. By be­ing yoked to a rabbi, one could get the most in­tense ed­u­ca­tion avail­able in all of Jewish so­ci­ety.

There were sev­eral rab­bis in Jewish cul­ture with dif­fer­ent lev­els of in­flu­ence, and the rab­bis would se­lect a young man to fol­low him only if he felt he was wor­thy of some­day be­com­ing a rabbi him­self, ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing on the teach­ing.

The best known rabbi in his­tory is Je­sus of Nazareth, who went against the tra­di­tion of the day by call­ing 12 who were not — by so­ci­ety’s stan­dards — con­sid­ered wor­thy to be rab­bis.

The 12 had not been able to ad­vance in their school­ing and had to take jobs that were not as glam­orous. Many of them were mere fish­er­men.

From this sim­ple se­lec­tion process, we learn a valu­able les­son from Jewish tra­di­tion and from Chris­tian be­liefs: that in mat­ters of faith, and to be ac­cepted by God, a per­son does not have to be wor­thy, but hum­ble and teach­able.

Ac­cord­ing to Lapin, the Jewish em­pha­sis on ed­u­ca­tion has con­tributed to a great level of suc­cess for many cen­turies.

“Jews,” he wrote, “have al­ways had a dis­pro­por­tion­ately high lit­er­acy rate and a re­spect for ed­u­ca­tion.” He added later, “Cher­ish­ing books has re­mained a char­ac­ter­is­tic of Jewish homes …”

The in­tense train­ing of the Jewish peo­ple in mat­ters of scrip­ture led them to do all that they could to pre­serve and main­tain the scrolls that made up the Old Tes­ta­ment.

The first cen­tury Chris­tian Paul, who had been a highly trained Jew him­self, wrote that the na­tion of the Jews had been se­lected by God to give the Bi­ble to civ­i­liza­tion.

“Unto them,” he wrote in Ro­mans 3:2, “were com­mit­ted the or­a­cles of God.”

Of all 66 books in to­day’s Bi­ble, al­most all were writ­ten by Jews. (The Greek physi­cian Luke, who wrote Luke and Acts, may be the only non-Jew who penned any of Chris­tian scrip­ture).

The re­spect for knowl­edge and the re­spect for scrip­tural texts helped the Jews de­velop a ded­i­cated view of work. To the Jew, work was not a dirty task, but an honor­able way to please God. Work in a Jewish busi­ness was not to be fu­eled by nasty greed; but was in­stead a way in which a per­son could serve oth­ers and im­prove the world in which he lived.

It’s no won­der that with such an out­look, thou­sands of Jewish fam­i­lies have achieved a cer­tain level of af­flu­ence down through the cen­turies. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, mon­e­tary re­wards tend to come to those who ap­proach life and work with such joy, such ded­i­ca­tion, and such de­vo­tion.

So as Is­rael cel­e­brates her 70th birth­day on May 14, we can ap­pre­ci­ate her an­cient cul­ture and how it helped es­tab­lish a good per­spec­tive for hon­est and hard-work­ing peo­ple world­wide.

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