From the Desk - Why are there so Few Jews?
Shalom Friends! What an amazing weekend we enjoyed at Beth Ora last week! In truth, the entire Rise Together Project was a great success. It was a privilege to promote awareness of the power of Torah ideas and the Jewish community to inspire us to become better people. Many thanks to Mireille Alvo for putting together this amazing video which gives a flavour of the amazing success of Sunday’s event.
Most of you know of the wonderful activities at Sunday’s event. Fewer of you are aware that, on Monday, a group of us took the decorated mugs to The Jewish General Hospital to present to a delegation of nurses to show our appreciation for their care and devotion. One of the nurses said: “I’ve been a nurse for 35 years and I’ve never seen anything like this!” We pray that the impact of events like these inspire all of us to show gratitude toward all those who impact on our lives, our community and our society. May the Torah’s teachings continue to remind us and to sensitize us to the beauty of a life of kindness, humility, gratitude, responsibility and all the other “middot” (character traits) which we have taught about and which we will continue to promote. By the time you receive this email, we would already have held our Scotch Tasting evening. Huge credit goes to Ben Alt, Howie Brown, Glenn Caron, Jackie Harroch, the office staff and the great team of volunteers for their work and dedication in pulling off what will surely be another great event! We are very blessed to have such wonderful people working so hard for the good of our community. Earlier in the week, I sent out an email asking for people to let us know if they have children, grandchildren or great grandchildren in Montreal. This is important information for us to know as we seek to engage younger generations in our synagogue and reconnect those who have longstanding affiliation to Beth Ora. We are planning a Generations Shabbat for Saturday June 22nd and this information will be indispensable for the success of that event. If you do have family in Montreal and haven’t yet let us know, please do so ASAP by replying to this email. Wishing you Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What’s the Deal with…the Jewish People being so small? When we were on vacation a few months ago, Yehuda noticed that so few of the attendees at Disney World and the other amusement parks we attended were Jewish! This is obviously in contrast to his school and synagogue where nearly everyone is Jewish. And so Yehuda asked a very profound question: Why are there so few Jews? Indeed, today less than a fifth of one per cent of the world’s population is Jewish. So what’s the deal? I will, in fact, be discussing this in my sermon this Shabbat. But, in the meantime, here are some answers for consideration. On a historical plane, there are two main reasons: Exile and persecution: Jews have been murdered in massacres and pogroms and, in 15th century Spain and nineteenth century Europe, they converted in large numbers in order to avoid persecution. Jews did not seek to convert others as discussed and explained in my letter of two weeks ago. Interestingly, the smallness of the Jewish People seems to be part of G-d’s original plan. In chapter 7 of Deuteronomy, Moses says: “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other people, for you are the fewest of all peoples.” The Rambam (1138-1204) remarks on how unexpected this is. We would have thought that G-d, King of the universe, would have chosen the most numerous nation in the world as His people. But G-d did not do so. Rabbi Ovadia Seforno (1475-1550) gives a simple and beautiful explanation: G-d did not choose a nation for the sake of His honour. Had He done so, He would have undoubtedly chosen a mighty and numerous people. His choice had nothing to do with honour and everything to do with love. He loved the patriarchs for their willingness to heed His voice. Therefore, He loves their children. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gives a most insightful explanation. Through the Jewish People, G-d is telling humankind that you do not need to be numerous to be great. Nations are not judged by their size but by their contribution to the human heritage. The Jews are a small nation but we have produced an ever-renewed flow of prophets, priests, poets, philosophers, sages, saints, rebbes and rabbis as well as some of the world’s greatest writers, artists, musicians, film-makers, academics, doctors and lawyers! Out of all proportion to their numbers, Jews could and can be found working as lawyers fighting injustice, economists fighting poverty, doctors fighting disease and teachers fighting ignorance. If you don’t need numbers to change the world, what do you need? Rabbi Sacks answers: a sense of the worth and dignity of the individual, of the power of human possibility to transform the world, of the importance of giving everyone the best education they can have, of making each of us feel part of a collective responsibility to ameliorate the human condition, and a willingness to take high ideals and enact them in the real world, unswayed by disappointments and defeats.