Israel Forever

For the week ending 13 November 2004 / 29 Heshvan 5765

Blessed Will Be Those Who Bless You

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

The rare moments in history when the Jewish People were praised by the rest of the world echo the blessing which the Patriarch Yitzchak gave to his son Yaakov - Blessed will be those who bless you.

We here present an article by M. V. Jack, The Worlds Heritage, which appeared in The Childrens Encyclopedia published in Great Britain more than half a century ago:

Let us go back some thousands of years to look at another ancient culture, that of the Israelites, whose wars and wanderings and captivities, strivings and triumphs, form the theme of the Old Testament story. They were a small nation, scarcely noticeable beside the great Empires of Babylonia and Assyria, Greece and Rome. They were not popular with their neighbors. What, then, can possibly be their contribution to the worlds heritage?

At first glance it is not a spectacular one. We can watch the Egyptians carving the Sphinx under a burning sky, or the merchants of Babylon haggling over their rich wares. We can picture the cool colonnaded temples of Greece, looking over pine and cypress to the sea - or the splendid fury and energy of a Roman chariot-race. But Israel, this small contentious community, had no great monuments of stone, no exquisite sculpture, no great discoveries in science or medicine to leave behind.

She had a noble literature, certainly, but it does not affect our literature so much as some others have done. We do not model our poetry on the Psalms - lovely as these are - or our drama on the Book of Job. But we do model our lives to some extent on this ancient people.

The Israelites, or Hebrews as we call them, could afford to let the arts and sciences go because they had something much more important to conserve. They had an intense and lofty realization of humanity based on a right relation with G-d. This was their unique contribution to human progress - that they alone of the worlds peoples believed that G-d was a Spirit, that He was One G-d, that He was good and just and merciful, and that men were His creation and His children, from whom He exacted obedience, not to any arbitrary whim but to His rational laws.

The Ten Commandments are the broad basis of our own moral code, and if Israels sole claim to distinction were that she was the Custodian of the Law she would still be a mighty heritor.

It is this that makes us feel that the Chinese and Egyptians with their hoary arts and sciences were but barbarians after all - that the Greeks, with all their beauty and philosophy, were yet earthbound, because though they brought the body, and in some ways also the mind, very near to perfection, they had only a very limited view of the spirit. And it is to this spiritual idea that we must look for the most perfect flowering of civilization in the years to come.

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