Being Jewish

What makes being Jewish so extraordinary that we are called the Am Segulah (special nationchosen people.) 

Being Jewish - Children in Purim dress

What is Special about Being Jewish?

The Gemarah (Yevamos 79a) recounts an incident with Dovid Hamelech (King David,) having to appease a certain nation called the Givonim because of a killing that Shaul Hamelech (King Saul) had previously committed.

David approached them and they said: we can’t be appeased with monetary compensation but give us 7 of Shaul’s offspring and we will hang them. Based on this, David decreed that the Givonim should not be accepted as converts. What did he base this on?

David goes on to say there are three signs of this [Jewish] nation, harachmanim (they are merciful,) habaishanin (they are modest,) and gomlei chasodim (performers of kindness.)

Since the Givonim showed such a lack of mercy, David decreed that they could not become a part of this nation. Rashi explains that since the Givonim did not have mercy they were not fitting to join with. Perhaps one could say their spiritual genetic make-up would not allow them to metamorphose into a Jewish personality.

Looking a little deeper at these traits we see:

  • Rachamim (mercy) is an internal character trait (see Moral Matters)
  • Baishanos (literally embarrassment) relates to a person’s view of themselves in the creation (see Definition of Ritual)
  • Chesed (kindness) relates to how one treats others (see Jewish Ethics.)

How are these acquired? The Gemorah goes on to elucidate interesting and unexpected sources for each:

Rahmanim – venasan lecha rachamim verichamcha vehirbecha - [Hashem] will give you mercy and have mercy on you and increase you. (Devarim 13:18)

Baishanim – Baavur tiheyeh yiraso al penachem - In order that it will be His [Hashem's] fear on your faces. (Shmos 20:17)

Gomlei Chasodim – lemaan asher yetzaveh es banav ve’es beiso… -  that he [Avraham] will command his children and household … and they will guard the way of H’ to do justice and judgement. (Breishis 18:19)

On closer inspection, we see from the sources quoted, how a person attains these traits. What makes a person merciful? Hashem gives it to them, that is; primarily one is born with the trait or leaning towards it (even though one may and indeed must work to attain and guard the trait)

The pasuk relating to baishanos is stated when the Jews were at Sinai and receiving the 10 Commandments amidst thunder and lightning etc. and they were overcome with awe. H’ is doing this so that you will come to fear Him, so we see that this trait must be developed by the person themselves.

Goimlei chasadim comes from instruction and particularly from the home and parents, so we see that kindness is something one generally learns from others.

The Jewish people, through spiritual genes, Torah and mesorah (tradition,) have a spiritual makeup and constitution that instills these three traits in us and that makes being Jewish so special.

The articles listed below address fundamentals of being Jewish.

  • Jewish Faith - Jewish Faith is epitomized in the theme of Pesach, recognising the good in the apparent bad. This is based on the knowledge that Hashem (God) runs the world and He is all good.
  • Society, Religion and Spirituality in Judaism - Society, Religion and Spirituality are the rudiments of Judaism. This is illustrated by three, apparently randomly selected incidents related in the Book of Bemidbar.
  • God in JudaismGod in Judaism is the sole Creator and Controller of the universe. This fact was catalysed through the events of Yetzius Mitzrayim (the exodus from Egypt.)
  • Beliefs of Judaism - Part 1: A study of supernatural selection, illustrating how the actions of a generation instil influences that become inherent in the children and in the spiritual nature of the universe.
  • Beliefs of Judaism - Part 2: Learn how to reduce your worldly obligations through a clear understanding of what spiritual levels are, their relevance and how to achieve them.
  • Ten Commandments Judaism - Discover the great significance of the sequential order in the Ten Commandments of Judaism. 

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