On the eve of Shavuot
I dressed up in white; they say it’s the wedding day of God and His people, so I was ready for it. I prepared all the requirements: Plants to adorn the table and a cold cheese cake in the fridge. All that was left was to clarify the essence of this prominent day, decide to again assume the Torah’s burden upon myself, and read it the whole night as one reads love letters; to recall how God chose us from all the nations and what this really means.
He chose us? From all nations? Really? I read online one story of how God went from one nation to another and offered His holy Torah, yet no one wanted it. The Ishmaelites wanted to keep murdering, the Edomites wanted to keep committing adultery, and only the righteous and pure Israelites, who never murder and never commit adultery, told God: “We shall do and hear.”
Religious singer Avraham Fried went even further. Instead of singing about Ishmaelites and Edomites, he sang about adulterous French, greedy Brits, Americans who don’t know how to honor their father and mother, and thieving Arabs. Yet only the Jew with the prayer shawl is the righteous hero and is given the Torah. We’re so lucky.
I would laugh if it wasn’t so sad – the self-conviction that Jews possess all that is pure and noble and maintain a constant connection to divinity and to infinite light, while all other nations of the world are overcome by promiscuity, lust and robbery. We are holy, yet they are filled with darkness and spiritual impurity.
So is that the case? No, would say those in the know. It’s not about us being above them; we are simply like an elite unit. We chose to assume the burden for the sake of the others. We took upon ourselves tougher missions in order to lead the world to a better place. I may be able to accept this explanation – the understanding that we chose strict laws in order to achieve lofty goals – yet I most certainly cannot accept the distinction between us and the rest of the world, as if we are the chosen son.
Based on my limited knowledge, I believe that every nation has its way of connecting to God. The Indians, who hail from the element of wind, do well with lengthy meditations, while Islam, which hails from the fire element, is required to assume great modesty. The Sufis connect via dance and song, and native Americans who come from the element of earth drink a muddy beverage that that leads them to divinity.
Does God love them less? Does He appreciate their work less? Is a Buddhist monk who sits in a cave for three years less connected than me?
As a graduate of religious Jewish education, I notice that to this day I face a mental-psychological barrier when facing non-Jews. I discover that deep within me I believe that I am nobler than them and I stutter when I need to explain why I cannot marry a gentile. What can I tell them, that a Jew must not mix in with a gentile soul because it is of lower strata? When I search for the word “soul” online, I find explanations on religious websites noting that Jews have two souls, a beastly one and a divine one, while non-Jews only have one, beastly soul.
I realize that my knowledge is only akin to a drop in the ocean and that had I immersed myself in studies I would be able to understand the issues more thoroughly. However, most people do not spend hours upon hours studying and are therefore left with the superficial knowledge of the chosen people’s superiority. Only this week I received an invitation on Facebook to join a group called “Let’s show the Sudanese that we rule!” This is what happens when you think you’re better than someone else.
Perhaps the time has come to leave behind this flawed way of thinking, as though we are favored and better understand what’s right for the world, as though our Torah is the exclusive truth across the universe and there are no other ways to experience a revelation, and as though any foreigner who wishes to live in our country is a threat.
So on the eve of Shavuot I got dressed in white and headed to the synagogue to read, with love, the words of the Torah. I know that for me this is the most suitable way to connect to the infinite light, but I also know that somewhere on the other side of the planet there are different people who connect to it in a different way, and they are considered no less precious children.