I Can't Believe You Were Born
What are the odds of your being born? Well, there are a few statistics that would shock you. Put it this way: if the odds against your birth were converted into dollars, Elon Musk would measure up poor compared to that pile of bills! Researchers have calculated the probability of your existence at about 1 in 400 trillion. Due to the enormity of that number, scientists have concluded that the probability of your birth is nearly zero.
Ah, but what if you were born a Jew? Math is not my strongest subject, so I’ll make the calculation simple. Seeing that the Jewish population comprises only point 19 percent (.19%) of the world population (not even one full percent), every Jewish person is a miracle, including you, a near mathematical impossibility. This is an even greater marvel in light of the unrelenting efforts of our enemies to wipe us off the face of the earth, from the times of Pharaoh to Hitler to Hamas and their cohorts. And yet, still, you were born because Jewish survival is miraculous. We are not bound by the laws of nature or probability.
Why? Because we have a mission to accomplish, a job to do.
No! Nature has no hold on us.
As we read last week in Parashat Beshalach, the Jewish nation was trapped between the Egyptian army and the sea, which miraculously parted before them. The Rabbis teach that during Creation, G-d imposed a pre-condition on the sea; that when the time would come to liberate His people, the waters would defy nature and split. All of nature is equally beholden to accommodate G-d’s people if need be. However, when the time came to split, the Sea of Reeds resisted parting, arguing that the Israelites had sinned just as the Egyptians did, and were not worthy of being saved.
The sea parted only when it saw the coffin containing Joseph’s bones. Joseph went against his natural desires and resisted the advances of the most beautiful woman in the world - Potiphar’s wife. Just as Joseph transcended his nature, the sea was compelled to transcend its nature too.
This is a strong example of how the behavior of one Jew affects the fate of the entire Jewish people. All Israel are responsible for one another. Nature has no hold when the Jewish people do their job. As Mark Twain wrote: "All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains." Perhaps Twain did not know that this is because we were tasked with a Divine assignment.
In this week’s Torah reading of Yitro, we learn the nature of that mission, one that makes the miracle of our unlikely birth make sense.
For 116 years, the Jews were shackled slaves to Pharaoh, but upon liberation they would come to serve G-d as a free nation. Their mission: Keep the Torah and be a light to all mankind.
“And now, if you hearken to Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation….” (Shemot 19:5-6)
Well, we certainly know one thing about treasures, the rarer they are, the more they are worth. The Jewish people are G-d’s precious few. He selected us to bring the teachings of the Torah to all corners of the earth to which we are scattered until He calls us home again with the coming of Mashiach. Nothing makes us great except the mission He has assigned to us.
In this parshah, we read about the giving of the Ten Commandments. From that point forward, mankind, human rights, morality and values were changed forevermore. Ethics were no longer relative, carved by man’s whims and passions but rather were carved into the heart and soul of every Jew.
G-d gave mankind the Torah, an absolute law which transcended mankind’s ephemeral passions. G-d Himself commanded us what is right or wrong, holy or impure, sacred or profane. Every Jew and convert, born and yet unborn, stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and entered into a covenant for all time.
Though many try to muffle it, the word of G-d lives in His treasured people. Hence the joke about Jewish atheists. They may deny G-d, but they do it religiously.
Every treasure however needs to be protected and buffed. And so, G-d took His people from the brick kilns of Egypt to heavenly heights by giving them the Torah in order to “polish” their souls so that they could shine as role models in every aspect of life for the entire world.
Unfortunately, too many Jews forget our calling and hang up the phone when duty calls -- the duty of behaving like a Jew. They dismiss the Torah and its teaching as obsolete. They choose to ignore that Torah’s message: "And I perform lovingkindness to thousands [of generations], to those who love Me and to those who keep My commandments (Shemot 20:6)
The Torah tells us that the Jewish nation entered the desert of Sinai on “this day” as opposed to on “that day” when it actually happened. This teaches us that on “this day” meaning today and every day we have to receive and spread anew the teachings of the Torah. Without the Torah, we will find ourselves in the “wilderness” of Sinai, New York, Miami or whatever spiritual desert we reside in.
The Torah is compared to water. Without these living waters, we become parched in the vast wasteland of life and enslaved and mired in addictive sins and superficial trappings.
They are called trappings for good reason, for they trap us when in truth we were born to be free. And there is no freedom without the law, the law of Hashem.
Statistically speaking, you should not have been born, and certainly more so, not reading my article! But if you are, then G-d has come looking for you to remind you of the promise you made at Sinai: "Everything that Hashem has spoken we shall do!"