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Just by Existing

Just by Existing

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The kids had gone to bed, and my husband and I sneaked out for dinner. With them tucked away in bed, I always seem to develop a particularly dreamy view of my children. “We are blessed with such wonderful children,” I gently said to him, “thank G‑d!”

He laughed. “Rochel, they’re ages one and three. Let’s wait until they get a little older before we evaluate how good they are.”

Now I laughed. He was right. But still—I couldn’t resist thinking that they were exceptionally good. I’m pathetically biased, but I embrace my bias. I feel sated with pride, although they haven’t done anything uniquely successful or unusually brilliant—not yet . . .

I wonder: is this the way G‑d feels towards us?

Moses was wonderful and a faithful servant, but that wasn’t why G‑d loved himListening carefully to G‑d’s communication with Moses, you’ll hear a lot of love, the unconditional love typical of a parent. Yes, Moses was wonderful and talented and a faithful servant, but that wasn’t why G‑d loved him.

In the smallest of dialogues, Rashi, the foremost commentator on the Torah, picks up the overtures of love. “He called to Moses, and G‑d spoke to him,” begins the Book of Leviticus. Aha! “An expression of love,” Rashi immediately points out. After all, if the verse continues with “G‑d spoke to him,” why mention G‑d calling to Moses at all? Evidently G‑d would first greet Moses with “Moses, Moses,” and Moses would answer, “Here I am!” and then G‑d would begin His instructions.

Some affectionate words of endearment before getting down to business . . .

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi adds another insight into the underlying dynamics of G‑d’s conversation with Moses, noting that G‑d’s name is not explicitly noted in this dialogue; rather, the verse says, “He called to Moses.” Any name that would be used, explains Rabbi Schneur Zalman, would limit G‑d’s expression of love. For the divine names are expressions of G‑d; His essence defies any name or title. “He called” implies a love emanating from G‑d’s essence—and this type of love is unconditional, like the love of a parent to a child.

Unconditional love is not limited to the intimate relationship between G‑d and Moses, explains Rabbi Schneur Zalman. Every one of our souls is imbued with a spark of Moses’ soul. This loving communication between G‑d and Moses is the way G‑d relates to every Jew, regardless of his or her talents and accomplishments.


We learn from an early age to put a value score on our lives. We measure up our assets and our inadequacies, judging ourselves largely by how we measure up to our friends, and then we determine our self-worth. After becoming expert critics, we move on to critique everyone around us as well.

We’d assume that G‑d would be the harshest critic of all; being the paradigm of perfection, He’d look at us and value us based on what we’ve accomplished with our lives. I’m sure G‑d does appreciate our accomplishments (and is disappointed by our mistakes); but His love for us is not related to what we have to show for ourselves—it’s an essential love, adoring us just for being. G‑d is proud of us just for existing. Kind of like a parent.

Our very existence is proof of G‑d’s existence and a testament to His greatnessThis is especially true in light of the fact that, historically, our survival as a nation has been so precarious. As such, our very existence is proof of G‑d’s existence and a testament to His greatness, for without Him we would have long since disappeared.

Over 300 years ago, King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great French philosopher, to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal answered: “Why, the Jews, Your Majesty—the Jews.”

In Pascal’s mind, the fact that the Jews had survived up until the seventeenth century was miraculous. What would he say if he were here to see the Jewish nation having survived the twentieth century?

Mark Twain, the great American writer, wrote this in Harper’s Magazine in 1898:

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and Roman followed, made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up, and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out and they sit in twilight now or have vanished.

The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal, but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?


The book of Leviticus speaks of G‑d’s love. It begins with an expression of G‑d’s essential love and pride towards Moses, and in turn, to every Jew.

The haftorah (the weekly reading from the Prophets) always reflects the themes of the Torah portion to which it is joined. In the first verse of the haftorah for the first portion of Leviticus, Isaiah transmits the following message from G‑d: “This people I formed for Myself, they recite My praise” (Isaiah 43:21).

It becomes hard to judge our fellow harshly when we consider how much pleasure G‑d derives from his or her mere existence“This people I formed for Myself”—G‑d formed them for Himself, for His own pleasure and enjoyment. His words drip with unconditional love. In context of this affection, the prophet relays, “they recite My praise.” We praise and acclaim G‑d not only through our achievements, impressive as they may be, but through our mere existence. Our survival proclaims G‑d’s glory and gives Him reason to be proud.

It becomes hard, or perhaps impossible, to judge our fellow harshly when we consider how much pleasure G‑d derives from his or her mere existence. Even if we see them as rotten, selfish and sacrilegious—they recite G‑d’s praise just through existing.

Taking G‑d’s love seriously breeds a more compassionate approach in self-judging, and, of course, in the way we judge others too.1

FOOTNOTES
1.

Based on a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Shabbat Parshat Vayikra 5750 (1990), recorded in Sefer Hasichot 5750, vol. 1, pp. 378ff.

Rochel is a mother of four children and the co-director of Chabad of Las Olas, Fla., serving the community of young professionals. She is a high-school teacher and a freelance writer—and a frequent contributor to Chabad.org. She lectures extensively on topics of Kabbalah and feminism, and their application to everyday life. Rochel holds an MS in Brain Research from Nova SE University.
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Discussion (7)
March 24, 2012
Criticism of some parts of this article
I appreciate this writer and her enthusiasm about Jews and Judaism. Being Jewish is sometime a burden, at times you may be exposed to some maniac that will murder you just because you are Jewish, and often the everyday prejudice strikes you as hurtful. But eternally, it is marvelous to enjoy who and what we are, and we should do so. But i have heard how we have survived, and the Greeks and Romans and Persians have faded into oblivion. I fail to understand Twain or anyone else that poses this "proof". I meet and hear Romans(Italians) Greeks from the Nation of Greece, and Persians (Iranians) and some of them threaten Jews and Israel every moment with annihilation. No, I am proud to assert the miraculous preservation by HaShem of what is perhaps the smallest religious group of people on earth who is the most outstanding and high achieving people on earth, but this statement of the non existence of certain groups that I see and hear every day is simply not true.
Eliyahu
Orlando, Florida USA
March 23, 2012
His Children
The quote from Rochel Holzkenner is from an 1899 article which answers a letter Twain received from a lawyer concerning his (Twain’s) article of 1898.

Twain in his 1899 article titled: ‘Concerning the Jews’ did make one major error with respect to Jewish participation in wars of America up to that time. He later retracted his statement and confirmed that the Jewish people had taken part in American wars to a greater extent than non-Jews, relative to their size of the entire of population.

Personally, I believe Mr. Twain provided well thought and well written ‘excuses’ for anti-Semitism, but missed the fundamental issue of its ‘cause.’

You can read the essay on Google.
Enter Mark Twain Concerning the Jews.

However, the point Ms. Holzkenner makes so eloquently, and even poetically, is that the Jews survive because we are personally Hashem’s children.

I don’t know about anyone else, but that thought certainly gives me a sense of security and pride.
Moyshe
Pottsville, PA. USA
March 22, 2012
His call
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your beautiful article. Since I have no longer a husband, I have missed the simple, sublime intimacy of his calling my name. There is something so very touching as the voice of your beloved calling your name for relationship and fellowship. Even in the mundane of daily life, I felt deeply connected to the one who called my name.
terrie
bend, oregon
March 20, 2010
Harper's Magazine, Sept. 1899
go to wikiquote.org and look up:

wiki/Mark_Twain#Concerning_the_Jews_.28Harper.27s_Magazine.2C_Sept._1899.29
Anonymous
ft lauderdale, fl
chabadoflasolas.com
March 20, 2010
precarious
In the light of all the Jewish problems through the ages, it is good to read that though survival has been so "precarious", that in itself is proof of God's existence and love.
virginia m. mitchell
farminton hills,, mi.
March 18, 2010
Mark Twain
I have read quite a bit of Mark Twain and I never saw anything anti-semitic from him. He railed against Christian religious hypocrisy quite a bit, however. The article he wrote, which the quote on the immortality of the Jews is from, also has absolutely no anti-semitism from him, rather the opposite. He was a righteous gentile, in my opinion.
Yitzchok Gordon
Pittsburgh, Pa USA
March 14, 2010
mark twain
sam clemens (mark twain) had a reputation for being rather anti-semitic. may i see the rest of this article from harper's?
Walter Marcus
Riverside, California, USA
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