“The Jews are one of the greatest enigmas of history. What makes us unique? What has given us our resilience, power of survival and the ability to adapt to radically new conditions without losing our identity?”

  “Survival of the Fittest” is a term used most commonly when referring to science. However, applying this term to history brings out a fascinating enigma; the Jewish People, persecuted for over 4000 years, have achieved the status of fittest. Puzzling scholars and simple folk alike, this small group of religious monotheists that make up 0.2% of the population have defied all odds. The ancient Egyptians who persecuted the Jews are dead and gone. The Greeks and Romans followed in their wake, as have most ancient governments. The more recent Third Reich has collapsed, joined shortly thereafter by the USSR, yet the Jewish people are still here to tell their tale.
  What is it about our ancient Biblical nation that allows us not only to survive the onslaught of history, but to thrive, despite all we have been through? This is a complex question requiring an answer that begins with strong Jewish beliefs, manifested through a set of relationships that eventually bring us to the Eternal Reward.

    Jews believe that this life is but a passing shadow (Psalms,144:4); which is a representation of the physical world and its limits. The importance of this world diminishes when compared to the spiritual World-to-Come, and the knowledge that the physical world is not our final destination has been essential during some of our hardest times. Along with this powerful concept of a final, better resting place, Jews have also been sustained by the idea that they must endure hardship to atone for their sins, and thereby earn the Final Reward. It is the belief in the World-to-Come and the realization that challenges will bring us there that lead Jews to have strong relationships.
   One of the most powerful relationships we have is our connection with G-d, which stems from our firm belief in Him. The Holy Shabbos, which takes place from Friday at sundown until Saturday at dusk, is a wonderful example of an opportunity to connect to G-d. There is a small semblance of eternal bliss that arrives on this day in every Jewish home, and there are no words to describe the peace and tranquility that descend along with it. Jews around the world drop their material work; they stop driving, stop texting, stop making money, and instead, turn to G-d and recharge their batteries.
   Connecting to G-d by observing Shabbos helps us to overcome the many difficulties that we will inevitably face in the coming week. Even during times of horror, such as the Spanish Inquisition or the Holocaust, Jews would do whatever they could to honor the Holy Shabbos in any way possible, and to cling to their relationship with G-d. Shabbos is also a wonderful time to focus on family, as we partake together in not one, but three splendid, multi-course meals, which nourish not only our bodies and souls, but our family bonds as well. Much of the resilience of the Jewish people stems from this weekly opportunity to strengthen our relationships with both G-d and our families.

    Another source of Jewish strength can be found in our relationship with education. Jews are known to be highly educated and have been represented in governments and royal courts since the time of Joseph in the Bible. Jewish learning starts from a very young age, as Jewish parents infuse love for G-d and the Torah (bible) into their little children with a famous phrase. Every religious three year old can recite the Shema, a simple yet meaningful series of holy words that proclaims G-d’s Oneness. When little Jewish boys begin learning to read Hebrew, honey is lovingly put on the pages of the book to show the child that Torah learning is as sweet as honey. Jewish girls are not obligated in Torah learning, but they are still knowledgeable about Torah. Girls are also taught many relevant laws by their mothers, including kashrus, tzniyus and child-rearing.
    The relationship that Jews have with learning does not stop after high school; in fact, Jews continue learning and studying the secrets and lessons of the Torah until their very end. The Torah has an infinite number of valuable resources; it is said that there are seventy different ways to interpret each word in the Torah! Torah teaches ethics, morals, history, math, and science; it is the instruction manual that comes with every Jew, and provides a road map through our darkest days. The challenges we face in this world come from G-d and when we rise to them by learning from the Torah, we grow in our relationships with both G-d and each other, and become stronger.

   Jews are known for their strong unity with each other which spans across both time and space. Performing rituals that my great-great grandparents did over 100 years ago connects me to them in an amazing way. The traditions that they worked so hard to preserve in their time are still alive, despite many years and much tragedy. My ancestors prayed to G-d, learned His Torah and performed His commandments, and I am following in their footsteps by doing the same thing every day. I am also helping to preserve my people.
     I had a fascinating experience this past summer, while working in a bungalow colony day camp. One night, I babysat for a young family with two children. I did not really know the children, but I put them to bed with the universal bedtime procedure: pajamas, teeth brushing, stories and songs. Then, I asked them if they knew Shema. They nodded, and recited along with me.
I then experienced one of the most sensational moments of my life. These two children whom I had never met before were reciting the very same words that I have said since I was a little child. The fact that Jews all over the world are saying the holy words of Shema all the time proved to me that Jews have a unity that cannot be broken. Connecting with fellow Jews across the globe occurs not just through words, but through actions as well. When Jews meet in cafés, airports or foreign countries, we always treat each other like long-lost brothers because that is exactly what we are.

     Jews are not only brothers but warriors, fighting side by side in a constant battle for our existence. We stand strong and firm in the face of danger. We use our relationships with G-d, with our families, with our learning and with each other to make us stronger. Jews know and believe that no matter who tries to oppress, murder, persecute, extinguish, destroy or convert us, and no matter how many times they try, they will never succeed. We know that without us, there will be no world, but that without this physical world, there will still be us. Everything that we face in this world is merely a challenge from G-d and He wants us to grow and become strong and connect to Him.
    If we pass His tests, and we make it through this hall of pain and resentment, then we will merit the Eternal Reward in the World-to-Come. So what happens in this world can not really hurt us, at least, not our souls; for these are our true selves-as long as we react properly, with firm faith. Our enemies can crush our bodies, but they can NEVER crush our souls.
This may seem a simple answer to a complex question, but unshakable faith and a clear understanding of the path to the Eternal Reward have sustained us throughout history, and moved us to enduring greatness.


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: I WON! (The Luckiest Girl on Earth!) « Unravelmythoughts's Blog
  2. Jewish Teen Education
    May 11, 2011 @ 12:02:27

    You’ve expressed yourself so well. At your age you have quite a grown-up view of the world. It seems like the judges picked the right winner of the essay contest. Mazal Tov!


  3. Tehila
    May 12, 2011 @ 05:24:52

    WOW! it’s RLY good!! congrats again!!!


  4. loser
    May 13, 2011 @ 20:27:36

    Lovely essay! I can see why you won; you’ve done a great job. And the grammar was excellent. There may have been one or two misplaced commas, but if there were I don’t even remember because I got so caught up reading this wonderful essay!


    • unravelmythoughts
      May 18, 2011 @ 08:55:08

      Thank you so much! That means alot, coming from you! Any mistakes are due to the fact that this is not the most polished version, but the pre-edited one. Still, it’s close enough!


  5. Ellbrbee
    May 19, 2011 @ 06:36:16

    WOW! I finally got a chance to read it and I was blown away! There is no way that you are not going to win the grand prize! This is an amazing piece of writing! You go girl!


    • unravelmythoughts
      May 19, 2011 @ 10:55:42

      Thank you, oh most faithful commentor. You have officially recieved the “MCP” Award, aka the Most Commenting Person Award. Sorry there’s no prize money, but I will be treating you to a 12 hour hang out period in random places….lol 😛


  6. goodlookin'
    May 19, 2011 @ 07:57:31

    dang u make jews look good. on a more serious note, a job well done my friend. It was simply beautiful. Not that you need to be told that after winning, but I’m sure it feels good to hear it again. I’m glad I took the time to read it : )


    • unravelmythoughts
      May 19, 2011 @ 10:53:56

      Thanks for reading it! Brings that 8 up to a 10 even THOUGH I told you I don’t mind, it still feels good, yea?
      Anyways, glad you liked it! My mom was cracking up about the “dang u make jews look good” part.


  7. unravelmythoughts
    May 19, 2011 @ 11:21:25

    I just re-read my essay for the first time since submitting it. It’s been a long two months. I am still slightly surprised that it won, not because it isn’t well written but because it is SO COMPLEX. GOSH. *wipes brow*

    These few paragraphs are so full of meaning that it just blows my mind away.
    *runs to catch brain…groan*


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