More precious than popularity
To say that we Jews aren’t popular is an understatement. All too often, we’re downright unpopular. And far worse.
Why is this? What is it about us that upsets our detractors so much?
Could it be because we associate ourselves with G-d, the almighty Creator, who we understand to be beneficent and merciful to every one of His creations? Unlikely. Why would that upset anyone?
Could it be because we “push” G-d onto others? Can’t be. Because we don’t. Everyone knows that Judaism isn’t into proselytising.
Could it be because we make people uncomfortable by negating the importance of the individual human being? Definitely not. A core teaching of Judaism is the importance of Adam and every one of his descendants.
Could it be because we negate the importance of non-Jewish nations? Nope, that can’t be the reason either. The Torah teaches us to “love your fellow as yourself” and the Sefer HaBris points out that “your fellow” refers to both Jew and non-Jew.
So what could it possibly be that disturbs our adversaries so much?
I’ve discovered an answer.
The reason why we’re unpopular is because we Jews don’t place any one of those values as the highest Jewish value. If we did, we should be no less popular than the various other religions and cultures that do prioritise those values.
As Jews, we certainly do recognise the importance of all those values. But we understand them to be means, not ends. The greatest importance is given to something that follows on from those values, that facilitates an even greater value, the highest value: taking care of G-d’s creation.
That’s not a popular message. People prefer to seek closeness to G-d, self-improvement, and solidarity with humankind. Those are popular values. Very popular.
I used to teach these messages. I can’t say I was top of the pops as a teacher, but at least I felt popular.
When I discovered that Judaism places its greatest priority on taking care of G-d’s creation, I began teaching that. It’s not a popular topic. It was then that it worried me that I wasn’t very popular!
But now I’m ok with that. Judaism, I realise, isn’t about seeking popularity. It’s about fulfilling a mission of channelling all the popular values into a higher value that supersedes all other values. Even popularity.
It’s a mission that those who seek popularity will find non-popular. Unpopular. Uncomfortable. Unacceptable. And worse.
But it’s the mission that we few, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are entrusted with. It’s a mission that seeks not the receiving of popularity, but the bestowal of contribution.
It’s the mission that we will fulfil regardless of all the antagonism, the challenges, and the attacks. It’s the mission that we’re assured by the Creator Himself that we’ll be successful in fulfilling. It’s the mission of being co-creators with G-d.
In spite of its lack of popularity, it’s the greatest mission of all.