Q. I am fed up with being different. Why can’t we Jews be a normal people?
A. Every human being is different. We all have our own unique history, personality and talents. Trying to be “normal”, i.e. a clone of someone else, makes you false to yourself and weakens the society of which you are part. There is a contribution which only you can make. Withhold it, and everyone suffers.
This is also true of the macrocosm. The groups we belong to also have their own history, personality and unique capacity to enrich the human race. Blur the differences, and you impoverish everyone else.
Yes, Jewishness can make life difficult. It’s hard to be a Jew – but it’s also good.
Maybe that’s what Abraham Joshua Heschel had in mind when he wrote, “What I have learned from Jewish life is that if a man is not more than human then he is less than human. Judaism is an attempt to prove that, in order to be a man, you have to be more than a man, that, in order to be a people, we have to be more than a people. Israel was made to be a ‘holy people’. This is the essence of its dignity and the essence of its merit. Judaism is a link to eternity, kinship with ultimate reality.”
Renan said that to be Jewish is to have a sense of eternal discontent. The quiet life was never part of the Jewish destiny.
If being Jewish means being different, why not embrace it warmly as a historic destiny and blessing?