Parashat Shlah

The Power Of Perception

The survival and success of the Jewish people stems from our ability to mold reality to match our dreams and ideals.

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When the Temple of Solomon was destroyed and the Jews were exiled, few would have expected the survival of our people. Yet we are still thriving, some 2,500 years later. We have witnessed the rise and fall of Egyptians, Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, the Holy Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, just to name a few. They rose and fell, and we remain.

As the 20th Psalm exults: "They stumble and fall, but we rise and stand firm." That there are still Jews who care about Judaism is a statistical impossibility. Yet we are still here, still passionate and still Jewish. The secret weapon of our survival is our continuing excitement and fascination with our ideas. Passionate about our relationship with God, thrilled with the challenge of doing mitzvot (commandments), energized by the values and ethics that form the core of our rich inheritance, we make ourselves eternal by linking our identity to the One who is eternal.

The Psalmist explains that "some trust in chariots, others in horses, but we honor the name of the Lord our God." In the process, we show the obsession with "facts" and statistics to be lacking. Through passion and conviction, we mold mere reality to match our vaunted dream.

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.