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What is Jewish Heritage?


          It follows almost automatically.


If today’s existence of the Jews with their Torah intact is the real "Miracle of Jewish Survival" (see previous section), then this "Intact Torah" is also at the heart of true Jewish Heritage. (Did any other culture or belief system continuously guide the Jews throughout the centuries?)


There is also further evidence of this attitude in Jewish tradition:


Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882 or 892 - 942) was the rabbinic leader of Babylonian Jewry. That, in effect, made him the Chief Rabbi of all of the Jews of his day. It was he who wrote the famous words, "Our people are only a people through the Torah."


Rabbi Saadia’s attitude is also reflected in the Talmud where it is written, "When a child begins to speak the parent should teach him to say, Torah tziva lanu Moshe morasha kehilas Yaakov – (translated:) The Torah was commanded to us through Moses, (it is) a heritage to the community of Jacob (the Jews)."  Clearly, the Talmud is saying that Jews have as their personal heritage the very same Torah that Moses taught at Mount Sinai.


There is no current shortage of "Things Jewish." For example, a modern JCC (Jewish Community Center) might offer Jewish dance, Jewish food, Jewish programs for the elderly, Jewish exercise, and so forth. These wonderful services enrich a community and gladden its inhabitants.


Yet, however "Jewish" these activities might be, none of them have existed in their Jewish incarnation for very long. (Nor should they be confused with Judaism itself.) The essence of Judaism and Jewish heritage is the Torah, its observance and its study - that alone is what has endured for 3,300 years.


Rabbi Saadia Gaon’s words remain as compelling today as when they were written.



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