The Miracle of Jewish Survival
The ancient world was governed by several different empires. At their height, several of them ruled the entire known civilized world. However, once conquered and deprived of political independence, those empires all disappeared. Are todayís Egyptians the descendents of the Pharaohs and their nation? Are todayís Italians the offspring of the Romans who ruled the world for hundreds of years? Nobody knows.
The Jews as well are an ancient people. And it wasnít just once that they were conquered and dispersed (and often slaughtered as well). Almost every European and near-eastern country that grew powerful eventually turned on its outnumbered and defensless Jews and oppressed them - to greater or lesser degrees. Yet, the Jews endure to this day as an identifiable entity. And they are as vibrant and critical a force in the world as ever. This is G-dís miracle!
But there is even more to this phenomenon:
What happened to the religions and social cultures of those mighty empires? What happened to their laws and systems of government? Hardly an iota remains. The people themselves survived; we just do not know who they are. But what they believed in has completely vanished.
The same holds true in modern times. For example: North America was mostly populated by people from every European country and African slaves from many different lands. All of these peoples had distinct languages and religions. Yet, at present, almost all of their differentiations have disappeared. This, despite the fact that none of those groups were ever really pressured to abandon their unique ways and beliefs.
Among the Jews, however, it is different. One of the greatest 18th Century rabbis, Rabbi Yaakov Emden (1697-1776) observed: The Jews of his time were studying the very same words of the Torah that their immediate ancestors did. Those ancestors studied the same words that their forefathers did, and so it continues. Each generation studied the exact same texts the previous generation did, extending back in an unbroken chain for thousands of years.
Amazingly, this took place over centuries during which the Jews were exiled from country-to-country-to-country. And the persecutions they suffered often included the confiscation and burning of their Torah Scrolls and Books of the Talmud. Furthermore, they were dispersed throughout the world with very slow and minimal communication between their far-flung communities. Yet, every word of the Torah has survived intact.
Rabbi Emden concluded that (even back in his time) this phenomenon was a greater miracle than the splitting of the Red Sea described in the Bible.
That this modus vivendi has endured into the 21st century is even more astonishing. What the Jews suffered - just between Rabbi Emdenís time and the present - far exceeds what what the citizens of any ancient empire endured. Nearly all Sephardic Jews were driven from from their different homelands, while the Germans displaced and then slaughtered most of Mainland Europeís Jews.
Yet, not one word of the Torah and Talmud texts that Jews delve into has been lost. In our times, tens of thousands of Jewish children attend traditional yeshivot (religious parochial schools). There they study the Bible and its Talmudic explanations - the identical words and explanations that their forefathers have been studying continuously for millennia.
That every syllable of the Torah has survived intact and continues to be treasured and studied is perhaps the greatest Jewish-survival-miracle of all.