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Our father Avraham is an inveterate wanderer. For a great deal of his life he is a traveller, always an immigrant in a new and alien society. Though he is recognized and respected as being a prince of God and a special person, an asset to any society in which he chooses to dwell, he still remains the eternal “outsider.” He constantly hears, reverberating in his mind, God’s original instruction to him to go forth, to travel to a destination that is as yet unknown to him.

In spreading the message and idea of monotheism throughout the world, his mission drives him to journey. He is not a nomad in any sense of that word, for he has a purpose and a goal and his journeys are a means to achieve his end. But being a traveller automatically shapes his life and is itself one of the major challenges that he faces in his lifetime.
In this respect, he is the accurate forerunner of the fate that will befall the Jewish people, his beloved descendants, throughout its long and difficult history. The Jewish people have wandered the face of this earth and have brought blessing and enriching achievement to every society it visited and settled in. Yet, again like their father Avraham, the Jews remained “outsiders” even though they were part of a particular society for centuries and felt themselves comfortable and perfectly integrated. In fact, and in inexplicable irony, the more integrated they were in a society, history shows us, the stronger was the reaction to treat them as “outsiders.” And many times in our history this has ended very badly for all concerned.
Part of the lesson of the life of Avraham is that Jews must at one and the same time be a part – a loyal and contributing part – of the general society where they reside and somehow remain distinct, unique and special. Again, as history has shown us, this is no easy task, not for any individual, let alone for an entire group of people numbering in the millions. Bilaam, the intellectual champion of the non-Jewish world, would wonder in amazement that Israel “dwells alone and is not reckoned with the other nations of the world” and yet it plays such a dominant and disproportionate role in the affairs of the general world society.
In this it mirrors accurately the life and role of Avraham during his long and productive lifetime. To be the “outsider” and yet to be the cog that drives the engine of progress in civilization is one of the greatest achievements of the Jewish people over the ages. The non-Jewish world begrudgingly realizes this but, as in the case of Abraham and his society, this in no way softens their attitude or behavior towards the Jewish society and nation.
Whether there is anything that we can do to improve this situation is a difficult question to answer. But, as in the case of Avraham, our task is to persevere and remain constant to our goals, mission and eventual destination.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein            

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