Israel Forever

For the week ending 28 September 2002 / 22 Tishri 5763

The Notion of a Nation

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Become a Supporter Library Library

"Woe to the nations of the world," said Rabbi Yochonon, "who are not aware of what they lost. When Jews had their Temple the sacrifices they offered on its altar served as an atonement for these nations but now who atones for them."
(Tractate Sukkah 55b)

This concern for the welfare of the world mentioned in the Talmud found expression during the Festival of Sukkot when seventy bullocks were offered in the Temple as sacrifices to gain for the seventy nations of the world, the rainfall needed for their survival. (Sukkot is the time when Heavenly judgment is passed in regard to the rains of the year to come).

How does this number seventy concur with the number of members of the United Nations, which is more than twice seventy? The answer is that there are really only seventy distinct ethnic units which have been fragmented by separatist aspirations. Recognizing each of these products of nationalistic fission as a nation is simply a convenience of modern geopolitics.

But one so-called nation cannot qualify for such recognition even by such liberal standards. Until the Six-Day Way in 1967 the Arabs living in Israel did not call themselves Palestinians. It was the Romans who gave the land of Israel the name Palestine after the historical enemies of Israel, the Philistines. They did this after making the tragic mistake of destroying the Temple in Jerusalem where sacrifices were offered in their behalf.

Will the nations of the world repeat this error by threatening the existence of Israel by recognizing a Palestinian nation that does not exist?

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