Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Tammuz 5760 - July 5, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Judaism is a Family-Based Way of Life

Our feature article "DNA and the Chain Of Tradition" this week reports on recent genetic research that shows that the Jewish people are genetically coherent and pure. The discoveries of molecular genetics and reading the code of the human genome have shown that the Jewish people are closely related to each other no matter where they lived for thousands of years. This is a kiddush Hashem of the highest order.

Many people have questioned, based on what could "reasonably" be expected from a group living for thousands of years as a downtrodden minority, how pure the Jewish people really remained. This was a canard that was raised even in our first exile in Egypt: If the Egyptians ruled so thoroughly over the bodily efforts of the Jewish people, surely they must have dominated their wives as well. The Jewish people, laughed the surrounding nations, must be full of Egyptian blood.

The charge of those days was utterly false and the Jews themselves certainly knew this well. Yet this was insufficient for Hashem. He, so to speak, did not want to let this cheap charge pass unchallenged. So, in parshas Pinchos, He stamped each of the family names listed of the Jewish people with His own name (putting the letters yud and hei around their names, see Rashi on Bamidbar 26,5), to certify that all of them are truly the sons of the fathers. It was not sufficient that the charge be false, and not even enough that each Jewish woman know the suggestion to be a lie. It was important enough to declare openly, in the permanent and very public record of the Written Torah, that the people of Hashem maintained a pure lineage.

The genetic research reported in our pages provides a new, strong certification of this same ancient truth. The genetic signature of Jews throughout the world is so closely related that it indicates strongly that the Jews married only among themselves. The similarities are so strong between communities that were isolated from each other for thousands of years that there could be no significant mixing from the surrounding non-Jews.

Moreover, there is strong evidence that all Jews are native to the Middle East since there is also a strong resemblance between Jewish genes and the genes of the other peoples who live in this area. We are not the descendants of non-Jews, whether converted or not, and are clearly native to the Land of Israel.

The integrity of the family is no small matter for the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. Many people -- outsiders and even some who should be insiders -- consider the main focus of observance to be the public rituals in shul. Some women, for example, long to participate more publicly in the davening and the reading of the Torah.

Far be it from us to determine what is more or less important in Torah observance, but it is clear that there are many ways in which the family figures far more prominently in the performance of mitzvos. Most of the special mitzvos that apply at a particular time are performed by and within the family. Just think of matzo, the seder, the succah, and the Shabbos meals. A truly Jewish generation cannot grow up without a thoroughly Jewish family.

In this way, the strong evidence for the integrity of the Jewish family demonstrates the integrity of our entire mesorah.

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