Jewish Identity – Recognizable To All

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

In the Bracha of Havdalah, we praise HaShem “Who distinguishes between Kodesh and Chol (holy and secular), between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations”. The distinction between light and darkness is an obvious one, clearly for all to perceive. The distinction between Kodesh and Chol (profane), however, is a more subtle one, hidden from the perception of the physical senses. A person needs a special intuition, a spiritual sensitivity, to see with his heart and mind the difference between the sacred and the secular.

After the Bracha mentions the clearest of Havdalot, namely, between light and darkness, and the most hidden, between the holy and profane, the prayer then presents a third Havdala: between Israel and the nations. Should the distinction between Israel and the nations resemble the distinction between light and darkness or should it resemble the distinction between the holy and the profane? Should one act as a Jew only in the recesses of his home, closing the windows and drawing the shades behind him before putting on his yarmulke (kipah) to daven amongst the Egyptions, “Israel was distinct there”.  This concept is inferred from the pasuk because the Hebrew word for nation is “goy”, related to the Hebrew word “geviya”. The connection implies that just as every person is unique and every face different , so too the Jewish people stood apart from the other nations around them. However, our Sages were not merely communicating  a historical fact, they were relating to us a religious imperative as well; that the distinction of a Jew must be evident for all to see. The Havdalah between Israel and other nations is not meant to be a hidden one but rather one that is apparent and obvious as the distinction between light and darkness. Judaism does not merely require a Jew to perform the Mitzvot; it requires that his Mitzvah observance and Jewish identity be recognizable to all.

(source: Drashot HaRav p.180)

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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