[Previously posted at The Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/international-house-of-prayer/]
Ohr Hachayim Deuteronomy: Vezot Habrachah
International House of Prayer
“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” -Isaiah 56:7
There is much written in the Bible, the Talmud and later Rabbinic literature as to the place of the Jewish people amongst the nations. One of the most direct lines is God’s statement that the Jews shall become “a nation of priests” (Kohanim). Many of us are familiar with the term “Kohen” (priest) and the exalted status they have in Jewish history and society. However, what many may have forgotten is that the root of the word, the formative verb, is “lekhahen” (to serve).
Simply put, the nation of Israel is meant to serve the nations of the world. To be a beacon of wisdom, morality, justice and kindness. Not a far off, distant light that gives no warmth, but a close, approachable hearth that welcomes those that wish to warm themselves and learn and share in our experiences. To set an example of families, communities and hopefully a country worth emulating. To assist others in connecting to our positive values and historic lessons.
The Ohr Hachayim (on Deuteronomy 33:7) goes even further in his analysis. Not only is there a need by the nations of the world for the Jewish people, there is a symbiotic and even an eschatologically (look it up…) dependent relationship. Jews need the Gentiles and cannot fulfill their mission without them. The most poignant example, the one that the Ohr Hachayim highlights, is the story of Ruth the Moabite (see my ongoing novelization).
He claims that while the tribe of Judah was destined to produce the king of Israel, that destiny would never come to play until the Gentile, Ruth the Moabite, brought her unique spark to the people of Israel. Only then could Jewish and world history follow its course and lead to a better future.
May we live to see Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled, that the House of God in Jerusalem shall truly be a House of Prayer for all the nations.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,
To my Gentile friends and readers. You are sparks that I’m honored to glean much light from.