1. A Tribe of Storytellers

Jews are a tribe. Like all tribes you either are born into it, marry into it, or get adopted by it (we call this conversion). Our tribe is made up of many races and ethnicities; we speak many languages, some of which we borrow from the countries in which we have lived or currently live, and some we make up, blending our mother tongue, Hebrew, with Spanish, Arabic, and German, to name but three. We call these languages Ladino, Judeo–Arabic, and Yiddish, respectively. In the same way we create different languages we create different musical styles, cuisines, dress codes, and literatures. Mostly, though, we are known for our story. So at our core, we Jews are a tribe of storytellers.

Story and storyteller arise together; neither precedes the other; neither outlasts the other. We Jews are nothing without our story; our story is nothing without us. Because our story is ancient, we Jews are ancient. Because our story continues, we Jews continue.

Our story is simple: once upon a time the creator of the universe chose us among all the peoples of the earth to assist in the perfection of our planet. To help with this task he gave us a country, Eretz Yisrael, a “land for god wrestling,” that was to serve as our laboratory for world-perfecting. He also gave us Sefer Torah, a “book of instructions,” and taught us how to read it in a way that would yield endless surprise and paradox, and no answers to any of the questions that would arise as we set about to perfect the world. He then left us to suffer the slings and arrows and gas chambers of outrageous fortune until we fulfill our potential and bring the world to perfection. And when we do, nation will not lift up sword against nation, but will beat their swords into pruning hooks, and cease to study war, and everyone will sit beneath her vine and her fig tree, and no one shall be afraid (Micah 4:3–4).  We have a long way to go in this regard.

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