The Origins of Race



A Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest, a Muslim mufti, a Methodist minister, a Buddhist monk, a Hindu guru, a white supremacist, a Black Panther, a Pink Panther, a red Democrat, a blue Republican, and a green Martian walk into a bar.

The bartender takes one look and says: “Is this a joke?” He naturally assumes that all these diverse people could not be together unless it was a joke.

With all the progress civilization has made, there still remain major racial, political, ethnic, and national rifts in this world. Look at the Muslim world. Look at the political animosity in the United States, showcased in this week’s nasty presidential elections. Look at the upheavals in Europe. Look at the divides between Jews in Israel.

How are ever to achieve true global E Pluribus Unum, “Out of Many, One”?

The secret to finding the “one” within the “many” may be found in a beautiful teaching in this week’s Torah reading – Parshat Noach, as illuminated by a fascinating exchange between the then New York Mayor Dinkins and the Lubavitcher Rebbe about the racial tensions in Crown Heights.

Noah is the progenitor of every human being alive today. Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, with three very different personalities and character traits, as indicated to by their names – name warmth and beauty – which serve as archetypes for finding harmony on our lives today.

These three also gave rise to very different ethnicities, races, cultures and religions. But together, the sons of Noah, teach us what it is to be tamim, complete, whole, one.


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The Meaningful Life Center