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Va’etchanan: Demographics

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Published 8/9/14

Should Jews be concerned that they are seriously outnumbered by the nations of the world, and should we therefore bend to their will? 

There are about 400 million people in the Middle East. A little more than 6 million of them are Jews. This puts the Jews at about one-and-a-half percent of the Middle East population. 

For comparative purposes: If the Middle East were the Kentucky Derby, the Jewish horse would have 100 to 1.5 odds of winning. This means, if you placed a $1,500 bet on the Jewish horse and he won, your payout would be $100,000. Purely mathematically, these are the odds of the Jew in the race that is the Middle East. 

But, compared to the rest of the world, the Jewish demographic presence in the Middle East is huge. There are about 7 billion people in the world. An estimated 14 million of them are Jews. This means that Jews constitute but a mere two-tenths of one percent of the world population. 

Again for comparative purposes: If the world was one big Churchill Downs, the Jewish horse would have 100 to .2 odds of winning. And if you bet $2,000 on the horse with the yarmulke and tzitzit, at victory your payout would be a cool $1,000,000. Not a bad return for a day at the track. 

Israel’s power lies in always beating the odds. It does not lie in quantity but in quality. It must be so, for we are small in number, as God decreed in the Torah we always would be. And yet, “Jews are news” – whatever this little people does seems to matter a great deal to the world. Why is this always so? 

This sermon discusses the Jewish struggle with greatness, which makes us often belittle ourselves, and explains how we can shed this complex once and for all – how we can appreciate our true worth while remaining humble.

The secret is contained in the words of this week’s Torah reading –Parshat Va’etchanan – where we are told: The Lord your God has chosen you to be His treasured people, out of all the peoples upon the face of the earth … Not because you are more numerous than any people did the Lord delight in you and choose you, for you are the least of all the peoples.

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