We learn Jewish historynot only to avoid themistakes of the past, but tounderstand where ourdestiny is taking us.
This series is designed as a basic overview of all the Jewish history -- all 4,000 years of it.Usually when one mentions the word "history" most people break out in a cold sweat. They remember backto high school and they associate history with the memorization of names, dates, places and eventsnecessary only for exams and then promptly forgotten afterwards. This is probably why Mark Twain said, "Inever let my schooling interfere with my education."So before we actually begin talking about Jewish history, let's talk a little bit about why we need to learnhistory in the first place. What is history? What benefit does learning history serve?History is, first of all, the testing ground of ideas. We can talk in theory about ideas, but the passage of timeclearly shows us which ideas are right or wrong --what works and what doesn't. So, for instance, a hundredyears ago a Communist and a Capitalist could debate which system would dominate the world, but recenthistory has shown us that Communism has failed and Capitalism is sailing along.There's a tremendous amount of lessons that can be learned from history. As the Spanish-Americanphilosopher, George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it."So the basic reason to learn history, in general, is that people, more or less, are the same. Technologymight change, the geopolitical realities of the world might change, but people tend to do the same stupidthings over and over again. And unless we learn from the past and remember it, and apply those lessons forthe future, we're destined to get stuck in the same rut and repeat the same mistakes over and over.
This theme applies to Jewish history as well. The Torah teaches:
Remember the days of old; understand the years of generation after generation. Ask your father and he will relate to you, your elders and they will tell you
(Deut. 32:7).But Judaism also introduced a concept into human history that is revolutionary in all aspects, particularly inthe aspect of morality and the notion of history in general -- the idea of an infinite God who acts in history.The Jewish conception of God is that of Creator, Sustainer and Supervisor, which means not a God whocreated the world and then went on vacation to Miami, but an infinite Being who is actively involved increation. To put it more philosophically: The entire physical world is a creation of God's consciousness. Theuniverse has no independent existence outside of God "willing " it to exist.