Although the prophet Isaiah, predicting the events at the end of days (Isaiah 40:6 and 49:6), refers to the Jews as “a light to the nations”, history has shown that the Jews have already considerably illuminated mankind and have made an enormous impact on civilization. The light of the Torah (albeit in a somewhat altered form) shines brightly over the world as over a half of humanity now subscribe to either Christianity or Islam, the derivative religions of Judaism. Even in ancient times, when paganism dominated, many of the leading thinkers recognized the special spiritual legacy of the Jews. In the words of Theophrastes, Aristotle’s most illustrious disciple and successor in the Peripatetic school, “The Jews are a race of philosophers; they do not cease to occupy themselves with the divinity.” As Josephus pointed out, even Aristotle, himself, was astonished by the Jews and their knowledge. The nature of the Jewish national character, the traditions surrounding their knowledge of philosophy and science, and the Jewish impact on world history are the subjects of this lecture.
This lecture is dedicated to the memory of and li’ilui nishmos ר' נחום ב"ר שמחה ליב ושרה אסתר ר' בת יעקב עליהם השלו' of blessed memory.
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