Most nations and religions trace themselves to some great person who was responsible for their greatness and in some form or another deify that individual. For nations the examples are legion. Rome traced to the two children raised by a she wolf, Romulus and Remus, China was unified by a leader who was born of a dragon which brought him to China where he unified the separate kingdoms forging a great power, England has King Arthur and the Camelot myth and so on it goes. Christianity gave us Jesus, Islam gave us Mohammed, Buddhism gave us Buddha, Taoism came from Tao and so forth with each religion traced to a person who is raised above other men and in some way deified or immortalized. What follows will likely not sit us well with many readers but is presented for thought and not as any claim that the two seminal foundings were directly related beyond their emphasis on the sanctity of the human spirit and its enabling by the Creator, by Hashem.
But with the United States there was no one individual though George Washington is regarded as the father of the nation nobody would claim that he founded or singularly established the country. His greatest feat was giving up power when he could have continued as President until his death thus establishing the temporary power of the office instead of making it into a form of elected monarchy. The American idea was the world of the Founding Fathers, a group where though many people may choose one they prefer, none is more vital to the forging of the United States than the others. Sure we credit Thomas Jefferson with writing the Declaration of Independence but this only came about because John Adams deferred and chose him because he was a talented writer and an amiable person where, as John Adams is credited with stating in persuading Thomas Jefferson claiming when Jefferson claimed Adams was the stronger writer and better at expressing himself claimed that was why he could not be its author because he was far too disliked and anything he wrote would be torn apart by many of the others. James Madison is credited with crafting the initial wording of the constitution but again it became the work of all the signatories in some means or another. The United States is not traceable to a single person but instead to singular ideals expressed in that Declaration of Independence and a form of governance delineated in that Constitution and those are the two pillars upon which America rests.
Judaism is similar in that there were great people but no individual can be credited with establishing the religion. Granted when Hashem altered Avram’s name making it Avraham and Sari became Sarah, this would be the seminal point where the Covenant would be made and circumcision the sign of the contract which was to be undertaken by every male; yet the religion itself is transferred through one’s mother and not the father. To be a Jew one is required to have come from a Jewish mother. But Avraham received the Covenant with Hashem; he did not codify Judaism and did not write the Torah. Torah was transcribed by Moses which was why he is referred to as the lawgiver. But Moses transcribed Torah and led the Israelites from Egypt which is told in Torah in Exodus and retold in Deuteronomy. Moses went to great lengths to refute any deification including assuring that he would have no burial location which would be known so as to refute any worship giving all due credit to Hashem. Joshua was the leader of the Israelites when they conquered the Promised Land. Hashem kind of left out that after leaving Egypt the Israelites were going to have to conquer the Promised Lands but that was the way of forming a nation and claiming your place among nations in those early days of humankind. There also were numerous Judges and Prophets who ruled the Israelites but none were greater than the others in reflection and thus none were ever made to be more than wise and knowledgeable men. King Saul was the first Israelite king and was deficient in many ways but did preserve the nation passing it to King David more by default than any other means as the battle which claimed Saul’s son and heir to the throne also threw Saul into such grief that he took his own life, not the most glorious of endings. From King David the throne passed to King Solomon. King Solomon was regarded as one of the wisest of men but also had great failings chief amongst them were the inadequacy of his children who brought great harm upon the Israelites or Hebrews.
What is less known by many is that the Jews were the remnants of the Israelites. The kingdom ruled by Kings Saul, David, Solomon and so forth broke into two kingdoms with the northern Kingdom called Israel and the southern Kingdom named for its larger tribe, Judah, named Judea. Israel consisted of ten tribes and their priests and was conquered by the Assyrians and never actually heard from until modern times. These became known as the ten lost tribe of the Jews but were really the ten lost tribes of Israel. Jews are the remainder of the tribes of Benjamin and Judea and the Priestly classes, tribes, of the Levites and Kohanim. These two tribes basically merged into the entity of Judea and the people were the Judeans, obviously. With time people grew lazy and did not care to actually say Judeans so it eventually shortened to simply Jews. Judea traced back to Judah and Benjamin to Benjamin, two of the sons of Jacob. One need remember that when Judaism relates to Avraham it is almost always referenced as Avraham, Isaak and Jacob as these were the Patriarchs buried in Hevron in the cave bought by Avraham in which to bury Sarah. Still the story of the Jews hinges greatly on Jacob’s twelve sons but one was responsible for the survival of the entire family, Joseph. This was one of the more unusual stories amongst many unusual stories. Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers but because of this act he was in the right place at the right time to become a favored one of Pharaoh and was placed as Chancellor over Egypt second only in power to Pharaoh himself. He managed resources of food saving Egypt from a great famine and saved his family as well. This led to the eventual enslaving of his family which was then brought forth by Hashem through the vessels which were Moses with Aaron. As is said, the rest is history except in this case it is more accurate to say the rest is the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament and then history as that story has had a rebirth which was foretold in the Bible with the formation in a single day of the nation of modern Israel in its ancient homelands, though that is still being contested the eventual forming of Israel will include its ancient lands even if that takes a thousand years.
Judaism and the United States owe their formations to many individuals with none more vital than the rest and neither would exist if not for all of these great people all of whom were guided by principles and forces beyond their comprehension. Did these people know they were a part of something far greater than themselves, of course they did. But each group had the guidance of great people when required the most and both claim that Hashem is an integral part of their formation as a nation. Neither deifies any individual and instead when they use the term Creator their reference is to the Creator of all things as told in Genesis and both Judaism and the United States of America claim to owe their creation to that very same Creator and both claim the view that mankind was imbued and “endowed by that Creator with unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These principles are found throughout the laws and preaching in Judaism and were carried forth in Christianity and found their place in the Declaration of Independence where they were once again ensconced in the human mind and established repeatedly but most forcefully in Torah and thus made available for Thomas Jefferson to include in his declaration.
Beyond the Cusp