Descended From Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Most Americans are descended from earlier arrivals to its shores, from more than one country, and many don't know who their relatives were beyond a few generations back. Thus, the explanation for the growing popularity of genetic testing and ancestral searching, one of the latest fads in America

Ariel Natan Pasko

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Americans are "rootless cosmopolitans," a term I might add, that was frequently used derogatorily by Europeans against Jews in the past. By rootless cosmopolitans, I mean to say that America is made up of people from all over the globe. Most Americans are descended from earlier arrivals to its shores, from more than one country, and many don't know who their relatives were beyond a few generations back. Thus, the explanation for the growing popularity of genetic testing and ancestral searching, one of the latest fads in America.

For example, the New York Times recently ran an article entitled, "Who's Your Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaddy?" about this growing movement. Well, mine are the famous Biblical prophets, chosen of the L-rd, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Jews, by the way, know where they come from, the Land of Israel, the Biblical "Promised Land" (and the rest of the world knows it, too).

So, while Americans are scurrying around to determine if they have some of Genghis Khan's DNA (probably raped their maternal progenitor), or have some connection to Marie Antoinette and her infamous "Let them eat cake" rant, Jews the world over can pride themselves in their descent from such moral pillars. To this day, the world reads about them in the Hebrew Bible, and tries to learn lessons from their lives on how establish a relationship with G-d, how to organize society and how to live life more fully.

In Judaism, there's a concept called "Ma'ase Avot, Siman L'Banim," the deeds of the fathers are guides for the children. Having such illustrious ancestors puts a heavy burden on Jews. Unlike someone who discovers he's descended from Robert E. Lee (what's he going to do, start a new slavery movement?), Jews have a responsibility to live up to our past.

Positive that there was a way to understand G-d's creation using the language of modern physics, Einstein said, "G-d doesn't play dice with the universe," and went about studying it. Freud tried to "heal the soul" through the modern techniques of psychology. Karl Marx, a descendent of the great 12th century Biblical and Talmudic commentator Rabbi Shlomo Ben Isaac (Rashi), worried about the oppressed worker.

Whether they're involved in left-wing liberation movements for social justice, or science, medicine and the arts, many Jews are trying (often unconsciously) to express these eternal values of "fixing the world" (sometimes properly, other times mistakenly) that they've inherited from their forefathers.

Spiritually inclined, morally precocious and always inquisitive, Jews established universal public education in Judea for their children about 2,100 years ago. Always literate, besides the Bible and Talmud, the Jewish bookshelf contains a university library of works on morality, philosophy, mystical pursuits, science, medicine, history and law. There are well over 200 very serious super-commentaries on Rashi's Biblical commentary alone. Jews as translators were a main transmission link between the classical Greek and Latin scientific and medical texts, and the early Islamic world. Learning to become a rabbi (a moral, legal and spiritual guide) has always had an honored place in Jewish life, a reminder of the days of prophets and kings.

If your last name is Cohen or Kahn, Katz or Kagan, genetic testing has proven what most already knew from tradition: you're a direct link to Aaron the High Priest. Jews have always guarded their lineage and many kept intricate records. Today, more descendants of King David walk the earth than one might realize, and they often know who they are.

But whether they're descended from Moses or Aaron or King David, any number of Biblical prophets, great rabbis like the Rambam or Rashi, or not, every Jew knows he's the great-great-great-great... grandson or granddaughter of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the chosen of the L-rd. I wish others all the best in finding their beloved ancestors from Africa, Europe or Asia, wherever they may be.

By the way, I can go and visit the family burial plot (Maarat HaMachpela, the Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron, Israel, anytime I want, to say hello to my forefathers and foremothers, Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.

Is there a nation any greater that knows where its illustrious progenitors are buried?

(c) 2006/5766 Pasko



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