Category Archives: Quotes

Quote from The Gift of the Jews by Thomas Cahill

Continuing with our quotes, here are two nice quotes from Thomas Cahill’s book The Gift of the Jews:

If we had lived in the second millennium BC, the millennium of Abraham, and could have canvassed all the nations of the earth, what would they have said of Abraham’s journey? In most of Africa and Europe, they would have laughed at Abraham’s madness and pointed to the heavens, where the life of earth had been plotted from all eternity … a man cannot escape his fate. The Egyptians would have shaken their heads in disbelief. The early Greeks might have told Abraham the story of Prometheus … Do not overreach, they would advise; come to resignation. In India, he would be told that time is black, irrational and merciless. Do not set yourself the task of accomplishing something in time, which is only the dominion of suffering. On every continent, in every society, Abraham would have been given the same advice that wise men as diverse as Heraclitus, Lao-Tsu and Siddhartha would one day give their followers: do not journey but sit; compose yourself by the river of life, meditate on its ceaseless and meaningless flow.

The Jews started it all—and by ‘it’ I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and aethiest, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings … we would think with a different mind, interpret all our experience differently, draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives.


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Quote from William Rees-Mogg

I read this quote in Letter 3 of the Cheif Rabbi of England’s recently published Letters to the Next Generation 2, which you can read online here.

The quote is from William Rees-Mogg, the former editor of the Times:

One of the gifts of Jewish culture to Christianity is that it has taught Christians to think like Jews. Any modern man who has not learned to think as though he were a Jew can hardly be said to have learned to think at all.

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A L Rowse’s greatest honest would have been to be an honorary Jewish citizen.

Over the next few days we’ll be posting some nice quotes about Jews that come up in the Chief Rabbi’s Letters to the Next Generation 2. The letters are well worth a read. Inspiring.

The first quote is from Alfred Leslie Rowse:

If there is any honour in all the world that I should like, it would be to be an honorary Jewish citizen.

Here’s the Cheif Rabbi’s second letter where the quote comes up:

Letter 2: A historian’s honour
DEAR RUTH, DEAR MICHAEL, I said yesterday that I would try to give you an answer to the question why stay Jewish. There are many answers, and to understand them is the work of a lifetime. But we have to start somewhere and probably the more unexpected the starting point, the better.
Like you I studied at university, so I knew vaguely about an eccentric Oxford don, a historian and a writer about English literature. He was a Fellow of All Souls, which meant that he was one of the brightest minds of his generation.
His name was A. L. Rowse and he was best known for his theory about the identity of the “dark lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets. He died in 1997, and shortly before that, in 1995, he published a book called Historians I Have Known. I was reading it one day and I came to the last page.
There – it was the penultimate sentence of the book – I came across a remark that left me open mouthed with amazement. Nothing had prepared me for it. A. L. Rowse was not Jewish and as far as I know he had no connection with Jews other than those he knew at university.
This is what he wrote. “If there is any honour in all the world that I should like, it would be to be an honorary Jewish citizen.” What an extraordinary remark from a wise man nearing the end of his life, reflecting on all that life, especially history, had taught him.
The British know about honours. So I could understand an Oxford don who had written over a hundred books admitting that a medal, an award, a knighthood would not go amiss. But “to be an honorary Jewish citizen” and to count that not just as an honour, but the one above all he would like to have – that was an extraordinary thing to say.
Why did he say it? I never met him. I did not know anyone who had. And by the time I read the book he was no longer alive. So I can only speculate.
Was it that Jews more than any other people in history cared about learning, education and the life of the mind? That they had contributed, vastly out of proportion to their numbers, many of the greatest intellects of the modern world?
Was it that they were the first monotheists, the first to believe in a God who transcended the universe, creating it in forgiveness and love, making humanity in His image and endowing us with a dignity no other faith has ever equalled?
Was it that they had survived for so long – twice as long as Christianity, three times as long as Islam – and under some of the most adverse conditions ever experienced by a people? Was it, given that Rowse was a historian, the fact that Jews were the first historians, the first to see God in history, the first even to think in terms of history?
Was it, given that he was a writer on literature, the fact that the Hebrew Bible is the greatest work of literature ever written?Was it the vision of Moses, the poetry of psalms, the social conscience of Amos, the hope of Isaiah, the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, the passion of the Song of Songs? Or that Jews had given humanity its most basic moral concepts: freewill, responsibility, justice and the rule of law, chessed and the rule of compassion, tzedakah and the principle of equity?
Who knows? But I know this – that if they offered to make you a dame, Ruth, or a knight, Michael, you wouldn’t refuse. You wouldn’t consider it trivial or irrelevant. But if Rowse was right, it turns out that you have already been given an honour greater than these. Don’t forget it or give it away.

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John Adams about the Jews

I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe, or pretend to believe that all is ordered by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization.

John Adams, in a letter to F. A. Vanderkemp (16 February 1809), as quoted in The Roots of American Order (1974) by Russel Kirk.

For more quotes about Jews, see wikiquote.

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