Motti Wilhelm

The Genius of [Am Y]Israel

The Genius of Israel described in this book is really be the Genius of Am Yisroel argues to this author.
The Genius of Israel described in this book is really be the Genius of Am Yisroel argues to this author.

A few weeks after October 7th, a dear friend brought me The Genius of Israel: The Surprising Resilience of a Divided Nation in a Turbulent World – November 7, 2023 (Dan Senor & Saul Singer authors of Start Up Israel).

The inspiring and insightful book describes how Israel’s special culture of interconnectedness, the feeling that everyone is family and we are in this together explain why despite all of their stressors and divisions, Israelis rank the fourth happiest people and maintain one of the highest life expectancies in the world. 

The Genius of Israel is its collective memory, common purpose, and shared destiny explain the authors. When everyone knows someone who was lost in serving the country, in a place where all are joined together defending freedoms and creating a better tomorrow, there is a natural feeling of “Chevra” a camaraderie which has made Israel resistant to the loneliness, teen depression, and social decline plaguing western democracies. 

The book is fun to read and its hopeful message comes at a time it is most needed. Yet in my opinion the authors make a fatal mistake when they separate “Israeliness” from “Jewishness” and separate Jews from each other. 

What is so powerful about our collective memory is that it is not 75 years old, it reaches back 3,300 years: “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and now G-d took Us out to make us free” we begin our story on the Seder night. Our slavery and freedom were not “once upon a time” but something that I remember and you will too, we share with our children.

Our common purpose is not simply the defensive battles we are fighting today, it reaches back to when Hashem instructed Abraham “You shall be a source of blessing”. What unites us is far more than a common enemy, it is the call we all heard together at Sinai to become beacons of light and teachers of purpose. 

Finally our shared destiny is not just geopolitical or economic, when for 2,000 years Jews cried out “Next Year in Jerusalem!” they were asking that the reality we have been called upon to create, be realized in our days.

Collective memory, common purpose, and shared destiny are not simply  the genius of Israel. It is the secret of our people Am Yisroel, it is the gift that has been given to each of us and it the reason we say confidently “Am Yisroel Chai!”

At the Seder, let’s do our part to pass it down.


Earlier this week I celebrated the bris of our son. In my remarks to him (video below) I share how the Bris is one of the greatest gifts a parent could give their child. The Genius of Israel amplifies that very point.

About the Author
Rabbi Motti Wilhelm received his diploma of Talmudic Studies from the Rabbinical College of Australia & New Zealand in 2003 and was ordained as a rabbi by the Rabbinical College of America and Israel’s former chief Rabbi Mordecha Eliyahu in 2004. He was the editor of Kovetz Ohelei Torah, a respected Journal of Talmudic essays. He lectures on Talmudic Law, Medical Ethics and a wide array of Jewish subjects and has led services in the United States, Canada, Africa and Australia. His video blog Rabbi Motti's Minute is highly popular as are his weekly emails. Rabbi Wilhelm and his wife Mimi lead Chabad SW Portland as Shluchim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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