Kenneth Cohen

Uniqueness of the Jewish People

Among the numerous blessings that Bilaam ended up giving the Jewish people, there was one that stood out. This is where he praised Israel as being, “A nation that dwells alone.” He is acknowledging the uniqueness of Am Yisrael, and how they stand alone among the nations.

The Rabbis explain this further by saying that when Israel rejoices, the nations of the world are sad. And when Israel mourns, they rejoice.

The Rabbis enacted certain decrees to be certain that the Jewish people not lose their special character. They must not assimilate among the nations. They wanted to prevent social interaction between Jews and non-Jews.

They were allowed to interact economically and politically, but not socially.

For this reason, there were prohibitions against drinking wine handled by Gentiles. There were similar edicts involving their bread, milk and cheese, as well as food cooked by a non-Jew, even if all the ingredients are kosher.

We must appreciate the uniqueness of the Jewish people. We have a special role to play in the world. We must teach the world morality, and all that is good. We do this by being, “a nation that dwells apart.”

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at