Jews can be oversensitive, as any man might who’s been set upon by thugs and nearly killed once a year for a whole lifetime. You don’t look for easygoing complacency in such a man. In nearly every generation, Jews have been condemned to death and turned over to the executioner, only to be pardoned after much suffering in the nick of time; and the Haggada thanks God for this favor! (Admittedly, with a heavy irony that, if Jews at the seder table sometimes miss it, is surely clear to the Lord. This particular passage could not possibly be one of His favorites.)

I’ve just published a book that attempts to explain Judaism’s view of life in the universe in terms of a few deep images, which have grown and deepened over thousands of years into brooding, beautiful thunderheads. But along the way I also make these assertions: the Jews are the senior nation of the Western world. Judaism is the most important intellectual development in Western history. The best ideas we have come straight from Judaism.

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