May 13: 8 Iyar
It was on this day in 1516 that Jews were compelled to move into a restricted area in Venice, Italy. The area they were restricted to was, formerly, the site of a foundry where slag was stored for the manufacture of weapons. The Venetian term for a foundry is ghetto and, so, it was on this day that the term ghetto was first used to describe a restricted area where Jews lived.
In our culture everyone identifies the ghetto as a poor neighborhood that’s rife with poverty and crime. It’s origins, though, originated with segregating the people because of what they believed and, in this case, mainly the Jews. Here’s why this is of interest: speaking of the Levites, the Creator said this:
“And you shall be holy unto Me: for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from other people, that you should be Mine.” (Leviticus 20:26)
This is understood to mean that, when we follow His instructions, we are considered to be set apart or holy – in Hebrew, kadosh. When we conduct our lives in the manner that God prescribes, we are distinguished from the nation’s. However, it is also understood that, if we don’t distinguish ourselves from the nations in our behavior, God sometimes allows the nations to separate us from them, forcibly, for persecution, expulsion, and in some cases, extinction.
The point is, one way or the other, we’re going to be separate from the nations. History teaches us that many European Jews opted to assimilate into the culture in which they found themselves during the 18th and early 19th centuries. That tactic didn’t work very long because there were those who arose in Europe, who forcibly caused the Jewish people to separate from the rest of culture and, as we see, placed them in ghettos.
The lesson is this: if we attempt to assimilate into culture by adopting their mindset and habits, we will end up walking contrary to the Creator’s will – we won’t fulfill the call to be “set apart.” Consequently, God will allow the nations to mark us and separate us from them, at least philosophically, and not for our good. Frankly, we can already see evidence of this in our country and throughout the world. People of the world are already working to segregate us from them, maybe even against our will.
So then, we need to recommit ourselves to willingly separating ourselves from the nations, not by isolating ourselves from the nations, but by not acting like the nations. We must live in accordance with His Word and His Will. So, today, the message is live a “set apart” life of our own volition that we might be a living example of His love and His light to those who dwell in darkness.