09 September 2007

A numbers game

The difference beyween the Jewish and l'havdil non-Jewish "Divine caling" is not merely a quantative difference of 606 more mitzvos. (Although, it is interesting that Rus is the gematria of 606.)
Sheva mitzvos have to do with yishuv haolam. A non-Jew's role is to settle and civilize the world, to create governments and order, to have healthy family units, etc. It's all pretty common sense stuff. Indeed, their imperative is so "earthy" (for lack of a better word) they actually have to be told not to embrace this code on the basis of its appeal to their sensibilities but rather because it "was commanded by G-d."
A Jew, on the other hand, is not here to settle the world. A Jew has been given mitzvos for the sake of transforming and elevating the material into something sacred. Although almost all of our mitzvos require us to use our bodies and interact with physical objects, our mitzvos are not an ethical imperative. The mitzvah is rather a suprarational mechanism by which to have a transformative effect on the physical. They work because they are Divine fiat, and through subjugation of the self and the world to G-d's will, these things become holy.
A non-Jew does not need to engage in this kind of work to be a complete, spiritually sensitive person -- a mentch. A Jew, on the other hand, is a foreign being, a Divine soul, whose very presence in the world constitutes a degradation in status. The only purpose for embodiment is that through engaging the physical in his submission to G-d's will, the Jew can bring about a Unity in the world that the unembodied soul cannot. Thus, if not engaged in this task of transformation, his soul suffers only the negative effects of embodiment.

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