To Dwell Alone

They are a nation that dwells alone…” (Numbers 23:9) Most commentaries understand this as a prediction that the Jewish people will not be considered the same as other nations and will not be given equal standing. However there are some who understand this as an imperative to actually be different. Rabbi Menashe Klein was asked about traditional Jewish clothing and ruled that this verse actually obligates Jews to dress differently from the Gentiles (Responsa Mishneh Halachos 13:133). Others understand the verse as an exhortation against assimilation in general (Responsa Tzitz Eliezer 5:4), and others see the verse as encouraging the establishment and maintenance of Jewish neighborhoods as a fulfillment of “dwelling alone” (Responsa Shufrei d’Yaakov 2:15).

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