It is interesting to note that the Jews in Egypt were far less assimilated than we are nowadays. Being aware of their spiritual uniqueness, they considered it disgraceful to wear garments whose styles were dictated by a gentile or to give a child a non-Jewish name.

In looking at our own experience as Jews in Europe and then America, we see what happens when the opposite course is followed. In an effort to blend in and be a part of the crowd, Jews rushed to change their clothes and names and thus wound up losing their very identity of who they were. The end result - wide spread assimilation.

Reading the recent parshas, one is struck by the plethora of these names: Moshe, Miriam, Aharon, Gershon, not a Courtney, Roland, or Troy among them. Although in Egypt the Jewish people fell to the 49th and next to lowest level of impurity, the concept of being separate acted as a kind of fail-safe mechanism, so that the Jews in Egypt never forgot that they were different for a G-d given reason.

Ironically, while the Jewish people rallied together to survive 210 years of Egyptian persecution and torment, culminating in the receiving of the Torah, the Jews in Europe and the USA, despite unparalleled peace and prosperity very nearly lost their way as we succumbed to "wanting to be accepted". Only in the last two decades have Jews rediscovered the joy in being proud of their Jewishness and in going back to the practice of wearing kippot and giving their children Jewish names.

Being separate to a certain extent from the rest of society is not a weakness but a strength, and makes it possible for us to serve Hashem as a unified force. Only with this kind of attitude will the Jewish people emerge victorious from any difficult situation.

Good Shabbos!

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