The Jews a Separate People.
The Sinaitic covenant which rendered Israel "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. xix. 6) became, the Rabbis say, "a source of hatred to the nations" (Shab. 89a: a play upon words, "Sinai"—"Sin'ah"), because it separated it from them by statutes and ordinances such as the dietary and the Levitical purity laws and others intended to prevent idolatrous practises. Like the priest in the Temple, whose garments and mode of life distinguished him from the rest in order to invest him with the spirit of greater sanctity and purity (I Chron. xxiii. 13), so Israel was for all time to be impressed with its priestly mission by all those ceremonies which form so prominent a feature in its religious life (see Ceremonies; Circumcision; Commandments; Dietary Laws). Particularly the Mosaic and, later on, the Pharisaic laws had for their object the separation of the Jewish people from all those influences prevalent in heathendom which led to idolatry and impurity; wherefore not only intermarriage, but also participation in any meal or other festive gathering which could possibly be connected with idol-worship was prohibited (see Worship, Idol-; Intermarriage; Jubilees, Book of.) This persistent avoidance of association with the Gentiles on the part of the Pharisees, which in the time of the Maccabees was termed ἀμξία = "keepingapart from the surrounding nations" (comp. II Macc. xiv. 38), became the chief cause of the accusation of a "hatred of mankind" which was brought against the Jews by the Greeks and Romans, and which has ever since been reiterated by the anti-Semites (see Schürer, "Gesch." iii. 3, 416).
In reality these very laws of seclusion fitted the Jew for his herculean task of battling for the truth against a world of falsehood, and enabled him to resist the temptations and to brave the persecutions of the nations and the ages. They imbued him with a spirit of loyalty unparalleled in human history; they inculcated in him the principle of abstinence, enabling him to endure privation and torture; and filled him with that noble pride which alone upheld him amidst the taunts and sneers of high and low. They brought out those traits of manhood which characterized Abraham, who, according to the Rabbis, was called '"Ibri " (Hebrew) because his maxim was: "Let all the world stand on the one side ["'eber eḥad"]—I side with God and shall win in the end" (Gen. R. xlvi.). But these laws also fostered a conception of the sanctity of life unknown to other creeds or races. By investing the commonest act and event with religious obligations, they made the whole of life earnest and holy with duty. Instead of being "a yoke of servitude," as Schürer and others have it, they "filled the home and the festal seasons with higher joy" (see Schechter and Abrahams in "J. Q. R." iii. 762 et seq., xi. 626 et seq.).