Some words contain an idea, a concept and sometimes a whole universe. They simply cannot be translated into any language or transferred to another sphere of a national or cultural experience lest they lose their linguistic sensitivity.
The Hebrew word “Segulah” is one of them. “Am Segulah” is what G-d refers to Am Yisrael as and on several occasions in the Torah. " "וְעַתָּה אִם שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת בְּרִיתִי וִהְיִיתֶם לִי סְגֻלָּה מִכָּל הָעַמִּים כִּי לִי כָּל הָאָרֶץ" )Exodus 19:5)
(Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine).
Am, as many of us know, is a nation, a people. Am Segulah is a unique, a very distinct and rare nation. Segulah סגולהstems from the Hebrew root, ,סגל the same root of the word, purple סגול . What then, may some of you ask, is the relationship between Am Yisrael and the colour purple?
It is not a secret that purple is the colour of royalty and has been for thousands of years. There is a reason.
The production of the colour purple in ancient times was costly. Hence, it was rare and accessible only to kings and rulers who could afford purple fabrics. The dye that was used to produce the colour purple originally came from the city of Tyre, ruled then by the ancient Phoenicians. It was extracted from the Mollusk which according to the Online Oxford Dictionary is “An invertebrate of a large phylum which includes snails, slugs, mussels and octopuses. They have a soft unsegmented body and live in aquatic or damp habitats.” It took thousands of mollusks to create just a tiny quantity of the dye.
It follows then that since it was exclusive to kings and rulers, the ones who could afford to purchase fabrics of that colour, purple became linked with the ruling classes of ancient empires. The colour was also associated with holiness and wisdom as those who wore it were regarded by many as descendant of gods.
Though not all members of Am Yisrael are part of the imperial classes, our nation, just like any other, each in their own way, is unique. Am Segulah, though, is what G-d named and referred to our People as the quote from Exodus above points. It is not a title that, one bright day and out of nowhere, we chose to adorn ourselves with.
What many Jews, however, fail to understand is that this title, associated with once a very rare and unique colour, is not merely a label one can wear as a feather in their hat or let it serve as the laurel leaves upon which they can rest and enjoy that title. To be a chosen, chosen to carry a unique mission, role or destiny, requires constant work and toil. It bears high responsibility and demands repeated and concerted efforts to prove, time and again that the title and the awards attached to it are well deserved and well earned.
Nowadays, as the colour purple has become more widely accessible, I pray and wish that this new reality does not dilute the significance of our People’s role in history. I implore every Jew to remember who we are, where we came from and prepare ourselves to our destined purpose on the timeline of history. Only a close familiarity with these will ensure that for us and our relationship with G-d, we will forever remain as rare, precious and unique as the ancient purple dye, an Am Segulah.