Why are the Jews called Yehudim in Hebrew? As it is written in reference to the matriarch Leah when she went to name her son Yehudah, “This time I ‘thank’ Hashem” (Bereshit 29:35). The name Yehudah as well as the word Yehudi, both have their origin in the word Hoda’ah, which means ‘recognition’, thus ‘thanksgiving’ as well. This is an essential characteristic of bittul (the process by which a person’s sense of his independent existence is subsumed within and elevated to an awareness of a greater, more inclusive existence, the existence of G-d), to wit, the recognition and sincere thanksgiving that Hashem is Who truly and only exists, and the world and all of us are nothing and nill before Him. Hence, the word Yehudim is applied to the Jews for it summarizes this essential quality of bittul before G-d (a quality that must be emulated by the Nations). The Jews are literally the nation of those who recognize and admit the greater reality of unicity and omnipresence of G-d, while keenly aware of its own particular reality of “dust and ashes” (Bereshit 18:27).
Now, while there is such singular and intrinsic attribute in the B’nei Israel (called Hod in Kabbalah), and its cosmological potential that needs to be revealed throughout the nations of the world, there is also a possibility of alienation from the attribute. In its physical expression, literally in the material life of man, the manifested phenomenon of this alienation or separation is the disease. Alienation from G-d reflects a “blemished” (i.e., corrupted) state of the attribute of Hod. This is so in the manner in which this attribute corresponds to the spiritual structure of the soul (which is in fact configured by various others attributes and powers, Hod being only one of them). The fact that the attribute of Hod is corrupted – characterized by the insensibility to the spiritual realities – results in ‘spiritual confusion’, a true chaos that can progressively spread through the individual’s normative consciousness and physiology. This implies in the person’s inability to distinguish “friend from foe”, or the ‘I’ e the ‘not I’, so to speak. Moreover, this confusion leads to spiritual blindness resulting even in the insensibility towards other people, to wit, in the inability to perceive and recognize the truth in the words of others, failing thus to thanks then for their acts of kindness. Therefore, the blemish in the attribute of Hod brings the person to a state of alienation both with (the benevolent) others and with G-d. In the human physiology this is expressed in the immunological system’s mistakes, that is, in its confusion of “invaders from allies” resulting in the generation of various types of health problems. As such, failing to perceive that all we have comes form G-d – as undeserved and unexpected gifts – implicates in the possibility of this misalignment to manifest as a disease, chaz v'shalom. After all, the disease is the actual physical expression of the spiritual unbalance in its ‘final stage’! This is paramount to understanding the spiritual causes of diseases, for it means that, by the time the problem has become physical, it is already in its final level (and not initial) – and if a disease has a spiritual cause, its cure must come spiritually as well in the form of a ‘realignment’. And the most important manner to maintain the person’s Hod aligned, his immune system healthy, is to strengthen his bittul in order to have a true kabbalat ol, meaning that, nothing is more powerful in the whole universe than the acceptance of the Divine Ordinance. For the Nations, it is imperative to fulfill the Shevah Mitzvot Shel B’nei Noach, which bring a great light to the world and to each one who is bound by these Divine Ordinances. Now, for the Jews, 'all' mizvot are vital, and noteworhty, the mitzvah (of the fulfillment of) Shabbat even brings the promise of refuah (cure)! In fact, Kabbalah explains that, due to the chet ha-egel ("the sin of the golden calf"), “The extraordinary spiritual state that Moshe had attained when he ascended Mt. Sinai was reduced a thousand degrees” (the Ari”zal, Sha’ar Maamarei Rashbi, daf 212). Essentially, Moshe had become “diseased” from the sin of his people, even though he obviously did not participate in this most blatant act of opposition to G-d. However, in the Shabbat, these ‘spiritual lights’ were restored for him, and he was truly and completely cured! And as it is written, “The gematria of Vayikra El Moshe [Vayikra 1:1] is equal to 693, together with the number of letters [which total 10], it is equal to the word Shabbat plus the kolel [702+1 = 703]. This is a hint that the lights were restored for Moshe on Shabbat” (R’ Ya’acov Abuchatzera zt”l, Pituchei Chotam al HaTorah, Vayikra). Finally, it is necessary to understand that in view of all that occurs in the person’s life, he should truly assume an existential attitude exactly as taught by the matriarch Leah: to recognize and affirm on all that comes to him that, ‘This time I will thank Hashem’. Know this lesson well.