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Are the Jews the Chosen People?

Are the Jews the Chosen People?

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Question:

I have long been uncomfortable with the concept of the "Chosen People". To suggest that as Jews we are somehow closer to G-d than all other nations smacks of arrogance, elitism, and racial prejudice. How is that any different to anti-Semitism?

Sincerely,
Margaret

Answer:

Dear Margaret,

That is a fantastic question -- a question that could only come from someone who is chosen. Allow me to explain.

In the Jewish understanding, chosenness leads not to arrogance, but rather to humility. If it were some human king that chose us to be his special people, then your assumption would be correct -- we would become elitists. When a mortal power shows favoritism towards a subject, that subject will become more arrogant as a result -- the closer you are to the king, the more significant you are, and the more significant you are the higher respect you feel you deserve.

But we were chosen by G-d. And the closer you are to G-d, the more you sense your insignificance. While being buddy-buddy with a human leader inflates your ego, a relationship with G-d bursts your selfish bubble. Because G-d is an infinite being, and all delusions of petty self-importance fall away when you stand before infinity. Being close with G-d demands introspection and self-improvement, not smugness.

This is the idea of the Chosen People -- a nation of individuals who have been given the opportunity to sense G-d's closeness, hear His truth and relay his message to the world. All agree that it was the Jews that introduced the world to monotheism and a system of ethics and morals that has shaped the modern view of life and its purpose. And it is the survival of Judaism to this day that attests to the eternal value of this system.

To say that this is ethnocentric is absurd for one simple reason: anyone from any ethnic background can convert to Judaism and become chosen. Jewish chosenness is not a gene, it is a state of the soul. Anyone wishing to take it upon themselves is welcome -- as long as they are ready to have their bubble burst.

So the arrogant person is not acting chosen. The true test of chosenness is how humble you are. You, Margaret, have passed this test with flying colors. Your humility is so deep, it doesn't allow you to accept that you are chosen. While most other religious groups are quite comfortable claiming that they are the best, we Jews will do anything to say that we are nothing special. Now that's what I call a Chosen People!

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (118)
June 24, 2014
Chosen for what?
The Jews were chosen to be God's whipping boys... I chose to opt out.
Anonymous
Earth
June 11, 2014
Choosing the Yoke
I am amazed that people are still debating this issue. The rule of life is, one is responsible ONLY for his/her choice. One does not choose his place of birth, parents, brothers,sisters, nationality complexion or name etc. and therefore is not responsible for all of the above. Jews are Chosen People which means traditionally, they had a choice: they chose the rules and regulations presented to them by Moses. Whatever occurs later in history is the consequence of this very choice.
Lev Anenberg
Vaughan,Ontario
June 9, 2014
NEVER taught 'superior' or 'better than'
I was raised orthodox and know that I was never taught that 'chosen' meant I was better than anyone else.

My brother and I were taught to respect all people and to respect ourselves by treating others as we would like to be treated.

However ... many of the Christian kids (and their parents) called us 'dirty Jews' and other not very nice names. We didn't understand and my stock answer as an 8 years old little girl was 'why do you call us that? You pray to a Jew!'

They made fun of little boys for wearing skullcaps - and I said to them 'The Pope wears a yarmulka!'

No amount of respect for others made a difference to the non-Jewish bigot children.

No, I'm not better as G-d's Chosen ... but sure better at practicing the Jewish religion than were those who belittled us.

As an adult, I've been to many different denominations of Christian churches and find it appalling how much hatred of Jews is spewed to the congregants.

I love when after services they see my Jewish star or chai.
Meira Shana
San Diego
June 3, 2014
The Chosen People???
B"H Chosen? You bet ! We were chosen to go through two thousand years of persecution, cruelty and mass murder, in order to keep the Torah of Moshe, The Word of Our G-d from being destroyed or outright falsified by well-meaning organizations who only have our best interest at heart. We were chosen to be mocked at and spit upon, chosen to have our wives, our children, our parents and our friends killed ruthlessly by government troops and police men of Italy, Spain, Austria, Russia, Ukraine, France, England, and Germany and just about everywhere on earth. Chosen is not an easy life why would they be jealous of being chosen for this purpose? We were Chosen to Guard The Word of Our God no matter what it may cost us. Could you do this/ what other nation on earth has done this, or has had it done unto them in like manner? So, absolutely! Israel is God's chosen. Thanks for allowing me to vent... Berochah
Anonymous
Pasadena,CA
June 2, 2014
Jewish Soul is a not a RACE thing, it's a character thing, that's why there are converts
It is true, that in humanity, some people are bottom of the ladder bad, corrupt, and no good. They are on their path, and hopefully will change. And some people are righteous, caring, and help people. It is true, there are good souls and not so good souls. To be a Jewish soul is NOT A RACE thing. There are some Jews who don't seem to have a real Jewish soul. And there are many gentiles that do seem to have a Jewish soul. A Jewish soul means taking the responsibility to declare the truth to the world, whereas the average nonJewish soul thinks they "have a right to believe in anything they want". No one has a right to believe in whatever they want, everyone has a responsibility to declare the truth.

i will discuss two "gentiles" i know. One loaths pagan religions, and understands and follows the ten and noahide commandments. Another gentile I know, doesn't follow the ten commandments, nor the noahide commandments and has suffered greatly because of it. It's not a race thing.
Anonymous
tel aviv
June 2, 2014
Re A problem
We are not a "race" as there are white Jews and dark Jews, Oriental Jews, and hispanic Jews.

Additionally, we are also not a "closed club" - One can also convert according to Jewish Law and be a full Jew.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
May 18, 2014
Chosen people may not accept being chosen because it creates an environment of anti-semitism. Never forsake our G-D. This does not make us a nation of elitists. We should be confident in the example that G-D wishes us to teach to the rest of the world.
David Levant
Emerson,NJ
May 6, 2014
A Problem
You say, "This is the idea of the Chosen People -- a nation of individuals who have been given the opportunity to sense G-d's closeness, hear His truth and relay his message to the world. All agree that it was the Jews that introduced the world to monotheism

Your "nation" is in fact a race--a race who believe themselves closer to G-d by their very birth to a Jewess

All people sense the One--it is those who deceive who claim their vision or their seed to be the only One.

You are a liar if you say that Jews were the first to assert "one G-d"! Akhenaten declared such far before your time!
Mike Thies
SE Missouri, USA
March 5, 2014
Re: Souls
The Torah itself that tells us we are all created in the image of G-d and have infinite worth! Everything must be viewed within that context.

The Tanya (like all mystical works) need to be studied with a teacher. It is not enough to simply read a translation to understand the text.

Here the Tanya is explaining to us the Arizal's point of view. According to the Arizal, everything that exists has a spark of G_dliness within it--only that this spark may be so hidden that this thing becomes totally self-centered, unable to do anything that it does not benefit from.

In most parlance, this is not called evil. This is called how human beings operate. Psychology and sociology tell us that whatever we do, we do to avoid pain and/or receive pleasure. This includes good deeds! But in the parlance of the Arizal and the Tanya, this is called evil or sitra achra.

The Tanya doesn't put anyone down--it simply raises the bar.

And our job is to rise above that nature & release that G-dly spark in all.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
February 26, 2014
A better soul
Beverly - While not specific to all Jewish thought, I think it is important that you recognize - or if you are not aware of, learn - the teaching on the Jewish soul vs. non-Jewish soul in the Tanya (chapter 1 vs 3), a book which is of most importance to many Hasidic groups, and Chabad in particular. I appreciate that you yourself may not see your self as better but if you become familiar with this text it is undeniable that a strong premise is that the Jewish soul is 'better' and superior - though that word is not used, how can it be interpreted in any other way when it says that the Jewish soul is distinct from the 'nations of the world' in that it has a two parts - including a Godly part where good qualities of the Jew emanate from and another part where bad character traits come from. It goes on to say that the nations of the world (non-Jews) only possess the unclean soul from which no good whatsoever can come. This is not a direct translation so I suggest you seek the exact text.
Greg Scarborough
USA
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