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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 (132)
January 7, 2015
I don't agree that that is how the question should be taken.
It becomes relevant when the same bias is applied to Judaism as is applied to other religions by fervent jews. Meaning that we are not chosen but simply believe or disbelieve the myth that it is the case. I personally find it laughable. I find self-importance funny in that it presupposes that we or some people must matter more than others in the billions who come and go through the ages, somehow some of us or groups of us must have special relevance. And the lengths we will go to to justify this conceit. I challenge anyone to disavow in themselves the notion that their life has to matter so much and be filled with so much special meaning to the eons that follow. Assume for one moment that your intellectual life doesn't matter except to you. And that the consequence doesn't lead to irrelevance but rather to liberation from the thought that enslaves us all. So we are worm food,. So our lives don't matter once we die. So what?
SdM
Montreal
January 7, 2015
The Jewish people chosen is a question in though!
The word chosen peple is in effect of all denomination of individials. Hashem conducted the questions to all nations to accept the Torah, and asked for example, one of the commandements said "should not steal". One nation said, I cannot accept, as this is done. Hashem went to other nation and ask, "should not kill", and one other nation said, I cannot accep that.

So, therefore, Hashem went to the Hebrews and asked them about the commandements. and the Hebrews accepted the Torah. So, therefore, the Hebrews, chose Hashem, not Hashem chose us.

Please read the Torah or asked the Rabbi and other individuals please do some investigation on the subject. The Jewish people are not the chosen people, we chose to be accepted of the Torah where other nations would not accept the Torah at all and its guidelines of the Commandments of 613.


Shalom, Devorah
Devorrah
December 28, 2014
Thank you Aron Moss
For my whole life I have been denouncing my faith in light of acknowledging that the group I have been born into would have the audacity to call themselves the "chosen people". Aron Moss, if it wasn't for your so eloquently put response, I don't think I would have ever given Judaism a second look over. I realize now that it has been my perception over the idea of being "chosen" that is skewed. Thank you Rabbi Moss for giving me a new found perspective, as well as a reinvigorating energy over investigating the true nature of Judaism.

Bless you
Joshua Ballesteros
Houston, Tx
December 13, 2014
Isn't saying that we are "chosen people" and saying that "we Jews will do anything to say that we are nothing special" like saying this is peanut butter, but it is not made out of peanuts? Or...in plain English...a contradictory conundrum, exemplifying the poisoning of the masses with religious dogma based on circular reasoning.
Godfrey
Welcome
December 11, 2014
The Chosen
Shalom! Did come across a reading in the Daily Study some days ago which read: G d chose you (Sons of Israel) not because of your righteousness but because the other nations proved to be more wicked! Thank you! It also may imply that G d found you more correctible than the nations who to Him were a lil' beyond correction..He saw good in you! Thanks again!
rajiv rajan
Pune India
December 10, 2014
ALL were chosen -- FEW chose to listen
That's a thought to ponder, isn't it.

Perhaps anti-Semitism is because non-Jews believe Jews are better - just as they believe/say that Jews have all the power, Jews have all the money, Jews are ruining this world. (Yes, I have heard these from non-Jews)

As an adult Jew and a Jew from pre-birth (I guess) I have never been taught that I am better, and no Jews I know were either. We are, however, taught that we are to repair the world and to live the laws according to G-d's words.

We don't have 10 -- we have 613 Commandments.

It's for sure *I* did not write the Hebrew bible - and don't know anyone who wrote the New Testament or the Q'ran. We are in faith - and, hopefully, respectful of each other's instead of murdering those who are different.

I personally do not do all that G-d asks of me. I do, however, respect peoples who are non-Jews and choose to never murder them because of our differences.

Celebrate the differences instead of attacking them.

Shalom.
Meira Shana
San Diego
November 29, 2014
All religions
Every religion acknowledges a supreme being, even with lesser "dieties" included. That is no different from Hashem and his angels Mikhael etc. Animism is in Judaism, pantheism as well, ancient Judaism is just as pagan as any other religion. The concept of being a "chosen people" is probably within the context of the time it was said in relation to surrounding enemy nations when Israel was winning wars. Or it could have been an idea manifested and jotted down in the redacted Torah to give ancient Hebrews a sense of national pride. There are many holier individuals than many Jews throughout history. Everyone has equal access to Gods natural law and principles, culture is only a decoration, and the mitzvot are only guides but not the end of consciousness.
Meir Fox
Largo, FL
November 28, 2014
I am poor, lonely, not very brillant or terribly handsome. Being Jewish is all i got. And i felt so when younger, loved,richer and yes, terribly handsome. I accept that other Jews argue or disagree about being chosen. But Jewish or not,who can really understand a G-dly choice? what a brillant answer to a fantastic question this article offers.
Anonymous
U.s of A
October 25, 2014
Chosen People
More a question than a comment. Didn't G-d offer the law to others before Abraham and while others didn't accept the law, Abraham did? Are we chosen because G-d chose us or we chose G-d?
Abraham
Japan
October 6, 2014
The Chosen People
Yes, I have always felt uncomfortable with the phrase "chosen people" too. Even if it signifies our humility in the face of the Eternal, is also signifies that we are unique in our capacity to experience this humility, which ironically, is not humble. There are all kinds of people who are not Jewish who are as or more capable as a many amongst us of recognizing their relative insignificance. There have been non-Jews like Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, who gave their lives in a very literal sense for the cause of helping others. It is not enough that we remove labels among ourselves, i.e. conservative, orthodox, liberal. According to the Torah we all came from the same source. There was only on creation and one family, humanity. The story of Adam and Eve tells us that we are all related, all people of the earth. We are all one, as G-d is one. We humans are all part of G-d's family. He is the father of everyone and everything, Jew and non-Jew alike.
Anonymous
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