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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 (122)
July 28, 2014
What is a stiff necked person? (example below)
Here is the difference between a stiff necked person, and somebody else.
For example, suppose a government was doing some bad, illegal thing, to many of its citizens, including charging them fines or arrest them if they complained. But it wasn't so bad, that it would ruin their lives, so most people tolerated it for a short while, until it went away, and they paid their unfair fines to the government.

The classical stiff necked person would fight back, not bow down to their law, not pay the fines, fight against those trying to arrest them, and then completely change the law, and perhaps oust the government representatives who were part of the entire bad thing.
That's a true stiff necked person.
For many Hebrews, it's in the DNA already. It's just there, it's in so many of us….
For other tribes, this stiff neckedness is much more rare.
Anonymous
New York / Tel Aviv
July 28, 2014
Actually... about choosing your parents, and Samson, don't forget Samson
Many, many people think all children choose their parents, or approve of them, before they are born, in the spiritual world. I know this is stuff no one can know for sure, or prove, until of course, we are in another realm, after death, and then we know. But personally, I think Gd, or angels or something, presents several sets of parents for us, and we choose.
But I don't know for sure, but if I was going to bet, that's where I would bet my chips on that question.

And on the "Whipping Boy" thang.
You people forget about Samson.
He was the baddest toughest dude on the planet.
And though many Hebrews are "whipping boys", or not tough guys,
there are ALWAYS, in EVERY generation,
a group of Hebrews that no one else on Earth can beat in hand to hand combat.
I know of one.
He ain't no whipping boy.
If he was a professional fighter, he would be number 1.
But he does other things for a living.
Not all Hebrews are whipping boys.
Anonymous
New York / Tel Aviv
July 27, 2014
As a Muslim- in the Quran is explicitly states numerous times that the Jews were chosen above all nations... Numerous prophets coming forth from this nation to worship God, beyond idols in His Unity. God also have the Jews specific commandments. God's choice of the Jews is clear for me- however the issue comes if one says THE Chose people, the ONLY, chosen people. This I believe is never stated in the Torah or in the Quran- the Jews are Chosen, though not the ONLY chosen people. Each act of creation from east to west is chosen by God- useful in this discussion would be Jews considering their specific chosenness from a point not taking this to be qualitatively 'better' than that of other people, removing any arrogance or lack of humility which at times manifests and to do the work they are sent to do... And non-Jews, Muslims, Christians etc not to assume that Jews in their understanding of Chosenness infer that others are not Chosen in some other beautiful manifestation as well
Greg
Boston
July 27, 2014
While reading the Bible, being a non-jew, I forget the Book and verse but distinctly recall G d stating He chose the Jews because they were a stiff necked people and He wanted to show the world what happens when someone is obedient and when not. They were to be an example. No doubt He loves them. Like a Father. From what I can see, they have come thru' the test with flying colors. They have endured their tribulations exemplarily. Just do remain to be kindly towards the less fortunate gentiles. Light truly comes forth from Jerusalem.
Rajiv R
Goa India
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
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