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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 (110)
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
February 25, 2014
explanation of the lands of captivity that the Yisraelites are to be brought back from
The words of the prophets concerning the nation of Yisrael is of such, that the final act of the Almighty on behalf of the Yisraelites ( all 12 tribes ) is to raise them out of the graves that they have been in for almost 3000 years, gathering them from all the lands that they were taken captive to, returning them back to the lands of their fathers where they are to live in peace for ever. Doing this time YAH is to judge the whole earth for what they have done to HIS people. What land of captivity were the jews retrieved from and why has there been no peace in the land?
Hadurah
February 16, 2014
Jews are a Race
Everytime a tragedy occurs around the world to the Jewish People, the Jews race away from the situation by either denying that they are Jews, or they convert altogether.Jews are the best racers anywhere on earth. They race to protest what other Jews are doing positively in Israel. They race to eat non Kosher foods, they even race to live in Texas with all of those steers and queers. Jews are the best racers in the world. If there is a cause anywhere in the world especially if it is anti semitic, Jews race to the scene and are the biggest protesters.Jews are born racers.
Cody Flecker
Cornville, Arizona
chabadoregon.com
February 16, 2014
Re: RECTIFICATION
Mazdaism, or Zoroastrianism, is a Persian religion. Whether or not it influenced Judaism (and it is certainly possible that the influence ran in the other direction), the Jews did not come into contact with it until the Persian conquest of Babylonia after the first Temple's destruction. By this time most of the Tanach, the Jewish Bible, had already been written, and certainly the ideas upon which it is built were already current among the exiles from Israel.
Rabbi Shmary Brownstein
Chabad.org
February 10, 2014
What is it going to take?
What is it going to take for all of the antisemites who have posted here to understand once and for all that the "choseness" of the Jews is NOT a matter of making ANYBODY superior to anyone else.

G-d chose the Jewish people for one reason and one reason ONLY: To keep some 600+ laws that non-Jews do NOT have to keep. Does that REALLY sound as though we think of ourselves as "better" than anyone else?

The fact that non-Jews only are obligated to keep the seven Noahide laws (you can look that up here on Chabad) which means that the Jews have a MUCH heavier load than non-Jews. Get it?

The Jewish people are NOT A RACE! We are a PEOPLE. Anyone who wishes to take on the burden of being chosen is certainly welcome to go through conversion and become a member of the Jewish people...ANYONE. So anyone can take on the burdens of being chosen. Get it yet? Also, we ARE NOT A RACE! People from all skin colors are Jews. There is only one race: the Human Race.
Beverly Kurtin
Texas
February 8, 2014
System of ethics and morals - RECTIFICATION
Dear Aron, the first system of ethics and morals was actually introduced to the world by Mazdaism, which "all agree" greatly influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Anonymous
February 6, 2014
Second Class?
Even contemplating the notion, that a particular demographic section of the human race has somehow been placed upon a spiritual pedestal and made unique amongst all others is not only arrogant, it is delusional, counter-productive and inciteful - and it's little wonder that Jews get bad press with this considered.

To propose this as a possibility, let alone a fact is indicative of just how destructive and divisive religion has always been, and continues to be. Belief is one thing, but certainty is another - don't confuse the two.

While it may be widely accepted and taught among Jews that 'chosenness' is their birth right, it is most certainly not the opinion of many, many others - religiously driven or otherwise. This is spiritual arrogance of a type that has no place in a modern, and rapidly changing world.
Mike Lovell
Bristol, UK
October 9, 2013
I once heard a story that G-D went to all the peoples of the world and asked them to be their G-D. They all said no. When G-D asked us we said yes.
David Levant
Emerson,NJ
May 25, 2013
to B
For Beverly in Texas. I understand that you take support for your beliefs from a book assembled over 2,600 years ago by Hebrew scribes under the direction of King Josiah. As I am neither a Jew or a Christian, I consider Deuteronomy to be a book of ancient mythology and folk law and, occasionally, bits of wisdom applicable to everyday living in the 21st century. For me, it is simply an interesting historical document.
Jack Clark
Los Angeles
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