The Jewish nation is often referred to as "the Chosen People."
Many people (including Jews) are uncomfortable with this idea. They perceive the concept of a "Chosen People" as racist and mindful of the Nazi concept of a supreme "Aryan" nation. It appears to contradict the accepted Western ideal of all people being equal before God.
Is the Jewish concept of choseness racist? When the Torah refers to the Jewish people as "chosen," it is not in any way asserting that Jews are racially superior. Americans, Russians, Europeans, Asians and Ethiopians are all part of the Jewish people. It is impossible to define choseness as anything related to race, since Jews are racially diverse.
Yet while the term "Chosen People" (Am Nivchar) does not mean racially superior, choseness does imply a special uniqueness. What is this uniqueness? Historically, it goes back to Abraham. Abraham lived in a world steeped in idolatry, which he concluded was contradicted by the reality of design in nature. So Abraham came to a belief in G-d, and took upon himself the mission of teaching others of the monotheistic ideal. Abraham was even willing to suffer persecution for his beliefs. After years of enormous effort, dedication and a willingness to accept the responsibility to be G-d's representative in this world, G-d chose Abraham and his descendents to be the teachers of this monotheistic message. In other words it is not so much that G-d chose the Jews; it is more accurate that the Jews (through Abraham) chose G-d.
The essence of being chosen means responsibility. It is a responsibility to change the world -- not by converting everyone to Judaism, but by living as a model community upheld by ethics, morals and beliefs of one God. In that way, we can influence the rest of mankind, a "light unto the nations" (Isaiah 42:6).
Judaism is Universal : Further, Judaism is not exclusionary. A human being need not to be Jewish to reach a high spiritual level. Enoch "walked with God," and Noah had quite a high level of relationship, though neither were Jewish. Our tradition is that all of the 70 nations must function together and play an integral part in that "being" called humanity.
According to Judaism (Talmud - Sanhedrin 58b), any person can achieve a place in the World to Come by faithfully observing the seven basic laws of humanity. These seven laws are named the "Laws of Noah," since all humans are descended from Noah:
1) Do not murder. 2) Do not steal. 3) Do not worship false gods. 4) Do not be sexually immoral. 5) Do not eat the limb of an animal before it is killed. 6) Do not curse God. 7) Set up courts and bring offenders to justice.
Torah is for all humanity. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, he specifically asked God to heed the prayer of non-Jews who come to the Temple (1-Kings 8:41-43). The Temple was the universal center of spirituality, which the prophet Isaiah referred to as a "house of prayer for all nations." Non-Jews were welcome to bring offerings to the Temple as well. In fact, the service in the Holy Temple during the week of Sukkot featured a total of 70 bull offerings, corresponding to each of the 70 nations of the world.
Most other religions say that non-believers are condemned to eternal damnation. Even the calendar systems of Christianity and Islam reflect an exclusionary philosophy; each begins with the birth of their respective religion. The Jewish calendar, on the other hand, begins with the creation of Adam, the first man, teaching us the intrinsic value of every human, even though the Jewish religion was not yet born. For this reason, Jews do not proselytize in search of converts. One can still merit a place in heaven, no conversion necessary.
Thanks to Mark S
The Chosen People
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
· 8 years ago