Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

Chosen People

Saying We Are the Chosen People

What is the modern meaning of our chosen-ness? I have difficulty explaining to my kids what it means. On the one hand I do not want to say we are superior to others (after all Christians and Muslims also believe they are chosen), but at the same time I want them to understand the continuity of the belief.

Most of the conflict that people have over this topic is that it sounds arrogant. It sounds like we are better than everyone else because we were chosen by G-d, which implies that someone else was not. That is, and that is not entirely true. When people hear that the Jewish people are “chosen” they apply that to all aspects of creation. They take it to the foregone conclusion that they, not being chosen, are left out in the cold. Also, Jews sometimes find it disturbing because it is stating that the Jews are better and saying that makes us uncomfortable.

Let’s see what the word “chosen” really means. When we say “chosen” we mean that the Jews have a relationship with G-d that is unique. All nations have a unique relationship with G-d and they worship Him in unique ways. There are laws that the non-Jews have to follow just like the Jews have. The Jewish people have 613 laws and the non-Jews have 7. By saying that we are chosen we are saying that we were chosen to perform more commandments and given specific ways to reach G-d that others were not. Does that mean that non-Jews cannot reach G-d and that they are not good people who have the potential to be spiritually uplifted? Absolutely not! There are many righteous non-Jews in the world who have given a tremendous amount to the world. We should be appreciative of them. We should also, however, be appreciative of our heritage and realize why we say that we were chosen. There is a uniqueness that makes us who we are and we should be proud of it. For the evangelical Christians to proselytize is called “part of their religion.” For the Hare Krishnas – they pass out flowers saying that you could not possibly be happy without their version of happiness. Everybody has a version of chosen-ness with regards to their own religion. Everyone group that practices a religion believes by default that what they are doing is the best way to connect to G-d, otherwise what they are doing is not worth doing. Therefore when we stat that we are chosen we are standing up and proclaiming that we are proud of who we are and what we stand for. Others should do the same.

Rabbi Gershon Litt

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