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 | THE  JEWS |

 

 

A Chosen People

But chosen for what?

 

RABBI MOSHE BEN-CHAIM

 

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“And now, if you surely listen to My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be treasured from all other peoples, for the entire Earth is mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…” (Exod. 19:5,6)

 

 

Rashi comments:

 

“Now do not say that you (children of Israel) alone belong to Me and that I have no other peoples besides you, and what more to Me do I have that should make your love for Me apparent? But other nations are before Me as nothing.”

 

 

God first tells the Jews not to think they alone are God’s people. But then God says other nations are nothing. This appears contradictory. We also wonder what is the plain sense of 2 concepts in the verse above:  1) the Jews should follow God and be a treasured people, 2) the entire Earth is God’s. What is the connection?

 

Sforno comments:

 

“Even though the entire human species are more precious to Me above all the lower (earthly) existences, for mankind alone is the intent of all else, as the rabbis say, “Humans are beloved because they were created in God’s image,”  [yet] the difference between you (Jews) is less or more.  For indeed, the whole earth is Mine, and the righteous gentiles are precious to Me without a doubt.”

 

Sforno praises righteous gentiles. Do Sforno and Rashi share the same message?

 

 

 

“What more to Me do I have that should make your love for Me apparent?” (Rashi)

 “What more do I have” refers to God giving Torah to the Jews. God says that the Jews’ Torah adherence intends to make their love of God apparent to the world. God intends the Jews’ love of God to act as a model to all mankind. This explains why God says, “you shall be treasured from all other people, for the entire Earth is mine.” In other words, God says the Jews shall become a beacon as God loves all mankind, “the entire Earth is mine.” God gives the perfect way of life—Torah—to the Jews, precisely to share it with mankind. Sforno too says the Jews’ distinction is a small matter—“more or less”—since righteous gentiles are without a doubt precious to God. “The whole earth is Mine” conveys mankind’s equality. The Jew is no more superior.

 

We asked on Rashi that God first tells the Jews not to think they alone are God’s people. But then God says other nations are nothing. This appears contradictory. We now answer that Rashi should be read as follows:

 

“Now do not say that you (children of Israel) alone belong to Me and that I have no other peoples besides you, for I, God, love all peoples. And what greater gift than Torah can make your love for Me apparent as a lesson to all other nations to follow Me, just as you do! The other nations are before Me—at present—as nothing, but I do not wish them to remain this way. Therefore you shall teach them, for all peoples are Mine.”

 

 

“And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…” (Exod. 19:6)

God explains that the Jews shall act as a model for the world. Rashi and Sforno teach equally that God’s designation of Israel as Torah recipients is not intended for them alone. God created all mankind for a reason. The Jew is not favored, but should share Torah with all mankind: “the difference between you (Jews) is less or more, for indeed, the whole earth is Mine, and the righteous gentiles are precious to Me without a doubt.”

 

 

“You shall be treasured from all other peoples, for the entire Earth is mine”

The Jew shall receive Torah (be treasured) in order to teach the nations, as God loves all His creations, i.e., “the entire Earth is Mine.”

 

 

 

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