The "Chosen" People

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
with comments by Rabbi Reuven Mann
Reader: I am trying to expand my knowledge in religions. Could you give me an explanation of the phrase "The chosen ones"? Who are they? Why are they the chosen ones? Are they superior, in ways, to other people in the world?
Mesora: Let me clarify your last statement; man is man. When compared with all other nations, Jews have no additional human features.
You question the term "chosen people". I ask, "what does 'chosen' imply"? I would say that one who has merited distinction based on his own acts, and is ascribed credit by another, may be termed "chosen" by the other.
Does this compliment apply to each individual Jew? Let us consider:
Abraham lived in a society permeated by idolatrous practices - he too worshiped idols. Upon later analysis of what is real and true as he observed the world, Abraham arrived at the conclusion that there can be only one God, he beholds infinite wisdom, His wisdom reflects in all He created, He is just, kind, merciful, and He is not of the material of this world - He is not physical. Noting man's clear distinction as the only rational being on Earth, Abraham further understood that God desires man to use his mind above all else. Abraham arrived at proofs for his reasoning, such valid proofs that God desired His words be carried out in the world through Abraham and his descendants, to whom Abraham would teach the ways of God. This is expressly stated in Genesis, 18:19,"For I know (him) that he will command his children and his household after him and they will keep the way of God to do charity and justice...."
For the singular reason that Abraham approached this life - and ultimately his relationship with God - using rationale, intelligence, and proofs, God therefore chose Abraham - and thereafter his descendants - to be the guardians and teachers of His Torah. It is most crucial that one realize this distinction between Abraham and all others of his era, which is the same distinction between Judaism and all other religions: Judaism is based on rationale and proofs, just as all other areas of study, such as math and natural science. Conversely, all other religions base themselves on belief and claims, not subject to proof. God does not desire this approach, demonstrated by His gift to man of intelligence.
Abraham discovered God and Judaism with the same methods used to prove scientific fact. God created both religion and science. Therefore, by design, both require the identical, intelligent approach in order to discover the layers of God's wisdom enveloped in each. This approach of reason - the only approach - is what Abraham engaged to demonstrate to others the fallacy of idolatry and ditheism. He taught God's existence via proofs, and that following the Creator of the universe is what is reasonable and true. Man cannot deny logic, and Abraham soon attracted thousands of adherents. That God revealed himself to Abraham is the irrevocable endorsement that Abraham discovered what is real and true about life and the universe. We learn that God waited for someone like and Abraham to find God, and not vice versa. God revealing Himself to man without man exerting his intelligence will never happen. God does not desire that man be forced into worshiping Him. This is why the Torah states in connection with revelation at Sinai, (Deut. 5:19) "A loud voice, and no more." Meaning, although one historically proven event was required to prove God's existence and the veracity of the Torah, it also coerced the Jews into the acceptance of God, as the proof was undeniable. This is not God's desired method for man's approach to Him.
God wishes that man use intelligence, not his fear, nor faith, nor belief. This applies to all areas of life, starting with the most important area, man's knowledge of, and adherence to God. Selecting Abraham and his descendants to teach the world, God teaches just that.
Jews are bound to study God's system of Torah, both for our own edification, and to teach other nations, demonstrated by Abraham's life's work of reaching out to others. Thus, we are referred to as the "chosen people"(1), Deuteronomy, 10:15, "Only in your fathers did God desire and did He love them, and He chose their seed after them from all other peoples, as this day."
Based on God's words noted herein, a Jew must not feel arrogant towards a Gentile. Certainly, if such a Jew is non-observant, he does not fulfill in himself God's desire for man, nor does he lay claim on the term chosen. And even when one does fulfill God's plan and adheres to the Torah, the term "chosen" is not complimentary to him, but actually to Abraham. We read in Deuteronomy 7:8, "Because from God's love for you and His guard of His swear that He swore to your forefathers..."
God secured the blessings of Abraham upon his son Isaac, with the qualification that Abraham adhere to God's ideals, as stated in Genesis, 26:5, "I will increase your seed as the stars of the heavens, and I will give to your seed all these lands, and all nations will bless you. On account of Abraham's hearkening to My voice, and he guarded my guarding (laws), my commands, statutes and torahs."(2)
Where do we see our goal of "a light unto nations" realized? In Deuteronomy 4:6-8 we read, "And you shall watch them and keep them as they (the commands) are your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations, who will hear all these statutes and declare 'what a wise and understanding people is this great nation. Because what great nation has God close to them like God, whenever (they) call to Him? And what great nation has statutes and laws as righteous as this entire Torah'..." The Rabbis stated in line with this quote, that we are chosen for no other reason than to imbue the world with God's wisdom. God did not create "Jews" and "Gentiles". God created "man". Later on, man deviated through idol worship. But from God's initial plan it is quite clear, He desires ALL mankind follow him. That He chose a people most suitable to receive, study and teach His ideas to others, follows God's initial plan. Deuteronomy 9:5 and 9:6 state emphatically, "Not due to your righteousness or upright hearts do you come to inherit the land..."
The very fact that God selected David and Solomon as His kings, the descendants of converts, demonstrates that God judges one based on his own merit, not on his lineage. Although these great men were not descendants of the "chosen" people, this is immaterial.
Maimonides - responding to a convert's query whether he could accurately state in his prayers "God of our fathers" - instructed him that Abraham was indeed his father, as "father" is measured not in biological terms, but in ideological terms. Maimonides taught that converts are truly descendants of Abraham.
Jews can become corrupt - we are not exempt from emotions and erroneous opinions which lead to sinning against God. Equally true, being a member of the "chosen people" does not brand us as good - our free will determines our own merit. We must think clearly, and appreciate that the term chosen did not devolve upon us today - it is Abraham's appellation - who was not even a Jew. We do share that reference, provided we study, understand, teach, and follow God's instructions to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.
God desires all mankind know Him. It is only due to our forefathers' adherence to God's ideals, that God selected them. They demonstrated intelligence in all areas of life starting with religion, and they embodied moral perfection essential to act as God's emissaries - transferring God's will to man - every man.
(1) "Chosen" is not a universal accolade applying to all roles of a Jew. Chosen means, chosen for a specific task.
(2) Once chosen, Abraham remained at risk of losing the chosen status unless he remained faithful to the true path. Unlike academic degrees, one's status as God's chosen is
reversible; in proportion to his perfection is God's desire of him.

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