- 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
- 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
- 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
(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