Who Has God Chosen?         

Rabbi Reuven Mann

One of the most basic doctrines of Judaism is that the Jews are the chosen people.  We should not underestimate the significance of this idea for it is the cost of the animosity that Jews have experienced through the ages and that afflicts us to this very day.  Religious envy is the root cause of anti-Semitism.  It is not by accident that Islam and Christianity affirm that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people but at a certain point in time got upset with them and replaced them with the adherents of those religions.

The irony is that both Jews and gentiles have seriously misunderstood the reasons  behind Hashem's selection of the Jews.  Many Jews take it as a sign of Jewish superiority and feel proud that they are endowed with special spiritual qualities.  At first glance this interpretation seems plausible.  Why would God choose us to be His people if we were not somehow "better" than the rest of mankind?  However, this week's parsha, Eikev, makes it clear that this is not the case.  Moshe warns the Jews not to feel superior when Hashem drives out the inhabitants of Canaan for the Jews to inherit their land.  Moshe says: "Do not say because of my righteousness does Hashem give me this land...It is not because of your righteousness or straightness of heart...because you are a stiff necked people."  Moshe then proceeds to review the major sins of the Jews which confirm his thesis that they are a stubborn people.

Moshe Rabbenu certainly did not subscribe to the notion of the superiority of the Jewish people.  He pointed out our flaws and urged us to work on them.  However, we must ask: if we are not that great then why, indeed, did Hashem choose us?  The answer which also appears in this week's sedra should make us humble.  We were selected to be the chosen people because of an "accident of birth."  Moshe says: "only your forefathers did Hashem cherish to love them and He chose their offspring after them, yourselves, from among all the nations, as this day."  The patriarchs and matriarchs who discovered the true idea of G-d and the appropriate way to serve Him had genuine merit and found favor with Hashem.  He chose us only because we happen to be their descendents and are most likely to identify with these great personalities and emulate their unique religion and way of life.  We must, therefore, renounce any suggestion of innate superiority.  It is vital for us to acknowledge that we have flaws and a long way to go until we reach the level of our forefathers and  become worthy of the special love that Hashem bestowed upon them.  

Shabbat Shalom