I listen to your podcast very often and I must say, that those helped me in becoming better human being. Hence my relationship with God improved as well (at least I think). But as I read through the Bible and other books, I always find some mention that only Israelites are the God’s nation. Why is that so important and mentioned quite often? Does this mean, that a person born outside Israel or in non-jewish family can believe in God, yet can never become one of his “chosen”?
I wish you all the best,
We used to sometimes tell our children, “FRIWAFTT.” That stood for, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” We hope that we are not violating that principle by trying to write a few sentences to respond to a question whose answer deserves to occupy not pages but books.
So we must first stipulate that we cannot deal extensively with the idea of a chosen nation in this format. The best we can hope to do is to suggest the beginning of some ways to think about the subject.
One of the more egregious lies regularly told to children is “You can be anything you want to be.” It just isn’t true. While everybody does have a fulfilling role and a perfect place in God’s world, it isn’t the same place for everyone. For instance, as patriotic as you may be and as knowledgeable as you might be on matters aeronautical, if you are shorter than five foot four inches, you will never be a pilot for the US Air Force. If you are built like an NFL linebacker, a career as a ballet dancer is not open to you. There are several professions such as actuary, that are not options for most of us blessed with average intelligence. If you were not born to Britain’s royal family, you will not become King or Queen as heir to Queen Elizabeth. Within the Jewish community, regardless of one’s ardor for God, service in the temple was confined to men descended from Levi.
In today’s world, where it is increasingly common to find any distinctions frowned upon to the point of absurdity, the idea of a ‘chosen people’ probably raises razor-sharp hackles. God’s world, however, is built on distinction starting with the separation of light and darkness, water and land, man and woman and continuing to the separation of tribes, Priest, Levites and Israelites and myriad other groups. This is a major point. Should there be different nations and genders as well as distinctions between human and animal, (just to name a few categories) or would the world be a better place if we assume everything and everybody is the same? If you can’t handle the idea of human and animal or animal and mineral, don’t even begin to deal with a ‘chosen people.’
As members of God’s ‘chosen people,’ (a group that by the way, you and anyone else can join) each Jew has more requirements and obligations to fulfill than any non-Jew. There are seven Noahide laws for everyone and 606 additional commandments that were given to Jews. This is why it is mentioned so often as you noticed. There are so many additional tasks and responsibilities associated with being part of the “chosen people” that it requires considerable detail. As a people Jews are chosen for the job of being ‘a light unto the nations.’ However, this also means getting chosen for punishment when we rebel against God and obstinately choose to abandon that mission, as Jewish history sadly attests.
As part and parcel of being ‘chosen’ the Jewish nation has not disappeared as have other nations throughout history. However, their abrogation of their responsibilities led them to be landless for two thousand years. Back in their land today, they are the only people the world expects to tolerate regular murderous incursions into their borders. They are the people who can be assaulted with impunity on the streets of Paris, Amsterdam, and Manchester. The only people who have been hated and oppressed for so long that this Jew-hatred has its own name.
Finally, Julie, someone being chosen for a specific functions doesn’t mean that individual is better in any way. The air force pilot taller than sixty-four inches is in no way a superior person more loved by God than the shorter person who formed a band. Different people have different responsibilities and opportunities. Different occupations and groups have their own functions. People within those groups fail or succeed as individuals. God chooses for each of us our gender, birth nationality, physical characteristics, baseline intelligence and many other qualities mistakenly spoken of as ‘accidents of birth.’ How close one is to God is not a function of being born into a specific group, but rather of how well one tackles the challenges of his or her individual life.
Thank you for listening to our podcast.
Hope that gives you a starting point,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin