We have often heard the term “The Chosen People” used in reference to the Jews, however many are unclear as to the meaning behind this seemingly elitist title. This description has at times been used by our enemies as proof of a “holier-than-thou” attitude, and conversely has been used by some Jews as a validation for near racist prejudice towards non-Jews. What does it mean to be “Chosen”? And by whom? And for what purpose?
In the parsha, Moses addresses the Jewish people, saying, “Only your fathers did G-d love, and He chose you, their offspring, from all peoples.” And yet, in the next verse we are told that “He (G-d) does not show favor”! We learn from the episode of Joseph and his brothers the danger of favoritism. Could G-d so clearly “choose” the Jews and relegate the rest of humanity to second place?
The Book of Koheles (Ecclesiastes) authored by King Solomon expresses a fundamental belief in our religion. “For everything there is a season, and a time for all that is under the sun.” The verse then goes on to list the opposite extremes of the human experience, declaring that there is nothing which does not have its time and place in G-d’s plan. This sentiment is also echoed in the Mishna (Pirkei Avos 4:3) “Do not despise any person, or disregard any thing, for there is no person that doesn’t have his hour, nor any thing that does not have its place.
Clearly, there is nothing in our world that is superfluous. We see time and time again throughout the Torah that everyone is required to serve G-d with their unique talents. That’s why we have Kohanim, Levites, and Israelites. That is why we have special Mitzvot that are directed towords women, and other mitzvoth that are geared towards men. Every individual must serve G-d in the way that is innate to their character. No one else can accomplish this mission for them. This is why it is a grave mistake to believe that everyone’s service should be identical. If we all pretend that there are no differences between us, that no one has strengths unique to themselves, then it is impossible for anyone to shine. But if we know that each person created by G-d has an individualized life-mission only they can fulfill, then EVERYONE will shine. So it is true, the Jewish people were charged with being a “light unto the nations” by living a life dedicated to the Torah, a charge only they can fulfill. But at the same time and no less important, all people are commanded by G-d to be a living example of morality and integrity, filling the world with G-d consciousness. Both of these services are necessary and fit into G-ds plan. We are all chosen, for our individual roles in working to make our world a holier, G-dly place.
Wishing you and your family a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Akiva Hall