A Chosen People
For you are a holy people to Hashem, your G-d; Hashem, your G-d, chose you to be for Him a treasured people from all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. (Devarim 7:6)
For you are a sacred people to Hashem, your G-d, and Hashem has chosen you to be for Him a treasured people from all the peoples who are on the surface of the earth. (Devarim 14:2)
But you, O Yisrael, My servant, Yaakov, you whom I have chosen, offspring of Avraham who loved Me. (Yeshayahu 41:8)
You are My witnesses - the word of Hashem - and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you will know and believe in Me, and understand that I am He; before Me nothing was created by a god nor will there be after Me! (Yeshayahu 43:10)
But hear now, Yaakov, My servant, and Yisrael, whom I have chosen! Thus said Hashem Who made you and fashioned you from the womb, Who will help you: Fear not, My servant Yaakov and Yeshurun, whom I have chosen. (Yeshayahu 44:1-2)
The idea of Jewish "chosenness" offends many as arrogant. But the belief that we are a unique people does not give us exclusive rights to salvation. Jewish teaching is clear: "The righteous of all nations have a share in the World to Come". But what does righteousness mean? For this, says Judaism, the world needed a teacher. Our belief is that Yisrael had long ago reached such an advanced point of development in moral consciousness that it was equipped to spread righteousness throughout the world.
It is not for privilege that Yisrael was "chosen", but for responsibility, to be "a light to the nations." Isidore Epstein put it this way: "Not for themselves alone have the Jewish people been chosen, but for G-d and His righteousness. It is His work that they were called upon to do, and they must do it in the whole world, transforming the darkest corners of the earth."
How does one do G-d's work? By making one's life conform to the highest standards of morals and ethics, and giving an example of righteousness to others. We are not a perfect people: yet the world has a long way to go before it begins to approach the Jewish ideals of mutual concern and social justice.
Reprinted from Rabbi Raymond Apple's e-mail list
THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE, SYDNEY