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Meaning of the term: "The Chosen People"


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Iyyar 8, 5775
We were chosen to carry a huge responsibility - to be revelatory, as you said, "a light unto the nations." Along with that, we have 613-620 mitzvos that we are commanded to perform. They are not easy. Anyone who thinks we are "above" others in an egotistical way can maybe think about this. Who would be jealous about "getting to do" all these mitzvos? We said we would do them and then learn. I can understand that now many don’t feel a compunction to perform these mitzvos. Therefore, they are far away from the original "contract" that came with the chosenness and the responsibility that goes with our "rights." Would you agree with this?
You definitely have a point! I would just add: 1. Similarly, how many gentiles are jealous and would like to partake of the suffering historically entailed with being “the Chosen Nation”?! 2. That being said, and despite the thousands of mitzvot (including the rabbinical ones) obligated by this “Chosen-ness”, I wouldn’t trade being Jewish for anything in the world! 3. This “Chosen-ness” isn’t a “contract” which depends upon our observing our end of the deal (the mitzvot, as you inferred), but is rather unconditional. God “created” us for this purpose (Yishayahu 43, 21) and one who is born Jewish cannot opt or convert out, even if he never does a single mitzvah in his life. One can convert into Judaism but even he can’t regret and dissolve this “Chosen-ness”, once he joins. Similarly, on His end, “God will never abandon His Nation” (Tehilim 94, 14), because He never changes His eternal mind, and is the epitome of unconditional love we are meant to emulate in our family life, as well as in our Ahavat Yisrael, love of our fellow Jew. True God expects more from us, and this has many ramifications regarding obligations and the way He judges us, nevertheless, it’s not a contract but an eternal covenant of love, binding us forever. 4. We cannot deny that the abundance of mitzvot is not easy, nevertheless, they are meant to be done with a feeling of responsibility, joy and identification, and not begrudgingly through complaint. This may be the reason why your logical line of reason is not cited, to the best of my recollection, in the mainstream classics of Jewish thought. With Love of Israel, Rabbi Ari Shvat
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