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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts Foundations of Faith

Chapter 21

21. God's Elite Line

“How can we be expected to accept the entire story of the Exodus or the Revelation at Sinai, or, for that matter, any other praises of Israel, when we consider how greatly they transgressed against God by making and worshiping the Golden Calf?”
Dedicated to the memory of
Asher Ben Haim
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"How can we be expected to accept the entire story of the Exodus or the Revelation at Sinai, or, for that matter, any other praises of Israel, when we consider how greatly they transgressed against God by making and worshiping the Golden Calf?" This question was put to the Rabbi by the King of the Khazars. The Rabbi responded:
Foundations of Faith (50)
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
20 - 18. The Exodus and Jewish Faith
21 - 21. God's Elite Line
22 - 22. The Sin of the Golden Calf Reconsidered
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"Bear with me until I have explained to you the greatness of this nation. I have proof enough of their greatness in that God chose them from among the other nations to become His people. God rested his Divinity upon them. All of them heard God's words. This Divinity derived from Adam who was unconditionally flawless. God created Adam as an adult in his physical and emotional prime. Adam's soul and intellect were likewise at the maximum human potential. Moreover, Adam achieved the level above intellect, called the 'Divine force' - the capacity of prophetic revelation.

Adam had many children, but only one son - Abel - inherited his father's superior stature. Cain killed Abel because he was jealous of his superiority. God then replaced Abel with Seth, who also resembled his father. Seth, then, was the elite son; he was the peak of mankind, the 'heart of the fruit,' and all others were like the peel.

Seth also had children, but only one son inherited the Divine blessing - Enosh. And so it went until Noah, that in each generation there were elite individuals who represented the heart of mankind. Each was superlative in his physical makeup, stature, longevity, wisdom, and ability. The Torah uses their lifespans to measure the years from Adam to Noah, and from Noah to Abraham. It was possible for Divinity to skip a generation in this chain of elite descendants. Such was the case with Terach, Abraham's father, but it resumed again with Abraham. Abraham, then, was the elite descendant and disciple of Ever, which is why he is called 'the Ivri (Hebrew).' Ever, in turn, was the elite descendant of Shem, who was the elite descendant of Noah. Shem had inherited the temperate climates of the earth, of which the choicest and most temperate was the land of Canaan, known as the 'soil of prophecy.' Of Noah's two other sons, Yefeth went to the north, and Ham went to the south.

Abraham's elite descendant was Isaac. Abraham distanced his other progeny from the Chosen Land so that it would be reserved exclusively for Isaac. Isaac's elite descendant was Jacob. Jacob's brother Esau was rejected from the land, for Jacob had gained exclusive rights to it. The land, because of its unique status, deserved to be given to a person who possessed a similar unique status. Until the time of Jacob, Divinity was the exclusive possession of a select individual in each generation. However, all of Jacob's children were his elite descendants, all being worthy of Divinity. Thus began a new era, wherein Divinity rested upon all of the descendants of Jacob for all generations.

We have surveyed the evolution of the Divine heritage from Adam until the Children of Israel. And despite the fact that the Children of Israel were sometimes iniquitous, they continued to possess the Divine ingredient. Sometimes this element is difficult to discern, but it is always there; it may seem to disappear in one generation, but it reappears in the next. Israel's elite status does not originate with their having chosen God. Rather, it is the result of God's having chosen them and His drawing them close to Him. As a result of His choosing them, they chose him, and because this process begins with God, it is absolute and unchangeable.

Having discussed Israel's special status, we are better equipped to understand the significance of the events in their history. God willing, we will do this in the next lesson.

A Postscript: In the above article, some of what appears to be the dialog of Rabbi Judah Halevi's The Kuzari has in fact been added by Rabbi Melamed for purposes of clarity and explication.

Much of the translation of the Kuzari in the above article is taken from N. Daniel Korobkin's translation of The Kuzari (Jason Aaronson Inc.).

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