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The Chosen People: Chosen for What?

by Rabbi Dovid Dubov

  

Library » Jewish Identity » Who/What is a Jew? | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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“You have chosen us from among the nations” (Siddur). The Jews are referred to as “the Chosen People”. Many Jews themselves ask, “for which task have we been chosen?”

The answer to this question lies in the Torah passage (Exodus 19:3-6) in which G–d addresses Moshe immediately prior to His revelation at Sinai:

Moshe ascended to G–d, and G–d called to him from the mountain, saying, “So shall you say to the House of Jacob, and relate to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to Egypt, and that I have borne you on the wings of eagles and brought you to Me. And now, if you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples, for Mine is the entire world. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you shall speak to the Children of Israel.”

These words encapsulate the reason G–d “chose” the Jews; namely, to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.

The reference here to priests does not refer to the Kohanim, priests who are descendants of Aaron the High Priest, for clearly all Israel are not priests in that sense. Rather, the reference here is to the “priestly function”.

The priest’s function is to “bring” G–d to the people, and to elevate the people to be nearer to G–d. The purpose of the Jews is to bring G–d to the world and the world closer to G–d.

In our association with the outside world every one of us – man or woman – must fulfil priestly functions. The juxtaposition of a “kingdom of priests” and “a holy nation” indicates that through being holy and dedicated to Torah and mitzvahs in our private lives we can be successful ambassadors to the outside world. Our impact on the outside world is intrinsically related to our dedication to Torah and mitzvahs.

This “priestly function” was termed by the prophet Isaiah as a “light to the nations”.

Wherever Jews find themselves, in the Diaspora or in the Land of Israel, even a single Jew in a remote corner of the earth, it behoves every Jew, and every Jewish community to remember that they are part of, and representatives of, the entire Jewish people, and hence mandated with this task. Even when Jews are in Galut (exile) it is only the Jewish body that is in exile. The Jewish soul is never exiled and is free from any external subjugation. Consequently, while in exile, Jews must not ignore their task, nor underestimate their capacities, however limited their material powers may be.

The extent of one’s duty is in direct proportion to one’s station in life. It is all the greater in the case of an individual who occupies a position of some prominence which gives him an opportunity to exercise influence over others, especially youth. Such people must fully appreciate the privilege and responsibility which Divine Providence has vested in them to spread the light of the Torah and to fight darkness wherever and in whatever form it may rear its head.

Let no one think, “who am I, and what am I, to have such tremendous powers?” For we have seen – to our sorrow – what even a small quantity of matter can do in the way of destruction through the release of atomic energy. If such power is concealed in a small quantity of matter for destructiveness – in denial of the design and purpose of creation – how much greater is the creative power entrusted to every individual to work in harmony with the Divine purpose. In this case, one is given special abilities and opportunities by Divine Providence to attain the goal for which we have been created; the realisation of a world in which, “Each creature shall recognise that You created him, and every breathing soul shall declare, ‘G–d, the G–d of Israel, is King, and His reign is supreme over all’ ” (Rosh Hashanah prayers).


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Kohanim
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.
Galut
Traditionally translated to mean exile. It refers to the state of the Jewish people until the coming of the Messiah.
Jacob
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Aaron
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
Isaiah
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.
Siddur
Prayer book.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.