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Why are the Jews called the "Chosen People"?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

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The Short Answer:

The Torah - which is an all time bestseller and studied by the world’s three major religions - recounts how the Jews were chosen by G-d to carry the responsibility of being His ambassadors to the world and mankind1 .

The Askmoses Answer:

Originally being Chosen:

Being chosen begins with choosing.

There was a time when no one in G-d’s world wished to recognize G-d, much less so obey His commands. After all, it is much easier to live in accordance with your own will, than to live in strict obedience to G-d’s word.

Then one day a man chose to recognize G-d. He chose to teach others about G-d. And most importantly, he chose to follow G-d’s directives, regardless of what they were.

G-d reciprocated. G-d chose to enter an eternal covenant with this man and his future descendents, regardless of who and where they were. This family would eternally be responsible to recognize G-d and obey His will, and in turn G-d would eternally recognize them and hold them dear to Him.

Being chosen means that G-d ought always be a factor - nay, the factor - when you make your choices.
That man was Abraham, and his descendants are known today as the Jews.

Currently being Chosen:

Living chosen comes with responsibilities as well as privileges.

Whilst people of the world may eat just about anything they wish, the Jewish People were chosen to have a restricted diet, albeit a diet designed by G-d: Kosher. Whilst mankind may work any day of the week, the Jews were chosen to be forbidden to do any work on one day of each week, albeit a day G-d didn’t "work": Shabbat.

Whilst other cultures pick a language to call their own, the Jews will always be associated with one language, albeit G-d’s language: Hebrew. Whilst other peoples choose to settle where they please, the Jews will always have just one Homeland, albeit a land G-d chose for them: Israel. And whilst literature experiences fads, Judaism will always have one central book, albeit the book G-d chose to give them: the Torah.

For the Jew, being chosen means that G-d ought always be a factor - nay, the factor - when you make your choices. Being chosen is the awesome responsibility and tremendous privilege of introducing the world to its Creator and inviting the Creator to live amongst His creations.

Not being Chosen:

Not being chosen gives you the ability to choose.

If one feels slighted by the fact that others are chosen, he need not be upset, he too can choose to be chosen. Through authentic conversion, i.e. through accepting all the responsibilities of Judaism, he too can be privy to its privileges.

More importantly, he can choose to remain "unchosen". He can choose to remain who he is. He can remain free of the responsibilities and forego the privileges of Judaism. Because in reality he has his own responsibilities and his own privileges. Birth is a testimony that G-d created you for a specific mission: namely the awesome responsibility and tremendous privilege of perfecting the world He created.

See also "Isn't it racism to say the Jews are a "Chosen People"?"

Footnotes

  • 1. Deuteronomy 7:6, "For you are a holy people to the Lord, your G-d; the Lord your G-d has chosen you to be His treasured people, out of all the peoples upon the face of the earth." Deuteronomy 14:2, "For you are a holy people to the Lord, your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a treasured people for Him, out of all the nations that are upon the earth."

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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
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.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.