Chosen Nation

QUESTION #9: Isn’t it Condescending for Jews to call themselves the Chosen Nation?

By Rabbi Tully Bryks

Israeli Flag 500X300At first glance, the concept of “Am Hanivchar” (Chosen Nation) can appear at odds with the idea of pluralism or the American ideal that “All men are created equal[1].” After more careful analysis, the Jewish approach is actually a beautiful synthesis of pride in oneself coupled with respect for others:

The Jewish claim of being chosen is not unique to Jews: Most religions and philosophies believe that they were “chosen.” For example, most Christians believe that G-d originally chose the Jews,[2] then sent down Jesus, and now the Christians are “chosen.”[3] Most Muslims believe that G-d originally chose the Jews,[4] sent down Mohamed, and now the Muslims are “chosen.”[5] Jews believe that G-d originally chose the Jews and never changed His mind.[6] The belief in one’s “chosenness” or some other form of superiority is not limited to religions. Thomas Jefferson’s Manifest Destiny was the belief in a Divine destiny to redeem and remake the world in the image of the United States of America.[7] Even if aspects of the Manifest Destiny, such as the Divine mission, are no longer widely accepted, the belief among many Americans that their way of life is superior is alive and well today. From colonialism, to imperialism, to the current drive to spread capitalism and democracy, the struggle by the Western World to educate “inferior” cultures continues.[8] Communists and socialists similarly maintain that their way of life is the best,[9] insisting that the right way of doing things is for more communal sharing and greater economic and social equality. Totalitarian regimes would argue for the efficiency and effectiveness of their methods.[10] And even the various rebellions and Arab Springs across the globe contain rebel visions of a better way of life. Sometimes the rebels are guided by a “superior” ideology such as democracy.[11] Other times, they’re guided by a “superior” philosophy and practice of religion.[12] In some cases, the rebellions against totalitarian regimes are guided by the desire for the rebels to set up their own leadership, which may be even more restrictive and domineering than the one it replaces.[13] The bottom line is that whether by Divine right or logical proclamation, just about everyone claims or believes that their way of life is “chosen”.

Jews need not be ashamed for standing by their convictions: Best logos 350X350Believing that your philosophy is right does not mean that you are egotistical or that you don’t respect others. Rather, it means that you have convictions and stand by them. An atheist is convinced that there is no G-d. As such, from his perspective, someone who believes in G-d is wrong. A believer would maintain that the atheist is wrong. They cannot both be right. Either there is a G-d or there isn’t a G-d. The believer can and should respect the atheist’s right to his opinion, while still maintaining his conviction that the atheist is wrong.  Similarly, either Jesus was the Messiah or he wasn’t. We can’t all be right. So even in a pluralistic society, when it comes to factual opinions, those who have confidence in their convictions will necessarily believe that the opposing view is wrong.

Judaism is among the most accepting and complimentary toward other religions: While Judaism is clearly not alone in believing that its way of life is correct, Judaism is unique in its philosophy that we are all G-d’s children, Jews and non-Jews alike. Unlike many other religions that maintain that only their followers can be saved,[14] Judaism maintains that all humans can share in the eternal after life.[15] Furthermore, not only do we not demand that non-Jews convert to Judaism to achieve some sort of salvation, we actually discourage conversion.[16]

To learn more about the “Chosen Nation”, click on any of the items below:

Book Why Be Jewish
Book Let My Nation Serve
Book The Bamboo Cradle

To comment on this article or to see more recommended reading about this topic, scroll down to after the footnotes.


[1] Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

[2] Peter 2:9; Romans 11:2

[3] Luke 15, 11-31; Romans 13:17; Vatican Council II (1965); Christians and Jews: Starting Over – Why the Real Dialogue Has Just Begun by Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson; Holy Hatred: Christianity, Anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 111

[4] Koran, 2:47, 2:122, 17:104 and 10:93

[5] Koran, 5:3

[6] Devarim (Deuteronomy), 7:6-8; Talmud, Chagiga, 5B

[7]  Native America, Discovered And Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, And Manifest Destiny. Greenwood. p. 120 (2006)

[8] USAID Policy: Democracy and Governance, November 1991 (http://transition.usaid.gov/policy/ads/200/demgov/demogov.pdf); From Evaluating Democracy Assistance to Appraising Democracy Promotion, Political Studies Association, Political Studies 2008, VOL 56; Democracy in Development: How can both processes mutually reinforce each other? European Centre for Development Policy Management, October 2009

[9] Communist Manifesto (1848); Marx & Engels (1848)

[10] Britain, America and Anti-Communist Propaganda 1945-1953: The Information Research Department, 2007, chapters 2-5; The totalitarian paradigm after the end of Communism: towards a theoretical reassessment (1998)

[11] EGYPT: Protests continue but activists divided over goals,” Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2011; Is Turkey the best model for Arab democracy (September 2011); “Tunisia’s bitter cyberwar” (2011); Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry,” BICI

[14] Romans, 10:9; John, 3:16; Act, 2:38 and 4:12; Mark, 16:16; Koran, 8:39 and 9:29; Sahih Muslim, 1:33 and 39:5917; Bukhari, 8:387 and 59:392;

[15] Talmud Avodah Zarah, 10B; Rambam (Maimonides) Mishna Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah (Laws of Repentance), 3:5 and Hilchos Melachim (Laws of Kings), 8:14

[16] Rus (Ruth), 1:13; Talmud Yevamos, 47A; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 268:2

Book On Judaism
Book Kuzari
Book The Real Messiah

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    2 Comments

  1. most Christians believe that G-d originally chose the Jews, then sent down Jesus, and now the Christians are “chosen.

    I am Christian and I believe that the Jews were chosen by G-d and my Christians friends think so too.

    It is a mistake of thinking the Christians were taken the place of Jews his is not thought and my friends and I we think, we have been grafted onto the olive three (of Israel and Jews) and made partaker of the nourishing root of the olive three, in accepting G-d in our lives, we are hare involved not replacing.

    You are the chosen nation and that never change it is what le scripture tell.

    Amen.

    Anna

    Sorry for my English.

    • Belief is the abandonment of reason regardless of the belief system. Disputing when reason is abandoned is absurd. All argument becomes meaningless faced with false premises wherein anything can be proven, anything.

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