A friendly study of the world's religions is a sacred duty
. -Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We all can be a chosen people

Why do the three largest denominations of Judaism all agree that they are a chosen people? The Tanakh can answer this question. It is their sacred text and is commonly referred to as the Jewish Bible. There are several passages in the Bible that talk about the children of Israel being God's chosen people:

"For thou are an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." -Deuteronomy 7:6

"Ye are children of the Lord your God... For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." -Deuteronomy 14:1, 2

There are many more references to the children of Israel and their "chosen-ness" in the Bible, and something I love about each reference is that more often than not, when the Lord is speaking, and calls the children of Israel His chosen people, the idea of keeping His commandments or loving Him back is clear. "... the Lord thy God... keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations..." I believe that one reason why Orthodox, Reformed, and Conservative Jews agree that they are a "chosen people" is because they do keep God's commandments. What they learn from the Tanakh is that if they continue as their forefathers did, thousands and thousands of years ago, things won't change and they'll continue to be a chosen people, for the Bible tells them so.

Some 21st-century Jews would want to reject this idea because it is exclusive. Perhaps God loves and has chosen any people that love Him, or worship only Him, or keep His commandments without following all Jewish traditions. What Michael Chabon, author of an op-ed piece in the NY Times, believes is that Jews are just like every other people on the earth. Every society, every religion, every people has their "village idiot". He believes that Jews are chosen, as the Bible says, but that they aren't necessarily special. I think that this is a liberal, 21st- century way to view Judaism. I think Chabon is right when he talks about how not all Jews are so much more intelligent than the next non-Jew, but that there are superior people in and outside of the Jewish realm.

I believe that God loves all of His children. And I admire stalwart people of the Jewish faith who continue to strive to do as the Bible teaches and be a part of a chosen people that God would be proud of -- non judgmental, and faithful to God's commandments.