"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

The Truth for all Righteous Gentiles: The Chosen

May 14, 2011

in Christianity:,Judaism:,Noahide - The Ancient Path

The choseness of Israel relates exclusively to its spiritual vocation embodied in the Torah; the doctrine, indeed, was announced at Sinai. Whenever it is mentioned in our liturgy – such as the blessing immediately preceding the Shema… it is always related to Torah or Mitzvot(commandments). This spiritual vocation consists of two complementary functions, described as “Goy Kadosh,” that of a holy nation, and “Mamlekhet Kohanim,” that of a kingdom of priests.

Rabbi Nachum Lamm [1]

We concluded the last article by seeing that the Holy Torah revealed by G-d at Sinai to the Jewish nation, was in effect G-d’s eternal covenant with humanity. On the one hand an eternal covenant for the Jewish people to serve as humanity’s beacon and priesthood, a code of holiness for them to bear testimony of G-d’s greatness, love, existence and truth. On the other hand an eternal covenant with the rest of humanity, the 7 Universal Laws of Noah, the path of the righteous Gentile.

So the question, following the above statement is obvious. How does Israel’s choseness sit with the reality of the above statement? Is it not therefore contradictory to say that Jews and Gentiles are equal partners striving to perfect the world as we stated in the introduction to this website?

To answer these important questions, we need to determine and define exactly what the Holy Torah means when it calls the Jewish people “chosen” – does it refer to any kind of physical, spiritual or racial superiority? What have the Jewish people been chosen to do?

Unlike other religions which say that non-believers are condemned to eternal damnation, Judaism maintains that the righteous of all the nations have a place in the World to Come. This can be seen in the calendar systems of Christianity and Islam which reflect an exclusionary philosophy; each beginning with the birth of their respective religion which is taken to have started at the birth of their respective founder. The Jewish calendar, on the other hand, begins with the creation of Adam, the first man, teaching us the intrinsic value of every human, even though the Jewish religion was not yet born.

Judaism does not maintain that Jews are better than Gentiles. Although the Holy Torah refers to us as G-d’s chosen people, we do not believe that G-d chose the Jews because of any inherent superiority. In the Holy Torah we find that G-d chose the Jewish nation because they were the lowliest of nations, [2] and their success would be attributed to G-d’s might rather than their own ability as it was made dependent on their conduct in accordance with the eternal covenant of Sinai. [3] Clearly, these are not the ideas of a people who think they are better than other nations.

Because of our acceptance of the Holy Torah, Jews have a unique rather than special status in the eyes of G-d, but Jews loose that unique status when they abandon Torah. [4] Furthermore, the blessings that the Jewish nation received from G-d by accepting the Holy Torah come with a high price: Jews have a greater responsibility than Gentiles. The “privilege” of being part of the chosen people is nonetheless offered to anyone willing to pay the necessary price of accepting the yoke of Heaven. The essence of being chosen means responsibility. It is a responsibility to change the world – not by converting everyone to Judaism, but by living as a model community upheld by the ethics, morals and values of G-d. In that way, we can influence the rest of mankind, a “light unto the nations”, [5] that the nations may also pick up on their task – the 7 Universal Laws of Noah – hence like Jews, Gentiles will also come to know G-d. “And the L-RD shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall the L-RD be one, and His name one.” [6]

While Gentiles are obligated to obey the 7 Universal Laws given to Noah, Jews are responsible for fulfilling 613 commandments. The punishment for failure is thus as great as the task. Therefore things that G-d will punish the Jewish people for doing; are things that would not bring punishment upon Gentiles doing the same things. This is a point very much ignored when questioning the “chosen people” thing. Therefore one reason why Judaism does not seek to convert Gentiles is because once a Gentile becomes a Jew, then the obligations of Judaism become his too, and so too do the punishments [7] listed in the Holy Torah for the Jewish people should they stray from the job G-d gave them.

Let us take a further example to help us clarify the issue. At a place of work we find different people with different characteristics doing certain jobs. All have a specific task assigned to them by the employer. It is the employer who decides when it is time to recruit for whatever purpose. It is the employer who once having interviewed for the post, be that of a manager, clerk, or even cleaner, decides who best matches his requirements to do the necessary work. Once employed, how many people have you heard asking why they’re not on the board when in the first place they were interviewed for the post of manager? How many managers have you heard asking why they can’t also clean? The reality is we all do the work we have been contracted to do. And everybody’s work is necessary and as equally important to make a success of their employer’s enterprise. From the cleaners to the managers, as far as the employer is concerned, all are part of the bigger picture of which, more than anybody else, has the clearest visibility. As far as the employer is concerned, the bigger picture is the success story that his business is designed to be. Having Mr X doing ‘job 1’ and Mr B doing ‘job 2’ does not matter to the employer as long as Mr X and Mr B do their jobs as specified. If they don’t, then the employer’s enterprise is threatened.

Imagine Mr Y who was employed as the cleaner decides to type up all of Mrs D’s letters that she has been assigned to do by the boss. Is the boss going to be happy with Mr Y? Is Mr Y going to be given a promotion for his heroics? Or will he be fired from his job?

“Why?” would the others say, “After all Mr Y showed great pro-activity, dedication and loyalty, going over and above his call of duty?!” But as far as the boss is concerned, Mr Y threatened the business doing what he was never asked to do in the first place, things in which he had no insight or qualifications to do and which could have had dire consequences should these letters full of mistakes been sent out to customers! And the same with the specific and special tasks G-d assigned to humanity. It is G-d’s prerogative as to whom he selects for His specific work.

Therefore, unlike the other 80,000 religions and cults in the world today, Judaism does not seek to convert Gentiles. Not because there is any belief or feeling that Gentiles are inferior, but because Judaism believes, and knows, Gentiles to be equal. The Gentile’s task assigned to them by G-d through His eternal covenant with Noah is as important as the Jew’s. If it were not, then G-d would not have made His covenant with Noah. For this reason, Jews do not go about in search of converts. One can still merit a place in heaven, no conversion necessary; we are equally G-d’s children with a unique task to perform in a joint effort between Jew and Gentile to perfect the world.

References

 

1.       The Condition of Jewish Belief: A Symposium Compiled by the Editors of Commentary Magazine, 1966

2.       Deuteronomy 7:7

3.       Exodus 19:5-6

4.       Amos 3:2

5.       Isaiah 42:6

6.       Zechariah 14:9

7.       Leviticus 26, and Deuteronomy 28

 

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