Thursday, December 27, 2012

Who Are the Chosen People?

Nadene Goldfoot
The most damaging anti-Semitic document in history, the forgery known as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", is based on the idea of an international conspiracy to rule the world by the "Chosen People."  Those who pushed this belief were the Nazis, and I'm sorry to say that this book is now popular in Muslim societies.  We are an intelligent people but have no reason to want to rule the world and G-d does not have any expectations of us to do so.  That's not our purpose in life.  We're having a hard enough time in fighting off nations who want to take Israel, one of the tiniest of states in the world.  

Hebrew, Israelite and Jew have been used historically,  interchangeably and as synonyms.  Abraham was referred to as an Ibri (Hebrew) because he migrated from the other side (east) of the Euphrates River.  Ibri means "from the other side."  Israel was the other name of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, who is very important because he had 12 most important sons and their descendants became the children of Israel, or the Israelite Nation or People.  The term Jew comes from the name of Judah, the son of Leah, Jacob's first wife who happened to have the most populous of the 12 tribes.

King Solomon of Israel (961-920 BCE) died and the kingdom divided into 2 parts.  The northern kingdom of Israel was attacked by the Assyrians in 722 BCE and 10 of the 12 tribes were led into captivity.  The kingdom had been divided into two states, and the other one, Judah-later called Judea,  had survived.  Today these Ibri are called Jews and are Jewish from the name of their state of Judah.  Today they make up 0.02 % of the population in the world with only 6 million living in Israel along with 1.4 million Arabs. They had lost 6 million in the Holocaust.   Jews only make up about 2% of the USA population.  How many ancient people do you know of who have survived as a people for that long?  We're still here.  We were the Jews then and we still are the Jews today.

When Moses led the 600 thousand Israelites which included Jacob's family and a multitude of other slaves out of Egypt after 400 years of servitude we call slavery, he gave them all 10 basic laws to follow and later on added more, totalling 613. Jews are not all of one race.  There are many Ydna haplogroups found amongst Jewish men.  Jews are not just a religious faith, though we are that, and we are not just a nation, though we have Israel today with the rest scattered all over the world.  We are a people.

  Moses gave these people the concept that Israel had been elected by G-d to carry the message of His Law to the world.  It is based on the covenant between G-d and Abraham and renewed in that of what Moses brought down from the Mt. Sinai.  Israel was declared "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," with prophets who stressed through the ages  that this  election was conditional on social righteousness.  Jews were elected to be a chosen servant of mankind.  Israel is an instrument and Jerusalem was meant to be the future center of peoples and Israel was to play the part of mediator between them and G-d.

Teviah, in "Fiddler on the Roof,"  barely existing  in Russia, asked G-d why Jews were chosen.  "Couldn't you pick another people?" he beseeched.  In Russia Jews were constantly attacked in pogroms, the scapegoats and  source of pleasure to deviant gangs.   It seems that we have been the scapegoats of the world's ailments for the past 2,000+  years until we were given "The Jewish Homeland" by the British in the aftermath of WWI. It's been a struggle since the 1880's till 1948 when Israel was born out of the larger section originally promised in the Balfour Declaration, but our wise leaders accepted it.  It wasn't till 1967 that Jews were allowed to enter east Jerusalem, since the Jordanians, who occupied it illegally, were beaten by the Jewish army.

Why were the Jews chosen?  Why was Abraham so special?  He came from Ur (now in Iraq) , where the country believed in idols.  In fact his own father was an idol-maker.  Perhaps that's why he had the wisdom and the courage to know that they were nothing but lumps of clay, and boys always try to outsmart their fathers.  Moses, a Levite of the tribe of Judah,  was the rescued orphan found by the Egyptian princess who grew up as royalty.  His mind was stimulated by other wise people and he knew how to write.  He was exposed to the killing of  a slave and felt empathy, and when he found out he was from these people, decided to free them.  He had a  close relationship with the Pharaoh.  Why not?

 These Jews were called a "stiff-necked people."  I think that's why they were chosen.  Once they took this oath of following 10 new rules of society, they stuck by it.  They already believed in just one G-d from Abraham's teaching, the 1st law of the ten.  That was unique in itself as most others believed in many g-ds.  Greeks and Romans even had a Pantheon of them.  Legend is that G-d went to all the other peoples and they couldn't accept all 10, so they were by-passed.  If you're elected to be the teacher, you have to believe in what you're teaching, otherwise the students won't.

The Jewish feeling is that the Chosen People tag implies not superiority over others but superiority of responsibility and moral duty.  Zionism stressed Jewish re-concentration in the land of Israel and the realization of a moral Jewish society on independent Jewish terms as indispensable to the maintenance of Jewish values that we swore to follow at Sinai with Moses.  Unlike Sharia Law of Islam, Jews do not police their community.  They are to lead by example with wisdom.  There is joy in Judaism, unless it's a mourning period.

Israel's bond came 3,800 years ago when Canaan was to become Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel.  And the Lord said to Moses just before his death, " This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  I will give it to your offspring."   This was promised land.  It was promised to Israel.  Just this land.  Jews are not empire builders planning on taking over other states or countries.  They've remained a small people, separate and distinct, but not a withdrawn people.  They've had to stand alone in all the generations as they are today.  As before, Jewish history is interlaced with that of every other nation and empire.  They have been denied, despised, rejected, persecuted, confined and restricted through history, even burned to death  for being Jewish at stakes in the Middle Ages and in ovens by the Nazis.  It takes a stiff neck and a strong belief in one's faith not to deviate from one's religion and people.

Jews believe that the nations and peoples of the world all have their divine purposes and their assigned roles to fulfill, too, for G-d is the G-d of all the world, not just of Jewish people, and this means roles that are good, not to be avengers and killers.   We have a unique role that implies a special purpose in life, and a reason for our existence, which is to bring people the idea that there is a G-d and to accept the basic values he revealed.  This is to cause blessings that will be brought to "all the families of the earth."

Resource:  The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
To Be a Jew, a guide to Jewish observance in contemporary life by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin
Dr. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, member of the United Kingdom Commission on a Bill of Rights.  ; wrote 3 page paper starting with, "Are legally enforceable codes of human rights good for the Jews?" Read "Jews, Law, and Human Rights" online at:

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