Living Torah by Rabbi Ari Enkin
This week’s Torah portion is Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8). Ki Tavo contains one of the many scriptural sources that Jews are “The Chosen People.” In this week’s Torah column we will discuss this mysterious and often misunderstood designation that the Jewish people are God’s chosen people.
There are many ways of explaining the designation of “Am Segula,” the Chosen Nation. In one such explanation, our sages teach that the Jewish people are like a precious jewel or museum piece that is on display for all others to observe, admire, and replicate. For example, we know that Jews are intended to be “Or Lagoyim,”-“A light unto the nations.” This, of course, means that the Jews are to be a shining example of honesty, dignity, morality, and monotheism.
“Am Segula” and “Or Lagoyim” are very similar concepts. As noted, the latter represents the Jewish people’s role as spiritual role-models to the entire world. The former, however, “Am segula,” has historical and national significance, as we will see.
The Jews are unique on the map of history, and indeed, on the map of the world. No other nation has gone through extreme hardships, genocides, inquisitions, pogroms, and holocausts as the Jewish people have. Indeed, these persecutions began even before the Jews became a nation! Pharaoh in Egypt was one of the first to begin persecuting and torturing the Jews and, unfortunately, the maniacal maniac in Iran won’t be the last.
What other nation has featured so prominently in every country that they have lived in notwithstanding that their numbers were often negligible compared to the local population and even other minorities. Greece, Spain, Germany, Russia, England, and of course the United States. Not only have the Jewish people contributed to the welfare of the places they’ve lived, but they have also held leadership roles. Academic achievement. Business stimulation. Inventions. Discoveries. Art. And the list goes on and on. Throughout the ages the Jews continue to survive both physically and spiritually – against all odds.
Perhaps a short parable can illustrate the role of the Jewish people. An anti-Semitic Gentile once turned to a Jew sitting next to him on a train and said “You’re a Jew, aren’t you?” “Yes,” the Jewish man replied. “Well, I’m so happy that I’m not a Jew. Not a Jewish drop of blood in my veins. In fact, I’m so proud of the fact that the little village where I come from doesn’t contain even a single Jew!” Not to be outdone, the Jew quickly quipped back “Maybe that’s why it’s still only a little village”
That, my friends, is what it means to be the “Chosen Nation.” The Romans are gone. The ancient Egyptians are gone. The Greeks of old are gone. Nations have come and gone. Only the Jews have been around for over 3000 years. God wants us here and he wants us to serve a purpose.
But make no mistake. The Jews can’t always take on the role of the Chosen People themselves. We need your help! We need you to partner with us in spreading our messages of morality, monotheism, and survival. We need you on our side in supporting Israel and the Jewish people in their land. Anyone who CHOOSES to help the Jewish people becomes CHOSEN themselves. Indeed, as God Himself says: “I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you. All the nations of the worlds will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Amen. May all our friends and supporters receive this blessing.
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
Rabbi Ari Enkin
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