“And God has distinguished you today to be for God a treasured people, as God spoke to you, and to observe all God’s commandments, and to make you supreme over all the nations that God made, for praise, for renown, and for splendour, so that you will be a holy people to the Eternal your God.”
‘How odd of God to choose the Jews,’ wrote William Norman Ewer, in probably a slightly antisemitic turn of rhyme. But he had a point.
Throughout history, including in the Torah itself, we have not been the most popular or most fortunate of people.
Today, we are in many ways ambivalent about this ‘chosenness’, at times we are even downright uncomfortable. It is understandable. Yet, the often-repeated claim that the Jews are the chosen people does not actually exist in the Torah or in any classical Jewish literature.
The closest we get to it is in the verse above, which says that we are an am segulah, a treasured people and an am kedushah, a holy people.
These two things might look very different from being a ‘chosen people’, but we know they express the special relationship we have with God – our own living covenant.
It is not that this special relationship makes us better than anyone else, but simply that there is a mutual understanding between us, that we have agreed to have a relationship that is different and unique from all others.
Let’s remember the potential for hope this has to provide us with. There is a reassurance that we will never be forgotten.
We will always exist in relationship to each other, and God.
- Rabbi Charley Baginsky is interim director of Liberal Judaism