Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Parshat Yitro

The Chosen People

In this week's parsha, God offers the Jewish people the Torah. By accepting it, they become the chosen people, "you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples" (Shemot 19:5).

It is interesting to note that all peoples throughout the world have considered their cultures and religions to be superior to all others. Is the Jewish concept of "chosen people" just another puerile, immature concept that all humanity seems to posses, or is there something more to it?

In order to examine the concept, we need to examine the deal that God made with Israel.

"You shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth.You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (ibid 5-6).

In these pesukim, it is clear that God is not rejecting the rest of humanity. To begin with God states that "the entire earth", i.e. the rest of humankind, is His and furthermore he declares Israel to be "a kingdom of priests". If Israel is the priest, then the rest of humanity is the congregation.

God is not stating that it Israel is chosen and that all the other nations are rejected. On the contrary, He has selected Israel for a special role among all the nations, that of priest, i.e. teacher. Just as the priest is no better or more loved than the Levite, Israel is no better or more loved than other nations. Quite the reverse, because God loves all of humanity and wants them to be close to Him, He has selected Israel to be the priest that enables that to be achieved.

As the prophet states, Israel is to be "a light unto the nations" (Isaiah 42:6), the beacon to humanity as to how to gain communion with God.

The modern world shuns and rightly so, the concept of superiority among nations. Many Jews who have misunderstood the concept of "chosen people" have therefore, been embarrassed of their calling. This is unfortunate. Jews should be proud of their mission, for without it, there would be no purpose to being a Jew.

Indeed, Amos told a sinful Israel: "Are you not as the children of Kush unto Me, O children of Israel? says the Lord. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and Aram from Kir?" (Amos 9:7)

The mission is what we were chosen for. Without it, we will go the same way as Kush, the Philistines and the Arameans.

Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat Yitro, entitled: "Midyan, Amalek and Matan Torah" appears at


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