In the classic Broadway musical “Fiddler On the Roof” the main character Tevye the dairyman ironically quips while entreating G-d, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?” In his frustration, Tevye echoes 4000 years of Jewish experience. At first blush it would appear being G-d’s Chosen People is not always all it is cracked up to be. Tevye’s little shtetl is continuously assailed by political violence, poverty and the unrelenting demands of modernity. But in the midst of all this perhaps the greatest challenge to the village of Anatevka will be that of maintaining their traditions in a world that demands sameness and conformity.
This week’s parasha contains the dramatic summit of the Exodus story, Israel encounters the Master of the World at the base of Mt. Sinai. Here the Jewish people and G-d exchange pledges of love and loyalty, and embrace the Ten Commandments, the first clear articulation of mutually agreed upon covenant. But prior to this G-d speaks to Moses and clearly articulates the special bond He plans with Israel; “and now if you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of ., all peoples, for mine is the entire world.” (Ex. 19:5) this statement though, appears to contain an internal conflict, the conflict of a “chosen people”.
How can the G-d of the entire universe choose just one people. If G-d is truly omniscient, isn’t the restriction of His choice to only one people group bad form. Shouldn’t G-d love everybody equally? Isn’t the concept of “chosenness” just a bit xenophobic? Many Jews today would argue that such a claim denigrates the rest of humanity. Read more »