One thing many people mention about the Jewish people is that they are the “chosen,” people of G-D, but this is also one of the most misunderstood aspects of Judaism. If the Jews are G-Ds chosen people, what are they chosen for and what does it mean? Now, remember, this is only as I understand it, I’ve heard other explanations, but this is the most logical to me personally, but I hope it helps elucidate on this matter.
Firstly, the Jews are the people of the book, that is the people of the Torah, mentioned throughout as the people of Eretz-Yisrael. Abraham entered into a direct covenant with G-D per the following verse;
“You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.”
Through that verse, Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, entered into a covenant with Adonai. Following that verse it’s written;
Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
…and with that, the covenant spread from Abraham to the whole of the Jewish nation/people, as well as Judaism was officially born. So we established that through Abraham being chosen to and thus, entering into a covenant with Adonai, founding the Jewish people and they too being chosen to enter into the covenant, is where “the chosen people,” comes from… so what does this mean?
Firstly, as I understand it, all that was truly entered into was a belief in the one G-D, and showing Adonai love, loyalty, and trust. As so eloquently stated on the Union for Reform Judaism website;
“Individuals can have covenants with one another — marriage is a covenantal relationship — but the covenant that the People Israel has with God involves the entire people. One of the chief benefits of that special relationship is that it helps to define us as a people who have connections (relationships) with one another because we are all party to the same covenant with God. In other words, it contributes to our communal self-understanding and encourages us to examine who we are in relation to God, and who we ought to be.“
Later, Jews reaffirmed their covenant with G-D at Sinai, after receiving the ten commandments and Torah and this time, the covenant also becomes a bit clearer in distinction. Now the covenant came to include the commandments of Adonai, the 613 Mitzvot as found throughout the Torah, but further still, the Jewish people were to help G-D in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). Judaism is emphatically not a proselytizing religion, you will not see Jews trying to convert others, yet the major religions of the world namely Christianity and Islam, both have Jewish roots. This is due to the Jewish wisdom spreading Adonai’s wisdom amongst the people, whilst living to serve the covenant of the chosen people.
So what benefits do “the chosen people,” have?
For one, the covenant connects the Jewish people to one another in a bond that is sacred in nature. Every Jew is connected to every other Jew through this covenantal relationship we all take with G-D. While each Jewish community is individual, it is connected to every other community, and in my honest opinion, this should transcend Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist differences. When Hitler murdered six million Jews, he did not ask for their denomination!
The other benefits are simply found in the religion of Judaism, we are given the Torah (we were all at Sinai) and with it the commandments/Mitzvot of G-D, the love of G-D, and the nurturing of the Jewish people. Jews are not the only individuals welcomed to form a covenant with Adonai either, anyone so long as they love G-D wholeheartedly, care for others, and want to do good things and be good in life, can enter this same covenant. So while Jews, the people of the book are the chosen people, chosen for covenant because of their love of G-D and loyalty, anyone of any nation, race, socioeconomic class, gender, sexuality, age, etcetera, may also enter into a covenant with G-D, by their own choice.
Whether one is an Israelite or a Gentile, a man or a woman, a slave or maidservant, whoever does a
mitzvah is rewarded for it.
Yalkut Shimoni Lekh Lekha 76