“You Have Chosen Us from among the Nations”

The unique relationship between God and the Jewish people is a basic principle that permeates the Bible and Talmud. We greet Shabbat with the words, “He chose us and sanctified us from among the nations,” and Shabbat closes with the words, “He distinguished between Israel and the nations.”

At the same time our literature expresses God’s concern for the fate of all of mankind. Thus, in the Amidah of the High Holy days we look forward to the time when all of mankind “will form one union to practice Your will with a perfect heart.” And, in the Aleinu prayer, recited three times daily, we anticipate the time when the world will be rectified and accept the Divine Kingdom. Finally, in the prophet Tzephaniah’s vision, all the nations will turn to God in one clear voice (3:9).

Obviously, both motifs are central to Judaism’s worldview. Unfortunately, different individuals and groups stress one of the motifs without giving proper weight to the other. We frequently encounter confusion and provincialism in discussions of this fundamental, sensitive and critical subject.

We have therefore asked a diverse group of thinkers to explore and explain the profound meaning of the choseness of Israel. It is remarkable that in spite of the rampant anti-Semitism pervading our contemporary world, our contributors are able to look ahead to the time when the nations will finally recognize and appreciate the mission of the Jewish people in fulfilling the ultimate purpose of Man.

This article was featured in the Fall 2004 issue of Jewish Action.