The Chosen People

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The current issue of Jewish Action has a symposium on the touchy subject of Jews being the chosen people. Without taking away from the other writers, I would like to focus on the excellent article written by R. Mosheh Lichtenstein. The main reason this article appeals to me is that it echoes ideas I have been saying for a number of years, down to some basic comparisons, but adds a little more analysis to make it even better. Not only do I feel vindicated, I found his formulation to be better and more eloquent than mine. Here are some choice quotes:

It is our expectation that non-Jews recognize Hakadosh Baruch Hu, worship Him and obey the dictates that relate to them…, and it is our obligation to treat them with respect, dignity and honor for their rank in the universe as creatures created in the Divine image and subordinates them to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. What we cannot grant them is the status of having Am Yisrael‘s intimate relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu…

Therefore, it is evident from this analysis that there are absolutely no grounds for discriminating against non-Jews as human beings, but there is legitimacy to deny their participation in our special relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Our obligation towards them should be analogous to our obligations towards a stranger who must be treated with respect and fairness but need not receive the special treatment that we reserve for family…

Practically, this means that anything in herent to the human condition that is not a function of our special relationship applies to non-Jews and should be recognized as such. Therefore, denying non-Jews the legitimacy of their humanity (for example, the need to grieve, laugh, play, work, worship, et cetera) is a racist position and is counter to the Torah’s values… However, values and mitzvot that are a function of the unique Jewish fraternity need not be extended to non-Jews. Thus, the halachot that the Torah imposed upon us as a supra-moral obligation to assist fellow Jews as members of a common brother hood (for example, ribbit, charging interest for a loan; hashavat aveidah, returning lost items; et cetera) do not apply to non-Jews, while the prohibtions that are rooted in their rights as human beings (for example, theft, murder, et cetera) relate to them as well.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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