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    The Chosen People – Yitro

    The 19th chapter of Sh’mot, which forms part of this week’s Torah portion, contains God’s promise to make us am s’gulah, usually translated as a “chosen people” (verses 5-6).

    Everyone who looks at this text tries to explain it. Bernard Shaw roundly condemned it as equivalent to the Nazi Herrenvolk claim.

    The range of positive opinions includes: it does not mean a chosen but a special people, it does not mean a superior but a responsible people, it does not mean a chosen but a choosing people…

    The philosopher AN Whitehead said, “The Jews as a race are probably the most able of any in existence”.

    Whether we fully live up to our task or not, the Bible constantly affirms that God has great expectations of us – not as a people of political power but as a gadfly with a moral message.

    The prophet Amos (3:2) tells us that the Almighty will not overlook our lapses but will punish us like anyone else who sins against Him.

    Outsiders tend to do two things at once when it comes to the “chosen people” idea: they over-condemn us for some things and over-praise us for others. They can’t have it both ways, but they do.

    They tell us we are clannish: they also tell us we have a great sense of community. They don’t see the contradiction.

    They also don’t realise that every people has or could have its own specialness, and instead of criticising us they should be identifying their own uniqueness and utilising it to serve mankind.

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