Im­pli­ca­tions of be­ing the cho­sen peo­ple

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Ias­sume that the type of per­son who reads col­umns such as this one has won­dered at one time or an­other why, for thou­sands of years, there has been so much at­ten­tion paid to Jews and why, to­day, to Is­rael, the one Jewish state.

But how do most peo­ple ex­plain this pre­oc­cu­pa­tion? There is no fully ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tion for the amount of at­ten­tion paid to the Jews and the Jewish state. And there is no fully ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tion for the amount of ha­tred di­rected at Jews and the Jewish state.

A life­time of study of this is­sue, in­clud­ing writ­ing (with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin) a book on anti-Semitism (“Why the Jews? The Rea­son for An­ti­semitism”) has con­vinced me that, along with all the ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tions, there is one ex­pla­na­tion that tran­scends rea­son alone.

It is that the Jews are God’s cho­sen peo­ple.

Now, be­lieve me, dear reader, I am well aware of the haz­ards of mak­ing such a claim.

It sounds chau­vin­is­tic. It sounds racist. And it sounds ir­ra­tional, if not bizarre. But it is none of these. As re­gards chau­vin­ism, there is not a hint of in­her­ent su­pe­ri­or­ity in the claim of Jewish cho­sen-ness. In fact, the Jewish Bi­ble, the book that states the Jews are cho­sen, con­stantly be­rates the Jews for their flawed moral be­hav­ior. No bi­ble of any other re­li­gion is so crit­i­cal of the re­li­gious group af­fil­i­ated with that bi­ble as the He­brew Scrip­tures are of the Jews.

As for racism, Jewish cho­sen-ness can­not be racist by def­i­ni­tion. Here is why: a) The Jews are not a race; there are Jews of ev­ery race. And b) any per­son of any race, eth­nic­ity or na­tion­al­ity can be­come a mem­ber of the Jewish peo­ple and thereby be as cho­sen as Abra­ham, Moses, Jeremiah or the chief rabbi of Is­rael.

And with re­gard to cho­sen­ness be­ing an ir­ra­tional or even bizarre claim, it must be so only to athe­ists. They don’t be­lieve in a Chooser, so they can­not be­lieve in a Cho­sen. But for most be­liev­ing Jews and Chris­tians (most par­tic­u­larly the Founders who saw Amer­ica as a Sec­ond Is­rael, a sec­ond Cho­sen Peo­ple), Jewish Cho­sen-ness has been a given. And even the athe­ist must look at the ev­i­dence and con­clude that the Jews play a role in his­tory that de­fies rea­son.

Can rea­son alone ex­plain how a hodge­podge of ex-slaves was able to change his­tory, to in­tro­duce the moral God-Cre­ator we know as God; to write the world’s most in­flu­en­tial book, the Bi­ble; to de­vise eth­i­cal monothe­ism; to be the only civ­i­liza­tion to deny the cycli­cal world­view and give hu­man­ity be­lief in a lin­ear (i.e., pur­pose­ful) his­tory; to pro­vide moral­ity-driven prophets and so much more, with­out God play­ing the de­ci­sive role in this peo­ple’s his­tory?

With­out the Jews, there would be no Chris­tian­ity (a fact ac­knowl­edged by the great ma­jor­ity of Chris­tians) and no Is­lam (a fact ac­knowl­edged by al­most no Mus­lims). Read Thomas Cahill’s “The Gifts of the Jews” or Paul John­son’s “A His­tory of the Jews” to get an idea about how much this peo­ple changed his­tory.

What fur­ther ren­ders the claim for Jewish cho­sen-ness wor­thy of ra­tio­nal con­sid­er­a­tion is that vir­tu­ally ev­ery other nation has per­ceived it­self as cho­sen or other­wise di­vinely spe­cial. For ex­am­ple, China means “Mid­dle King­dom” in Chinese, mean­ing that China is at the cen­ter of the world; and Ja­pan con­sid­ers it­self the land where the sun orig­i­nates (“Land of the Ris­ing Sun”). The dif­fer­ence be­tween Jewish cho­sen-ness and other na­tions’ sim­i­lar claims is that no one cares about any other group con­sid­er­ing it­self Cho­sen, while vast num­bers of non-Jews have ei­ther be­lieved the Jews’ claim or have hated the Jews for it.

Per­haps the great­est ev­i­dence for the Jews’ cho­sen-ness has been pro­vided in mod­ern times, dur­ing which time evil has con­sis­tently tar­geted the Jews: Nazi Ger­many was more con­cerned with ex­ter­mi­nat­ing the Jews than with win­ning World War II.

Through­out its 70-year his­tory, the Soviet Union per­se­cuted its Jews and tried to ex­tin­guish Ju­daism. Ha­tred of Jews was one thing com­mu­nists and Nazis shared.

The United Na­tions has spent more time dis­cussing and con­demn­ing the Jewish state than any other coun­try in the world. Yet, this state is smaller than ev­ery Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try, in­clud­ing El Sal­vador, Panama and even Belize. Imag­ine if the amount of at­ten­tion paid to Is­rael were paid to Belize, who would not think there was some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary about that coun­try?

Much of the con­tem­po­rary Mus­lim world, and nearly all the Arab world, is ob­sessed with an­ni­hi­lat­ing the one Jewish state.

In the words of Catholic scholar Fa­ther Ed­ward Flan­nery, the Jews carry the bur­den of God in his­tory. Most Jews, be­ing sec­u­lar, do not be­lieve this. And many Jews dis­like talk of cho­sen-ness be­cause they fear it will in­crease anti-Semitism; they may be right.

But it doesn’t al­ter the fact that the ob­ses­sion with one of the small­est coun­tries and small­est peo­ples on earth, and the unique ha­tred of the Jews and the Jewish state by the world’s most vi­cious ide­olo­gies, can be best ex­plained only in tran­scen­dent terms. Namely that God, for what­ever rea­son, chose the Jews.

Den­nis Prager is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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