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Yithro: Maintaining Israel's Chosen Status As An Honorable Nation

This week’s parsh.jpg (2373 bytes) underlines Israel’s special status among the nations as a chosen people. This does not mean that Israel's status is superior to the nations. Rather, Israel's mission involves an increased level of responsibility.

"And now, if you hearken to Me and guard My Covenant, you shall be to Me chosen from among all the peoples, for mine is the entire world. You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Shemoth 19:5)

However, this special status was not bestowed upon Israel without a price tag. Being chosen implies that Israel has a much greater responsibility than the rest of the world.

The RMb"M equates Israel’s chosen status with proper speech and discernment. Thus "G-D granted to Israel (a learned tongue) that he may be distinguished from the rest of the living creatures… This gift, therefore, which G-D gave us in order to perfect ourselves, to learn and to teach, must not be employed in doing that which is for us the most degrading and perfectly disgraceful; we must not imitate the songs and tales of ignorant and lascivious people. It may be suitable to them, but is not fit for those who are told, ‘And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’. Those who employ the faculty of thinking and speaking in the service of that sense which is no honor to us, who think more than necessary of drink and love, or even sing of these things; they employ and use the divine gift in acts of rebellion against the Giver, and in the transgression of His commandments. To them the following words may be applied: ‘And I multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal’ (Hos. ii.10) 1

A Balancing Act Between The Holy And The Profane

In today’s world, there is a fine line between worldly pleasure and spiritual enjoyment. As chosen people, it is our responsibility to tell the difference. We are told to serve G-D with joy...but how do we avoid going overboard -- towards the profane? How do we walk the high wire?

Perhaps the answer lies in the wisdom of Proverbs 2:11 : "Discretion shall watch over thee, discernment shall guard thee." A good rule of thumb is to remember that there is an eye above that sees us at all times. The eye wants us to enjoy His creation. However, He wants us to remember our status at all times. The only way to accomplish this is through the continuous study of  wpe9.gif (923 bytes). Only then can we hear the discerning voice in our soul shouting "Never forget how special your identity is! And never forgot how much responsibility you have !"  Only then can we merit G-D's protective blessing as a chosen people.

As the RMb"M says: "Now G-D sent wpeC.gif (953 bytes) to make [The Israelites] a kingdom of priests and holy nation by means of the knowledge of G-D." Thus, the chosen status of the Jewish people intimately connects them with The Creator. G-Dliness is an integral component of a Jew's very existence. Our purpose is to bring up the world (in Holiness) and never to let it bring us down (Heaven Forbid). This is what it means to be a chosen people.

1 RMb"M, Moreh Nevuchim, p.264, Dover Publications, NY