Rabbi Sacks on the Chosen People

JInsider (March 2010)

We say we are a chosen people, asher bacha banu mikol ha’amim, who chose this from all other nations. That’s really quite a difficult thing to say, because after all, aren’t we all one humanity? Didn’t God create every human being in His image? Didn’t He, after the Flood, make a covenant with all humanity? So, what does it mean to be chosen?

I think it means something like this: God makes us all different. And He took one person, Abraham, and then one couple, Abraham and Sarah, who became a family, who became a tribe, who became a collection of tribes, who became the Jewish people and said, “Be different”, to teach the world the dignity of difference. That you can be different from others and still be special. You can be different from others and still be loved by God, because God loves diversity.

That’s why He created such an interesting universe. He could have created one language. Well, there was just one of Babel. He said, “No, I want lots of languages.” Today, there are 6,000 languages spoken throughout the world. There are 250,000 different kinds of leaf, three million different forms of life. Every human being, even identical twins, are different, because God loves difference.

He gave us, the world, the Jewish people who really are different, and said, “You see these people who are different? I love them. I chose them.” Because difference does not mean you are hated and reviled, treated an outsider. Most people do that to people who are different. God says, “Difference is what I love.” And it is that message that we the Jewish people were placed down here on earth to make real in people’s lives, people’s consciousness and in history. The people who dared to be different.