Introduction to Emunat Iteinu, volume 14; Rav Tvi Yisrael Tau:. “And all the world will acknowledge that the Divine Spirit speaks in the Nation of Israel”.
It’s amazing that even now, Yom Ha’atzmaut 2022, the State of Israel faces a world that denies its legitimacy and sovereignty. The uniqueness of the Jewish people and nation has become an issue: who are you to declare that you are the Chosen People? By what right do you maintain that you have special rights in the Holy Land?
The term “Chosen People” isn’t used outright in the Five Books of Moses. Rather, it appears in this form, in Exodus, 19;5: “And you will be my treasured nation , beloved of all the nations- for all the Land is Mine”. Rashbam comments : ”For I have chosen you, from among all the nations of the world”. The Ramban says that “ this is the Land of All- the kabbalistic ALL that was promised to Abraham (Genesis 24;1) when he sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for the next Father of the Jewish people, Isaac (Yitzchak).
Thus was founded the Nation of Israel, with a promise to the next generation, that Jacob/Israel was to be the recipient of the Promised Land.
Fine, you say: but why them, their descendants, and all who choose to join them?
Several best-selling, and very bright, authors have tried to answer this question of Jewish chosen-ness. In Headlines, a brilliant three volume series on contemporary problems in Jewish law (Halakhah), Dovid Lichtenstein says that the Jewish were chosen to serve the world as spiritual priests (volume 3); but this only begs the question: why them?
In his masterful Haggadah, Dennis Prager skirts the question, answering that JUDAISM is chosen because it brings to Jews and the world the ideas of a weekly Sabbath day of rest and of a G-d active in a world to whom he gave His ethical standards called Torah.
Even more intriguing was that six years ago, British TV personality Tim Sebastian, on the program Conflict Zone, challenged then- Education Minister Naftali Bennett with the following:
“Your fellow Member of Knesset Rabbi Eli Dahan declared that the ‘soul of the Jew is on a higher level than the soul of a Gentile. Is that not racist?’ ”
Minister Bennett sidestepped the question.
The answer lies in the Torah’s view of nationalism and the “70 prototypic nations of the world”. The Torah notes that each nation has its unique character: the English have organization; Germans, technology and science; Italians build great sportscars; the French specialize in wines; Americans, Yankee ingenuity and a fierce sense of freedom and liberty, etc. And the Jewish people have – spirituality:
“On the third day, Abraham raised his eyes and he saw the Makom (Place; but Makom is also a name for the Almighty) from afar. And Abraham said to his young comrades (his son Yishmael and his servant Eliezer): ‘You stay behind here with the Chamor, and I and the youngster will continue AD KO’” (Genesis 22;4-5).
The Rabbis of the Second Temple explain: Avraham saw Mount Moriah, the site of the future Temples of the Jewish people, in the distance, and wondered what his three companions saw. Yitzchak replied that he saw a holy mountain. Eliezer and Yishmael replied that they saw a rocky summit, nothing more. They were then told to stay behind with the Chamor, whose simple meaning is “donkey”; the Rabbis say it meant “Chamriut”, the physical. Yishmael and Eliezer saw only the physical, the material- nothing Divine; and so they were told to stay behind, while Avraham and Yitzchak went to the spiritual heights.
Father and son continued walking until “Ko”, which the Rabbis say is the future Jewish people (Rashi). In Star War terms, only Avraham and Isaac, and their descendants, have the spiritual “Midi-chlorians” in their blood to appreciate the holiness of the Holy Land, and develop it to perfection.
Thus we find that the Babylonian Nevuchadnezzar could destroy the Temple of Solomon, in 586 BCE. Similarly, the Roman Titus saw only physical marble structures on Mount Moriah, brought a prostitute there to profane the Holy of Holies, and destroyed the place in 70 CE.
Islam did build mosques there, starting around the year 700 CE; but no religious Jew, from any period in history, would hold soccer games up there, as the Muslims allow. In short, the Nation of Israel is the people chosen for its spirituality and its unique ability to perceive the Divine; indeed, as Rav Tau said above, “the Divine Spirit speaks from within the Nation of Israel”.
The Holy Land belongs with, and to, the Holy Nation, because only this Holy Nation of Israel can understand, appreciate, care and develop it- not Eliezer the Canaanite, not Yishmael the Arab, not Nevuchadnezzar the Iraqi, nor Titus the Roman- and not the United Nations.
So what about the “Chamor”, the physical and those who appreciate it? Here Rav Kook shows his unique appreciation of Torah: in his approach to Deuteronomy 8;5 “the Land of wheat, barley,vine..the Land of oil and honey." Rav Kook says:
“Unlike those who see the Divine only in a constant battle against the physical, the material and the body, we understand that even the Chomer (material world) is needed in order to perfect the Holy in this world. The Chomer, in its full health and strength, will be used by Israel to build the Holy of Holies. The physical will be elevated to the Divine, the pure, and the holy. Thus, every physical process will become spiritual, and from within the physical, a spiritual Redemption for the Land of Israel and the People of Israel will grow” (Emunat Iteinu, vol.14; pages 205-207, where the five grains ” wheat “ etc. represent the Five Books of Moses and those attached to the spiritual; and the final “Land of oil and honey” refers to those attached to the Land in its physical development”; and page 220).
This is the Yom Ha’atzmaut that the Chosen People of Israel celebrate: a whole nation, both “wheat “-Torah-true Jews and “oil” – secular Jews, together celebrating the miracle that is the State of Israel, for the ultimate Redemption and perfection of all the nations (Chomer) of this world.
Dr. Aryeh Hirsch is a physician residing in Beit El who works at Hadassah Hospital. He also completed Rabbinical ordination of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel through an adult study program at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav