Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Jews are commonly referred to as "the chosen people". I've heard it comes from Exodus 19:5 ("וִהְיִיתֶם לִי סְגֻלָּה מִכָּל הָעַמִּים", "ye shall be Mine own treasure from among all peoples", JPS). But what does this mean exactly? What is this "chosenness" or status as a "treasure"? Specifically does it mean

  • that we're singled out for rights? for better treatment, by God, in this world? in the next?
  • that we're singled out for responsibilities?
  • that we're singled out for (kivyachol) emotions? that God loves us more?
  • more than one of these? Something else?

To be clear: I'm asking specifically about Exodus 19:5. I'm asking about "chosen" only as an interpretation of Exodus 19:5, and not independently. (The reason for this is that it would be very hard to answer "what does 'chosen' mean when people say it" from sources; interpretation of a verse in Exodus may be easier.) If, or to the extent, "chosen" is not an interpretation of Exodus 19:5, I don't seek to know what "chosen" means.

I see a Wikipedia article on this, but it doesn't address this much and is unclear where it does. I seek sourced answers only, please.

share|improve this question
You sure it isn't devarim 14? mechon-mamre.org/i/t/x/x0514.htm – Menachem Aug 18 '13 at 5:55

The answer is quite complicated and requires a lot of background information/perspective first. This lecture from Ohr Somayach provides the best framework I've come across.

Mankind and the Role of the Jews - by Rabbi Uziel Milevsky (former chief Rabbi of Mexico)

Some Main Points

  • Mishna in Pirkei Avot - all evil comes from 3 roots - jealousy, lust, honor

  • Sin of Adam consisted of 3 flaws

  • Mankind was then tested at each of the 3 flaws to rectify them (Kain/Abel - jealousy, flood - lust, Tower of Babel - honor)

  • Mankind failed at all 3 tests. New system must then be established in the world to rectify humanity. No longer all of humanity but a subgroup.

  • 3 Patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob partially rectify 3 flaws and establish new system

  • Their descendants must now rectify 3 flaws in themselves and afterwards in the messianic era, bring all of humanity back to pre-sin state

There is much more to it. See the mp3.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.