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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.

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You sure it isn't devarim 14? mechon-mamre.org/i/t/x/x0514.htm –  Menachem Aug 18 '13 at 5:55
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1 Answer 1

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.

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