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I know there is a midrash quoted in Avodah Zara 2b which says that G-d went to all the nations and asked them if they wanted to accept the Torah, and they all refused until G-d came to the Jews. However, it would seem that Hashem really had the Jewish people in mind the whole time anyway and this was so that the goyim would not complain that had they been given the opportunity they would have accepted the Torah. I have three questions:

  1. Why does any nation need to be chosen? Why can't the whole world have the opportunity and whoever keeps the mitzvos are rewarded?
  2. What was so special about the Jews that they were chosen?
  3. Even if Hashem asked all of the nations, can't their descendants still complain and say: If we were asked we would have accepted. Why do we have to be punished?
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  • Maybe all future non-Jews rejected it, just as all future Jews accepted it.
    – shmosel
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 20:39
  • See also judaism.stackexchange.com/a/1638/6592
    – shmosel
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 20:43
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    @shmosel, that opens an interesting can of worms, since not all of klal Yisrael accepts Torah, even today. Karaim and their predecessors, the Tzadukim, reject Torah shebe'al Peh without any compunction and numerous groups have forsaken Torah through the years, not to mention the swaths of Jews today who ר"ל have never had the opportunity to taste its sweetness Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 21:33
  • @NoachMiFrankfurt Great point, the idea of accepting it or not in it of itself is confusing. Surely a neshama would never not accept the Torah, so Hashem must have asked people, and if that's the case, people are stupid and make bad decisions all the time...
    – Seeker
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 15:31
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    @shmosel I saw somewhere that that's the concept of geirim. The other nations as a whole rejected the torah but there were individuals who accepted it
    – Shababnik
    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 1:23

4 Answers 4

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The Shabbos after I posted this question, I was reading R' Miller's Elul Made Easy and he brought up an interesting point in the Mesilas Yeshurim that I think gives a good insight into the answers.

"We’re going to quote the Mesillas Yesharim at the end of chapter sixteen. He talks there about the great men of our past who were chosen by Hakadosh Baruch Hu. 'Now, it really is worthwhile to study the following subject,' he says, 'the subject of why Hakadosh Baruch Hu favored these great personalities.'

It’s a subject we should investigate. What was the reason Hakadosh Baruch Hu loved Avraham so greatly? Why did He love Moshe Rabbeinu so greatly? We think we know. We know that Avraham had ten trials, asarah nisyonos, and he passed them all successfully, and so on. Moshe Rabbeinu was devoted to his people, and he was a servant of Hashem with all his heart; an eved ne’eman. So we think we know what made them great. But we’re making a big error. We don’t understand at all the greatness of our great men.

Now listen to what the Mesillas Yesharim says. I’ll read it in English: He says, 'This, in truth, is the test that the servants of Hashem were tested with, and this is what set apart each one according to his degree of greatness. What was the test? It was a test of who was capable of purifying his heart more — he was the one who was closer to Hashem and more beloved to Him.' What does that mean? So, he explains: 'When they did their ordinary deeds — not the great deeds that are written about in the Torah, the heroic deeds of self-sacrifice that we always speak about — but even their daily deeds, they were done with the intention of serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu.'

When Avraham Avinu was busy managing his sheep and his cattle — that was his business: raising livestock — he was thinking always about serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu. When Avraham was in his tent with Sarah, or Sarah was in the tent with Avraham, each one was thinking about how to talk in a way that would serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu. When they sat down to eat, they ate with the thought, 'How can I please Hakadosh Baruch Hu with my eating?'

Now, anybody who would have been present wouldn’t have heard anything. You might have heard great things, too; no question that whatever words were exchanged were noble words, but what was doing in their minds no reporter could have noted. No tape recorder would have recorded what was doing. They were just thoughts in their minds. And the Mesillas Yesharim says that it was these thoughts that made them great. 'The true nobility of these great people,' he says, 'was the way they lived in their inner lives, the way they thought.' They lived l’sheim Shamayim."

He goes on further, but I'll leave it with that. I know I quoted a lot here but I think every word is very important. I believe that this is what truly separated Avraham and the rest of the Avos from the rest of the world and made them so worthy of Hashem's love.

We also see written in the Kuzari (1:47): "'Four thousand and five hundred. The years detailed in our Torah [by chronicling the generations of man], starting from the time of Adam, Shes, and Enosh, and down to Noach; then to Shem and Ever; then down to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and then down to Moshe. These people were the heart and elite of mankind. Each had many children, [but the Torah does not list all of them by name]. Most of these children were like the peel of a fruit, not attaining their fathers' level, since they did not possess the same divine qualities. The Torah therefore only chronicles those descendants who maintained this divine quality, who were the minority of the individual's progeny. This was true until Yaakov, who fathered twelve tribes. Unlike the previous pattern, now each and every son was worthy of this divine quality. It was in this nation of twelve tribes that divinity settled, and this nation preserved the chronicling of mankind...'"

We see from here that not all of us are so special and worthy of Hashems love to be the chosen people, and that the ones that were worthy were so great that they were deserving of the Torah. When the time came that the twelve tribes were born, Hashem rested the Shechina on the and made a nation out of the twelve tribes in their merit and the merit of their divine forefathers.

I beleive this answers questions 1 and 2, no nation deserved the Torah like the Jewish nation and this is why they were chosen.

Now as for question 3, I have thought about it, and I may be wrong, but here is something that I thought of: There is a well known midrash that we were all by Har Sinai and accepted the Torah, we knew what we were getting into and accepted anyway. As for the non-Jews, I think it may have been something like this, and I hope someone corrects me if I am mistaken: We know that if a non-Jew wants to convert, we highly discourage it, and one of the simple reasons is because it is extremely difficult to follow all of the mitzvos, especially if someone wasn't raised that way. If someone can't follow the mitzvos well and is a Jew, he is punished for that. A non-Jew must only follow the seven Noachide laws. We also know that humans are dumb and make many bad decisions, and I can imagine that Hashem would ask our souls rather than us literally because the soul truly knows what it is accepting upon itself. The soul would also see it as a gamble. It is highly more likely for a goy to keep the Noachide laws than a Jew to keep all the mitzvos (need proof? what percentage of the Jews today in the world are religious, observant Jews?). So, if the soul has a much higher chance of getting into heaven as a goy (or at least avoid a lot of punishment or even kares), it will most of the time choose that. True, the reward for being a god Jew is immensely higher, but it's combined with a greater risk and probability of being a Jew who is not observant.

I know this is a long winded response, but hopefully I have made a good point. I really want people to point out any flaws in my logic and reasoning and if this answer gets at least 5 likes I'll accept it as a valid answer. Thank you for reading!

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Why Choose Us? Our relationship with Hashem is based on the fact that Hashem chose us because we chose Him. As the Torah tells us, “Now if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be My special treasure among all nations, even though all the world is Mine. You will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to Me.” Why did Hashem choose us in the first place? It was not in our own merit, though we did have merit. Hashem chose us because He had made a promise to our forefathers. As the Torah says: “You are a nation consecrated to Hashem your G-d. Hashem your G-d chose you to be His special people among all the nations on the face of the earth. It was not because you had greater numbers than all the other nations that Hashem embraced you and chose you; you are among the smallest of all the nations. It was because of Hashem’s love for you, and because He was keeping the oath that He made to your fathers.Hashem therefore brought you out with a mighty hand, liberating you from the slave house, and from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. You must realize that Hashem your G-d is the Supreme Being. He is the faithful G-d, who keeps in mind His covenant and love for a thousand generations when it comes to those who love Him and keep His commandments.” So it was not only because we accepted Hashem as our G-d. That is a part of it, but it was also, or perhaps primarily, because of the Patriarchs. The promise Hashem made to them will last for at least one thousand generations, which is 20 thousand years, even when we sin. So far, it’s been only 4,000 years since the Patriarchs, not 20,000. Therefore, Hashem’s promise is still in effect.So since our merit was not the reason Hashem chose us, our sins and lack of merit can’t take it away. Hashem made a promise, and Hashem will never break that promise. “And the foreigners who attach themselves to Hashem to serve Him and to love Hashem’s Name, to be His servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and doesn’t profane it and who holds fast to My covenant; I will bring them to My holy mountain, and will let them rejoice in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted favorably on My altar, for My Temple shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

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    Please note there is no limitation to the amount of paragraph breaks ("enter") you can use to break long text into shorter segments, and make it easier to read
    – mbloch
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 3:34
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    I think that is a good explanation on question 2 and I guess half of 3. My understanding is that because we sought out Hashem, he met us halfway so-to-speak. Still, why is there a need for a chosen nation, why cant the whole world have to do all the commandments? Also, I guess I would need more info on what it means when it says he asked all the nations, like was their a representative or did Hashem ask every person? Would need more detail on that.
    – Seeker
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 17:03
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If the Jewish nation was better than other nations, then there's no choice - what, is Hashem going to choose anything but the best? No, and also, that's not what Divine choice means.

  • Hashem never changes1, and can't be affected2. Therefore, there are no "options" for Him.

  • At the same time, Hashem is ultimately free. Nobody tells the God of Avraham what to do3! He is not limited in any way4.

So how do we resolve this paradox?

I have a sibling, who I didn't choose. There is a bond between us due to how destiny brought us together, but also I didn't choose her so there is no romance. I have a wife, who I did choose. I could have chosen any woman on the planet, but I chose her, and therefore the bond we share is very personal, but as it was not destined, there is a boundary between us.

Torah teaches us that even though we choose our spouse, the choice is also destined5. Hashem guides people to their soul mate.

This gives us a chance to do something Godly, which is choose that which is destined.

The resolution to the paradox6 is, a truly "free" choice means a choice completely uninfluenced by anything other than oneself - this is Divine Free Will. It's got nothing to do with "options". There is no option to those who are "destined". Yet, in Godliness, it is possible to still choose. One way to think about it in finite terms is saying "even if they are not my destiny, I would have chosen them". How is this possible? How does it work? There's no way to describe it, it is beyond reason.

It's the best of both worlds. This person is my other half, yet I choose them, and my heart can't tell the difference. The way I feel about them is romantic and personal even though they were destined, and the bond is solid and eternal.

So no, the Jewish nation were not chosen because they were better, or any other reason. He chose them because that's who He is7.

As Dr. Mizrachi put it, love doesn't need a reason!


1 - See Torah Ohr Megilat Ester 99B and sources there.
2 - Moreh Nevuchim 1:52
3 - Mishneh Torah Laws of Idolatry 1:2
4 - Avodat Hakodesh 1:8, Gevurot Hashem Hakdama 2
5 - Moed Katan 18b
6 - Based on the teachings of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe. Here is a good introduction to the topic of Divine Free Will
7 - Hashem and His will are identical - Moreh Nevuchim, e.g. 3:13

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  • I hear where you are coming from but what if the Jewish people were all acting like rashaim? Hashem wouldn't have given us the Torah in that case. In the case of a spouse too, love is never truly unconditional becuase there is always something someone can do that would repulse the other. Now you can say that in that case it obviously isn't the right match and was never destined to be but I feel like that takes away our free will in the process. If everything is destined what's the point of us being here? Part of the reason we are here is because we are able to do bad and have Hashem punish us!
    – Seeker
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 20:39
  • For me personally I cannot accept an answer like "there is no reason", as Jews we are to question everything and everything has a reason. I would much prefer an answer like "we don't know the reason". That being said, if you can take the time, please try reading the answer I gave and feel free to criticize it and comment all you want. Would love your feedback.
    – Seeker
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 20:42
  • Thanks for the extremely well received and highly intelligent feedback. I will get back to you.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 20:54
  • @Seeker Would you be up for a chat about this? I'd like to know more about what you are thinking before I can answer. If so feel free to start a chat here on SA and I will join.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 22:38
  • would love to, not sure how to do that tho
    – Seeker
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 14:40
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"1-Why does any nation need to be chosen?" The feeling of being chosen is the engine that powered Jewish achievements. Rav Nachman of Breslov used to say: "The day that you were born is the day God decided the world could not continue without you."

"2-What was so special about the Jews that they were chosen?" God chose us because he loved us. Love needs no rationales.

"3-Even if Hashem asked all of the nations, can't their descendants still complain and say: If we were asked we would have accepted. Why do we have to be punished?" Who is punishing them? Anybody can convert to Judaism.

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    1: that saying applies to anyone, not only Jews, plus that doesn't answer the question of why a nation needed to be chosen in the first place 2: That just leads to the question, why did Hashem love us more than any other nation? 3: fair, but clearly it is better to be born as a Jew. Plus many goyim don't know anything about Judaism, let alone convert to it. Also, we highly discourage conversion.
    – Seeker
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 16:52
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    "Why did Hashem love us more than any other nation?" Clearly you've never been in love! Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 17:27
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    That isn't exactly what I said, but even so - is it so unclear that it is better to be part of the chosen nation with the ability to get closer to Hashem more than any other nation due to the fact that we can follow all His commandments? Yes a convert can be in that same place but we discourage conversion and many people aren't put into a situation where they would ever consider the idea of converting anyway (which is fine because it is not their mission). To put it simply, we have a much greater opportunity and access to become as close to Hashem as possible, more than any other nation.
    – Seeker
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 17:27
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    And about the love, you still aren't answering the question
    – Seeker
    Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 17:28
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    @Seeker, Deuteronomy 7:7-8 proves point 2 in this answer. Why does He love us? Because He loves us. Why did Hashem make all as He made it? Because He wanted to. To know you are loved is enough.
    – 1Sam1223
    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 8:19

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