We say every day "Asher Bachar Banu Mi'Kol Ha'amim" - Chosen from among all the nations. Yet we all know the famous medrash (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.

How can we say "Asher Bachar Banu" if we were the last to be asked?

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    Good question. The truth is, that medrash is very strange: it seems to occur after yetzias mitzraim. What would have happened if another nation beat us to it? Would God have left us in the desert after performing incredible miracles to save us from Egypt, and promising Moshe (at the bush) to bring us to Israel? The Maharal answers this question (slightly differently in two different places) in his comments to the Agada there (Avoda Zara 2b) and beginning of Tiferes Yisrael (pg 9). Also see Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 2:25 with Narbonni's commentary – הנער הזה Jun 2 '14 at 13:05
  • See here. – user4523 Jun 2 '14 at 13:56
  • See the the Shla on this,will post answer when have a chance – sam Jun 2 '14 at 15:05

The Shla Hakadosh talks about this in parshas Yisro,I will bring the parable he brings which I believe answers this question.

"There was a doctor who had a container which had the Sam hachaim(potion of life). His plan was to give it to his son. He saw that he had servants who might be jealous and want what's in the container.After realizing that the son will get it they might plan to kill him so they would be next in line.

The doctor decided to place poison on the opening of the container .He then called his servants and asked them to be loyal and accept the container.The servants asked to examine the container(to taste it),before they even attempted to taste it they felt near death pains from the contents.They thought to themselves let the son inherit this and he would die and they ,the servants will inherit the doctors wealth. They even went so fir as to bribe the doctor to give it to the son hoping he would go through with it.

HaShem may be compared to the doctor.He knew that if he did not offer it to the other nations then the Jews would forever be persecuted.He therefore offered it to them ,and the nations even gave up gifts (see the Shla inside before parable who explains in detail) in order for klal Yisroel to receive the Torah which in their eyes was the sam Maves(poison) .For this reason the Torah was received by klal Yisroel undisputed.

  • +1, but the non-persecution thing didn't work out so well. – Y     e     z Jun 3 '14 at 2:57
  • See the Maharal for a diff pshat ,Kiddishin and nesuin..... – sam Jun 3 '14 at 14:28

My Rav discussed the two apparently contradictory midrashim mentioned in Avodah Zarah. The simplest, though, not always most "satisfactory" answer is that midrashim are not always to be taken literally as a discription of events that actually occurred, but rather for the moral lessons they teach us.

In this case, even though there is a midrash that indicates that God "forced" us to accept the Torah, it is actually the other midrash that provides support to this midrash. That is. obviously, God knows everyone's intentions in advance. So in asking the other nations, God knew that they would refuse and only Israel would accept it lovingly. Thus. God had chosen Israel even prior to asking the other nations. The other nations refusal is merely further proof that Israel on its own had no qualms about entering the agreement.

What about the 2nd midrash that Israel was "forced" to accept it? I think this is natural human behavior. Either at the last minute, B'nai Israel had doubts, or they were lax in making a final commitment - my interpretation of possibilities. Or, even when you know that what you should do is the right thing, you simply don't act on it until someoen in charge says, "Do it now". Similar to how kids react. They may not want a messy room, themselves, but util Mommy says, "You better do it, or else," they won't do it.

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    may i ask who your rabbi is – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 2 '14 at 17:48
  • Sorry - I would be revealing private info, indirectly. – DanF Jun 2 '14 at 18:43
  • no problem, its just an interesting idea – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 2 '14 at 19:49
  • I'm not following how this answers the question (other than to suggest it is not literal - which is frankly not that interesting without further explaining what it does mean given the idea of being chosen). – Yishai Jun 2 '14 at 21:17

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