Why does Judaism emphasize acting on faith?

There is hardly any other concept in the Hebrew Bible that has given us Jews so much strength, so much courage and so much comfort in the course of history as the idea of ​​having been chosen by God. And at the same time, there are few other beliefs that have generated so much scorn, rejection and hatred at all times as this very belief.

Arrogance, racism and chauvinism are just some of the reproaches we have received for this view. But what is election actually all about? The decisive passages are in Exodus, exactly at the intersection of two fundamental events: on the one hand the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and on the other hand the covenant after the revelation of the Eternal on Mount Sinai.

Phase In this decisive phase, in which the Eternal demonstrated His power in a recognizable manner for all and revealed himself to the Israelites as a personal and caring Gd, He formulates the decisive sentences: “You have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagle wings and brought you to Me.

And now, if you listen to my voice and keep my covenant: then you shall be my special property among all peoples, for all earth is mine; but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy people ”(Exodus 19: 4-6).

Schatz After the short introduction, in which G’d emphasizes again what He has done for the people and how caring He has accompanied them, the election follows. Dressed in a few words that can hardly be translated into German.

Expressed as "special property among all peoples". Or to put it another way: as a particularly valuable treasure, as a specially protected property.
But what exactly does that mean? What does election mean? And aren't the critics right when they insinuate that we believe in preferential treatment over all others? Why does God have to choose anyone or any people at all, and why the Jews of all people? Isn't that unfair?

Torah First of all, the Torah makes it unmistakably clear in a few words that it was God's sole right to choose the people of Israel. It doesn't matter whether you like it or not. It is just the way it is.

As ruler of the world, as owner of the earth, the Eternal made this decision without first obtaining a democratic vote from all other peoples. And that's it. Why He selected the people of Israel, of all people, remains an eternal mystery.

Israel is God's special property among the peoples.

But anyone who now believes that this circumstance can lead to a superiority, a better position or a preference for the Jews over all other peoples is on the wrong track. Because there is not the slightest hint of it. But on the contrary.

In Deuteronomy, for example, it says: “It is not because you are more than all the peoples that the Eternal desired you and chose you; for you are the least of all peoples ”(Deuteronomy 7: 7).
And after the prophet Amos, G’d said: “Aren't you Israelites to Me like the sons of the Ethiopians? Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Kaftor? ”(Amos 7: 7).

Slavery The Torah also repeatedly emphasizes the fact that the children of Israel had to be freed from slavery. So not only were they unable to put an end to their misery themselves, but as slaves they were also part of the dregs of society at that time. This speaks in favor of the fact that G’d wanted to make it clear by electing the Jews that he was taking care of the disadvantaged, the outcast and the left behind. However, it in no way suggests a privilege based on any characteristics that only the Jews unite.

Admittedly: There have always been voices within Judaism who wanted to recognize a nobility and a prominent position in the election. Be it to maintain a little hope in a hostile environment, or be it to make excluded and humiliated children feel that they have at least been given special attention by G’d. Or to retain a remnant of self-worth, of pride, of self-respect in a world that viewed Jews with contempt and hatred.

Persecution That is understandable in view of the endless history of persecution. At the same time, it is important to note that these were reflexes to humiliation, degradation and hatred and not the other way around. So it was reactions that followed hostile actions.

After all, we Jews are only human. With all weaknesses and flaws.

But what does election actually mean? Strictly speaking, it is about assuming a huge responsibility. As a kingdom of priests, as a holy people, it is about fulfilling the obligations of the divine covenant. In other words: to repair the world under the rule of God. To improve them in partnership with the Eternal.

How is that supposed to work? For example through the dissemination and realization of the universal ideas contained in the covenant, in the Torah, in the 10 commandments. By striving to convince humanity of ethical monotheism, i.e. the idea of ​​the one and only God, whose most urgent concern is the ethical and moral behavior of people. A revolutionary idea that unfolds in comprehensive human dignity, the sanctity of life, the protection of the disadvantaged, the rule of law, mercy, charity, freedom and peace.

Law It is a mission that we Jews undertook a good 3,300 years ago and which is still far from being fulfilled. Which is in no small part due to ourselves. That is, our unwillingness or inability to fully commit ourselves to life in the service of God and His law.

After all, we Jews are only human. With all weaknesses and flaws. Nevertheless: Our goals are universal. Our ambitions are extraordinary. Our mission timeless. It began with Avraham, who was commissioned to go out into the world and be a blessing to people by seeking justice and justice. And it has lost none of its importance since then.

Of course, not everyone can perform such a task at random. A code is needed that conveys the essential ideas. A law is needed that defines the framework. And there are do's and don'ts that show the way.

We are to improve the world in partnership with the Eternal.

But why are so many laws necessary for this? Wouldn't it have been enough to have fewer regulations? No. Because the goal is to create a holy people. A kingdom of priests that on the one hand sets an example and on the other is able and able to withstand the temptations of life, to escape the pitfalls of everyday life.

And for that you need a whole arsenal of character-building do's and don'ts. Moral as well as ritual regulations. Especially since Judaism does not proselytize, or more precisely: it is not interested in all people becoming Jews.

Monotheism The younger siblings of the Jews, namely the Christians and the Muslims, were all the more important for the spread of the monotheistic idea. Whereby: They were much more successful than we Jews. At the same time, however, they also had the goal of winning everyone over to their religion. And at any price. Even with the use of force and violence.

The way and the means of Judaism, on the other hand, were different. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes about this in the book The Modern Guide to Judaism: Since Jews are told to spread the light of G ‐ d and ethical monotheism without missionizing and converting non-Jews at the same time, they need a stronger spiritual arsenal in order to To be able to successfully break away from the often hostile environment in which they live.

Imagine a house in winter: so that the heating in the living rooms can deliver a pleasant 20 degrees, the boiler that generates the hot water must reach a temperature of 50 degrees. In a figurative sense, this also applies to the Jews.

Commitment So the election comes with a whole bunch of commitments. With a huge responsibility. An enormous burden. And at the same time with a considerable leap of faith from God. Let's hope we will prove worthy of that trust.

In any case, Tevje, the milkman, sums it up in the musical Anatevka when he looks up and says: “I know, I know. We are the chosen people. But couldn't you choose someone else now and then? ”And then he goes off to take a stranger out for dinner.

The author is the director of the regional association of Jewish communities in Hesse.