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Noah, Meet Jacob - Israel's Universal Calling

by Michael Dallen

As most people know, the Jews - the people of Israel - are supposed to be "chosen." What most people do not understand is that the Jews have been chosen for a mission - a mission which, in many ways, is practically a suicide mission. The Jews have been given a task. God, HaShem, who created Israel as a nation, a people, has chosen them for a certain job - like a musician choosing a certain guitar in order to make music. One recognizes that it's the music, not the guitar, that's the object of the activity. The guitar is just an instrument, even if it was specially chosen for the job.

Naturally, a people, a nation, made up of individual human beings - each of whom is a creature of infinite value; each of whom exists, the Torah teaches, in the very "image" of HaShem Himself - isn't merely or solely an instrument. It has infinite intrinsic worth all of its own. For that matter, even a single person is more intrinsically valuable than a lifeless piece of matter - even if the lifeless matter is the finest guitar in the world. It's just that in this case the people under discussion have a mission: they exist for a purpose even beyond themselves. Their mission, their purpose, is to revolutionize the world, to represent God as His "witnesses" (Isaiah 43:10,12), to press on the world the most fundamental of all principles and the basis of all learning: the knowledge of the existence of HaShem. (See, e.g., Psalm 83:19.)

Hebrew universalism is less well-known than Hebrew - Jewish - particularism. The Jews must sustain themselves both as individuals and as a nation in order to ultimately accomplish their mission; universalism has often had to take a back seat to the requirements of mere survival. But the universalistic agenda is still there, always, even if it sometimes seems to dip below the surface.

The spiritual height of every Hebrew worship service - the spiritual height of a Jew's day, in fact, from the first statements of gratitude and prayer in the morning to the last declaration of faith in God's sovereignty at night - is the prayer Aleynu, just before the end of the service. What does Aleynu look to? [To be Continued]


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