Jews as Chosen People: A Theosophical Perspective

Nick the Pilot

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Hi everybody!

There is presently a thread elsewhere on this Forum about the Jewish people and their status as the chosen people of God. I thought it would be good to share the Theosophical interpretation and explanation of such an idea.

Theosophy teaches that each ethnic group has its own "guardian angel," or super-human entity that is actively involved in the creation and maintaining of that ethnic group. The Irish people believe that they have their own patron saint, as do the Polish people, etc., and this idea is fully supported by Theosophical teachings. Theosophy teaches that the Jewish people have their own "guardian angel" who is referred to by the name Yaweh. Somehow, their "patron saint" Yaweh was promoted to the Almighty (according to Theosophy), and we have the situation as it stands today.

Many people (myself included) cannot see how God would choose one ethnic group as His own chosen people, to the detriment of all other peoples. Fortunately, this more logical explanation is provided. Yes, the Jewish people are the chosen people. It is merely a question of who they were chosen by.
 
Hi Nick, your post is getting me to think more about this issue. Here is a wiki description about the Reconstructionist Judaism view on chosenness:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconstructionist_Judaism
Reconstructionist Judaism rejects the concept of chosenness. Its founder, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, said that the idea that God chose the Jewish people leads to racist beliefs among Jews, and thus must be excised from Jewish theology. This rejection of chosenness is made explicit in the movement's siddurim (prayer books).

For example, the original blessing recited before reading from the Torah from contains the phrase "asher bahar banu mikol ha’amim"; "Praised are you Lord our God, ruler of the Universe, who has chosen us from among all peoples by giving us the Torah." The Reconstructionist version is rewritten as "asher kervanu la’avodato", "Praised are you Lord our God, ruler of the Universe, who has drawn us to your service by giving us the Torah."
In the mid-1980s the Reconstructionist movement issued its Platform on Reconstructionism. It states that the idea of chosenness is "morally untenable", because anyone who has such beliefs "implies the superiority of the elect community and the rejection of others."[14]


Not all Reconstructionists accept this view. The newest siddur of the movement, Kol Haneshamah, includes the traditional blessings as an option, and some modern Reconstructionist writers have opined that the traditional formulation is not racist, and should be embraced.[15]
An original prayer book by Reconstructionist feminist poet
Marcia Falk, The Book of Blessings has been widely accepted by both Reform and Reconstructionist Jews. Falk rejects all concepts relating to hierarchy or distinction; she sees any distinction as leading to the acceptance of other kinds of distinctions, and thus leading to prejudice. She writes that as a politically liberal feminist, she must reject distinctions made between men and women, homosexuals and heterosexuals, Jews and non-Jews, and to some extent even distinctions between the Sabbath and the other six days of the week. She thus rejects idea of chosenness as unethical. She also rejects Jewish theology in general, and instead holds to a form of religious humanism. Falk writes:
The idea of Israel as God's chosen people...is a key concept in rabbinic Judaism. Yet it is particularly problematic for many Jews today, in that it seems to fly in the face of monotheistic belief that all humanity is created in the divine image - and hence, all humanity is equally loved and valued by God...I find it difficult to conceive of a feminist Judaism that would incorporate it in its teaching: the valuing of one people over and above others is all to analogous to the privileging of one sex over another."
[16]


Reconstructionist author
Judith Plaskow also criticises the idea of chosenness, for many of the same reasons as Falk. A politically liberal lesbian, Plaskow rejects most distinctions made between men and women, homosexuals and heterosexuals, and Jews and non-Jews. In contrast to Falk, Plaskow does not reject all concepts of differences as inherently leading to unethical beliefs, and holds to a more classical form of Jewish theism than Falk.
A number of responses to these views have been made by Reform and Conservative Jews; they hold that these criticisms are against teachings that do not exist within liberal forms of Judaism, and which are rare in Orthodox Judaism (outside certain
Haredi communities, such as Chabad). A separate criticism stems from the very existence of feminist forms of Judaism in all denominations of Judaism, which do not have a problem with the concepts of chosenness.


Ref: Reconstructionist Judaism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I think it is interesting that you bring this topic up with respect to the Theosophical perspective. If you remember, Nick, when I first read about Theosophy, I had some questions for you about some people and movements which had cited Theosophy as a foundation for some of their positions related to race in the mid-twentieth century Europe. Your post is getting me thinking about this again. It could be an interesting discussion ?
 
Avi,

You posted,

"The idea of Israel as God's chosen people...is a key concept in rabbinic Judaism. Yet it is particularly problematic for many Jews today, in that it seems to fly in the face of monotheistic belief that all humanity is created in the divine image - and hence, all humanity is equally loved and valued by God..."

--> That sums it up quite nicely. Fortunately, Theosophy answers the question in a way that makes sense. I like Theosophy because it makes sense to me. I cannot find any logical flaw in Theosophical teachings. (I am afraid I cannot say the same about many of today's major religions.) On another point, Theosophy teaches us that we must be utterly "ruthless" in what we believe. A Theosophist who finds an idea such as "monotheistic choseness" to be nonsensical is strongly encouraged to stop believing in such an idea. Every Theosophist is forced to take total responsibility for what he or she believes (there is no Theosophical Pope, etc., to tell us what to believe), it is a painful process, but I would not have it any other way. First and foremost, Theosophy requires the elimination of dogmatic thinking -- which is how I would characterize the idea of "monotheistic choseness." The dropping of dogmatic thinking is painful for many people, but Theosophy asks us to do this very thing.

Yes, I remember your questions about race. I am only too happy to answer such questions.

"Your post is getting me thinking about this again. It could be an interesting discussion?"

--> Of course. Feel free to give us your ideas and questions.
 
If you are called chosen by a just judge without being compared to any standard, then fair-ness forces that all others are judged by the same criteria. In that case, how is there 'Choosing' involved? You are not chosen.

In an environment that is all about fairness, the fact that there is a selection process at all implies that being chosen is a competition, not a grant. When a person says "I am chosen!" they are making a promise about what they are going to do with themselves. Absolutely everyone should be saying it, but only in the sense that they intend to make it happen. There is nothing wrong with saying "I am chosen" as long as you do your best to be one.

Proverbs 17:2 A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.
 
Dream,

I disagree. God's choosing of the Jewish people (not specific individuals) gives them special consideration that other non-chosen people do not have. God's choosing of the Jewish people infers he loves them more than non-Jews -- an idea I reject.

"When a person says "I am chosen!" they are making a promise about what they are going to do with themselves."

--> This has nothing to do with God choosing the Jewish people as a group. In your example, such a person is able to be "chosen" in such a way, whether they are Jewish or not. You seem to be saying only Jews can be "chosen" in such a way. I disagree.

"If you are called chosen by a just judge without being compared to any standard, then fair-ness forces that all others are judged by the same criteria. In that case, how is there 'Choosing' involved? You are not chosen."

--> Correct. In your example, as you say, there is no choosing. However, the Jewish people were chosen, so your example does not apply.
 
Dream,

I disagree. God's choosing of the Jewish people (not specific individuals) gives them special consideration that other non-chosen people do not have. God's choosing of the Jewish people infers he loves them more than non-Jews -- an idea I reject.
I am not sure that you really would disagree with me, because you may not have heard what I meant. Disagree again if necessary.

The Jews will tell you that they were given Torah. The psalmist says that it "converts the soul." (chp 119) Torah is the practical extent to which they have been differentiated from any other group. Should it really mean to you that they are loved more than any other group -- no. Not in human terms. If it did than I would agree with you that it was unthinkable. Instead, the love they receive has to do with their covenant, their directions from Sinaii. This love is not human, has little to do with love as you and I experience it but is permanent favor for the Torah so is represented with love. Jews are not preferred but their means within their group changed -- on an individual basis -- when they received the Torah. At least that is what they seem to say and what I understand. I will explain after the next quote.

Dream said:
"When a person says "I am chosen!" they are making a promise about what they are going to do with themselves."
Nick said:
--> This has nothing to do with God choosing the Jewish people as a group. In your example, such a person is able to be "chosen" in such a way, whether they are Jewish or not. You seem to be saying only Jews can be "chosen" in such a way. I disagree.

No, I am not saying that. We are now talking about the microcosm of the Jews, so there is a bit of a translation barrier.

I am writing in English and using the English feeling of the word chosen, which is not the same as the Hebrew in Ex 19:5-6. In my post, I spoke of justice, judgment, or choosing as if you preferred mellons more than oranges. The 'Choosing' of Jews in the Torah is not the same thing. Instead, it is a ramping up of competition between ideologies, one of which is highly favored. The Torah is chosen fruit over, say, some other system of living. The Hebrew people were merely included for their singular un-specialness, not 'Chosen-chosen'. They were so unimpressive that they were 'chosen' (not preferred) as the control group to demonstrate effectiveness of the Torah. (Deut 7:7) If this does not compute, then think about when Moses negotiated up on Sinaii and said "What will the Egyptians say if you destroy them?" The reputation of the Torah would have been at stake. The Torah is called love for them, but that is just a shameless plug for Torah. It is an ideology that competes through them. Whenever you read 'His love endures forever' it is talking about love for the Torah.(my opinion)

Dream said:
If you are called chosen by a just judge without being compared to any standard, then fair-ness forces that all others are judged by the same criteria. In that case, how is there 'Choosing' involved? You are not chosen."
Nick said:
--> Correct. In your example, as you say, there is no choosing. However, the Jewish people were chosen, so your example does not apply.
Per my long note above, the Torah is the thing that was 'Chosen' and loved, but Jews were merely a convenient, unnacomplished and soon to disappear group. If you ask them, they will tell you the Torah is why they are still here. They still have to make the same personal determination that you and I make to be a chosen. So I am saying everyone has to make themselves chosen, and that everyone can say "I am chosen" if they are intending to back up their claim by living and thinking chosen.
 
Dream,

The general understanding in the non-Jewish world (at least the way I see it, and I am not a Jew), is that Jews say that God chose them to be his chosen people. Are you saying that is not correct?

Are you saying that the Jews are not God's chosen people, but that the Torah is God's chosen book, which is the "book" of the Jews, which is how Jews have come to be associated with the concept of being "chosen"?

Boy, I have to watch Fiddler on the Roof tonight!
 
The general understanding in the non-Jewish world (at least the way I see it, and I am not a Jew), is that Jews say that God chose them to be his chosen people. Are you saying that is not correct?
They were nearly abandoned at Sinaii and other places. Their lineage was picked because there was nothing especially remarkable about it: Isaiah 53:2 picks up on this when it says "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him."

Are you saying that the Jews are not God's chosen people, but that the Torah is God's chosen book, which is the "book" of the Jews, which is how Jews have come to be associated with the concept of being "chosen"?
Being blessed, not chosen, is what would matter to Jews. Only the Torah can be truly invariably chosen, so those Jews who graft into it are chosen in it not separately. Psalm 1 says "Blessed is the man who walketh...." It does not say 'Blessed is the man who is a Jew or blessed is the man that is chosen'.
 
Dream,

It is a fascinating story that you tell. However, I would like to hear what others think, before I change my mind and believe what you say.
 
According to midrash God went to all of the other people of the world first to see if they would accept Torah. They would not. Last of all he went to the Jews and they would only accept with a mountain held over them. So yeah, Dream's more or less correct from a Jewish perspective. Chosenness implies responsibility, not privilege. The talmud compares it to the case of a kohein (priest) and a non-priest. The kohein has more responsibilities but isn't considered by any means more special or privileged. So too for gentiles.

-- Dauer
 
I am surprised to hear that Jews do not think that they are God's chosen people. (You learn something everyday.) That it what I thought I had heard many times growing up as a child going to Catholic Sunday School.

What about a Covenant? Does God have a Covenant with the Jewish people? What is the significance of having a Covenant with God?

What about the Wikipedia article: "The idea of Israel as God's chosen people...is a key concept in rabbinic Judaism." Is this statement not correct? Is this a difference between Reconstructionist Judaism and Rabbinical Judaism (a difference I know nothing about)?

"Chosenness implies responsibility, not privilege. The talmud compares it to the case of a kohein (priest) and a non-priest. The kohein has more responsibilities but isn't considered by any means more special or privileged."

--> This implies that Jewish people are God's chosen people, regardless of the implications of such a definition of being chosen, right?

If Jews do not consider themselves God's chosen people, then why does such an idea exist among the non-Jewish world?
 
What about a Covenant? Does God have a Covenant with the Jewish people? What is the significance of having a Covenant with God?

Nick, think I have to answer your question with another question. If I view G-d in a pantheistic or panentheist manner, what does it mean to have a covenant with that sort of G-d ?

If G-d is our universe, what would it mean to have a convenant with him / her ? Does it mean to live in harmony with the universe ? In that sense I think it would be fair to say yes, we have a covenant.

That means that we should treat our environment with care and respect.

Does it mean that we have a covenant with an anthropomorphic or corporealistic G-d ? I would say no. I think these were some of the ideas behind Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith.

Quote Nick:

I am surprised to hear that Jews do not think that they are God's chosen people. (You learn something everyday.) I guess that is what I had heard many times growing up as a child going to Catholic Sunday School.
I am sure there are some Jews that believe they are G-d's chosen people. The quote that I cited was Rabbi M. Kaplan's and the Reconstructionist view. And I agree with it.
 
Avi,

You asked,

"If I view G-d in a pantheistic or panentheist manner, what does it mean to have a covenant with that sort of G-d ?"

--> It means having a covenant with a pantheistic group of gods.

"If G-d is our universe, what would it mean to have a convenant with him / her ? Does it mean to live in harmony with the universe ? In that sense I think it would be fair to say yes, we have a covenant."

--> The whole purpose of this thread is to sniff out whether there is a prevailing view that Jews have a special relationship with God. (Sorry, I have no idea of the significance of God spelled G-d, especially since I am not a monotheist.) If it means living in harmony with the universe, then Jews have no special relationship with God, they have the same relationship with God as everyone else living in harmony with the universe (from a monotheistic point of view). It also puts them in the same boat with Buddhists, who do not believe in a God at all.

So Rabbinical Jews (I assume that such a term exists) consider themselves God's chosen people, and Reconstructionist Jews do not? Is this a big division within the Jewish world?
 
Avi,

You asked,

"If I view G-d in a pantheistic or panentheist manner, what does it mean to have a covenant with that sort of G-d ?"

--> It means having a covenant with a pantheistic group of gods.
My understanding of pantheism is a view of G-d which is essentially what we see as our reality, our universe. I do not envision it as a "group of G-ds".

"If G-d is our universe, what would it mean to have a convenant with him / her ? Does it mean to live in harmony with the universe ? In that sense I think it would be fair to say yes, we have a covenant."

--> The whole purpose of this thread is to sniff out whether there is a prevailing view that Jews have a special relationship with God.

Since the 19th century, there has been much differentiation between Jewish views and perspectives. Reform and Conservative Judaism developed during the 19th century. Reconstructionist and Renewal Judiasm developed during the 20th century.

I do not claim to represent any group, only my own views. But I feel most closely allied to the Reform tradition.

(Sorry, I have no idea of the significance of God spelled G-d, especially since I am not a monotheist.)

Many Jews use the contraction G-d because one of the Ten Commandments is not to take the name of G-d in vain. I learned this as a child and have done it all my life. Many Jews do not feel this is necessary because by writing the name in English they feel they are not taking the name in vain even if they spell the whole name.


If it means living in harmony with the universe, then Jews have no special relationship with God, they have the same relationship with God as everyone else living in harmony with the universe (from a monotheistic point of view). It also puts them in the same boat with Buddhists, who do not believe in a God at all.

I am just beginning to learn what Buddhists believe, so I will reserve my opinion on this issue. But I would not say "I do not believe in G-d at all". I do believe in G-d.

So Rabbinical Jews (I assume that such a term exists) consider themselves God's chosen people, and Reconstructionist Jews do not? Is this a big division within the Jewish world
I would call them Orthodox and Conservative Jews.

As was indicated in the wiki post I provided above, there is even some controversy within the Reconstructionist notion. I would guess that it is still the minority of Jews that reject chosenness, but some ideas are accepted over time. Rabbi M. Kaplan, the founder of Reconstruction Judaism, died some time ago and this movement is still defining their views.

This is just one controversy or division. Probably more serious are differences in the interpretation of halacha, or the laws of Judaism.
 
Avi,

You said,

"My understanding of pantheism is a view of G-d which is essentially what we see as our reality, our universe. I do not envision it as a "group of G-ds"."

--> My understanding of pantheism is that it is a group of gods. I guess we can agree to disagree on this one.

We discussed,

"The whole purpose of this thread is to sniff out whether there is a prevailing view that Jews have a special relationship with God. --> Since the 19th century, there has been much differentiation between Jewish views and perspectives. Reform and Conservative Judaism developed during the 19th century. Reconstructionist and Renewal Judiasm developed during the 20th century."

"I would guess that it is still the minority of Jews that reject chosenness...."

--> What percentage of Jews see themselves as God's chosen people (I have a hard time using the word "chosenness"), in your estimation?

"Many Jews use the contraction G-d because one of the Ten Commandments is not to take the name of G-d in vain."

--> So this spelling issue is mainly an issue with Jews?

"...Buddhists, who do not believe in a God at all. --> I am just beginning to learn what Buddhists believe, so I will reserve my opinion on this issue. But I would not say "I do not believe in G-d at all". I do believe in G-d."

--> I think it is very clear that you believe in a God, and that Buddhists do not. What else would you like to know about the Buddhist perspective?
 
Theosophy teaches that each ethnic group has its own "guardian angel,"

I'm curious - didn't Blavatsky have some pretty negative suggestions about the Jews as a race? Or did someone else take Blavatsky's original comments and take them in this direction?
 
The only anti Semitic religion I know of is Manichaeism, it’s considered to be the first universal religion yet refused to include the Old Testament/Torah as part of its Theology yet it accpeted all other Eastern and western religions as divine.


This was a path that Christian theogians almost took, a rejection of the Old Testament some tried to argue it was of another God.
 
I am surprised to hear that Jews do not think that they are God's chosen people. (You learn something everyday.) That it what I thought I had heard many times growing up as a child going to Catholic Sunday School.

I never stated Jews aren't God's chosen people. The issue is the concept of chosenness that such a statement refers to. If it refers to Jews being chosen to receive the Torah and all of the responsibilities that entails, then it is true to the general Jewish perspective on the issue. If it has to do with some sort of special privilege or something to do with the quality or character of the Jewish people then it isn't.

What about a Covenant? Does God have a Covenant with the Jewish people? What is the significance of having a Covenant with God?

The traditional perspective is yes, but so too with all people. The covenant with the Jewish people is much more demanding than the covenant with the rest of the world (see the noahide laws). The nature of a covenant is that it binds both members of an agreement to keep to their part of a deal. It's a contract much like a marriage puts both members into a relationship in which both agree to certain obligations. What's actually entailed by covenant varies theologically and so does the precise nature of chosenness. But the core of it is what I've presented above.

If Jews do not consider themselves God's chosen people, then why does such an idea exist among the non-Jewish world?

It's not that we don't consider ourselves chosen. It's that the rest of the world tends to understand our concept differently than we do.
 
Postmmaster,

I remember talking to an evangelical Christian, who told me members of his church had thrown out the Old Testament, and that they were only following the New Testament. I was quite surprised. He also made an anti-Jewish statement about the whole thing, which made me wonder if part of this was due to anti-Jewish sentiments.
 
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