Friday, May 02, 2014

The Talmud on Jewish chosenness

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Why Did God Choose the Jewish People To Receive the Torah? Talmudic rabbis debate the paradoxical belief in Jewish chosenness despite the evidence of Jewish powerlessness.
One famous midrash tried to come to grips with the problem by imagining that before choosing Israel God actually offered his Torah to all the nations of the Earth. But one by one they rejected it, finding its laws and prohibitions too burdensome; only the Israelites agreed to take it on themselves. This midrash, however, casts the law itself in a rather ambiguous light. It strongly suggests that the Torah is not exactly a boon—that it’s something an ordinary person would flee if possible. This doesn’t really suit the rabbis’ deep love and reverence for the Torah, which they see more as an inexhaustible gift. At the same time, the story puts the Jews themselves in a very flattering light: Only this people was pious and disciplined enough to accept the hard job of living by God’s law.

In this week’s Daf Yomi reading, however, we saw the rabbis offer a very different rationale for why the Jews received the Torah. ...
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.