Taco, Tequila, and Torah Tuesdays – 01/09/2018
Why We Are The Chosen Ones and What It Means
In this week Taco, Tequila, and Torah Tuesdays Rabbi Jack Melul discussed the topic of “Why We Are The Chosen Ones and What It Means,” taken from a lecture given by Rabbi Benzion Klatzko.
As Jews it is known and said that we are the chosen ones, however most religions believe that they are the best religion. To go with that, most religions also believe that others should convert and change to form into their religion. This is where Judaism differs. Unlike other religions, Jews do not think people should convert, in fact they tell people not to. Conversion is not simple, and in Judaism we believe that each person is good the way that they already are. So what does it mean to be the chosen ones?
There is a story that can help simplify the answer, it is called “The Purple Jackets”:
There was once a good and loving king. A king that constantly gave to his people, but his people were horrible. They were as bad as it gets, committing theft, murder, adultery, and more. One day the king stated that if it is going to continue he is going to leave. Eventually, because nothing changed he left and took everything with him. He moved to a new place and built a beautiful kingdom. When he finished building the kingdom he looked for people to come and live there. He sent out letters letting people know they are welcome to come to the new kingdom, but there are rules they must follow. With that the kingdom become full and the king was happy. A few months pass by and the newspaper headline reads “Theft”, two days later the headline reads “murder”. The king is sad, mad, and disappointed. He calls in his advisors to see what can be done and they come up with a solution. They come to a realization that no one knows who the king is. What they need is to have his people stand around in different places of the kingdom all wearing a purple jacket and behave in a good way. That way people can associate them to the king, see how they follow the rules, and as a result live by example. At the beginning that worked wonderfully, however, over time the purple jackets started to slip and break the rules themselves.
The purple jackets are the Jews. The job of a Jew is to follow the rules and have others be inspired to follow the rules themselves. Having people live by example and slowly bettering themselves and the ones around them.
There is a big importance to chaos and hardships that Jews experienced, and there is also a great importance to Mitzvot (מצוות). The first few books talk a lot about chaos and very little about mitzvoth, only three mitvot in fact. However, that chaos is meant to guide you into a path that is better. In addition, hardships happen in order to get us to be empathetic to others. If you notice, Jewish holidays celebrate those hardships, but those hardships prepared the Jewish people to become better people and be ready to receive the Torah.
Each mitvah has a great meaning and purpose. So what are mitzvot? They are what makes a person more of a purple jacket person. Some examples are, don’t lie, don’t murder, no bad mouthing, give charity, and honor your parents. Some make sense, and some not at all. We discussed three that do not make sense, and explained the reasoning behind them.
1. Don’t mix meat and milk. Which in the Torah says do not even cook meat and milk. Stating, do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk. The reasoning behind it explains that milk represents mercy and kindness, while meat represents cruelty. Milk is fed to a baby by its mother, while meat is killing of an animal. For that one should not mix kindness and cruelty together.
2. Don’t mix wool and linen. In the Torah there is a story about two brothers, Cain and Abel. Cain had a flax farm while Abel had a sheep farm. Able decided to do a sacrifice, he took the best wool he had to give to god, and as a result he received a gift. Cain decided to give a sacrifice as well, but unlike Able he took the worse flax he had to give to god, and received nothing. When it comes to situations like this there are two choices, learn from the better person and become better yourself, or kill the opposition. Cain decided to kill the opposition and murder his brother Abel. Wool is made from sheep and linen is made of flax. They each represent a brother. Cain represents linen and Able represent wool, for that they cannot mix, and for that we remember the first murder.
3. There is a custom that says that you should put on your right shoe, then your left shoe, then tie your left shoe, and then tie your right shoe. That comes from Abraham. There was a time when Abraham had to fight 9 kingdoms because they took his nephew Lot as hostage. He ended up winning and getting his nephew back, but during those times when you win a fight you take all that the kingdom has, including the women, and kill off all the men. The losing party bagged him to take everything, but to please not kill them. Her replied saying, I wouldn’t even take a leather strap or a string. He came for life and he left with life. For Abraham’s action the Jews got the mitzvah of Tzitzit (ציצית) and Tefillin (תפילין). When we do things on the right side we do it to start on a good side and with chesed (חסד)/kindness, we tie our left shoe first because we put Tafilin on the left hand.
The way to change the world is to change yourself. That inspires others to change themselves as well.