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"Chosen...For What?"

11/05/2020 05:52:15 PM

Nov5

Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

          We, the People Israel, are called the “Chosen People.”  This unfortunately creates a great deal of angst among a large part of our People.  Why?  Because they believe what our detractors say about us: we believe we are the “chosen people” because we believe we are better than anybody else.  But this has absolutely nothing to do with our being the “Chosen People.” Among the non-Jewish peoples of this world, there are many who do good and perform charitable deeds for others just as we do.  So, why are they not included among the “Chosen People?”  Perhaps the following Chasidic parable will provide some guidance:

The King had twelve ministers, each in charge of a particular facet of government.  The King barely slept, for his workload demanded at least twenty hours/day.  As a result, he was unable to handle may urgent matters that demanded his personal attention.  After serious consideration, the King decided to appoint a viceroy who would serve as his personal assistant and chief minister.  Such a viceroy would remove a considerable load from the King’s shoulders.  Since the King wanted to ensure the cooperation of all his ministers with the new viceroy, he decided to let them elect their new superior from among themselves.  In the initial ballot, four ministers voted for the Minister of Defense, and four ministers voted for the Minister of the Treasury.  The remaining four ministers voted for various other candidates.  The King decided to hold a second and final ballot where the twelve ministers would choose between the Minister of Defense and the Minister of the Treasury.  The election would be held at a special cabinet meeting in thirty days’ time.

During the next thirty days, the Minister of the Treasury darted about feverishly from ministry to ministry campaigning among his peers in order to secure his election as viceroy.  Discreetly, he left a gift on the table of each one of his colleagues at the end of each of his respective meetings with each one of them.  To one, he gave a solid gold watch.  To another, he gave a priceless antique saber.  The Minister of the Treasury ended up spending thousands on diamond rings and ivory-handled pistols.  He knew how to find favor in the eyes of each individual colleague.  The upcoming election received his total attention, even at the expense of neglecting the pressing affairs of his own ministry.

On the other hand, the Minister of Defense paid no attention to the imminent election.  Because, rebel insurgents were making trouble in the northern part of the kingdom, the Minister of Defense left the comforts of the capital city to personally direct the army’s counter-insurgency campaign against the rebels.  He slept in a tent with the commanders in the field and ate the same food that the front-line soldiers ate, all the while sacrificing his personal convenience for the welfare and security of the kingdom.  Oftentimes totally exhausted, he would fall asleep on his spartan field cot with all his clothes on.

The King observed what both ministers were doing without intervening in any way.  He knew exactly where each one was and what each one was doing at all times.  He knew about the lavish gifts the Minister of the Treasury was giving to his colleagues, and he knew about the Minister of Defense’s sleepless nights on the battlefield.  Nothing escaped the King’s eyes.  He was fully briefed on all affairs of the kingdom from his own totally reliable sources.  The night before the election, a royal messenger knocked on the door of each of the ministers’ homes --- all except for the two candidates.  The royal messenger handed each of the other ministers a hand-written note from the King sealed with the royal seal.  The note read: “My dear Minister, for the good of the kingdom and as a gesture of your unshakable loyalty to me, please vote for the Minister of Defense.  With appreciation, the King.”

On the day of the election, ten minsters voted for the Minister of Defense.  The Minster of Defense abstained from voting altogether.  And the Minister of the Treasury voted for himself.  Needless-to-say, the Minister of Defense became the King’s capable and chosen viceroy.

In this parable, the Minister of Defense symbolizes Avraham Avinu, Abraham our Father.  Why?  Because Avraham’s life was filled with selfless and unwavering service and devotion to HaShem, the King of Kings.  We see this in this week’s parashah, Parashat Vayyeira.  In spite of the fact that he was recuperating from his circumcision while sitting in the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day, what did Avraham do? The Torah tells us: “And he raised his eyes, and he saw, and behold! Three men were standing before him, and he saw, and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground.”  (Brayshit 18:2) And Avraham did this in spite of the fact that he was being visited by none other than HaShem H-mself!    Because of this, he merited HaShem’s blessing that his offspring would be HaShem’s “viceroys” in this world.  His offspring would become HaShem’s “Chosen People” who would be obligated to do exactly as Avraham did: serve HaShem with selfless and unwavering devotion.

The history of the People Israel is replete with proof of this, especially in the darkest of times.  No other people in the history of this world has endured what the People Israel has endured all the while remaining steadfast to both the Torah and to HaShem.  May we continue to act like the Minister of Defense in the parable: expecting nothing from but giving everything to aShemHaShem.

Sun, March 7 2021 23 Adar 5781