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Thought for the Day: On Being Chosen

There were two brachos that have given me a bit of grief over the years.  One is, "shelo asani goy"/"who didn't make me a goy."  The other is "asher bachar banu mi'kol ha'amim"/"who chose us from all of the nations."  The former gave me grief because, well, apparently He did make me a goy!  There are several answers to that, but there are also poskim who say a ger should not make that bracha.  We pasken that a ger should make that bracha, but I have asked the shaliach tzibor to be sure he has in mind to motzi me; always good to be yotzei all shitos.  (I also am nervous about being motzi another Jew in that bracha, though I have been told it is fine.)

You might be wondering what's to worry about with the bracha of "asher bachar banu".  The problem here is simply, why should I care if He chose this nation or the other?  I wasn't chosen anyway, so who ever He chose I would be joining.  Yet, I have seen no one discuss that issue at all.  I am not quite arrogant enough to believe that I am just smarter and deeper than anyone else whose ever converted (almost, mind you, just not quite).  So I am forced to consider that possibility that I am looking at it all wrong.  As it turns out, I am now pretty confident that it is not only possible, but I have strong evidence that my nervousness was completely misplaced.

The is an eye opening Ohr Chaim on the verse in Mishpatim: don't aggravate and don't oppress a ger, because you were gerim in eretz mitrayim.  What do you think?  If the Jews hadn't been gerim in mitzrayim it would be perfectly acceptable to aggravate and oppress gerim?!?  Actually, no; but that's not far off says the Ohr Chaim.  The Jewish neshama is a notch up in the neshama scale from a goy's neshama.  So much so, that the level up bein adam l'chaveiro demanded between two Jews is not demanded at all between a Jew and a goy.  Not that you can go around aggravating and oppressing anyone at all, but there is an extreme sensitivity required when dealing with a fellow Jew because of his refined neshama.  So, says the Ohr Chaim haKodesh, you might think that since the ger began his life as a goy, then his neshama is from the lower, less refined neshamos.  Therefore the Torah comes to announce: Just at your neshamos were in the tuma of Mitzrayim, so was the ger's neshama in the tuma of the umos ha'olam.  Just as HaShem elevated your intrinsically more refined neshama from that defiled environment; so too, HaShem elevated the ger's intrinsically more refined neshama from its defiled environment.

It comes out, then, that "bachar banu mikol ha'amim" should not be read as "who chose [our nation] from all the nations", but "who chose [each one of us] from amongst the nations".  Each individual neshama chosen specifically to be included in the Jewish nation.  Each and every Jew hand picked by the Author of reality Himself.  Wow/Cool/Yikes!


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