Most-Favored Nation Status: Vaethanan 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Are you for or against participation trophies? Are they problematic because they might discourage aspiration and competition? Or are they positive because they foster inclusion?

I wonder what the Israelites think of God’s statement that they are God’s favorite not because they’ve earned it, but because God is keeping a promise:

The Pitch: “For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God: of all the peoples on earth the Lord your God chose you to be His treasured people. It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you — indeed, you are the smallest of peoples; but it was because the Lord favored you and kept the oath He made to your fathers that the Lord freed you with a mighty hand and rescued you from the house of bondage, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Swing #1: “According to this theology, the chosenness of Israel derives from an act of passion, God’s passion for them or for their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom he swore an inviolable oath. That oath, and nothing that Israel had done or would do, accounts for the exodus from Egypt.” – Jon D. Levenson, Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity & Islam

Swing #2: “With the privilege of bearing labels like ‘chosen by YHWH,’ ‘holy people belonging to YHWH,’ YHWH’s ‘treasured people,’ ‘sons of YHWH,’ and being the objects of his affection and redemption, came the weighty responsibility of loving him and representing him well before a watching world.” – Daniel I. Block in Wrestling with the Violence of God: Soundings in the Old Testament, M. Daniel Carroll R. & J. Blair Wilgus, eds.

Swing #3: “No mention is made anywhere in Deuteronomy of the people being a ‘kingdom of priests,’ as they are designated in Exodus 19:6. Priests are not set apart in Deuteronomy as models of holiness. Rather, holiness is a quality of Israel as a whole (not just king or priest) in contrast to the peoples of the earth.” – Peter T. Vogt, Deuteronomic Theology and the Significance of Torah: A Reappraisal

Late-Inning Questions: Should it matter whether the Israelites deserve to be God’s chosen people? Should they simply be grateful to be chosen at all? Do our most important choices always need justification?

On-Deck at TBT: Make sure to tell your friends with young children about this year’s plan for Binah, our supplementary after-school educational program. Click here to register.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of being chosen, Mike Piazza was a 62nd-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Does that make him the least likely Baseball Hall of Famer? I suggest that he isn’t, because Piazza’s case for election was overwhelming by the end of his career; the less likely Hall of Famers are the ones whose careers are more marginal.

Shabbat Shalom!