the time of Moses, living in the same environment as other nomadic andagricultural peoples of the Middle East, have already evolved elevated intelligencewhen the others did not?" Then, tongue -- at least partially -- in cheek, he concludes:
"At this point, I take sanctuary in my remaining hypothesis, uniquely parsimonious and happily irrefutable. The Jews are God's chosen people."
Well, the thought is certainly timely. We will soon be celebrating Shavuot, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the cementing of the Jewish people's chosenstatus: the covenant forged at Sinai.I don't know, or much care, whether or not intelligence plays any role in the Jewishelection. But if it does, it is peripheral to the essence of our chosenness.Because what Jews are chosen for is to serve the Creator -- with our intellects,yes, but also with our hearts and with our bodies. To be sure, the Torah itself refers to the Jewish people as "a wise nation" -- but alsoas a stubborn one, and sometimes even worse. The bottom line: It's not ourIntelligence Quotients that count but our Righteousness Quotients. What counts isthe service, not the smarts. The Sages of the Talmud did not generally stressinherent abilities -- mental or otherwise -- but rather focused on how we utilizewhatever blessings we have. Their greatest honorifics customarily ran not towords like "genius" or brilliant" but to ones like "righteous" and "God fearing."Even though the Jews' election was merited through the dedication of theirancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and through another choice -- that of theirdescendants, at Sinai, to accept the laws and teachings of the Torah; and eventhough the exclusive Jewish club is open to any sincere convert willing toundertake to observe the Torah, the idea of Jewish chosenness has perturbedsome non-Jews since, well, since Sinai.Of late, though, anti-Semites tend to feed at other troughs of hate-fodder, likeIsrael's existence (and its imagined evildoing). These days, ironically, the idea of the Jewish people as divinely chosen is more likely to disturb... Jews. That is because the truism that every human being has limitless value andpotential has morphed into the notion that all people are interchangeable, if notidentical. To suggest that different individuals or groups may have differentfunctions or responsibilities has become uncouth, if not sexist or racist. Judaism,however, unapologetically assigns roles -- to men and to women; to scholars andto laypeople; to descendants of the Biblical Aaron and to the rest of the Jewishpeople. And to the Jewish people qua people, too. There's no escaping it. A blessing all Jews are enjoined to pronounce each morningstates the fact clearly: "Blessed are You... Who chose us from among all thenations and gave us His Torah..."