The Torah states in Parshat Re’eh, “You are a holy nation to Hashem, your G-d; G-d has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be His own treasured, special nation” (Devarim 14). Rashi explains that your holiness comes to you from your forefathers, but also, that G-d has chosen you. In other words, not only did G-d choose our ancestors, but each and every one of us as well, as we say in the bracha before the Shema, “G-d chooses His people Israel with love.”

All of us, the entire Jewish People, according to our various streams, down through the generations past, present, and future, belong to this unique holiness. We were born that way.

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However, it is not just a matter of our having been born Jews and our having been chosen by G-d. Each and every one of us has a duty to choose the path by which we will be able to elevate the goodness of the soul from the level of potential to actual.

This idea is alluded to by the juxtaposition of the verses that we are “a holy nation” (Devarim 14) and the mitzvah, “Do not eat any detestable thing.” What is the connection between these verses? The Baal Haturim explains that by the act of eating, we demonstrate our free choice in being able to put into our mouth whatever we want. This is a tangible expression of how we exercise our free choice. Not only food to nourish the body is an option for us, but also spiritual foods, which are the mitzvot which nourish the G-dly soul.

We must be proud of the fact that we are the Chosen People. G-d chose us lovingly from among all of the nations to be for Him a special people. We have to recognize our own special worth to be, in the words of Isaiah, “a light unto all the nations.”

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Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher is dean of students at the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem.