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Shabbos at the Besht: Did Hashem Choose Us? Or Did We Choose Hashem?

This Shabbos at the Besht, Rabbi Hershel Lustig, Dean of Oholei Torah, will lead a discussion on the topic: Did Hashem choose us? or did we choose Hashem?


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#1 Comment By Milhouse On October 28, 2016 @ 11:26 am

How odd of God
to choose the Jews

— Trilby

It’s not so odd
the Jews chose God

— Ogden Nash

#2 Comment By K On October 30, 2016 @ 4:30 pm

In my siddur the nussach is: “Attah b’chartonu” – You (Hashem) chose us…

NOT “Anachnu bocharnu oscha…” – not that we chose Him…

Is there a nussach that suggests differently?

#3 Comment By Milhouse On October 31, 2016 @ 8:40 pm

את ה׳ האמרת היום

#4 Comment By K On November 1, 2016 @ 10:40 pm

So in Chabad they translate האמרת the same as בחרת? Wow! Don’t you have an English Chumash?!

#5 Comment By Milhouse On November 2, 2016 @ 3:06 pm

The distinction between them is irrelevant when choosing an English translation. “Chose” will do nicely for both.

#6 Comment By K On November 3, 2016 @ 9:41 pm

My reply is below!

#7 Comment By K On October 30, 2016 @ 4:44 pm

אֶת-ה הֶאֱמַרְתָּ, הַיּוֹם: לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹהִים וְלָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו
(Devorim 26:17) does NOT mean we “chose” Hashem…neither does “Na’aseh VeNishma” (Shmos 24:7) mean “chosen”. Atta bchartonu means chosen.

#8 Comment By Milhouse On October 31, 2016 @ 8:43 pm

האמרת does mean exactly that, regardless of your wishes.

#9 Comment By Toshov Hashchuna On October 31, 2016 @ 11:57 pm

We Jews are MEKABEL ol malchus shamayim. We “choose” to accept G-d’s sovereignty over us.

#10 Comment By K On November 2, 2016 @ 4:06 pm

Ah, Milhouse, what indeed does האמרת mean?

Let’s explain with the basics:

Rashi says “אין להם עד מוכיח במקרא”, according to Rashi האמרת is a: לשון הפרשה והבדלה, not a word meaning choosing but that Bnei Yisroel SEPARATED themselves from avoda zara as described in גיטין נ”ז,ב: the Bnei Yisroel swore that they will not change HKB”H for another deity and He swore not to exchange them for another nation.

But let us examine further, the Yerushali explains האמרת to mean: ית מימרא דה’ אמליכתון עליכון..that the Bnei Yisroel COMMITED (not to Hashem Himself but) to the WORDS of Hashem – to keep the mitzvos. Thus the possuk does not mean that they “chose” Hashem (because Hashem is our King whether we “choose” Him or not) but rather, that we chose to keep His commandments.

The מדרש הגדול explains האמרת similar to the Bavli: The Bnei Yisroel made Hashem “Echad” in the Shma, so too Hashem makes us exclusive.

The אבן עזרא says האמרת is a term for: גדולה וחשיבות, which I note is not “choosing”.

Tosfos brings two further meanings: (1) exchange כלומר בשביל ה’ החלפת כל האלוהות ובחרת בה’. וה’ האמירך, החליף כל האומות שבעולם ובחר בך להיות לו לעם סגולה”, and (2) raise / exalt and that it is similar to the Arabic word Amir for a king.

(Also, R’ Shamshom R. Hirsh translates it: to cause others to say/speak).

In any event – it does NOT translate that the Bnei Yisroel “chose” Hashem.

#11 Comment By K On November 2, 2016 @ 5:16 pm

To the comment from Ger Toshuv Hashchuna:

Hashem is the sovereign of the world – whether you chose to accept Him or not.

His role of Creator is not established by the acceptance of the creations.

The “ol malchus shamayim” is on us irrespective of our acceptance.

If we revoke the ol malchus shamayim – we are mo’red b’malchus.

#12 Comment By K On October 30, 2016 @ 8:17 pm

It says in sifei mussar that Hashem chose the GUFIM of Yidden over all the other nations (not just their neshomos), choosing is only among “equals”, is there another entity equal to Hashem that allows for the ability for Jews chose Him – Hashem, over the other entity of equal greatness????!! To “choose” Hashem is borderline or downright KFIRA!!

#13 Comment By Milhouse On October 31, 2016 @ 8:46 pm

From the limited point of view of humans Hashem appears to be equal to all the false gods that people have invented to compete with Him. Our physical senses don’t show us that He is true and they are false. It took an אחד היה אברהם to choose Him over all the other gods, and to stick to Him despite all the nisyonos.

#14 Comment By Toshov Hashchuna On October 31, 2016 @ 11:55 pm

should learn chassidus. “Sifrei Mussar” do not explain things the way chassidus does.

#15 Comment By Milhouse On November 1, 2016 @ 12:35 pm

Actually they do. See the maamorim on הלוא אח עשו ליעקב […] ואהב את יעקב ואת-עשו שנאתי, which explain that the bechira of Yaacov happens on a level at which he is equal to Esav, so there is no rational reason to choose him and yet Hashem does so. But this doesn’t negate the fact that on our level we choose Hashem.

#16 Comment By K On November 2, 2016 @ 4:20 pm

Classical SIfrei Mussar date further back than the Chassidic movement, therefore the classical Sifrei Mussar are the Original and Authentic. There is NOTHING in chassidic seforim that cannot be found in Sifrei Mussar!

#17 Comment By K On November 2, 2016 @ 5:52 pm

“Hashem appears to be equal to all the false gods that people have invented to compete with Him” – REALLY?! Hashem appears “equal” to AZ of eitz v’even?!

#18 Comment By K On November 2, 2016 @ 5:57 pm

“Our physical senses don’t show us that He is true and they are false” – really?! Guess the Rambam (in Moreh Nevuchim) was wrong to write that sechel FORCES a person to believe in a Creator. And this Creator cannot be of physical dimensions because then such a “creator” is also a creation.

#19 Comment By DeClasse’ Intellectual On October 30, 2016 @ 9:32 pm

Did not G-d select us to be the primal example of how one could live a good life within the bounds and guided by the boundaries of the Torah. And, is it not this purpose that we have failed in achieving abjectively?

#20 Comment By Kop Doktar On November 2, 2016 @ 6:09 pm

If someone heard the lecture – can they share the answer: Did we choose Hashem or did He choose us (or maybe both are correct, or neither is 100% true)?

#21 Comment By knowledge On November 3, 2016 @ 10:34 am

So who attended the lecture and is willing to share answer – who chose whom:
Did Hashem choose us?
Did we choose Hashem?
Did we choose each other?
Did no one choose anyone?
After reading the interesting Milhouse and K’s debate – l am curious what Rabbi Lusting said!!
Please share the answer!!!

#22 Comment By Thinker On November 3, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

Here are the types of answers we can here:

Manis – Choose? What does “choose” mean to you?

Yossi Jacobson – There are two types: The choosen and the chooser. Then there is the choicest Which one are you?

Tzvi Freeman – Is the choice made in Heaven brought down to Earth?

#23 Comment By Smcha On November 3, 2016 @ 4:17 pm


#24 Comment By K On November 3, 2016 @ 10:54 am

Before Avrohom there were MANY. A few examples: Chanoch, Noach, Shem, Ever, Malkie Tzedek etc.

#25 Comment By K On November 3, 2016 @ 1:00 pm

” It took an אחד היה אברהם to choose Him over all the other gods” – where does this MISLEADING application of a possuk come from?

The possuk quoted is from יחזקאל ל”ג, כ”ד , the context of the possuk אחד היה אברהם is not as a compliment to Avrohom but as mussur to Bnei Yisroel.

In ישעיה נ”א, א’ – ב: “שִמעו אלי רודפי צדק, מבקשי ה’: הביטו אל צור חוצבתם … הביטו אל אברהם אביכם … כי אחד קראתיו ואברכהו וארבהו”.

רש”י מפרש: “‘כי אחד קראתיו’ – כי אחד היה, יחידי בארץ כנען אשר הגליתיו שם מארצו וממולדתו,
‘קראתיו’ רביתיו וגדלתיו, לשון ‘קריאי העדה’ (במדבר א’, ט”ז), וכשם שהוא היה יחיד וגִדלתיו כן אגדל אתכם שאתם יחידים לי”

Therefore, אחד היה אברהם means that Avrohom was ALONE, ONE, SOLITARY.

Rashi on the possuk explains further: “אחד היה אברהם” – זה אחד מד’ דברים שהיה רבי עקיבא דורש ואין רבי שמעון בן יוחאי תלמידו דורש כמותו וכך היה רבי שמעון דורשו אברהם שלא נצטווה אלא על מצווה אחת ירש את הארץ אנו שנצטוינו על מצות הרבה כל שכן שלנו נתנה הארץ למורשה הוא שהנביא משיבם

Further: מצודת דוד
“אחד היה אברהם” – הלא אברהם היה יחידי עכ”ז נתנה לו א”י למורשה ואנחנו הנשארים פה הלא לרבים נחשב למולו וכל הארץ נתנה לנו למורשה כי חשבו הואיל ונשארו בה יירשו את הארץ למשול בה כמאז וכאלו יאמרו אף אם אנו מתי מספר הלא אברהם היה אחד וירש את הכל

This does NOT mean that Avrohom was the only or first one to recognize and choose Hashem Echod!!!

Indeed R’ Nachmon (Breslov) applies it that Avrohom served Hashem as if he, AVRAHAM was the Echod, the only person in the world, without influence from the rest of humanity. (השמטה \ ליקוטי מוהר”ן תניניא).

In Sifrei Mussar (which is adopted in Tanya ch. 23) it explains that Ahrohom became one with Echod to conform his will to rotzon Hashem.

In any event, the possuk is being MISUSED and MISINTERPRETED to mislead the readers.

That is a shanda!!

#26 Comment By Chosid On November 3, 2016 @ 2:40 pm

Since when do misnagdim learn Novee?!! Unless you are a MRS. K – they teach plenty of Novee with meforshim in Bais Yaakov!

#27 Comment By Oholei Torah On November 3, 2016 @ 9:40 pm

And since when do chassidim learn Novee?! I know the names of all the mesechtos but I cannot name all the neviim!!

#28 Comment By Lubavitcher Yeshiva On November 5, 2016 @ 9:07 pm

Maybe Rabbi Lustig can explain why they don`t teach Novee in out educational systems? It;s a total mystery!

#29 Comment By Crown Heighter On November 3, 2016 @ 2:33 pm

It is about time someone responded to Milhouse citing chapter and verse. As much as I detest snags (and BMG snags are the real deal), still I enjoy reading K chop up Milhouses words, point by point and put them through a paper shredder. Besides entertaining it is also educational. K, chazak uboruch.