We live in an age in the West when equality is all. Everyone is equal on the sliding scale of humanity where differences are not categories of varying values but modal points on a spectrum. ‘I am here on this spectrum, and you are here’ we hear, but essentially we are the same. From a Jewish perspective such sentiments are revealed to be nothing other than wishful thinking and an aberration of post-modernist philosophy. Equality is not about being the same. The values and moral positions one takes do define your nature and character, be it on a personal or national level. All are created equal before G-d, inasmuch as we all carry His image, but the choices and decisions we make define how much of that image shines through.
And that sense of equality gets more complicated when we consider that G-d actually does choose, elects people and even a nation to be His. That He chooses at all seems quaint and bigoted, a hand-me-down from a bygone age. At worst it seems as if He is allocating a superior place to one nation above others. Yet Israel is the nation of the Chosen People, and however much we may wish to have that label removed, it will remain. It remains equally true however that we are chosen, and not superior.
This ‘chosen-ness’ reflects in reality a call to a purpose and function rather than any intrinsic value or negation of (true) fundamental human equality. Israel, the Jewish people, have a task which is ours to perform: to be a light to the nations. No other nation has ever been called or elected to do this. In fact the prophet Jeremiah saw it this way: Israel is the Lord’s hallowed portion, His first-fruits of the increase (Jer 2:3). And it is this first-fruits idea that suddenly brings this concept of being chosen into a fuller light. The first-fruits in Judaism, as an offering, guaranteed that the whole would/could be holy unto the Lord. All the crop was HIS, yet by tithing it, giving the first-fruit to Him, the whole crop was usable and potentially holy, it was ‘covered’ because of the first offering. If Israel is the first-fruits of the nations, then we by our existence ensure that there will be an in-gathering later from the nations of those who will know the Lord too. The ‘increase’ mentioned illustrates the growing size of the nation of Israel as those who join us come in. Seen this way, when the Mashiach -Yeshua- commands us to go out into all the world and make followers from the nations and teach them Torah, Judaism (what Yeshua taught), we are doing nothing other than our national calling and task; equal among equals, set apart for His holiness. Our election turns out to be a service unto the world.