Jewish Spiritual Exceptionalism

When it comes to social media, they say that Facebook is for the people you used to know, Linked In is for the people you currently know, and Twitter is for the people you want to know. Facebook has served the “used to know” function for me and I have reconnected to many whom I grew up with in my old neighborhood.

One of the people I’ve reconnected with. and shared a number of restaurant meals. is a close friend from elementary school. He’s an extremely intelligent, well read, AP History teacher. He describes his political leanings as Scandinavian Socialist, which he says would classify him as a left-wing loony in this country. In any case, when we get together we discuss all the hot topics and I find our meetings enjoyable, informative, and challenging.

At a recent dinner we were discussing, American Exceptionalism, the theory that the United States is qualitatively different from other nations. Wikipedia has a good write up on American Exceptionalism which you might want to skim. My friend said that he has no problem with American Exceptionalism in theory, but that the role is often misused for unfair political or economic gain.

The conversation turned to Judaism and our “chosen” status. He asked why couldn’t Judaism just be one of many possible spiritual paths. I told him that Judaism has no problem recognizing the validity of other spiritual paths. However, we believe that with the Torah G-d granted the Jews a spiritual exceptionalism, with the giving of the Torah, and when we live up to our spiritual mission as described in the Torah, we will be recognized as a nation of spiritual leaders. I defined spirituality as developing a connection and awareness to G-d, the creator and master of the universe.

In addition to the Torah sources, I told him I believed in Jewish Spiritual Exceptionalism because I have met a number of Torah Observant people who are highly developed spiritually. I also pointed out that it’s logical that Judaism’s focus on G-d, through the learning of Torah and observance of Mitzvos in every sphere of life, would lead to the development of spiritually exceptional people.

The non-observant people I have communicated with online and off believe in a spiritual dimension. In fact, my friend above lamented the fact that he had not developed his spiritual side. Our Torah observance provides us with the potential to be spiritually execeptional as individuals and as a nation. We ally need to collectively and continually work on improving our connection to G-d through the improvement of our learning of Torah and observance of mitzvos.

At its root, Torah observance is not about happiness, it’s not about intellectualism, it’s not about a connected community, it’s not about a healthy lifestyle. Fundamentally, Torah observance is the means by which we create our connection to G-d and fulfill our spiritually exceptional role. Perhaps this is what we need to embrace and share with others.

6 comments on “Jewish Spiritual Exceptionalism

  1. I had Jewish teachers whose views were liberal-left, especially on issues such as Vietnam, race, and the emerging secular values of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and who were very open in their disdain of traditional Torah values and observance, despite their support of Israel. Engaging in theological discussions was a waste owould be considered praiseworthy as opposed to being laughed at ( see Rambam Hilcos Yesodei HaTorah) was, and remains IMO, the path of best resistance.f time, but living a life where Torah Judaism

  2. Obviously, the concepts of Am Segulah and/or Am HaNivchar are bedrock hashkafic values that play a large role in the Tefilos of the Yamim Noraim-especially Rosh HaShanah. There are numerous views among the Rishonim as to whether the other two so-called monothestic religions constitute either Avodah Zarah or Shituf, and the account of R Amnon of Mainz and RYBS’s views in “Confrontation” would suggest that engaging in discussions as to theological validity of Judaism vis a vis any other faith and its adherents is a path that should be avoided-especially in an era of social media-which all too often are a substitute for real friendships.

  3. The Torah and its 613 commandments is for Jews.

    Non-Jews can have different spiritual paths as long as they follow the 7 Noahide Mitzvos.

  4. >> Even elements of those paths that are at odds with Torah?
    If elements are at odds with Torah, then Judaism would have a problem.

    Is that what you were asking?

  5. “I told him that Judaism has no problem recognizing the validity of other spiritual paths.”

    Even elements of those paths that are at odds with Torah?

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