Rabbi Herschel Schachter
Are We Still the Am Hanivchar?
After so many centuries of persecution we understand very well the question of the Jewish people (in the haftorah of parshas Eikev), "Has Hashem forsaken us? Has He forgotten about us?" The prophet Yeshaya responds that although all people were created "betzelem Elokim", only the Jewish people are considered "bonim la-Makom". Can a mother ever forget about her own baby? Furthermore, even if once in a long while one would come across an instance where a mother would forget about her own child, I (says Hakadosh Baruch Hu) will never forget about you (the Jewish people).
The Medrash sees an additional level of meaning in this pasuk. G-d will forget "eileh", but He'll never forget about "anochi". At the time of the chet haeigel the Jewish people used the expression "Eileh elohecha Yisroel" which will be forgotten by G-d; the zechus of the occasion when G-d declared "Anochi Hashem Elokecha" on maamad Har Sinai and Klal Yisroel accepted the Torah, will never be forgotten.
Why does Hashem have such a selective memory? Is this an evenhanded approach?
The answer obviously is that we all have a selective memory, otherwise we would not be able to exist. We all have friends, family members, and business associates who have at some time or another wronged us. Do we walk around all the time with a strained love - hate relationship towards everyone? Of course not! We decide based on the basic nature of the other person, place, or institution, whether he (or it) is basically good, someone (or something) to be liked, and then we learn to ignore the instances where that person has wronged us, deeming them as exceptions to the rule. When we decide that we like our neighborhood, or our shul, this does not mean that we can not find any chesronos. We learn to overlook the few chesronos, because the overall picture is so good.
So too, Hakadosh Baruch Hu has determined based on the track record of our forefathers that Klal Yisroel is an unusually marvelous group. The fact that upon occasion we do things to anger Him deserves to be ignored, they are atypical activities.
The Talmud (Chagigah 5b) records the debate between one of the early Christians and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Channanya. The Christian presented the standard position of his religion that G-d had rejected the Jewish people and that they are no longer the chosen nation, that G-d has walked away from the Jews and that they are in a state of "hester ponim", without any divine providence or protection. To this Rabbi Yehoshua responded that "Yodo netuya aleinu". The fact that only the Jews are singled out for persecution all over the world, and in all of the generations, is clearly an indication that we are certainly still the "am hanivchar". Hashem is clearly looking after us. Although we do not see Him, He can see us; as the pasuk says in Shir Hashirim, He is "meitziz min hacharakim" (peeking in through the cracks in the door in such a way that although He can not be seen, He is still able to see all). The Ribono Shel Olam has His plan in history, and we believe that everything that He does is for the good. We can not understand how it can be, but we still believe that all the suffering and the persecutions we have experienced were, and still are, letov.
Historically, the Catholic Church has still maintained its age-old position, that the Jewish people, by rejecting oh-so haish, have forfeited their status as am hanivchar. It is for this reason that the Catholic Church was opposed to the Zionist movement. Eretz Yisroel is the chosen land, assigned only to the chosen nation. Therefore, according to the Church, until the Jews will accept otto haish, they are not entitled to control Eretz Yisroel. It is for this reason that the Vatican did not officially recognize Medinas Yisroel for many years. But the mere existence of the Jewish State stood in contradiction to this basic principle of their religion. After a while a position to defend their faith was developed, and they argued that although the Jewish people controlled modern Israel, this was not really Eretz Yisroel of old, which really consists of the city of Jerusalem, Chevron, Shchem, etc. After the Six Day War, this "teiritz" collapsed. It is for this reason that the Vatican has been insisting ever since 1967 that the holy city of Jerusalem be declared an international city. Anything but under Jewish control! The Vatican, in recent years, has also stepped up their missionary activities both in Eretz Yisroel and all over the world. They believe that when the Jews will convert to Christianity, then they will once again join the true chosen nation, and be entitled to the chosen land.
But the Torah repeatedly tells us, and the Neviem all reiterate the principle, that G-d's covenant with our forefathers was never broken. The Jewish people has always remained the Am Hanivchar. The horrendous persecution that only our people has experienced for so many years and throughout the world is simply proof of this chosenness. G-d will overlook "Eileh", and remember only "Onochi", and ultimately reveal Himself to mankind, and redeem His beloved children.