Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl, rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio Texas gave a lecture at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) on Wednesday, February 11, 2004. His lecture entitled, “Do Jews Still Consider Themselves the Chosen People?” was part of the 2003-2004 Food for Thought Luncheon Lecture Series at HUC-JIR.
Rather than attempt to answer the question of whether Jews consider themselves the chosen people, Rabbi Stahl asked members of the audience how they felt. The room was divided with half raising their hands for yes and half for no. What made Rabbi Stahl’s lecture so interesting was that he did not pretend to have all the answers. Instead, he raised several specific questions. Some included, “Did God choose the Jews, or did the Jews choose God?” “Why would God work with a particular group of people instead of all humanity?” and “What will the world look like when Jews make nonbelievers, believers?” To try and shed some light into these questions, Rabbi Stahl gave many different accounts from theological scholars and reference books.
At the end of the lecture the audience asked several questions. At this point, Stahl was ready to give some possible answers. According to Stahl, God chose Jews to convince people to believe in him because they hold a high standard of morals; therefore, Jewish people can be a vessel to others on how to live ethical lives. Stahl emphasized that while Jews are not perfect, they are the people who are best suited to teach behavioral values. Stahl left Jews in the room feeling as though they have a mission to be like the honor students in high school. Although these students are respected, they are also resented for their wealth of knowledge and power. While some Jews may endure prejudice for who they are and what they know, it is up to them to pass on their wisdom to nonbelievers.
The Food for Thought Luncheon Lecture series at HUC-JIR is an open invitation to visit the campus at Mayerson Hall, enjoy a hot lunch, and listen to lectures by various speakers for only $8. The upcoming lecture by Dr. Eva Frojmovic, “Pride and Polemics: Exploring the Self-Image of Medieval Jews Through Their Illuminated Manuscripts,” will be given at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 25.