Equality and the Chosen People


1.     Equality

A. Descriptive

1. obviously true in some respects - birth, death, physical and psychological characteristics, some aspects of happiness

2. obviously untrue in some respects - strength, coordination, beauty, intelligence, character (even as related to moral action), some aspects of happiness

3. equality from birth is unproved, counter-intuitive, and irrelevant (since conditions producing adult inequality are permanent)

4. similarly for nations - differences in "national character"

5. therefore no one believes in absolute descriptive equality; conflict with chosenness only if chosenness violates particular descriptive equalities (it does not)

B. Normative - rights and responsibilities

1. principled exceptions - draft law, education for disadvantaged, right to vote (age,               residence, criminal status)

2. descriptive inequalities should imply normative inequalities

                3. "normative equality except for morally relevant differences" makes equality irrelevant     

                4. target group for rights and responsibilities determined according to morally relevant        characteristics.

                5. disputes expressed as equality are really about the appropriate target group

6. therefore no one believes in absolute normative equality; conflict with chosenness only if chosenness violates those characteristics (it does not)

7. cf. Peter Weston, "The empty Idea of Equality" Harvard Law Review 1982 and subsequent discussion in Yale, Michigan and Georgia Law Reviews.

C. Racism - literally untrue: there are Jews of all races (conversion); (Jewish by birth depends            only on mother)

2.     The Chosen People

A. Chosenness with respect to task only                 

1. "How odd of G-d.." - given difference of national character choice cannot be arbitrary                    

2. inconsistent with classical sources - cf. Pirkei Avos III:18; Kuzari I passim; Derech Hashem, 2:4                

B. spiritual difference must fit detailed legal-religious differences                                            

1. detailed description necessarily incomplete                       

2. distinguish comparative value (A is better than B) from non-comparative value (A is good without reference to its comparison to anything else) - reason for creation - comparative value justifies the state of A, non-comparative value  justifies A's existence                                         

3. description of Jewish task (and nature) - to exemplify ultimate non-comparative value                     

4. moral-spiritual quality of tzaddik-like life-moments have ultimate, non-comparative value                

C. Spiritual difference partly "inherited", partly historical

1. Patriarchs’ development of given capacities

                2. slavery, Exodus, Sinai revelation, wilderness experience, conquest of Israel.

D. Superiority

1. greater abilities vs. performance vs. more meritorious

2. chosen only implies greater ability                              

3. superior performance is real, but not relevant

4. humility since it is impossible to assess merit


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