And Hashem has distinguished you today to be for Him a treasured people, as He spoke to you, and to observe all of His commandments, and to make you supreme over all the nations that He made, for praise, for renown and for splendor, and so that you will be a holy people to Hashem, your G-d, as He spoke.(Deut. 26:18-19)
But it will be that if you do not hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, to observe, to perform all His commandments and all His decrees that I command you today, then all these curses will come upon you and overtake you... (Deut. 28:15)
There is only one logical, rational reason for a person to be proud of his being a Jew: the Torah. As our sages said (Torat Kohanim, Bechukotai, 8:11): “What remains to them that has not become vile and loathsome? Were not all the fine gifts that were given to them taken away? If not for the Torah that remained with them, they would be no different from the nations at all.” This is the secret of Israel's uniqueness and exclusiveness. Only this Torah hallows, exalts and sets Israel apart from all the nations. All the rest, nationalism and national pride, are nothing but a meaningless farce. Yet, since G-d chose Israel to be His holy people and to fulfill His Torah, they were granted extraordinary love and a special status, and they became the mate and partner, so to speak, of Him Whose word brought the world into being.
The partnership between G-d and Israel is an unparalleled partnership of love. Since the greatest, most exalted partnership that we know is that of lovers, man and woman, King Solomon compared the partnership of G-d and Israel to that of a man and woman. This is the meaning of the words, “My beloved is mine and I am his” (Song of Songs 2:16): two lovers, one in partnership with the other. I am his and he is mine – this is the most lofty partnership there can be, for each gives to the other rather than each taking from the other. Our sages said (Shir HaShirim Rabbah, Ibid.): “My beloved is mine and I am his”: He is for me a G-d, and I am for Him a nation. He is for me a G-d, as it says, “I am the L-rd your G-d” (Ex. 20:2), and I am for Him a nation, as it says, “Listen to Me, O My people,; give ear unto Me, O My nation” (Isaiah 51:4). He is for me a Father and I am for Him a son. He is for me a Father, as it says,“For You are our Father” (Ibid. 63:16); and, “For I became a Father of Israel” (Jer. 31:8), and I am for Him a son, as it says, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Ex. 4:22); and, “You are children of the L-rd your G-d” (Deut. 14:1). Israel are called G-d's children; the rest of the nations are not. The Jew is an actual son of G-d, his Father in Heaven, whereas all the rest are not G-d's children, but only His handiwork. As R. Akiva said (Avot 3:18), “ Beloved are Israel, for they were called G-d's children. Special Divine love was earmarked for them as a result.” Israel are the children of Him Whose word brought the world into existence, whereas all the rest are just G-d's handiwork. Special Divine love beyond that reserved for all the nations is earmarked for Israel. Love, respect and reverence for our fellow Jew, created in G-d's image and sanctified at Sinai as G-d's elect, is the duty of every single Jew, because he is a part of that chosen people. Every Jew must grow spiritually by showing love and respect for his fellow Jew. In that way, he expresses his esteem for someone holy and select, created in G-d's image and chosen at Sinai to be G-d's special treasure. In effect, he gains self- esteem as well.
Every Jew is a guarantor for the rest of the Jewish People, for all are bound together in one nation, holy and virtuous. Sotah 37b teaches, “For every single mitzvah in the Torah, forty-eight covenants were forged with each of the 603,550 [Jews in the desert]. Rashi comments, “Everyone of them became a guarantor for all his brethren.” Our sages also said (Shavuot 39a), “ All of Israel are guarantors for one another.” Later, G-d willing, we will view the other side of love and mutual responsibility, namely the mitzvah of rebuking our fellow Jew to restore him to the proper path. By such rebuke, we perform a great mitzvah and do our fellow Jew a great turn. Moreover, the mitzvah of arevut (mutual responsibility) which makes rebuke an obligation, is also the basis for G-d's collectively rewarding and punishing the Jewish People, since they are all one nation. Rebuke is a mitzvah of central importance for every Jew.
Ezekiel said (33:2-3,6): “When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man from among them and set him for their watchman; if when he sees the sword come upon the land and he blows the horn and warns the people... But if he sees the sword come and blows not the horn and the people be not warned, and the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand." This is the mitzvah of tochachah, rebuke, standing before the nation and blowing the horn of truth. The mitzvah of imploring and rebuking the people is one aspect of accepting the yoke of Heaven. A person unwilling to rebuke others and speak the truth, whether out of fear, desire to flatter, genuine love or an inability to oppose the mainstream, and certainly out of refusal to accept the “harsh” truth of Halachah, as we shall see, rebels against G-d and rejects His yoke. Over and over, people try to justify their refusal with the argument that they “love their fellow Jew”, but such love is perverse. No love is more genuine than rebuke. It says,“Do not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him.” (Lev. 19:17). Whoever does not rebuke, bears a grudge of hatred for the sinner, even if subconscious. This hatred grows, precisely because deep in his heart he recognizes his duty to rebuke the sinner and recognizes, as well, his own weakness, reflected in his refusal to do it. Whoever refuses to rebuke the sinner, leaves him vulnerable to the worst punishments of the afterlife [and may bring about collective punishment of Israel in this world, as well] Precisely he who rebukes the sinner and tries to bring him back on course, loves him and loves himself, as well.
In our own times, the alien culture has managed to make G-d into something inconsequential. Thus, on the one hand, heresy has proliferated, and on the other hand, many wicked people have devised a hypocritical approach whereby although they pay lip service to the existence of a higher power, they create it in their own image, as they wish to imagine it. The G-d of their making is indulgent. He neither demands exclusive allegiance nor takes revenge. He is tolerant and equates great and small, good and evil, light and darkness, bitter and sweet. Concepts of sin and punishment almost do not exist. After all, the idea of “sin” is exceedingly controversial, since such persons fly the flag of freedom of expression and deed – almost any deed. “Divine punishment”, in the eyes of worshipers of this culture, is a fanatical, extremist, even an eccentric and cruel concept. Therefore, whenever tragedy strikes such persons, they have not the least inclination to meditate, to examine and search their deeds. For this heresy, the Divine punishment, which advocates of this approach deny, comes closer and closer. G-d's thoughts are not their own. The flood of fire will come, the anger and revenge of G-d. Moreover, when an entire generation casts off its yoke, and chaos and anarchy come to the world, and the kingdom of G-d is the object of contempt, the destroying angel is given free reign... then the saintly are taken from the world, both as an atonement for the world and because they did not protest enough, and also – if the world's decree has already been sealed – so that they will not see the punishment.
[The very last sentence of this week's Haftarah links this to our time, which is the beginning of the redemption:] I am Hashem, in its time I will hasten it. (Is. 60:22) Redemption can come by one of two ways. If we merit it, through repentance and deeds worthy of it – especially faith and trust in G-d without fear of the non-Jew – it can come through G-d hastening it, quickly, immediately, “today, if we hearken to His voice.” Not only will it come quickly, but with glory and majesty, without the suffering or Messianic birthpangs of which both Ula and Rabbah said (Sanhedrin 98b), “Let it come without my seeing it.” If we do not merit this, however, then the Messiah will certainly come and the redemption with him, but only later on, “in its time.” This redemption will be accompanied, G-d forbid, by the terrible suffering of chevlei mashiach, Messianic birthpangs.