“The Chosen People,” as the Jews are sometimes known, has been misunderstood by some as an indication that Judaism disdains those who are not Jewish. This, of course, is not true. Adam, the first human, was not Jewish…nor was Noah. In fact, there were twenty generations, many thousands of people, who lived before the birth of Abraham. Abraham, who is the forefather of the Jewish nation, is considered to be the first Jew. But even after Abraham and Sarah had their son Isaac, it was still several generations until their descendants were numerous enough to be considered a “people.”
Humankind was banished from the Garden of Eden, symbolic of a perfect world, when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Humanity has been trying to return to that perfect world ever since. This process is known as tikkun olam, repairing the world.
Just as the process of rebuilding a home takes many specialists (carpenters, electricians, plumbers, decorators…), tikkun olam takes many types of people. Accordingly, every nation has its own special mission.
One interesting kabbalistic concept (based on the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria as written down by Rabbi Chaim Vital in Shaar Hagilgulim) describes Adam as having a neshama klalit, a universal soul, that shattered when he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Every human being after Adam was born with a shard of Adam’s soul, which each person helps return to its state of pre-banishment perfection through his/her individual actions and accomplishments. Different pieces of the broken soul require different actions in order to be perfected. When a person does not achieve a tikkun for the soul within them, that shard is further shattered and returns in yet another generation.
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