Ovadiah Seforno

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R. Ovadiah Seforno was a rabbi, rabbinic scholar, exegete, and philosopher in Renaissance Italy. He is noted for teaching Torah to gentiles, and dedicating his theological work, Light of the Nations, to King Henry of England. He suggests that Christians share with Jews this universal relationship with God and all humanity is the chosen people. However, after the Fall of Adam when humanity turned towards materialism, then Jews and the pious of the other nations are more special. He uniquely proffers only a quantitative difference between Judaism and the other faiths.

“And now if you will diligently listen to my voice and observe My covenant, you shall be consecrated (segulah) to Me from all the nations, for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto Me.” (Exodus 19:5-6)
“You shall be consecrated to Me”: Humanity as a whole is more precious to Me than the lower forms of existence, since man is the central figure in creation. As our Sages taught: “Beloved is man who was created in the Divine image.” (Avot 3:14) However, the difference between [Jews and non-Jews] in the hierarchy of the universe is that, although “the entire earth belongs to Me,” and the righteous of the nations are precious to Me without a doubt, [nevertheless] “you shall be a kingdom of priests unto Me.” This is your distinction: You shall be a kingdom of priests to teach all of humanity that they all shall call upon the name of God to serve Him with a common accord (Zephaniah 3:9). It also states, “And you shall be called the priests of God,” (Isaiah 61:6) and “For out of Zion shall the Torah come forth.” (Isaiah 2:3)
“Although You love the nations, all of the holy one's are in your hand; they are subdued beneath Your feet, for he brought Your word.” (Deut. 33:3)
“Although you love the nations.” With this You make known that all of humanity is precious to You. As the Rabbis taught, “Beloved is man, who was created in the Divine image.” Nevertheless, “all holy ones are in your hand.” You declare that all holy ones -- the holy myriads who received the fiery religion are in your hand as silver in [the hand] of the refiner. “They are subdued” - they are broken, like one who has been reproved and prays with a broken spirit. “Beneath Your feet” - that is, at your footstool, Mount Sinai. “He brought Your word.” That is Torah which Moses commanded. They said to God, “Moses brought us your word, the Torah which You commanded us to heed.”

For Seforno, all humanity is beloved by God and chosen from amongst all creation. As Zephaniah has prophecied, the nations will in messianic times all call upon God. The distinction between Israel and the nations is the presence – or absence – of the Sinai revelation. All have the image of God, but the Sinai experience is only for Jews – there are two aspects to our lives. The universal and the particular; The image of God and our commitment to Bible as understood by Rabbinic literature, Torah study, ritual law, and peoplehood.