eljay, you ask very good questions. I tried to address these in an article I recently published:
“How odd of God, to choose the Jews.”
Our parsha, Ki Tavo, begins, “It will be when you enter the land that God gives you as an inheritance, you will possess it, and dwell in it.”
The parsha tells us the duties for temple service, care of the needy and moral behavior. Above all, the parsha shows the source of Jewish identity. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz discussed this. Judaism is not a nationality. Jews are citizens of many countries and many languages. It is not a racial group. There are white Jews and black Jews, Chinese Jews and Maori Jews. It is not even a religion, there are Buddhist Jews and atheist Jews.
The essence of the Jewish people is a family. The family unit is ancient, much older than concepts like religion or nation. We behave like a family. The Cleveland Jewish News is, in essence, a family newsletter, where we keep each other up-to-date and keep in touch. We fight with each other like quibbling siblings. But we come together in unity when any outsider would attack us. Jews are like eggs, the more you boil them, the harder they become.
You cannot leave a family. A Jew, no matter how he sins, is still a Jew. There is no way to make a Jew into a non-Jew. You cannot un-Jew a Jew any more than you could un-cat a cat. It is possible to convert, to become a Jew. But one cannot adopt Judaism as one might adopt another belief or religion. The convert does not adopt Judaism; in a real sense the Jewish people adopt the convert.
The father of our family, as seen in our parsha, is not Abraham, but God. Our relationship to God is as a child to the father. We pray to Avinu Malkenu, our Father our King. God is devoted to us, and we are devoted to God. The parsha tells us that as the Jewish people recognizes God as our God, and to walk in His ways, so God recognizes the Jewish People as His treasured people.
As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch said, the Jewish people was forged not at the point at which they gained their own land, or developed a common language or culture, but on the day on which they pledged to uphold the Torah. Our family relationship to God, binds us to each other, to God, and to His ways. Our devotion to God binds us and defines us. It is our family inheritance. It is who we are.