What makes being Jewish so extraordinary that we are called the Am Segulah (special nation – chosen people.)
The Gemarah (Yevamos 79a) recounts an incident with Dovid Hamelech (King David,) having to appease a certain nation called the Givonim because of a killing that Shaul Hamelech (King Saul) had previously committed.
David approached them and they said: we can’t be appeased with monetary compensation but give us 7 of Shaul’s offspring and we will hang them. Based on this, David decreed that the Givonim should not be accepted as converts. What did he base this on?
David goes on to say there are three signs of this [Jewish] nation, harachmanim (they are merciful,) habaishanin (they are modest,) and gomlei chasodim (performers of kindness.)
Since the Givonim showed such a lack of mercy, David decreed that they could not become a part of this nation. Rashi explains that since the Givonim did not have mercy they were not fitting to join with. Perhaps one could say their spiritual genetic make-up would not allow them to metamorphose into a Jewish personality.
Looking a little deeper at these traits we see:
How are these acquired? The Gemorah goes on to elucidate interesting and unexpected sources for each:
Rahmanim – venasan lecha rachamim verichamcha vehirbecha - [Hashem] will give you mercy and have mercy on you and increase you. (Devarim 13:18)
Baishanim – Baavur tiheyeh yiraso al penachem - In order that it will be His [Hashem's] fear on your faces. (Shmos 20:17)
Gomlei Chasodim – lemaan asher yetzaveh es banav ve’es beiso… - that he [Avraham] will command his children and household … and they will guard the way of H’ to do justice and judgement. (Breishis 18:19)
On closer inspection, we see from the sources quoted, how a person attains these traits. What makes a person merciful? Hashem gives it to them, that is; primarily one is born with the trait or leaning towards it (even though one may and indeed must work to attain and guard the trait)
The pasuk relating to baishanos is stated when the Jews were at Sinai and receiving the 10 Commandments amidst thunder and lightning etc. and they were overcome with awe. H’ is doing this so that you will come to fear Him, so we see that this trait must be developed by the person themselves.
Goimlei chasadim comes from instruction and particularly from the home and parents, so we see that kindness is something one generally learns from others.
The Jewish people, through spiritual genes, Torah and mesorah (tradition,) have a spiritual makeup and constitution that instills these three traits in us and that makes being Jewish so special.
The articles listed below address fundamentals of being Jewish.