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The Distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Torah
Rabbi David Bar Chaim
Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav
Over the past few years, there has been a recognizable trend amongst different circles in the religious community -- a humanistic/universal inclination. There are many who have written in praise of love, "for all men who were created in the image of G-d." We have even been "graced" with a pamphlet of this name, Chaviv Adam Sh'nivra B'tzelem, composed and edited by Mr. Yochanan Ben Ya'acov, the Director General of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement. The explicit goal of those who share this outlook is to prove that all men are equal, that it is forbidden to discriminate against any man on the basis of his race, and that anyone who claims the opposite is nothing but a racist, distorting the words of the Torah in order to fit them to his "dreadful" opinions.
Here are two examples:
1. A statement by Ms. R. Huberman:
"...I never imagined that the Torah discriminates between one man and the next on the basis of faith, nationality, or race...on the contrary, it is our Torah which teaches that the blood of man is holy simply because he is man: 'Whoever sheds man's blood by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of G-d made He man' (Genesis 9)...in the Ten Commandments it is written: 'You shall not murder'! There is no hint of a restriction, no hint that the prohibition applies to a Jew and not to a Gentile..."
("Between Blood and Blood," Amudim, a monthly magazine of the Religious Kibbutz Movement, Tamuz 5745, pg.352).
2. [Former] Member of Knesset (National Religious Party) Professor Avner Shaki:
"The Jews of the State of Israel who received the Torah of Moses on Mount Sinai, where it was established that man was created in the image of G-d, have no need for any...law to teach us this fundamental basic of the Torah, that all men are born equal according to Judaism...man's equality, man's status before G-d and before his fellow man, is a primary and fundamental principle in the Jewish Torah...of course, we will not assist any type of racism which discriminates against man because of his color, religion, or nationality..."
(an excerpt from his speech during a discussion in the Knesset on an amendment to the Basic Law of the Knesset and the Penal Law)
We have something very clear before us: all human beings, Jew and Gentile,
are equal. As will be further clarified, this outlook completely contradicts
the Torah of Moses, and stems from an absolute lack of knowledge, permeated
with foreign Western "values." There would not be any need to respond
were it not for the many who are mistaken and lead astray by it.
This outlook has even been expressed by some rabbis whose goal is to show how great and important the stature of the Gentile is in our Torah, and who thereby violate the truth by taking things out of context and inaccurately interpreting the words of Chazal and the Rishonim. A large part of their efforts are centered (due to the "Underground" affair, of course) on an attempt to prove that the prohibition "You shall not murder" also applies to the killing of a Gentile. Here is an excerpt from Rabbi Yehuda Amital, shlita:
"See the Ra'aban on the Gemara Tractate Bava Kama 113a, that the prohibition of 'You shall not murder' also applies to a Gentile, as is explicitly stated by Maimonides in The Laws of a Murderer, chapter 1, halacha 1. See Yere'im, paragraph 175, that the killing of a Gentile is a subsidiary to the prohibition against murder."
(From a letter published in Alon Shvut (Yeshiva Har Etzion), issue number 100. His words are cited in the pamphlet previously mentioned, Chaviv Adam Sh'nivra B'tzelem, in an experimental edition, pg.64)
Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein shlita writes:
"From Maimonides's words (Mishna Torah, The Laws of a Murderer, chapter 2, halacha 11) it is clear that the prohibition 'You shall not murder' applies to a Gentile who fulfills the seven Noahide commandments, and the murderer is punished by death from the Heavens. So on one hand there is no difference in the prohibition of murder between a Jew and a Gentile..."
(From a synopsis of a lecture published in Keshet B'Anan number 32, Gesher, and cited in the above mentioned pamphlet, pg.72.)
The followers of these rabbis continue their path:
"...'You shall not kill'! This is an absolute prohibition, an unambiguous command that does not distinguish between Jew and Gentile..."
(Mr. Yochanan Ben Ya'acov's words in his introduction to the above mentioned pamphlet, pg.1)
Later on it will become clear how misleading and deceptive these matters are.
Not only about this halacha are things written which are liable to mislead
the public. For example, Rabbi Lichtenstein writes:
"The field of the Torah...is also relevant to the world of the Noahide, but there is no doubt that as far as the extent is concerned...the study of Torah is much less in the world of the Gentile than in our world.
Rabbi Meir's words in Tractate Sanhedrin 59a and the beraitha in Torat Cohanim are well known: even a Gentile who sits and learns Torah receives reward...an additional emphasis on the great and exalted study of Torah being relevant to the world of the Gentile." (From his essay, Bnei Adam, in the monthly publication Emda, Number 3, pg.16, and in the previously mentioned pamphlet, pg.74.)
It is amazing that he forgot to point out everything said there on this matter, particularly the conclusion. How could he not mention that Rabbi Meir's words were brought in order to disagree with Rabbi Yochanan who said: "A Gentile who studies Torah is punishable by death,1 as it is said: 'Moses commanded us the Torah as an inheritance,' for us it is an inheritance, and not for them"? The conclusion is most important -- in order to settle the conflicting statements the Talmud answers, "In this case, he is engaged in the seven Noahide commandments" (He is engaged in the halachas of those seven commandments to be skilled in them -- Rashi). He is permitted to study those specific seven Noahide commandments -- and if he learned more than this, he is punishable by death. So the Tosaphot wrote in Tractate Avodah Zara 3a, s.v. sh'afilu, and Maimonides in The Laws of Kings, chapter 10, halacha 9, writes: "A Gentile who engaged in Torah is punishable by death.2 He should not engage in anything other than their seven commandments alone." The distance between what was said in the Talmud and Rabbi Lichtenstein's words is great.
In the previously mentioned essay Rabbi Lichtenstein writes further:
"The field of prayer also exists as a universal value...this has been said in connection to the Holy Temple at its inception (I Kings 8:41-43); this is part of the prophecy of the end of days: 'For my house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.' There is also room for the Gentile to come and pray in the Holy Temple!"
How is it possible to say such things? Indeed, we have learned a complete Mishna (Kalim, chapter 1, mishna 8): "...Inside the walls of the Temple Mount is holier, and therefore Gentiles and one who has been defiled by the dead cannot enter there..."thus Maimonides ruled in The Laws of the Holy Temple, chapter 7, halacha 16. There is no way for a Gentile "to come and pray in the Holy Temple"! The matter is clear: a Gentile can pray, even on the Temple Mount, but not in the Holy Temple.
An additional proof of the Gentile's stature, according to Rabbi Lichtenstein:
"Animal sacrifices are conceived by us as being of authentic Jewish character, but they definitely belong, in the pure sense of the halacha, also to the world of the Gentile: a Gentile offers animal sacrifices not just on any altar...but in the Holy Temple" (from the above mentioned essay).
Aside from what has been previously clarified, that there is absolutely no possibility of a Gentile entering the Holy Temple, much less of offering sacrifices there, this statement, like the one beit, does not reflect the position of "pure halacha" on this topic. There is a discrepancy between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yosi the Galilean in the Sifra on the portion of Emor, parsha 7, halacha 1, and in the Tosephta, Shekalim, chapter 1, halacha 7 (Zukermandel and Leiberman editions, in the Vilna printing, halacha 3), and brought in Tractate Menachot 73b, concerning which sacrifices can be accepted from a Gentile. Maimonides ruled based on Rabbi Akiva3 (The Laws of Sacrifices, chapter 3, halacha 2): "Men or women or slaves can bring sacrifices. But from the Gentiles we only accept burnt offerings as it is said: 'From the hand of a Gentile do not offer the bread of your Lord'...but we do not accept from them peace-offerings, nor meal-offerings, nor sin-offerings or guilt-offerings..." In connection to this we must add that even if a Gentile volunteered to donate money in order to have a part in the public sacrifices, we do not accept it from him, as it is cited in the Sifra, chapter 7, halacha 12, and in Shekalim, chapter 1, mishna 5, and Maimonides wrote in The Laws of Shekalim, chapter 1, halacha 7: "Everyone is obliged to give half a shekel...but from the Gentiles who gave a half shekel, we do not accept it." Generally speaking -- there is no equality of rights for a Gentile, not in their entrance to the Holy Temple nor in their offering of sacrifices there.
It seems that these examples are sufficient to clarify the reason
for writing this essay. Now let us consider a long list of sources that
clearly contradict the previously mentioned opinions. First we will focus
on halachic matters, and afterwards on the spiritual realm. It must be
noted that I plan to deal only with halachot that illustrate the vast distinction
the Torah makes between Jews and Gentiles. I do not intend to examine the
topic of the status of Gentiles in the Torah in its entirety. For example,
how and to what extent can the Gentile serve G-d according to the Torah,
and what is his reward for this? What is possibilities are open for Gentiles
residing in the land of Israel? What is the law for Gentiles who are at
war with us or hostile towards us? I will not deal with these and similar
matters -- for this is not my purpose. (These matters are connected to
specific situations and details, whereas the purpose of this essay is the
overall, consistent distinction between Jew and Gentile.) The same is true
concerning the second part of the essay, which will deal with the spiritual
part 2 -- Between Jews and Gentiles -- In Halacha
1In general, Chazal used two terms when they
spoke of a non-Jew: goy [Gentile] and nochri [foreigner]. (Occasionally
the term acharim [others] also describes Gentiles, primarily in the halachic
Midrash. Concerning halachas or specific circumstances, the terms ger toshav
and Noahide also appear - see novellae of Nachmanides on Tractate Makkot
9a, and in the novellae of the Ritba there, but the matters have been distorted
in the Ritba.) Thus it appears in all the ancient manuscripts and old printings.
All of the variants on the term "worshippers of stars and the zodiac" that
appear in the majority of the printings are distortions, meant to deceive
the Christian censor into thinking that specifically idolatrous Gentiles
were meant. In certain printings they went even further, and in many places
changed the terms goy and nochri: occasionally they used Samaritan, other
times Cannanite and even Amalekite! Of course, in this essay I use the
exact and original version of the matters. How sad it is that even though
it is now possible to ascertain the accurate version, many Torah scholars
continue to cite the distortions of the censor.back
2There, in the end of the halacha: "He is given blows and punished and told that he may be punished by death for this, but he is not killed," see ibid. in the Kesef Mishna and in the Ridbaz for why he is not killed.back to text
3Thus according to the Babylonian version and the Tosephta, but in the version of the Sifra the opinions are switched, and Maimonides rules similar to Rabbi Yosi the Galilean. In some manuscripts of the Tosephta the version is as in the Sifra.back to text