The Torah’s view of ideal existence in the Land of Israel is, perhaps surprisingly, not one in which Jews live there alone. Rather, it is of a multicultural society of monotheists, each worshipping God in their own way, Jews according to the Torah’s detailed laws and gentiles in their own paths. But only monotheists who worship God. The Torah prohibits Jews from allowing idolaters, including polytheists, to live in the land (Ex. 23:31-33): And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me.

Idolaters in the Land

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I. The Torah Ideal

The Torah’s view of ideal existence in the Land of Israel is, perhaps surprisingly, not one in which Jews live there alone. Rather, it is of a multicultural society of monotheists, each worshipping God in their own way, Jews according to the Torah’s detailed laws and gentiles in their own paths. But only monotheists who worship God. The Torah prohibits Jews from allowing idolaters, including polytheists, to live in the land (Ex. 23:31-33):

ושתי את גבלך מים סוף ועד ים פלשתים וממדבר עד הנהר. כי אתן בידכם את ישבי הארץ וגרשתמו מפניך. לא תכרת להם ולאלהיהם ברית. לא ישבו בארצך פן יחטיאו אתך לי.

And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me.

II. Barring Entrance

Applying this today is complex. The Torah’s laws are eternal but their applications vary according to the reality of the day. As we explore different approaches, we will find an interesting parallel between the way some view this law today and the attitude of many Evangelical Zionists.

Underlying this prohibition is the assumption that it is legitimate to bar from entering a country those who may negatively affect the residents. Just about everyone, I think, would agree that it is ethical to refuse entrance to someone who poses a potential physical danger to citizens. This law says that it is also proper to bar from entering someone who poses a potential spiritual danger. “Lest they make you sin against Me,” says the Torah. While this clearly refers to missionaries, it also evidently applies to any adherents of a forbidden religion, whose different ways may pique the interest of religious Jews.

III. Three Views

All legitimate halakhic views must emerge from and engage with authoritative texts. Ethical judgments, even when strong, do not represent cogent halakhic arguments unless they are properly expressed as such. Summarily ignoring or jettisoning texts and laws that conflict with one’s ethical intuitions are not reflective of devotion to Jewish tradition. One must, rather, engage and understand, in the same way we have been doing so for centuries. The following three views are contemporary applications of this law within the halakhic system.

1. Non-Idolaters

The Rambam and Ra’avad (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Avodah Zarah 10:6) disagree whether this law applies to a gentile who does not formally become a resident (ger toshav). According to the Rambam, apparently, he must accept the seven Noahide laws before a religious court. According to the Ra’avad, as long as he does not worship idols he may live in the land. (Although the Kessef Mishneh, ad loc., argues that the Rambam agrees with the Ra’avad on this point.)

R. Shlomo Aviner (She’eilas Shlomo, vol. 2 no. 433) quotes his mentor, R. Tzvi Yehudah Kook, as following the Ra’avad (and the Rambam according to the Kessef Mishneh). According to this approach, anyone today who is not an idolater may live in the Land of Israel according to Jewish law.

2. Civilized Citizens

R. Aviner (ibid.) further cites the view of the Meiri (Bava Kama 113a, Yoma 84b) that this prohibition does not apply to civilized, religious people. R. Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Iggeros Ra’ayah, no. 89) follows this broadly lenient view, which would allow just about anyone today to live in Israel.

While I find this approach ethically appealing, I do not understand how it deals with the biblical phrase, “Lest they make you sin against Me.” Isn’t the Torah concerned that Jews will follow civilized idolaters in their foreign religion? Or is the concern with their uncivilized ways and not their religion?

3. Eschatological Approach

R. Menachem Kasher (Ha-Tekufah Ha-Gedolah, 2001 edition, ch. 13; cf. R Avigdor Nebenzahl, Sichos Le-Sefer Bereishis, pp. 247-248) takes an entirely different approach. He cites the above Rambam who prefaces the law with a condition that it only applies when Jews have complete control of the Land. In a world full of political pressures and give-and-take diplomacy, this is certainly not the case.

While some may see this as a pragmatic approach, I prefer to think of it as eschatological. R. Kasher is essentially saying that when Mashiach comes we will fully implement this prohibition. Until then, we will follow current international laws and political necessities.

I compare this to the support for Israel by Evangelical Christians, some (but by no means all) of whom see their support as hastening the Second Coming in which Jews will suffer the fate of infidels. Until that time, though, they wholeheartedly support Jews and Israel. When the Time comes, they say, we’ll worry about it then.

R. Kasher seems to similarly push off theological differences to when the Time comes. Until then, we will live together as neighbors with full cooperation.

IV. Christians
(Addendum to Approach 1)

The categorization of Christianity within Judaism is difficult. Some, such as the Rambam, see the trinity as a form of polytheism. Others (e.g. Shakh, Yoreh De’ah 251:7) view Christianity as an halakhic hybrid, a religion that is considered perfectly acceptable for Noahides but idolatrous for Jews. According to the Rambam, Christians would be, absent the above considerations, barred from entering the land. However, R. Shlomo Aviner (ad loc.) follows a long list of authorities (e.g. Melamed Le-Ho’il 1:16 and this post, I am told that R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik also held this way) who accept the view of the Shakh et al and exclude Christians from this entire consideration.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

56 comments

  1. Lest they make you sin against Me.” Isn’t the Torah concerned that Jews will follow civilized idolaters in their foreign religion?
    ===============================
    More interesting to me is that the Torah seems unconcerned that civilized montotheists will lead Jews astray – assumedly all that eating treif etc. won’t be a negative influence???? So to paraphrase R’ Asher Weiss – it would seem not to be the “ratzon hatorah” that we live in a totally protected cocooon to be admired from afar?
    KT

  2. I see at least two major fallacies in this argument:

    1. “The Torah’s detailed laws and gentiles in their own paths. But only monotheists who worship God. The Torah prohibits Jews from allowing idolaters, including polytheists, to live in the land…For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me.”

    The pasuk you cited supports your argument not at all. The Torah naturally assumes that non-Jews are idol worshipers (as was, in fact, true then) and thus states- as the plain reading of that pasuk has it- that all non-Jews are to be evicted.

    Of course, what happens if they aren’t? That’s where your argument should have picked up.

    2. “this broadly lenient view, which would allow just about anyone today to live in Israel.”

    It would allow most Christians and Buddhists and Hindus and African animists to live in Israel. But you’re making a very common error: “Muslims don’t worship Avoda Zara. Hence, they keep the Sheva Mitzvot and/or are civilized.” Says who? There are six other mitzvot, including that little one, murder. Just because Muslims worship Allah (whatever you want that to mean) doesn’t necessarily mean they’re Noahides, and certainly doesn’t necessarily mean they’re civilized. Heck, I know lots of Jews I wouldn’t consider civilized. 🙂

    And, of course, in a country that gives voting rights to all citizens, there are other considerations as well. As Meir Kahane once brilliantly pointed out to Marc Gopin, there were no non-Jews in the Sanhedrin. 🙂

  3. Mordechai Tzion

    I think it is important to point out that non-Jews living do have it limited. I once asked Rav Aviner about the problem of non-Jews becoming a major block and voting against the State of Israel, and he replied that only someone who is completely loyal to the State, i.e. serves in the army, should have the right to vote.

    Before it is asked, Rav Aviner also said that Charedim have a legal postponement from the army and therefore would have the right to vote.

  4. I think that you have completely misinterpreted the pasuk and the Rambam and acharonim that you quoted. Where did you get the off the wall idea that the ideal is for Goyim to remain in Eretz Yisrael? This is absolutely b’diavad! Yehoshua was commanded to conquer all of Eretz Yisrael and exterminate or expel all of its inhabitants, as is stated explicitly in the pasuk,davka where you wrotev in bold letters:”They shall not dwell in your land”. They must become gerei toshav, who are no longer defined as Goyim or they become avadim canaaniim. “leolam bahem taavodu” (mitzvat aseh d’oreita). How can this possibly be interpreted as lechatchila? If this goal was not attained then the Torah deals with what to do with those who remain.
    Rav Tzvi Yehuda and his talmidim pasken the most stringent interpretation and application of lo techoneim as a mitzvah d’oreita b’zman hazeh.
    The idyll of peaceful coexistence will be fulfilled only at the end of redemption,. When Mashiach comes “vayagur ze’ev im keves”. May we see it speedily in our days.

  5. That mitzvah was due to those inhabitants’ specific corruption. That’s made QUITE clear in the pesukim. Citing R. Tzvi Yehuda on an issue like this one is kind of like citing the Pope regarding Yeshayahu perek 53.

  6. “replied that only someone who is completely loyal to the State, i.e. serves in the army, should have the right to vote.

    Before it is asked, Rav Aviner also said that Charedim have a legal postponement from the army and therefore would have the right to vote”

    The Arabs also have a legal exemption from the Army.
    Do you believe the Chareidim would be able to take a loyalty oath to the state?

  7. “The idyll of peaceful coexistence will be fulfilled only at the end of redemption,.”

    Maybe true or maybe not-but it will certainly be true if people act on that belief.

  8. If we are concerned about the spiritual danger posed by idol-worshipers, I don’t see how Christians can be allowed to live in the land at all. Whether or not Christianity is considered avodah zara for gentiles, everyone agrees that it constitutes idolatry for Jews; even though they are not sinners in themselves, then, Christians could well, even unintentionally, lead B’nei Israel into sin. The Shakh is not enough here.

  9. According to the Ra’avad and the Rambam, as understood by the Kessef Mishneh, gentiles do not have to be Gerei Toshav to live in the land. They merely have to be monotheists. Obviously, we cannot allow murderers to run free but that is a separate issue. I also do not think it is factually correct to say that all people of any community are murderers.

  10. Clara: See Joel Rich’s comment, the first above. Gentiles who publicly eat shellfish and cheeseburgers are certainly allowed in the land, even if they might tempt Jews.

  11. “As Meir Kahane once brilliantly pointed out to Marc Gopin, there were no non-Jews in the Sanhedrin”

    As sympathetic as I am to your broader point (also: fully disclosing my disagreement with Meir Kahane’s views on a long litany of issues), I would note in response that while there were no non-Jews on the Sanhedrin, there certainly were non-Pharisaic (or, from the later perspective of Chazal, non-rabbinic) Jews on the Sanhedrin. Considering the tone and tenor of intra-Jewish disputes and polemics during Bayis Sheini, the Sanhedrin as constituted did not represent the “Orthodox Jewish” perspective.

  12. “only someone who is completely loyal to the State, i.e. serves in the army, should have the right to vote…Before it is asked, Rav Aviner also said that Charedim have a legal postponement from the army and therefore would have the right to vote.”

    How convenient. So you’re telling us that Rav Aviner has crafted a set of criteria to determine who can vote, which he immediately violates in order to make sure that it only excludes the groups he doesn’t like.

    By the by, I cannot imagine another democratic country where failure to serve in the armed forces is positive proof of disloyalty. What you may mean to say is that only those who obey the the country’s laws may vote – armed service, in a country where it is compulsory, being only a part of that argument. If that is the case, that’s a separate discussion (which takes place in American as well vis-a-vis convicted felons). But if someone has legally exempted himself or herself from service, then so be it. Such a decision may not be admirable, but it does not justify taking away the right to vote.

  13. Jerry, you make a brilliant point. We would do well to remember that the Sanhedrin represented a much more broad swath of the Jewish people then would be implied by a court of Roshei Yeshiva

  14. Do we really understand how the Sanhedrin was “appointed/elected”?
    KT

  15. Of interest to this discussion is Shu”t Yabi’a Omer VI, Orach Chaim no. 41, where R. Ovadiah Yosef rules that one of the reasons to omit a blessing over the recitation of Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut is because the State of Israel is prohibited by the United Nations from eliminating the sanctuaries of foreign religions in its midst. The State of Israel is forced to be a constitutional liberal democracy (like the U.S. and its other major supporters and defenders at the United Nations), which renders it impotent in terms of liquidating avodah zarah. Piku’ach nefesh obviously does not permit the State of Israel to embrace foreign religions under any circumstances, but piku’ach nefesh does certainly permit State of Israel to refrain from actively liquidating the avodah zarah of the nations of the world. This is definitely a much, much better situation for the Jewish People than the pre-1948 situation of statelessness (with all the lethal dangers that this presented for Jews, such as the Holocaust), and therefore Hallel is required, but it is not the ideal either, and so a berakhah is omitted.
    When mashi’ach comes, as Rambam writes in ch. 11 of Hilkhot Melakhim, the devotees of the church and Islam will realize their ta’ut and will appreciate the absolute truth of the Torah (as defined by Orthodox Judaism), and act accordingly. But, of course, based on R. Soloveitchik’s “Confrontation”, we do not discuss these things with the nations of the world until mashi’ach comes, so that we can all live in peace and harmony in the constitutional liberal democracy world of the pre-messianic era, expressing gratitude to the nations of the world for their generosity in allowing us to survive until mashi’ach comes.

  16. R. Spira,
    Really, the Rambam mentions “Orthodox Judaism”? How fascinating. And here I always blamed 19th C. reformers for introducing the term.

  17. NDJ-Larry Kaplan may correct me, but I think that R Spira is referring to Rambam’s usage in Hilcos Melachim of the term “Daas HaEmes”.

    Isn’t there a statement in Rashi in Horayos about who is defined as a citizen of the Land of Israel for determining issues of national significance?

  18. In “Jews, Gentiles, and the Modern Egalitarian Ethos: Some Tentative Thoughts”, Rabbi David Berger says:

    “After reading the typescript, Avie Walfish pointed me to a footnote that I had missed in Rabbi Herzog’s article dealing with the standing of non Jews in a sovereign Jewish state. “Only full-fledged idolaters (ovdei avodah zarah gemurim),” suggests Rabbi Herzog, “pursue a form of worship bound up with licentiousness and sorcery and all forms of impurity, and it is only about them that the Torah said, ‘[They shall not remain in your land] lest they cause you to sin against Me’ (Exod. 23.33).” “Zekhuyot ha-Mi’utim le-fi ha-Halakhah,” Tehumin 2 (1981): 174, n. 9.”

    Rabbi Herzog is obviously following the Meiri. However, I completely agree with Rabbi Student: “While I find this approach ethically appealing, I do not understand how it deals with the biblical phrase, “Lest they make you sin against Me.” Isn’t the Torah concerned that Jews will follow civilized idolaters in their foreign religion? Or is the concern with their uncivilized ways and not their religion?”

    My answer is this: in a day when Jews are not observant, it would be hypocritical for us to expel religious deviants from Israel. It would be a hillul hashem, for a nation of people eating pork chops and driving cars on Shabbat to expel people from Israel who don’t abide by the Torah/Jewish-based notions of what a gentile must do. We Jews don’t follow our Jewish obligations, and we’re insisting the gentiles follow theirs? Only if we Jews keep what we have to, in our own land, will we have any right to insist the gentiles do what they have to. Perhaps the nations would still hate us for it, but then again, the Greeks hated us for keeping Shabbat, but that wasn’t a hillul hashem. According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a hillul hashem is when we do something that the gentiles will (rightly or wrongly) perceive as contradicting our own Jewish values. A nation of hilonim expelling idolatrous gentiles would be a hillul hashem by Rabbi Feinstein’s definition, but a nation of observant Jews doing so would not be, by his definition.

  19. Incidentally, my answer would permit us to expel anyone who is a monotheist but rejects the Noahide law of murder. By the hillul hashem standard I posit above, a nation of pork chop-eating, Shabbat-driving Jews may be hypocritical for expelling idolaters, but there’s nothing hypocritical about them expelling murderers. Basically, according to my proposal, we can force gentiles to keep those parts of the Noahide laws that we ourselves keep, but we cannot force them to keep what we do not.

    Of course, the whole issue is academic, because a nation of pork-chop-eating hilonim is unlikely to let the dati’im implement this whole halakhah in the first place. Only when the whole nation is observant, will we even be able to implement the law *at all*, whichever interpretation of that law we choose. So in the end of the day, the point is entirely moot.

  20. Lawrence Kaplan

    MDJ: I think R. Spira’s comment “(as defined by Orthodox Judaism)” was intended as his own parenthetical observation. As you may know, I often do not see eye to eye with R. Spira, but here your attempt at sarcasm fell flat.

    Steve Brizel: Indeed, you are correct. In Chapter 12 of Hilkhot Melakhim the Rambam states “ve-yahzeru kulam le-dat ha-emet.” The meaning and implication of this phrase are not entirely clear. See Howard Kreisel, “Maimonides on Divine Religion” in Maimonides After 800 Years, and the literature he cites here. IIRC, there was a debate between Menahem Kellner and Hayim Rappaport about this as well.

  21. Even those who have engaged in non theological dialogue with non Jews have written about the riskes of such endeavors. IMHO dialogue among ourselves on the Internet on this topic although very interesting and perhaps qualifying as Talmud Torah is potentially dangerous.

  22. Prof. Kaplan,
    I was well aware that it was his own insertion. I happen to think that it was a highly inappropriate one. I considered saying something about not abusing the Rambam’s text (the parenthetical occurs within the indirect quotation), but decided the sarcasm was enough.

  23. It is not enough according to both Rambam and Raavad to be Monotheists. They must observe all of the seven commandments.
    Secondly,I recall seeing in the Chazon Ish that in order to live in the land,they must keep it because the Torah requires it, not because their own foreign religion requires it or out of logic(based on Rambam Laws of Kings Chapter 8).
    Thirdly Rabbi Joseph Sloveitchik is quoted in Nefesh Harav as holding that the view of Rama and Shakh about Christians is mistaken.

  24. “The State of Israel is forced to be a constitutional liberal democracy (like the U.S. and its other major supporters and defenders at the United Nations)…”

    R’ Spira, who is doing the forcing, and how is it done? It’s not an argumentative question; I just don’t understand what you are saying.

  25. “Thirdly Rabbi Joseph Sloveitchik is quoted in Nefesh Harav as holding that the view of Rama and Shakh about Christians is mistaken.”

    Make life easy for me please cite where so I can look it up in my copy of Nefesh Harav.

  26. Lawrence Kaplan

    MDJ: You should have just said then that the parenthetical comment comment was innapprorpiate. By the way, I woul have agreed with you.

    Moshe Shor: I would be very careful about relying in Nefesh ha-Rav for Rav Soloveitchik’s views on controversial matters, unless supported by other documentation. For example, what Rabbi Schachter relates about the Rav’s view re co-education differs from what is related by other students of the Rav who were very close to him.

  27. The passage in Nefesh HaRav (p. 230) is about R. Chaim Soloveitchik. My information is about something the Rav wrote himself that remains in manuscript.

    My understanding

  28. “The passage in Nefesh HaRav (p. 230) is about R. Chaim Soloveitchik”

    Thanks Gil-BTW in general while reading Nefesh Harav for an item I tendto take the opportunity to read more of Rav Schachter-anyway the paragraph after the one that Gil referred me to refers to the Rav and watching the television to see JFKs funeral.
    I am not aware of any other source for this comment by the Rav except for RHS-I certainly do not recall it being mentioned in 1968 during the funerals that one is prohibited from watching them. Not recalling is no raiah and kal vchomer Mycroft not recalling is no raiah-but I am curious if Prof Kaplan has any independent recollection of that being the Rav’s viewpoint-either by memory or any written documents. Or does Prof. Kaplan believe that “I would be very careful about relying in Nefesh ha-Rav for Rav Soloveitchik’s views on controversial matters, unless supported by other documentation” applies to the JFK matter as well.

  29. “Hirhurim on November 14, 2010 at 12:34 pm
    See here: http://www.torahweb.org/torah/special/2005/papalFuneral.html

    Thanks for the link. I reread it-I had read it about 5 years ago when it first came out. Of the four Rabbis-all distiunguished and reliable who are listed only RHS I believe would have had dealings with the Rav about this matter at the time of JFKs assassination.
    Rav Mayer Twersky I believe was about 3 years old, R Michael Rosensweig about 7-Rabbi Willig I can’t judge for sure but he was probably still in HS during the assassination. RHS was back then already considered a major talmid of the Rav.
    That I don’t recall it being mentioned around YU during MLKs assassination-which I remember vivdly becasue an hour or so after he ws killed I was walking on Amsterdam Ave and one of YUs “neighbors” threw some hard garbage at me. Also I don’t remember it mentioned during RFKs funeral. It doesn’t mean that the Rav didn’t state that-but I certainly recall that many watched the funeralson the dorm TV-which was on the same floor as the Ravs apartment.
    RHS is a man of integrity and obviously he heard something from the Rav at the time period-the obvious question is anytime a Brisker is talking are they talkin halacha lemaaseh or discussing in learning with a talmud muvhak a “chakirah”.

  30. “Just because Muslims worship Allah (whatever you want that to mean)”

    “Want that to mean”???? Blasphemy!!!!

    Allah == God. Arabic-speaking Christians also worship “Allah”.

    “Where did you get the off the wall idea that the ideal is for Goyim to remain in Eretz Yisrael? This is absolutely b’diavad!”

    Huh? Chazal praise non-Jews who want to live in Eretz Yisrael!

    “the State of Israel is prohibited by the United Nations from eliminating the sanctuaries of foreign religions in its midst”

    Not true. The State of Israel *itself* agreed not to eliminate foreign religions when it declared independence.

    “I cannot imagine another democratic country where failure to serve in the armed forces is positive proof of disloyalty. ”

    I remember vividly the Vietnam era in the US when draft-dodgers were considered traitors by much of the populace.

  31. “I remember vividly the Vietnam era in the US when draft-dodgers were considered traitors by much of the populace.”

    I think the problem here is the elasticity of the word “disloyalty.” Its original use in this thread connoted something stronger – “treason,” perhaps; in any event, enough to justify removing that person’s right to vote. In that sense, I don’t think your example invalidates my point.

    Draft-dodgers may have been seen by some as (or may have been. Whatever. I’m not getting involved in this) dirty, rotten scoundrels who betrayed the values of their country, but I don’t think the right to vote was at stake.

  32. “Rabbi Willig I can’t judge for sure but he was probably still in HS during the assassination.”

    You’re right; not only was he in he in HS (a senior), but he was in RJJ so he wasn’t even around YU at that time.

  33. Thank you all for your excellent comments. My understanding is as follows:

    (1) Irrespective of what HaRav HaGa’on R. Soloveitchik zt”l said or did not say – the normative Halakhah (as defined by rabbinic consensus) is that the theology of the church is not the same as the theology of Judaism. [R’ Moshe Schor’s point that Judaism expects Noahides to observe the Noahide Code because it was revealed by Moses (and not a different prophet) is especially well taken in this regard.] Since we are fortunate to live in a Post-WW2 world where freedom of religion is respected by international law, we are entitled to our belief as Orthodox Jews.

    (2) The flip-side of living in a Post-WW2 world is that (while we enjoy religious freedom ourselves as Orthodox Jews), we are also reciprocally expected (lihavdil) by the international community to refrain from imposing our beliefs on others. Failure to meet this expectation would place the State of Israel in a militarily impossible situation. [I.e. the State would be immediately attacked and destroyed by its many competitors, without the U.S. to defend it.] For this reason, Prime Minister Ben Gurion and company had no choice but to indicate in the Declaration of Independence that freedom of religion will be respected in Israel. To be clear: the Jews who founded the State of Israel believed in Judaism, and rejected all other religions (including the church). But because of imminent piku’ach nefesh, they very wisely refrained from tampering with the religious freedom of the non-Jews who live within the borders of the State of Israel. That’s a reason why R. Yosef thinks the blessing over Hallel should be omitted on Yom Ha’atzma’ut.

    (3) It is the belief of Orthodox Judaism that – when the messianic era arrives – the Jewish state will no longer face a threat of destruction from its neighbors, and therefore the Jewish government will not have to worry about piku’ach nefesh. However, Maimonides’ comments in Hilkhot Melakhim indicate that, by that time, the nations of the world will have already realized on their own that Orthodox Judaism is the truth, and so it will not even be necessary for the Jewish government to close any idolatrous institutions, since the nations of the world will have enthusiastically done so on their own initiative, in an endeavor to worship the G-d of the Torah.

  34. “Joseph Kaplan on November 14, 2010 at 8:28 pm
    “Rabbi Willig I can’t judge for sure but he was probably still in HS during the assassination.”

    You’re right; not only was he in he in HS (a senior), but he was in RJJ so he wasn’t even around YU at that time”

    Thus, the only one who could have heard such a statement from the Rav at the time was RHS. What the otherrs add to the stement is beyond me-unless the Rav wrote such an opinion in writing. I am not aware of that being the case-but I could be wrong. Simply it all revolves around one credible source for the Rav in 1963- RHS.

  35. “The State of Israel is forced to be a constitutional liberal democracy (like the U.S. and its other major supporters and defenders at the United Nations)”

    One could make a case – and I believe Hakham Jose Faur citing Rabbi Dr. J. H. Hertz does in fact make this case – that Biblical Israel WAS a constitutional democracy. What is the Torah if not our constitution? The whole concept of the king being under the law was derived from the Torah’s discussion of kingship.

  36. Lawrence Kaplan

    Mycroft: your query is right on the mark. Was the Rav speaking halakhah le-maaseh? was it ahakirhah? was it an off-the-cuff comment which, perhaps, the Rav might have reconsidered if asked later? That is why one cannot base too much on one-time conversations, even with such an outstandng talmid as RHS. Only if many students relate that the Rav consistently held a certain position, e.g his position re women’s prayer groups as reconstructed by the Brothers Frimmer, or positon set forth in public addresses and writngs can with safety be attributed to the Rav.

  37. “Allah == God. Arabic-speaking Christians also worship “Allah”.”

    Come on, Charlie. You know it’s not that simple. Hindus at least theoretically worship a sort-of single god sometimes called “Ohm.” Zoroastrians sort of worship one god as well (even though they believe in two). That doesn’t make those gods the same as ours.

  38. “Allah == God. Arabic-speaking Christians also worship “Allah”.”

    Nachum: agreed!

    Charlie – The linguistic indicator of “god” does not really imply anything at all, by itself, about how the speaker perceives god. Christians in different places and at different times can refer to Theos, Shangdi, Marya, Allah, etc. What gives these words meaning and substance is the Christian context. The same is true with Islam and Judaism.

    Besides, if you really want to talk linguistics, the word “Allah,” and its parallels don’t really mean “God.” They might also mean “a god.” Examples of this abound in Semitic languages (think the different dialects of Aramaic). True, they eventually came to mean one “God” in Islam…but once you make that argument, you have to admit that context determines meaning; therefore, Islamic “Allah,” would truly be different from “Allah” in a Christian context.

  39. The Spanish rishonim felt sufficiently comfortable with Arab-Islamic religious terminology to use them as – apparently – near or exact equivalents in their own writing. Thus, Allah is God, Fatwa is teshuva, Sharia is halacha, etc.

  40. R’ S.,
    Your point is well taken. In the same way, a talmid chakham nowadays will deliver a Torah lecture in English, using the language of non-Jews.[Although see Rashi to Avodah Zarah 10a, in the uncensored version, where Rashi indicates that Chazal actually created the Latin language (of which English is the most evolved derivative). R. Shnayer Leiman has a “Ninth of Teves” lecture on this at YUTORAH.ORG] Likewise, many synagogue melodies come from non-Jewish composers. [R. Ovadiah Yosef has a responsum on this (sorry I don’t have the reference now).] Likewise, using the Gregorian calendar is widely accepted among Gedolei Yisra’el. Indeed, it would be almost impossible to function in today’s society without ever using the Gregorian calendar. See Yabi’a Omer III, no. 9. But in none of this (using the language, melodies or calendar of non-Jews) is there (chas vichalilah) an endorsement of foreign religions. The language, melodies and calendar are adapted for purely Jewish purposes. The message to Jews is: stick to the Orthodox Jewish faith and avoid foreign religions under any and all circumstances, and – at the same time – if you see the nations of the world develop a clever idea that has a secular utilitarian value (a language, a melody, a calendar), have the intelligence to adapt it for mitzvah purposes.

  41. Fred, is the fact that we used the word “God” to refer to Hashem a sign that we are “comfortable with English-Christian religious terminology”? Remember that they spoke Arabic, and those are Arabic words.

    Shalom Spira: Rashi doesn’t say that, and it’s clear from the lecture that R’ Leiman doesn’t believe it. I do wonder, though, for the record: Do you actually believe that?

    English, by the way, is a Germanic language, not an Italic one, even though there’s plenty of Latin influence.

  42. R’ Nachum,
    Thank you for the insightful response (which also gives me the chance to correct the incomplete reference I previously offered in Yabi’a Omer regarding the calendar – it’s Vol. 3, Yoreh De’ah no. 9). I admit I am not a linguist and I don’t know much on the subject of the origins of Latin or English. But I listened to both of R. Leiman’s lectures on the “Ninth of Tevet and Toldot Oto Ha’ish” that are available on http://www.yutorah.org . R. Leiman reads Rashi in AZ 10a as saying that Chazal designed the Latin language. He also cited a comment from R. Yehudah of Barcelona in the latter’s 12 century commentary to the Sefer Yetzirah that the reason Chazal ordained the middle letters of the Latin alphabet at “L M N” is because this means (in Hebrew) “G-d does not have a mother”. I.e. Chazal wanted to encode within the Latin language a message affirming the theology of Judaism (to the exclusion of all other religions).

  43. “He also cited a comment from R. Yehudah of Barcelona in the latter’s 12 century commentary to the Sefer Yetzirah that the reason Chazal ordained the middle letters of the Latin alphabet at “L M N” is because this means (in Hebrew) “G-d does not have a mother”.”
    A commentary on a book of tanaitic period which was later than Latin’s beginning-decades ago I was studying for a Latin test-my mtoer asks me to translate I came I saw I conquered-I translated it as veni, vidi, superavi-which of course is different than Julius Caesar of veni, vidi, vici-at least once in my life I gave my parents something to smile about. The obvious point that Latin way preceded Otto Haish.

    “I.e. Chazal wanted to encode within the Latin language a message affirming the theology of Judaism (to the exclusion of all other religions”
    Obviously ridiculous.

  44. I see where this discussion is headed, and – in the interests of bud-nipping – I’d just like to reiterate my stated position (for the benefit of those still on this comment thread):

    If an individual on this thread (or, as is the case, on many threads) is constantly responsible for propagating obviously nonsensical views, it may be to the benefit of all other readers to simply ignore that person. Engaging nonsense only encourages it…and there is nothing to be gained either spiritually or intellectually from engaging nonsense.

  45. “English, by the way, is a Germanic language, not an Italic one, even though there’s plenty of Latin influence.”

    Both influences are orten found on legal documents where apparently redundant words -are usually one from the latin root and one from the Anglo Saxon root.

  46. Jerry, good point.

    Mycroft, in English, the “fancier” word is often of a Latin root. Meat vs. beef, roof vs. ceiling, sky vs. heavens, teacher vs. professor, etc.

    LMN, of course, is the same in Hebrew.

  47. R’ Jerry is a tzaddik gammur, and I agree with his insight. At the same time, I now see that R. Leiman’s treatment of the Rashi in Avodah Zarah 10a is available in written form at http://www.leimanlibrary.com/texts_of_publications/36.%20The%20Scroll%20of%20Fasts%20The%20Ninth%20of%20Tebeth.pdf
    For further discussion, see
    http://text.rcarabbis.org/what-is-the-halakhic-status-of-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity/#comments

  48. “Mycroft, in English, the “fancier” word is often of a Latin root. Meat vs. beef, roof vs. ceiling, sky vs. heavens, teacher vs. professor, etc”
    agreed as in “last will and testament”

  49. English is heavily influenced by Latin through the Norman conquest. However, it remains a Germanic language, and in no way a “development” of Latin.

  50. “MDJ on November 17, 2010 at 9:38 pm
    English is heavily influenced by Latin through the Norman conquest. However, it remains a Germanic language, and in no way a “development” of Latin”

    Agreed-it is not a Romance Language-English was more directly influenced by the French -which of course is a Romance Language.

  51. >Fred, is the fact that we used the word “God” to refer to Hashem a sign that we are “comfortable with English-Christian religious terminology”? Remember that they spoke Arabic, and those are Arabic words.

    Probably not. We don’t tend to call halacha “law” without the qualifier “Jewish.” But in Spain? Islam, certainly in form, is a lot closer to Judaism – especially medieval Sephardic Judaism – than modern American Orthodox Judaism is to Christianity.

  52. “R. Kasher is essentially saying that when Mashiach comes we will fully implement this prohibition.”

    Why would it be necessary to??

  53. Rabbotai,
    Thank you all for the insights on the origins of Latin and English. Very interesting…

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