Torat HaMelech, a book published last year by two rabbis in Israel, has been lambasted by Israeli media and government as racist and an incitement to violence. Confident that most if not all commentators on the book failed to understand, and probably even to read, the book, I set out to discover for myself the truth about its contents. While the media got a lot wrong about the book and failed entirely to explain its creative thesis, they were right about the book being racist. But before we get to that, I’d like to discuss the book’s goals and methods.

Torah and Military Inethics

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I. Military Ethics

Torat HaMelech, a book published last year by two rabbis in Israel, has been lambasted by Israeli media and government as racist and an incitement to violence. Confident that most if not all commentators on the book failed to understand, and probably even to read, the book, I set out to discover for myself the truth about its contents. While the media got a lot wrong about the book and failed entirely to explain its creative thesis, they were right about the book being racist. But before we get to that, I’d like to discuss the book’s goals and methods.

Contrary to media reports, Torat HaMelech is not about when or how Jews may kill gentiles. The book is about military ethics — when and how a soldier may kill. The underlying question of military ethics has long attracted the attention of thinkers because of its perplexing nature: What could possibly justify the killing of another person? If war is ever ethically allowed — admittedly a big “if” but one that the majority of humanity has historically accepted — there must be some coherent distinction between the circumstances in which killing is and is not allowed.

Jewish thinkers have struggled to build military ethics based on Jewish sources. Some, such as R. Shaul Yisraeli (Amud Ha-Yemini, no. 16, ch. 5), contend that international convention — not what largely ignored laws say but what standing armies do — obtains halakhic sanction. Others, such as R. Menachem Shach (cited by R. Broyde, below n. 1), attempt to construct an ethic based on Torah laws. (R. Michael Broyde’s wonderfully concise survey of Jewish military ethics can be found here: link, p. 19 in the PDF.) Torat HaMelech follows R. Shach’s path of considering war to be a generalized scenario of the Talmudic scenario of an encounter with a dangerous foe but with a twist, one that will be a lasting contribution to the literature if the book can survive its other significant flaws.

II. Universal Military Ethics

In their search for a Jewish military ethic, the authors of Torat HaMelech first set out to build a universal military ethic based on the seven Noahide commandments. Analyzing at length the Noahide prohibition of murder, the authors unveil a comprehensive delineation of when a gentile may kill in a time of war and other duress. They write dispassionately, which can be understood as callousness but could equally be interpreted as a thoughtful commitment to textual argumentation rather than emotion. I would have compromised somewhat and allowed my emotions to poke through on occasion. I cannot, however, fault the authors for deciding differently.

After building a universal ethic, the authors argue that when Jews battle gentiles, Jews are subject to the Noahide, rather than the later Torah, prohibition of murder. This bold move, based on a debatable but defensible Talmudic interpretation, allows them to level the playing field so that the Torah permits Jews and gentiles to fight on equal terms. This is all clever and worthy of discussion. However, the universal military ethic the authors construct is horrifically liberal when it comes to killing civilians — both Jews and gentiles.

III. Targeting Civilians

A Jews is obligated to sanctify God’s name and suffer martyrdom rather than violate certain prohibitions including murder. This obligation does not apply to gentiles but, despite that, authorities debate whether a gentile may kill an innocent bystander in order to save his own life. The authors discuss this debate but conclude that all agree that if the bystander is not entirely innocent, if he even offers some kind of moral support to the enemy, then all authorities allow a gentile to kill such a person in order to save his own life. Translating this into the terms of modern warfare, the authors allow soldiers or anyone in danger to kill any enemy civilian who supports the enemy war effort. This is not an issue of Jew or gentile but a universal military ethic that permits killing civilians. The authors offer a list of target priorities (p. 216), with enemy soldiers at the top, but they justify targeting innocent civilians if it will tangibly help the war effort. This is not just a matter of collateral damage, a topic of much debate in contemporary military ethics, but specifically targeting civilians.

I saw one defender of the book state that it is a compilation of different views. This is only partially correct. The authors suggest multiple paths to reach their destination allowing the targeting of enemy civilians. In addition to the above approach, they “kitchen sink” the issue. They do not, however, quote mainstream views that are more restrictive regarding civilians. While they quote R. Shaul Yisraeli’s essay on this subject multiple times, they only utilize him regarding specific points and not his advocacy of international military conventions. This is quite suprising because, as R. Michael Broyde states, “I can find no other serious halakhic authority who assumes that the halakhot of war are identical to the rules of personal self-defense.”

The authors’ “kitchen sink” views range from the extremely permissive to the horrifically bloodthirsty. I found only one parenthetical mention (p. 182) in the entire book of the concept that you may only kill a rodef, a pursuer, if you cannot stop him with lesser means. Surely that concept is relevant in discussing civilian supporters of a war. Aside from non-military means of stopping the efforts, what about capture?

One of the most bizarre “kitchen sink” arguments goes as follows (p. 115): A government — Jewish or gentile — can kill its citizens because otherwise how can it force them to serve as soldiers. Therefore, an army can kill enemy civilians because if those civilians support the enemy, they are dangerous. And if they support us, then they count as our civilians whom we are allowed to kill. Understandably, the authors bring no Torah source for such a disturbing argument.

Another difficult argument is based on the idea that anyone may serve as witness, judge and executioner to a gentile who violates severe prohibitions. This flies in the face of Tosafos (Avodah Zarah 26b), according to whom the Chazon Ish (Bava Kamma 10:15) rules, that a gentile must be judged in court. If a soldier witnesses a gentile committing a religious crime, the authors argue, he may shoot to kill regardless of the circumstances. The practical implications of such a liberal policy are troublingly broad.

IV. Evaluation

The book is an uneven mix of textual and logical argumentation. In some sections, the authors quote a plethora of post-Talmudic commentaries and codes who continue the Talmudic discussion. However, in many other sections — perhaps the majority of the book — the authors quote few if any authorities and rely entirely on Talmudic sources when available and otherwise logical arguments. I noticed that they do this even when post-Talmudic sources on the subject abound. And sometimes the authors fail to cite crucial authorities who disagree with their basic point.

The authors’ primary military ethic is interesting and deserving of consideration. However, not only is their adoption of a minority view while omitting mention of more mainstream views clumsy, their extreme application and additional arguments are simply shocking.

V. Racism

The media and courts have accused the authors of writing a racist book. As I began to read the book, I was hoping to find that they are wrong. However, despite my attempt at a generous reading, I am forced to conclude that they are correct, even if some of their examples miss the mark. It is important to note that the authors emphasize and reiterate that a Jew is absolutely forbidden to kill a gentile. The first chapter is devoted to explaining why, but is preceded with a chapter summary (as are all chapters) unequivocally stating that a Jew may not kill a gentile. In general, it need not even be said but the authors’ construction of a universal military ethic requires them to first place Jews and gentiles within the same Noahide prohibition.

As an addendum to this chapter, the authors offer a kabbalistic interpretation of the Talmudic concept that anything prohibited to a gentile must also be prohibited to a Jew. While the authors use kabbalistic distinctions between Jewish and gentile souls, they do much to bridge that gap in a spirit that is surprisingly lacking in racism (e.g. pp. 42-44).

However, chapter four provides incontrovertible evidence of racism. In this chapter, the authors argue that Jewish lives are more important than gentile. Not more important to us because we take care of our own before we take care of others, but simply objectively more important. They prove this in section three by ignoring the Ramban’s view that we violate Shabbos to save the life of a resident gentile (ger toshav — see his commentary to Lev. 25:45 and the back of Sefer Ha-Mitzvos, omitted aseih 16), according to whom R. Nachum Rabinowitz holds is the halakhah (Melumedei Milchamah no. 43). Omitting this important datum, they reason that since a Jew’s life overrides Shabbos and a gentile’s does not, therefore a Jew’s life is always more important than a gentile’s. Aside from the fact that not all Jewish lives override Shabbos and some gentile lives do, the rationale underlying all of this has nothing to do with the importance of lives (see here: link). This is simply poor logic based on partial information.

Some have interpreted this chapter to mean that the authors advocate killing gentiles in order to harvest their organs to save Jewish lives. This is an understandable misreading but incorrect; the last footnote in the chapter (p. 169 n. 16) makes it clear that they do not advocate such an approach (see also p. 199 n. 31). Nevertheless, they use this disturbing principle to justify killing gentile civilians during war, even targeting innocent children to affect their parents, in order to save the lives of Jewish soldiers or civilians.

Torah HaMelech proposes an indecent military ethic that permits the strategic killing of anyone in an enemy nation. No measure of compassion exists, not for infants or even sympathetic civilians, in pursuing military victory. The racist undertones within the book compound its unworthiness, making it a painful and unrewarding read. While the authors offer some worthwhile halakhic interpretations, I question whether any but the boldest scholars will quote the book due to its many flaws.

[Note: I am using the transliteration of the book’s Hebrew title that the media has adopted. I would normally write the title as Toras Ha-Melekh.]

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 of New Jersey, 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 recently served on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and 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.

152 comments

  1. Is there even a hint that the authors know anything about actual war? Whether academically or actually?

  2. It never ceases to amaze me how something — targeting innocent civilians — which was considered obviously moral by most people during World War II (think Dresden and Hiroshima) is now considered self-evidently immoral.

    (Regarding the racism charge: Gil, the authors of Torat Hamelech are hardly alone in their apporach. You must surely know that, and yet you make it sound like there is some new disturbing innovation here.)

  3. Thoughful and interesting. Thank you, Gil.

  4. “Regarding the racism charge: Gil, the authors of Torat Hamelech are hardly alone in their apporach. You must surely know that, and yet you make it sound like there is some new disturbing innovation here.”

    You mean old racism is not disturbing?

    Gil: very thoughtful and intellectually honest.

  5. R Gil-WADR, your well written essay raises the following query-such a POV would essentially not permit the waging of either the Civil War or WW2 to their successful conclusions because of collateral civilian casulaties.

    Such purportedly ethically challenged actions would IMO inlcude the strategic bombing campaigns against the cities and insdustrial centers of Nazi Germany , the firebombing as well as the dropping of the atomic bombs, and unrestricted submarine warfare in the Pacific campaign. The Northern blockade of the South as well as Sherman’s march througth Georgia and South Carolina and the destruction of the Shenandoah Valley all were aimed at destroying the industrial, philosophical and agriculatural centers of the South, and were involved destroying the civilan population’s willingness to fight.

  6. FWIW, I have not read the book, so I will be relying on R Gil’s analysis of the same. That being the same, I do think that all would be critics and defenders should be cognizant of the fact, as especially depicted in one scene of “The Bridge On the River Kwai” that wars have rarely been fought in consonance with the doctrines of international law, and that we should all remember General Sherman’s observation that “war is hell.”

  7. R’ Steve: To my knowledge the Civil War did not involve targeting children. The authors of this book go well beyond permitting collateral damage. They allow the targeting of civilians including specifically children. I don’t think Civil War snipers were shooting babies in their mother’s arms.

  8. “incontrovertible evidence of racism”

    Wrong. Maybe religious chauvinism, but hardly racism by any accepted definition. Some might say that this is more similar to Muslim fundamentalism than to KKK.

  9. Steve,
    Be careful, defending Torat Hamelekh goes way beyond your reflexive impulse to defend anything you perceive as “right wing”, politically religiously or otherwise. This is a book that has been condemned as beyond the pale by individuals whose right wing credentials are beyond question, such as R. Yaakov Medan. Dont be so foolish as to place yourself in the position of defending this book, even if you disagree with some of Gils points.

  10. “While the authors use kabbalistic distinctions between Jewish and gentile souls…”

    Would you suggest that the Tanya is also a work of racism?

  11. You’re on a roll with these posts lately. This is probably the best post I’ve read on this blog.

  12. Great post.
    I wonder how much Gil’s criticism overlaps with that in http://yhn.co.il/home/kingsway.pdf?attredirects=0 ?

  13. Anonymous on July 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Is there even a hint that the authors know anything about actual war? Whether academically or actually?
    —-

    They live in a freaking war zone. They’ve buried neighbors murdered with their families.

    What do YOU know about actual war, ‘anonymous’?

  14. Raphael Kaufman

    As has been pointed out by previous posters, Since Italo Balbo first developed the the concept of strategic bombing (and tried it out in Ethiopia) the civilian population of an enemy country has been considered to be a legitimate target in war. The abhorance of targeting civians is a reletivley new cooncept. In recent times, with the advent of modern ethical considerations and the availability of very accurate weapons, the current philosophy of war is that mass killing of enemy civilians is unneccessary and even so called collateral damage must be avoided. All the above is nice in theory, however, as a combat veteran, the words that Tom Clancy puts in the mouth his character, Mr. Clark, is right on the money. He says, “… you try to obey the law and protect civilias and all, but the truth is that in combat there are only two kinds of people, your guys, and everybody else.”

  15. Raphael: the theory is kind of important regardless, no? Isn’t it important to delineate what standards a soldier SHOULD try to live up to, even if doing so will be very very hard and he will succeed minimally? Wouldn’t it be better if our soldiers who have the self-control necessary to be shomrei negi’a and learn for many hours over the course of many days and keep the rest of Halakha that requires no small degree of self-discipline, to also believe that it’s important to avoid civilian casualties if possible? Seems to me that this book undermines that possibility; there is no question to me that, if it were understood as a Halakhic obligation, there are soldiers who would fight with all they had to avoid such casualties, who are on the extreme right of the religio-political spectrum in Israel. Instead, now they will gleefully cut down civilians.

    We can agree that war is quite messed up when we’re defending our actions to outside interlocutors. But when we’re setting internal standards, I don’t see how throwing Torat HaMelekh out of the beit midrash is not the only respectable course of action.

  16. “adoption of a minority view while omitting mention of more mainstream”

    Neither the first, nor the last, time that this has happened in a halachah sefer :(.

    “considered obviously moral by most people during World War II (think Dresden and Hiroshima)”

    You bring down Dresden and Hiroshima and not Nanjing or Auschwitz????

    “To my knowledge the Civil War did not involve targeting children. ”

    Nor to my knowledge. One child who was an eyewitness to Sherman’s March to the Sea and survived was Woodrow Wilson.

    ” more similar to Muslim fundamentalism than to KKK”

    I have made this point. Hamas targets children. Jews don’t.

    “here are only two kinds of people, your guys, and everybody else”

    Precisely Hamas’s justification for firing rockets at schools. If we support the conclusions of Torat Hamelech, we can’t complain about Hamas. They are just doing what is done in a war.

  17. R’Gil-I am surprised and disappointed that you fall into the trap of using the term “racism”. We are not a race.The concept of giyyur ensures that since the time of Yitro and the Eirev Rav, the Jews are not the descendants of Ya’akov. To say that you and I are the same “race” as Ethiopian Jews is ludicrous.Using this term allows for vile and spurious comparisons with Nazism. We see this all the time in the rhetoric of Left.
    The Torah discriminates between Goyim and Jews on the matter of pikuach nefesh if we set aside the concern of “mipnei darkei shalom” even in a non- military context. Let us not forget that we are talking about milchemet mitzvah against “hatzar hatzorrer etchem and for the conquest of Eretz Yisrael. The basic Torah view remains that if the enemy is unwilling to make peace the lives of their entire population is forfeit.
    IMO “Torat Hamelech” was not meant to be a practical handbook for the IDF but rather Iyyun Halacha which raises many interesting questions for discussion. That is the context of the haskamot of R’Dov Lior and R’Ya’akov Yosef both SHLITA

  18. Charlie Hall on July 15, 2011 at 3:44 am
    “Precisely Hamas’s justification for firing rockets at schools. If we support the conclusions of Torat Hamelech, we can’t complain about Hamas. They are just doing what is done in a war.”

    Indeed, what we should be complaining about isn’t that Hamas is firing rockets at Sderot, but that the Israeli government isn’t giving Gaza the Dresden treatment.

  19. “Frummie on July 15, 2011 at 1:52 am
    “While the authors use kabbalistic distinctions between Jewish and gentile souls…”

    Would you suggest that the Tanya is also a work of racism?”

    Yes

  20. Yissachar on July 15, 2011 at 4:49 am
    Charlie Hall on July 15, 2011 at 3:44 am
    “Precisely Hamas’s justification for firing rockets at schools. If “we support the conclusions of Torat Hamelech, we can’t complain about Hamas. They are just doing what is done in a war.”

    Indeed, what we should be complaining about isn’t that Hamas is firing rockets at Sderot, but that the Israeli government isn’t giving Gaza the Dresden treatment”

    Probably because of pragmatic reasons-there is no doubt that during Cast Lead Israel fought essentially the way all powers would and was not crucified the way they would have been if there were still mitnachlim there.
    since Israel has no claims on Gaza it was considered by the world like other wars of self defense-challenged in application but thats about it-I am aware of Goldstone report but that is a dust gatherer-if Israel wanted the territory for civilian settlements it would have been a different story.

  21. “IMO “Torat Hamelech” was not meant to be a practical handbook for the IDF but rather Iyyun Halacha which raises many interesting questions for discussion. That is the context of the haskamot of R’Dov Lior and R’Ya’akov Yosef both SHLITA”

    but not every topic should be written about-and we know the context of the haskamot and mitnachlim and IDF and hesder etc.

  22. As a former soldier in the IDF I was in combat in civilian areas of Lebanon and Gaza. There was never a question of targeting civilians. The moral questions were about how to deal with the enemy’s cowardly practice of using civilians,often children as human shields. While we tried, even in this case to limit civilian casualties,limiting action against the enemy in this situation is in itself IMHO morally wrong and against hashkafat haTora.

  23. Race is classification of humans into large and distinct populations or groups by factors such as heritable phenotypic characteristics or geographic ancestry, but also often influenced by and correlated with traits such as appearance, culture, ethnicity, and socio-economic status
    Racism is the belief that there are inherent differences in people’s traits and capacities that are entirely due to their race, however defined, and that, as a consequence, justify the different treatment of those people, both socially and legally.
    ————————————————
    what race are we discussing?(are you a race if anyone can join you?) If we are a race, does the 2nd definition apply?(you make the call)
    KT

  24. Charlie, Meir Kahane once wrote a very nice essay (actually a chapter in one of his books) bemoaning people with precisely your attitude. He pointed out the Rabbinic dictum that havdalah is contained in the bracha of da’at- because it takes da’at to be able to make a hevdel. Too many people lack the da’at to make havdalot. His precise example was that, no, Hiroshima and Dresden were *not* Nanking and London. As thinking human beings, we are able to see beyond cliches and generalities and realize that, yes, while they may be exactly the same in practice, there is a world of difference between the Luftwaffe bombing London and the RAF bombing Dresden- partly, at least, because there is a world of difference between Hitler and Churchill. And yes, there is a world of difference between a rav in the Shomoron sitting among his sefarim trying to find proper halachic behavior when dealing with civilians in Cast Lead and the barbarians in Gaza shooting rockets at us. (Oh, and part of that is because, shocker, as religious Jews we believe in certain absolute truths and historical realities.)

    I’m not a big enough talmid chacham to know whether or not this sefer is correct. I like what Gil’s done here- a nice, sober reflection. Maybe they’re wrong. But let’s not start throwing around the Nazi thing. And let’s not be confused that just because the IDF kills people and Hamas does that there’s any similarity or similar justifications for the two.

    “Nor to my knowledge. One child who was an eyewitness to Sherman’s March to the Sea and survived was Woodrow Wilson.”

    Huh? The March was in Georgia. Wilson lived in Virginia. Still, perhaps that explains why Wilson- the first fascist (predating the term) to hold power and, of course, an idol to the Left to this day- was such a horrible racist.

  25. R’Joel- There is a concept that I learned from R’Yitzchak (Akaleh) Ganiram,a disciple of Rav Tzvi Yehudah,called Gizanut Ruchanit. This is an extrapolation of “Segulat Yisrael”. In effect this translates the concept of “racism” to the spiritual sphere. We are the chosen and Hashem relates to us differently than He does to UHO for better
    nd for worse. This of course is not a chiddush of R’Tzvi Yehudah.It is basic hashkafah and especially central to Torat hanistar and Chassidut. Take the Tanya which posits “Klippat haNogah”, a special part of the nefesh habeheimi that exists only in the soul of bnai brit. Racism? perhaps according the definition that you gave. But it is light years away from racist philosophies such as Nietsche and Heidigger.

  26. There is a very disturbing claim here being made by certain commenters, which is nicely countered by the sefer, ‘Derekh Hamlech’. These commenters seem to think that the true Jewish morality is one that is unafraid to announce innate superiority, and regards being overly concerned with gentile civilian life as an example of being ‘infected’ with Western ideas. However, in truth this pseudo-morality is the exact opposite of the Jewish idea – the idea that ‘might makes right’ is the morality of the strong, and not the champion of the weak, the orphan and the stranger that the Torah commands us to be. This book is not merely a halachic mess or a hashkafic muddle, but a ‘siman’ that an entire section of the religious public has the ‘wrong end of the stick’ as to what Judaism is about.

  27. “R’Joel- There is a concept that I learned from R’Yitzchak (Akaleh) Ganiram,a disciple of Rav Tzvi Yehudah,called Gizanut Ruchanit. This is an extrapolation of “Segulat Yisrael”. In effect this translates the concept of “racism” to the spiritual sphere. We are the chosen and Hashem relates to us differently than He does to UHO for better
    nd for worse. This of course is not a chiddush of R’Tzvi Yehudah.It is basic hashkafah and especially central to Torat hanistar and Chassidut. Take the Tanya which posits “Klippat haNogah”, a special part of the nefesh habeheimi that exists only in the soul of bnai brit. Racism? perhaps according the definition that you gave. But it is light years away from racist philosophies such as Nietsche and Heidigger.”

    This is the best you can do? That Chassidut – which came to fruition in a wildly racist time and place – and Torat HaNistar – which may or may not be referring to anything real in the first place – take this concept seriously? And that it’s better than Heidegger (let’s exclude Nietzsche until you read him)? It definitely isn’t basic hashkafa, because as usual, I get to bring up the Rambam, who didn’t think that hashgacha operated differently for Jews than non-Jews. I can’t remember the name, but there’s also a Chassidic Rebbe that saw no difference at all between Jews and non-Jews. I’ll come back with a reference later. Bottom line is, I am fully capable of ignoring or condemning portions of Jewish thought that are patently absurd and/or racist, and so should you be.

  28. Jon Brooklyn- Ihave no idea what your background is but if you have learned basic Rav Kook (Orot, Orot Yisrael,)andlenetivot Yisrael by R
    ‘ Tzvi Yehudah and Emunat iteinu by R’Tau, you would understand where I am coming from.
    BTW,it was many years ago,but I did read Nietsche in the original German.

  29. Bottom line is, I am fully capable of ignoring or condemning portions of Jewish thought that are patently absurd and/or racist, and so should you be.

    It is accepted halakha that a ger, though he is a Jew for most purposes, still may marry a mamzer, and may not be appointed to a position of serarah. (The first is an explicit gemara, the second is a Rambam based on a Sifrei.)

    Are those dinim something you intend to ignore or condemn? Just wondering.

  30. R’Jon,
    Then how would you explain basic halachot that treat nonbnai brit differently than bnai brit? Also note what R’DT said about for better or for worse (related to my classic question-does hkb”h want non bnai brit to convert or keep 7 mitzvot?)
    KT

  31. These commenters seem to think that the true Jewish morality is one that is unafraid to announce innate superiority, and regards being overly concerned with gentile civilian life as an example of being ‘infected’ with Western ideas. However, in truth this pseudo-morality is the exact opposite of the Jewish idea – the idea that ‘might makes right’ is the morality of the strong, and not the champion of the weak, the orphan and the stranger that the Torah commands us to be.

    That’s a great point.

    On a similar note: When Sefer Devarim goes on about how weak, insignificant, and stiff-necked we are, how everything we get comes from God’s kindness rather than our own qualities, I think it is teaching us not just national bitachon but national anavah. Just as you must have a personal sense of duty rather than entitlement, you must have a national sense as well.

  32. Tal: Don’t forget that a geyoret can’t marry a Kohen.

    J., you’re spouting cliches. (And don’t seem to use “countered” correctly.) What the Torah has to say about the poor and orphans has nothing to do with warfare. The Torah is pretty clear that whoever is the winner in war is, well, the winner. Check out next week’s parsha.

    David, I know Naor makes a whole argument that R’ Kook was a Nietzchean. 🙂 In a good way, that is.

  33. Or let’s go back to Tanach.
    הלוא כבני כושיים אתם לי בני ישראל, נאם השם
    Tanach compares us to Ethiopians, not to Aryans.

  34. We can find sources in both directions within our tradition; but, our 21st century view of morality, and our collective history of being oppressed by those who hold the power, modulates our compass.

  35. IH:

    Does your “21st century view of morality include sexual licentiousness and homosexuality”? No, thank you.

    As to our experiences, they teach us one basic one: If they’re trying to kill, you, kill them first. Everything else is pablum.

  36. Nachum — I am no shrinking violet and actively supported both the 2006 and 2009 offensives. That is not the issue here.

    The issue is that religious extremism is dangerous precisely because “God’s word” can be used to defend it. This has historically been true of Christians (e.g. Inquistition), Islam (e.g. Wahabism) as well as Judaism. That is the core public policy issue with Torat HaMelech.

  37. An example of the modulated compass is Moshe Halbertal’s:
    http://www.tnr.com/article/world/the-goldstone-illusion

    which begins: “In 2000, I was asked by the Israel Defense Forces to join a group of philosophers, lawyers, and generals for the purpose of drafting the army’s ethics code. Since then, I have been deeply involved in the analysis of the moral issues that Israel faces in its war on terrorism.”

  38. >They live in a freaking war zone. They’ve buried neighbors murdered with their families.

    Gee, then they must be real experts.

    >What do YOU know about actual war, ‘anonymous’?

    Aside from the fact that you have no idea where I live (I live in Basra, in case you were wondering), I haven’t written a book on ethics in war, Yissachar.

  39. R. Gil,

    Yashar Koach on a restrained, thoughtful and properly expressed review. In my opinion, this is more effective than all vocal condemnations in expressing the problematic nature of the book.

    “I live in Basra, in case you were wondering”

    Then how on earth did you end up here? Just curious, since we don’t often get visitors from Iraq :).

    Books like Torah Hamelech need to be read alongside material like R. Neryah Gutel’s article in Techumin, which makes full use of sources and reaches different conclusions (which are far more logical):

    http://www.zomet.org.il/?CategoryID=266&ArticleID=265

  40. Do you believe the following mitzvas are moral or immoral?

    Destroy the seven Canaanite nations (Deut. 20:17)
    Not to let any of them remain alive (Deut. 20:16)
    Wipe out the descendants of Amalek (Deut. 25:19)

  41. Canuck,

    ever heard of a little something called the Torah Shebe’al Peh (not just the Talmud, but also later authorities)? You might want to check it out.

  42. I think that correct Jewish values recognize that while all life (except wicked forms)is precious, Jewish life does take precedence generally speaking and is indeed objectively even more precious as a general rule.

  43. I would remind readers that Rav Dov Lior and Rav Yaaqov Yosef, who gave approbations to the book are big, serious talmidei hachamim. They would not have given their approbations were the book to deviate from authentic Jewish values.

  44. Baruch – what on earth does that mean? Dov Lior praised Baruch Goldstein. Presumably you believe that mass murder is in accordance with ‘authentic Jewish values’.

  45. Are people actually making the stupid argument that “Jews can’t be racists because Judaism isn’t a race”?

    That makes about as much sense as “Arabs can’t be anti-Semites because they are Semites.”

    Both are just playing with words.

  46. I think that correct Jewish values recognize that while all life (except wicked forms)is precious, Jewish life does take precedence generally speaking and is indeed objectively even more precious as a general rule.

    This is why I have a less then stellar opinion of the deep kabbalistic inroads into Orthodox Judaism today. I can as easily explain halachic precedence of Jews due to being part of a common fellowhship or community. That we share a common duty. I can then appreciate that others are my equal but that the bonds that tie me to some are stronger then those that tie me to others and that responsibilities to some may therefore be greater then the responsibilities to others. But instead we now so often hear (yes I am thinking of you Chabad but not you alone) that Jews are spiritually better then other human beings. That it is innate. Now I grant that you used the wiggle words “I think that”, “generally speaking” and “as a general rule,” but thats what you meant.

  47. R’Scott,
    Consider R’ Gump -Momma says stupid is as stupid does.
    KT

  48. R’HAGTBG,
    To an outsider is your chiluk a distinction without a difference?
    KT

  49. To an outsider is your chiluk a distinction without a difference?

    When excluded based on that I suppose yes. But I think the distinction impacts when that “preference” is extended, whether one should go out seeking to mark the distinction as well as ones overall viewpoint on non-Jews.

  50. R’HABTBG,
    I was raised on the approach you describe (more of a noblesse oblige) and agree with the worldview.
    KT

  51. David Tzohar: there is a typo in the links to your web site.

  52. “As to our experiences, they teach us one basic one: If they’re trying to kill, you, kill them first. ”

    True, but such a blanket statement is, to use your word, “pablum” without tackling the difficult issue: who is “they”?

  53. “Do you believe the following mitzvas are moral or immoral?

    Destroy the seven Canaanite nations (Deut. 20:17)
    Not to let any of them remain alive (Deut. 20:16)
    Wipe out the descendants of Amalek (Deut. 25:19)”

    That’s a tough question. But I would note that these halachot have not been applicable since the time Nebuchadnetzer, according to Chazal, mixed up the nations so we do not know who is a Canaanite or an Amaleki. And I would argue that perhaps one of the reasons Chazal came up with the “mixed up the nations” principle was so that your question became a theoretical one only.

  54. R Gil wrote:

    “To my knowledge the Civil War did not involve targeting children. The authors of this book go well beyond permitting collateral damage. They allow the targeting of civilians including specifically children. I don’t think Civil War snipers were shooting babies in their mother’s arms”

    That is true-yet the means of warfare in WW2 definitely impacted or were designed to have the same on the civilian populations.

  55. Whenever we talk about killing innocents, American history is full of examples where we as a country did attack entire civilian population centers in a time of war, Hirsohima and Nagasaki,Dresden and Afghanistan (according to the Wikileaks).

    I would parse the question differently: If Hamas uses human shields while shooting their 10,000 missiles at Israeli cities, how could Israel not strike at the population centers? Actually, it’s the kind of question the Israeli government ought to be asking. Basically, if Israel is not willing to strike at the heart of the military targets in the Gaza cities, then we are in fact saying that Palestinian lives are more important than Israeli. This, I believe, is a legitimate way of posing the Halachic problem.

  56. Moshe Shoshan-I am by no means defending the book, byut rather questionning of some of R Gil’s arguments.

    Jon wrote:

    “This of course is not a chiddush of R’Tzvi Yehudah.It is basic hashkafah and especially central to Torat hanistar and Chassidut. Take the Tanya which posits “Klippat haNogah”, a special part of the nefesh habeheimi that exists only in the soul of bnai brit. Racism? perhaps according the definition that you gave. But it is light years away from racist philosophies such as Nietsche and Heidigger.”

    This is the best you can do? That Chassidut – which came to fruition in a wildly racist time and place – and Torat HaNistar – which may or may not be referring to anything real in the first place – take this concept seriously? And that it’s better than Heidegger (let’s exclude Nietzsche until you read him)? It definitely isn’t basic hashkafa, because as usual, I get to bring up the Rambam, who didn’t think that hashgacha operated differently for Jews than non-Jews. I can’t remember the name, but there’s also a Chassidic Rebbe that saw no difference at all between Jews and non-Jews. I’ll come back with a reference later. Bottom line is, I am fully capable of ignoring or condemning portions of Jewish thought that are patently absurd and/or racist, and so should you be”

    Simple query-the Mishnah in Avos posits that while all of mankind is created in the Divine Image, there is a special relationship between HaShem and the Jewish People (“Banim LaMakom).The Torah also describes the Jewish People as a Mamleches Kohanim UGoy Kadosh by dint of Kabalas Ol Mitzvos at Matan Torah. One can certainly see Bris Avos and Bris Sinai as the basis for the Jewish People being seen as the Am Havivchar in the Torah and Chazal long before the writing of the Kuzari or the Tanya or without viewing such a concept as R”L racist. In fact, one can find affirmative statements to this in Birkas Krias Shema and Birkas HaTorah as well as the Nusach of Kiddush.

  57. “Faced with this unprecedented and deeply perplexing situation, two extreme positions have emerged in Israel. The radical left claims that, since such a struggle necessarily involves the killing of innocent civilians, there is no justifiable way of fighting it. Soldiers ought to refuse to engage in such a war, and the government has only one option, which is to end the occupation. This view is wrong, since Israel has the right and the obligation to protect its citizens, and without providing real security, it will fail also to achieve peace and to put an end to the occupation. The radical right claims that, since Hamas and Hezbollah initiated the targeting of Israeli civilians, and since they take refuge among their own civilians, the responsibility for harming Palestinian civilians during Israel’s attempt to defend itself falls upon the Palestinians exclusively. This approach is also wrong. The killing of our civilians does not justify the killing of their civilians. Civilians do not lose their right to life when they are used as shields by Hamas and Hezbollah. In fighting the militants, Israel must do as much as it possibly can do to avoid and minimize harm to civilian life and property.”

    Moshe Halbertal in http://www.tnr.com/print/article/world/the-goldstone-illusion

  58. 2:37 was a response to Michael at 2:26 pm

  59. IH-thanks for the link to Professor Halbertal’s article in TNR. The questions that I would pose are as follows:

    1) No army in history has ever conducted military campaigns with one eye on the battlefield and one eye on possible repercussions vis a vis possible violations of international law. One can posit that most commanders worry about winning the war in a manner, but in a manner that will be recorded favorably in the history books.

    2) Given Israel’s response to the Goldstone Commission’s findings and the UN’s studied refusal to accept the same, what would Professor Halbertal propose as an option or alternative?

    3) IIRC, I read an article somewhere on the post WW2 developments of international law of war, which pointed out that the origins and theories of the same are profoundly anti American, ergo anti Israel as well.

  60. Joseph Kaplan wrote:

    “Destroy the seven Canaanite nations (Deut. 20:17)
    Not to let any of them remain alive (Deut. 20:16)
    Wipe out the descendants of Amalek (Deut. 25:19)”

    That’s a tough question. But I would note that these halachot have not been applicable since the time Nebuchadnetzer, according to Chazal, mixed up the nations so we do not know who is a Canaanite or an Amaleki. And I would argue that perhaps one of the reasons Chazal came up with the “mixed up the nations” principle was so that your question became a theoretical one only”

    I would agree with your answers re Devarim 20:16-17. Yet, RYBS felt that Amalek represented any nation or leader that acted in a manner that posed an existential threat to the existence of the Jewish People.

  61. The issue, Steve, is not whether Bnai Yisrael is the Chosen People. I think most who read and comment on this blog agree that the answer is “yes.” The issue is what does that chosenness mean. Does the fact that God chose the nation of which I am a member mean my life is worth more than, or my soul is different from, someone who is a member of another people? That is the issue that some are grappling with.

  62. IH provided a link to Professor Halbertal’s article which I will quote the following excerpt:

    “The radical right claims that, since Hamas and Hezbollah initiated the targeting of Israeli civilians, and since they take refuge among their own civilians, the responsibility for harming Palestinian civilians during Israel’s attempt to defend itself falls upon the Palestinians exclusively. This approach is also wrong. The killing of our civilians does not justify the killing of their civilians. Civilians do not lose their right to life when they are used as shields by Hamas and Hezbollah. In fighting the militants, Israel must do as much as it possibly can do to avoid and minimize harm to civilian life and property”

    Why? Civilians who willingly aide, abett and support terrorists are the support mechanism which allow terrorists to thrive. Civilians who allow their houses to be used as sniper nests or worse must realize that they will have to pay some penalty and be punished-even by loss of their houses.

  63. “It is accepted halakha that a ger, though he is a Jew for most purposes, still may marry a mamzer, and may not be appointed to a position of serarah. (The first is an explicit gemara, the second is a Rambam based on a Sifrei.)”

    a ger is a jew for all purposes. separately, he may marry a mamzer etc.

  64. “Yet, RYBS felt that Amalek represented any nation or leader that acted in a manner that posed an existential threat to the existence of the Jewish People.”

    It’s more nuanced than that. If you read the last footnote (no. 25) to Kol Dodi Dofek carefully, you’ll see that the Rav was clear that the mitzvah “to wipe out individual Amalekites…applies only to the genealogical descendants of Amalek” (who we cannot discern today). His calling those who seek to destroy the Jewish People Amalek (like the Nazis) applies only to the mitzvah to do battle against them.

  65. It is worth noting the UN has finally taken seriously the reported atrocities by Sri Lanka, Sudan (and now) Libya and Syria – which indicates that times have changed. See, for example, this editorial in the print edition of The Guardian a month ago: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/15/sri-lanka-evidence-that-wont-be-buried

  66. Why is the book called “Torat HaMelech”? Do the Jews have a king today? Who is he?

    It sounds like it should be called “Torat HaMilchamah.”

  67. Joseph Kaplan wrote:

    “The issue, Steve, is not whether Bnai Yisrael is the Chosen People. I think most who read and comment on this blog agree that the answer is “yes.” The issue is what does that chosenness mean. Does the fact that God chose the nation of which I am a member mean my life is worth more than, or my soul is different from, someone who is a member of another people? That is the issue that some are grappling with”

    I think that one can rely on how the Torah and the Mishnah in Avos and other statements in Nusach HaBrachos and Tefilah define chosenness as meaning a life defined being Asher Kidshanu BMitzvosav Vzivanu without even getting into the questions raised by the Kuzari and the Tanya.

  68. “define chosenness as meaning a life defined being Asher Kidshanu BMitzvosav Vzivanu”

    So, do I understand that you agree that the fact that we are a Chosen People does not meant that our lives, or souls, are worth more than those not part of our people?

  69. Michael Rogovin

    Surprised that although he comes up in a few comments, Moshe Halbertal was not mentioned in the original article. He is dati, a Talmud Chacham, and the foremost authority on military ethics in Israel. He is no doubt familiar with the ideas in this book as he is with the difference between the law of military conflict (humanitarian law) and human rights law and the principles of the laws of war from both a Torah and universalist approach. I have not read his reaction to and analysis of this book but it would be worth knowing. I have heard him speak on the general topic and he is brilliant.

  70. Joseph Kaplan- If a landslide buries a goy on shabbat it is forbidden to dig him out , but if it is a Jew it is not only permitted but it is a great mitzvah to do so. No amount of apologetics can change the fact that the basic hashkafa of Tora is that Jewish life is more precious than Gentile life.
    In an earlier comment I mentioned that according to the Tanya the soul of a Jew is inherently different to that of a Gentile. This is true not only in classic Chassidut but also in the thought of later gedolim such as Rav Kook,R’Tzvi Yehudah,R’Ashlag, R’SHaGaR all ZTZL and many others who are sometimes classified as Neo-Chassidic.
    A query-would not RYBS agree that the Jewish soul is special and inherently different?

  71. I dispute that it has anything to do with whose life is more precious. It is about חלל עליו שבת אחת כדי שישמור שבתות אחרות. Te only thing to override Shabbos is future Shabbasos (or mitzvah observance).

  72. “A query-would not RYBS agree that the Jewish soul is special and inherently different?”

    I don’t know if the Rav ever answered this question. But there is a famous story told by Prof. Gerald Blidstein when he was in the Rav’s class. They were discussing a story that was in the newspapers (which turned out to be false) of a non-Jew who collapsed on an Israeli street on Shabbat and the Orthodox Jews didn’t do anything to save him. (As I said, the story turned out to be a lie by a notorious anti-Orthodox person.) The Rav said that that is not the halacha and discussed mipnei aivah. Prof. Blidstein (then a top student of the Rav and not yet a professor) asked the Rav: but rebbe, does that answer satisfy you ethically? The Rav thought for a moment and answered “no.”

  73. שבתות הרבה

  74. Hirhurim-
    “The only thing that overrides shabbos is future mitzvot observance” this just proves my point. One of the reasons Jewish life is more precious is that we use our life to serve Hashem. But what of the life of the totally secular Jew. Do we not save him on Shabbat? IIRC it is permitted to save even a mumar. But my answer remains that the yiddishe neshamah is inherently more precious than that of a goy.

  75. Joseph -It seems that RYBS’ answer is that if not for the consideration of “mipnei eimah” it is forbidden to desecrate shabbat for a goy,and that would be his psak despite the “ethical dissatisfaction”.

  76. No, me-ikar ha-din you may not violate Shabos for a mumar.

  77. But they can do teshuva, no?

  78. It is silly and dangerous to characterize Torat HaMelech or HaRav Dov Lior or HaRav Yaakov Yosef as “racist.” The word racist according to many can be used to accurately describe all of orthodox Judaism.

    The word “racist” has no place in describing halakhic discourse regarding differences between Jews and non-Jews.

    R’ Gil has opened a dangerous pandora’s box. Once we call some of our rabbis racist then we are opening the door for oursellves to be called the same thing. Were the Ba’al HaTanya and were HaRav Kook ztz”l racist because they believed that there were inherent differences between Jewish and gentile souls? Has weshalom!

  79. “R’ Gil has opened a dangerous pandora’s box. Once we call some of our rabbis racist then we are opening the door for oursellves to be called the same thing. Were the Ba’al HaTanya and were HaRav Kook ztz”l racist because they believed that there were inherent differences between Jewish and gentile souls? Has weshalom!”

    To be overly simplistic there are 2 basic strains in Yahdus-one a rascist strain which can be found in Yehudah Halevi, the Chassidic world certainly including the baal Hatanya and their followers who maintain that a Jewish soul is intrinsically different-the other a more rationalist strain can be found in the Rambam, Saadiah etc and normative non mystical Yahadus that the intrinsic advantage of the Jew is that he was given the Torah and thus has a ready roadmap to understand reach God that others woulod have difficulty finding by logic. It is not mystical.
    An example of the difference plays out in general as to acceptance of gerim-the rational side happy to accept gerim who genuinely want to live a p[roper Jewish life. The mystical side not too happy about the concept of gerim-since there is clearly a concept of accepting gerim the mystical side which believes in different inherent souls is forced into mental gymnastics that a gers souls was really at Sinai but got misplaced and now is finding its way home.

  80. ““mipnei eimah” it is ”

    Question is mipneih eivah /darkei shalom a pragmatic issue of safety from lo yehudim or is it an intrinsic positive ideal for Yahadus even assuming we didn’t have to worry about the rest of the world.

  81. Once we call some of our rabbis racist then we are opening the door for oursellves to be called the same thing.

    moshe on July 17, 2011 at 4:10 am would have it that no rabbi (or Jew for that matter) can make a racist argument so long as he frames the issue halachically. Essentially he makes a slippery slope argument that argues against his position.

    *********
    David Tzohar on July 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm
    Joseph Kaplan- If a landslide buries a goy on shabbat it is forbidden to dig him out , but if it is a Jew it is not only permitted but it is a great mitzvah to do so

    The former part of your statement is not halacha l’maase today.

  82. The word “racist” reflects a post WWII ethos which denies that it is correct to make generalizations. This ethos should have no effect on our Jewish beliefs. R’ Gil’s resorting to using the “r” word reflects assimilation on his part in adopting this ethos, at least on some level. If indeed we adopt an approach which says that Jewish souls are innately superior, so be it. The anti-racist, post WWII ethos is not the yardstick by which we should be assessing the truth of our beliefs. I do not believe that authentic Jewish values oppose making generalizations.

    What distinguishes legitimatecorrect generalizations from Nazism is that even if we make generalizations we do not use those generalizations as an excuse to go around attacking or hating others unless they happen to be enemies of the Jewish nation.

  83. “The former part of your statement is not halacha l’maase today.”

    Correct. All observant Jewish doctors are willing to be mechalal Shabat in order to treat a seriously ill non-Jew. And all their rabbis support them in that.

  84. Regarding Moshe’s comments at 4:10 am and then 10:45 am: the history vs. belief argument cuts both ways. It is undoubtedly true that Judaism contains conflicting strands of thought which could be used to legitimize what today we call racism, xenophobia and atrocities. For any such example of this, one can thankfully also find a conflicting quotation that is more consonant with our modern views today.

    The question of belief, then, is which strand we each accept as being Ratzon ha’Shem.

  85. Joseph Kaplan wrote:

    “So, do I understand that you agree that the fact that we are a Chosen People does not meant that our lives, or souls, are worth more than those not part of our people”

    I would not use the term worth. I would argue that we accepted a different purpose and destiny, which necessarily includes differences between Jews and Gentiles on hashkafic and halachic levels. That IMO neither is racist nor xenophobic in nature. The simple fact is that we should always remember what we say at a Hadran-Anu Amelim vHem Amelim .

  86. ‘Joseph -It seems that RYBS’ answer is that if not for the consideration of “mipnei eimah” it is forbidden to desecrate shabbat for a goy,and that would be his psak despite the “ethical dissatisfaction”

    That’s not how I understand this story.

  87. IH wrote:

    ” It is undoubtedly true that Judaism contains conflicting strands of thought which could be used to legitimize what today we call racism, xenophobia and atrocities”

    I would agree that if you were using conflated definitions of racism, xenophobia and atrocities-as opposed to when, who, and how the strands of thought are articulated, and the historical record.

  88. Steve Brizel: “Simple query-the Mishnah in Avos posits that while all of mankind is created in the Divine Image, there is a special relationship between HaShem and the Jewish People (“Banim LaMakom).The Torah also describes the Jewish People as a Mamleches Kohanim UGoy Kadosh by dint of Kabalas Ol Mitzvos at Matan Torah. One can certainly see Bris Avos and Bris Sinai as the basis for the Jewish People being seen as the Am Havivchar in the Torah and Chazal long before the writing of the Kuzari or the Tanya or without viewing such a concept as R”L racist. In fact, one can find affirmative statements to this in Birkas Krias Shema and Birkas HaTorah as well as the Nusach of Kiddush.”

    I don’t understand what you’re asking.

    On the off-chance that you’re asking “how do you deal with all these concepts and sources that indicate a distinction between Jews and non-Jews?” I never said there was no difference. I recommend you read what I wrote – or rather, what I was responding to – again. And then think about more subtle ways of distinguishing between Jews and non-Jews.

  89. “Were the Ba’al HaTanya and were HaRav Kook ztz”l racist because they believed that there were inherent differences between Jewish and gentile souls? Has weshalom!”

    … I’d actually answer that question with “yes”. In the case of the Tanya, I would go so far as to say that anyone reading it should really be careful with it. For the record, my RY would teach it frequently, but was not afraid of stating unequivocally that where really was no justification (though there may have been an excuse) for a given racist passage that we were learning.

    I know, I know, it’s been canonized as part of “Great Rabbi Literature” so I’m not allowed to think critically about it even though it contradicts plenty of things in plenty of more important sources. Oh well.

  90. Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik on racism:

    “From the standpoint of the Torah there can be no distinction between one human being and another on the basis of race or color. Any discrimination shown to another human being on account of his color or her skin constitutes loathsome barbarity.”

  91. “Were the Ba’al HaTanya and were HaRav Kook ztz”l racist because they believed that there were inherent differences between Jewish and gentile souls? Has weshalom!”

    I must have missed the lesson where everything ever stated by a Gadol BaTorah in any generation is sacrosanct and immutable. Really, according to that logic we should still be beating our wives and kids (or tolerating such).

    “The word “racist” reflects a post WWII ethos which denies that it is correct to make generalizations. This ethos should have no effect on our Jewish beliefs.”

    You are aware that a big part of this ethos stemmed from malevolent “generalizations” made about Jews and subsequent attempt to act on them (the Holocaust), right?

    More to the point, why shouldn’t we allow such ideas to enter Jewish discourse? Our history is rife with examples where we treated certain non-Jews who were kinder than others differently. This runs from the Bible (the Kennites) to various examples of enlightened rulers and peoples.

    Amalek and Canaanites were not the only people with whome we had contact you know, nor was every non-Jewish nation or people always irreconcilably against us. You need to get a more balanced view of things, and fast.

  92. “xenophobic in nature. The simple fact is that we should always remember what we say at a Hadran-Anu Amelim vHem Amelim ”

    That simply means that we are happy that we are amelim batotrah not divrei shtus-it does niot refer to an intrinsic advantage of our soulks if Torah means nothingto us.

  93. “More to the point, why shouldn’t we allow such ideas to enter Jewish discourse? Our history is rife with examples where we treated certain non-Jews who were kinder than others differently. This runs from the Bible (the Kennites) to various examples of enlightened rulers and peoples.

    Amalek and Canaanites were not the only people with whome we had contact you know, nor was every non-Jewish nation or people always irreconcilably against us”
    Agreed

  94. Joseph Kaplan on July 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm
    “‘Joseph -It seems that RYBS’ answer is that if not for the consideration of “mipnei eimah” it is forbidden to desecrate shabbat for a goy,and that would be his psak despite the “ethical dissatisfaction”

    That’s not how I understand this story.”

    My guess is with Joseph Kaplan.

  95. “Charlie Hall on July 17, 2011 at 11:20 am
    “The former part of your statement is not halacha l’maase today.”

    Correct. All observant Jewish doctors are willing to be mechalal Shabat in order to treat a seriously ill non-Jew. And all their rabbis support them in that.”

    They wouldn’t be their Rabbis if theyruled differently.

  96. Moshe- You give good arguments for not using the”R” word in halachic discourse. But your tone is IMHO painfully apologetic. We should have no qualms about stating unequivically that,we are chosen,that

  97. Am Segulah means that we are the special,precious possession of Hashem and that Hashem gave us and only us the right to settle and rule over all of Eretz Yisrael and its inhabitants. Any Goy who is willing to accept ol malchut and taryag mitzvot can become part of our “race”.bedieved it would prove that his soul was with clall Yisrael at Sinai.

  98. Hashem gave us and only us the right to settle and rule over all of Eretz Yisrael and its inhabitants

    It’s a conditional right, and it’s very questionable whether we are fulfilling the conditions.

  99. “bedieved it would prove that his soul was with clall Yisrael at Sinai.”
    Baal Hatanya type mental gymnastics of fitting angels on needles. They are forced into that belief since they have a rascist belief of Yahadus and then are forced into such gymnastics to account for gerim-much better than current chareidi approach of oppressing gerim.

  100. “it’s very questionable whether we are fulfilling the conditions”

    Well, it’s clear that we’re not fulfilling one of the *major* conditions, according to Tanach: We’re not settling the land and expelling its inhabitants.

    It’s usually a Reform/Christian/Wellhaussen thing to stress Nevi’im Acharonim, as important as they are, to the exclusion of Torah and Nevi’im Rishonim.

  101. Jon wrote:

    “I’d actually answer that question with “yes”. In the case of the Tanya, I would go so far as to say that anyone reading it should really be careful with it. For the record, my RY would teach it frequently, but was not afraid of stating unequivocally that where really was no justification (though there may have been an excuse) for a given racist passage that we were learning”

    Jon-I think that RHS once mentioned that if one compares the Tanya and the Nefesh HaChaim, one can find many similarities.

  102. If one looks at the Rambam’s Perush HaMishnah on the Mishnah in Avos in which R Akiva describes all of mankind as being created Btzelem Elokim and the Jewish People have a “chiba Yeserah” with HaShem, one sees nothing re Bchiras Yisrael, Am Segulah, etc. Yet, in the Yad, one finds at least these differences-In Hilcos Teshuvah, the period of teshuvah for the nations of the world is RH, while Aseres Ymei Teshuvah and YK are reserved for the Jewish People.In Hilcos Gerushin, the Rambam states, as explained by the Baal HaTanya, but I doubt that this is the Chidush of the Baal HaTanya, that there is a presumption that all of Klal Yisrael have an innate desire to perform the Mitzvos.

  103. Jon-you pointed out that the Rambam seemingly does not spend a lot of ink on Bchiras Yisrael. If you were referring to either the MN or Perush HaMishayos on Avos, I would agree. Yet, in the Yad, Hilcos Teshuvah delineates different periods and methods of teshuvah for Jews and Gentiles ( RH, Aseres Ymei Teshuvah and YK), a very famous passage in Hilcos Gerushin assumes that all Jews want to fulfill the Mitzvos and in Hilcos Yesodei HaTorah, there is a very strong description of Maamad Har Sinai as being the basis for our belief in Nevuas Moshe Rabbeinu-which no other nation witnessed.

  104. Michael wrote:

    “Hirsohima and Nagasaki,Dresden and Afghanistan (according to the Wikileaks”

    I think that any historical overview from Wikileaks should be taken with a great deal of salt-the author is an anarchist who has very anti American and anti Israeli views. If the author had bothered to check the historical record, he would have discovered that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the reason why the Japanese surrendured, and that they were willing to sustain and inflict horrific losses as they did in Iwo Jima and Okinawa, if President Truman had not authorized the use of the bomb-as a means of protecting the lives of American troops. Dresden, despite Kurt Vonnegutt’s claims, was an industrial city and legitimate target. Only someone who views any American response to 9-11, and the Taliban and Al Quaeda’s use of Afganistan as a sanctuary would view American conduct therein as improper. Of course, Swedes, who stood by in studied neutrality during WW2, as well as the Cold War, have a habit of interjecting their “moral judgment” on the world while not hesitating to make money from both sides.

  105. How does Sweden enter into it? Assange is a leftist lowlife troublemaker, but he’s not Swedish. (He is pale.) In fact, Sweden is trying to put him in jail at the moment.

  106. Nachum-Sweden is notorious for sitting on the international sidelines during the worst conflicts, making tons of money and passing moral judgments. Think of the deterioration of the Nobel Peace Price.

  107. “I would go so far as to say that anyone reading it should really be careful with it. For the record, my RY would teach it frequently, but was not afraid of stating unequivocally that where really was no justification (though there may have been an excuse) for a given racist passage that we were learning”

    The first (of I think two or three) statements with regards to the nefashos of the nations, made by the Tanya, occurs at the end of perek aleph, where the language definitely implies the complete lack of good (to my dismay).

    A contemporary of the Baal HaTanya, R’ Hillel of Paritch, a disciple of Chabad Chassidus, qualifies in Likkutei Biurim al HaTanya, that the righteous of the nations are on the spiritual level of kelipas nogah, a term which implies an admixture of self-oriented, as well as selfless/altruistic motives. This is also expounded rather well in Chassidus Mvueres on the Tanya, a recent publication.

    Kelipas nogah is in fact the characteristic, according to the Baal HaTanya, of the nefesh habehamis of a Jew. What is often not acknowledged, however, is that the nefesh habehamis forms the basis for the personality of the the beinoni, the somewhat idealized personality in the Tanya, who is described as an individual who never sins, in spite of feeling a recurrent desire to do so.

    So on the surface the difference between this somewhat idealized Jew (the beinoni) and the righteous gentile is not as great as one might think. The main distinction lies in the presence of what the Baal HaTanya calls the nefesh ha-elokis, which imparts an extra ability to perceive elokus, generally with the proper preparation consistent mitzvah overvance and hisbonenus–contemplative meditation before davening. During davening, as well as certain auspicious times (Shabbos, Yom-Tov), the nefesh haelokis is openly revealed in his personality. Not so otherwise. The main individual who achieves this level consistently is the Tzaddik, a rare individual in chassidic thought. The righteous gentile presumably doesn’t experience such a potent degree of spirituality, though the potential for this would be accessed if he/she converted in full.

    Of course none of this negates the fundamental thesis that there are ontologic difference between souls of Jews and the nations, which may still rankle many. Since these differences can be negated through bechirah–i.e. a gentile, through free choice, can move from these various levels, the imputation of racism is a bit strong.

    Menachem Kellner in Maimonides Confrontation with Mysticism, if I understand correctly, advances a different Jewish view, which he feels is consistent with Maimonides, in contrast to the above kabbalistic view. I haven’t yet read this work to verify.

  108. Sholom,

    The problem is not just a “world-view”. The problem is that people pasken based on this world-view to the detriment of non-Jews.

  109. Sigh. Steve, if you would just talk to people without always assuming you have some battle to fight, it would make things a lot easier.

    “Jon-you pointed out that the Rambam seemingly does not spend a lot of ink on Bchiras Yisrael.”

    – Not even close to what I said – all you got right was “Rambam”. Dig out what I said, dig out what I was responding to, read it again, figure it out.

    “Yet, in the Yad, Hilcos Teshuvah delineates different periods and methods of teshuvah for Jews and Gentiles ( RH, Aseres Ymei Teshuvah and YK),”

    -Irrelevant both to what I said and what you said

    “a very famous passage in Hilcos Gerushin assumes that all Jews want to fulfill the Mitzvos”

    -Irrelevant again

    “and in Hilcos Yesodei HaTorah, there is a very strong description of Maamad Har Sinai as being the basis for our belief in Nevuas Moshe Rabbeinu-which no other nation witnessed.”

    -And again. And if you’re reaching this far it’s clear you’re desperate.

    But you’ve already agreed with my position, a while ago, with other people you thought you were fighting with, which is that there is no fundamental difference between Jews and non-Jews as people, though the Torah (and by extension God) expects different things from them, and they are often orientated differently.

  110. Sholom – that’d all be nice except for this part:

    “A contemporary of the Baal HaTanya, R’ Hillel of Paritch, a disciple of Chabad Chassidus, qualifies in Likkutei Biurim al HaTanya, that the righteous of the nations are on the spiritual level of kelipas nogah, a term which implies an admixture of self-oriented, as well as selfless/altruistic motives.”

    Which is NOT what the Tanya said. It’s what R. Hillel of Partich said. You can’t save him with a commentary.

  111. Jon-WADR,I read your post-it was clear to me that you posited that Rambam downplayed Bchiras Yisrael hashkafically. I merely asked you for clarification of your sources. Yet, one cannot deny that Rambam in the Yad poses halachic and hashkafic differences between Jews and Gentiles that you view as irrelevant or desperate.

  112. Jon -here is your quoted comment:

    “It definitely isn’t basic hashkafa, because as usual, I get to bring up the Rambam, who didn’t think that hashgacha operated differently for Jews than non-Jews”

    IMO, WADR, the three cited halachos in the Yad cannot support the above proposition.

  113. The racism in the Tanya (Liqutei Amarim ch. 1) is not the Baal haTanya’s. It appears to be in the Eitz Chaim (49:3,8), R’ Chaim Vital’s presentation of the Ari’s Qabbalah. (Tradition says it’s the sole authorized presentation; that the Ari revied RCV’s writings and said he alone got it right.) And the Tanya clearly cites the Eitz Chayim 49:8.

    I would like to add that sheviras hakeilim and qelipos are among the topics in the Ari’s qabbalah that the Gra and Chassidim take very differently. So, when the Tanya reads the words about nachriim being misod hakelipos it means something different to him than it would to the Gra, R’ Chaim Volozhiner or the Leshem.

    Second “sod” is often used in comparison. IOW, not that the nachri soul is actually from qelipos, but compared to yehudi’s soul, it’s more like qelipos. According to the Ari, all of existence comes from an interplay of the Or Ein Sof and qelipos, and RCVital could be saying which is relatively more visible where.

    Third, it’s not even clear the tradition about R’ Chaim Vital being the sole authorized expounder of the Ari’s thought is historical. One wouldn’t get that impression from the Gra or Leshem, who quote the Mahari Serug about as often as R’ Chaim Vital.

    Still, the Tanya is basing himself on a logical reading of the Eitz Chaim; it’s not like he shoehorned his own prejudices into a silent mesorah.

    Although I must confess, it rendered me incapable of giving the rest of the Tanya the open mind it deserves; I rejected its system of thought while learning page 1.

    The Kuzari is more racist. R’ Yehudah haLevi even draws a distinction between the souls of ezrachim and those of geirim.

    As for what it means to be an am hanivchar… Start with what Hashem tells us it means “And you shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Priesthood requires a particular and positive relationship with the masses; and if we are the priests, then that concern and service must underpin our attitude toward the other nations.

  114. “Which is NOT what the Tanya said. It’s what R. Hillel of Partich said. You can’t save him with a commentary.”

    Jon, I don’t think this is as clear cut as you think. Hillel of Parich was not the only one within Chabad to advance this view, and the late Lubavitcher Rebbe underscored in one of his letters that righteous gentiles are derived from kelipas nogah, giving more references that that of R’ Hillel.

    Now of course you can advance the thesis that there is a controversy within Chabad Chassidus with regards to this issue, and that the 7th Rebbe’s assertion that this is THE Chabad position does not in fact accord with the Alter Rebbe’s true view–i.e. that your take on the Alter Rebbe’s stance is more true to his original intent than that of the last Rebbe of Chabad. Apart from the fact that the late Rebbe’s view on this issue is probably more well informed, and credible, than yours, my experience with Lubavitchers, and Lubavitch Chassidus, is that they tend to view the Chassidus of the various Rebbes as being consistent with each other; there may be differences in emphasis/focus, etc, but they all express the same world view.

    However, if you are to advance this view, you would also have to demonstrate that the Baal HaTanya disregarding a clear halachah that there is such a category of Chassidei Umos Haolam (righteous gentiles). The whole idea that a gentile should be obligated in mitzvah observance at all is undermined if one advances the notion that they are, by nature, thoroughly evil.
    There are many circumstances in Jewish writings, from the gemara through Chassidic writings, where a general statement is made that turns out to be more limited in scope than originally implied. I think that this is such a case.

  115. Jon-I think it is fair to ask whether you were relying on the MN, Shemoneh Prakim, Perush HaMishnah,Igros or Yad in making the above comment.

  116. Sure it is. Are you doing so now?

  117. Steve:”Jon -here is your quoted comment:

    “It definitely isn’t basic hashkafa, because as usual, I get to bring up the Rambam, who didn’t think that hashgacha operated differently for Jews than non-Jews”

    IMO, WADR, the three cited halachos in the Yad cannot support the above proposition.”

    Oh really?

  118. The last Lub rebbe also wrote a letter in reply to someone expressing concern about translating this chapter of the Tanya into English. His defense:

    1- Those who wish to judge us harshly will, those who won’t, wont. The only non-Jews who will care are those who are looking for justifications for their hating us.

    2- It was translated to French a while ago, so it’s already accessible to the non-Jewish audience.

    3- Didn’t the Holocaust — both the perpetrators and those who stood by in silence — prove the Tanya’s point?

  119. It’s clear from the Moreh 3:18 that hashgachah depends only on one’s knowledge of G-d. Jews have more mitzvos and thus more opportunity to gain such knowledge (Peirush haMishnayos on “lefikhakh hirba lahem Torah umitzvos”) but that doesn’t mean we actually do.

  120. “The last Lub rebbe also wrote a letter in reply to someone expressing concern about translating this chapter of the Tanya into English. His defense:

    “3- Didn’t the Holocaust — both the perpetrators and those who stood by in silence — prove the Tanya’s point?””

    That’s a good point that you raise, Michah, and I have seen this letter. These are apparently contradictory letters of the Rebbe, but it is clear that the Rebbe believed that it was possible for gentiles to achieve the status of “righteous”–he was for a time very into having his Chassidim publicize the shevah mitzvos.

    If you ask my opinion, and this is the difficulty that I have with segments of Lubavitch, as well as other segments of the Chareidi world–the question becomes what is the “klal”–how are we to relate to the larger world in general? There are strains within segments of Judaism that the world at large is predominantly populated by evil people, and that good people (read nochrim) are a rare exception. This of course is not based on hard statistical data, but on a general gestalt, colored by personal experience (such as the Holocaust, eastern European pogroms) and bolstered by interpretations of sayings such as “Esav sonei es Yaacov,” or the kabbalistic writings that you reference.

    I think that there are many people, within and outside of the Lubavitch community, that adopt a pessimisstic attitude towards the larger world, that, in combination with the above texts, allows for the flourishing of racist thinking. This letter of the Rebbe’s seems to reflect such pessimistic thinking, although it’s a bit inconsistent with his initiative with regards to the shevah mitzvos.

  121. To clarify:

    There are strains within segments of Judaism that APPEAR TO HOLD THAT the world at large is predominantly populated by evil people, and that good people (read GOOD nochrim) are a rare exception.

  122. It’s usually a Reform/Christian/Wellhaussen thing to stress Nevi’im Acharonim, as important as they are, to the exclusion of Torah and Nevi’im Rishonim.

    I’m just as against the leftists who are incapable of understanding אם אין אני לי as against the rightists who are incapable of understanding וכשאני לעצמי מה אני.

    It’s funny how in every single discussion here I end up arguing with both the right and the left, and I think there is a deeper reason than that I’m simply argumentative.

  123. Jon-how about a source in the Rambam? i think that my sources in the Yad illustrate my point with respect to the different elements of Teshuvah, Maamad Har Sinai as well as the understanding or presumption that all Jews , deep inside , want to observe the Mitzvos.

  124. Steve: In order to make a positive claim, you must present evidence. The burden of proof here is on you. None of those sources illustrate your point, because

    a) Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipur? The Rambam thinks both of those are instrumental, and that a Jew who just does them gets no different response than a non-Jew who didn’t do them at all. So this one is totally irrelevant.

    b) Ma’amad Har Sinai? What are you talking about???

    c) That presumption – even if it isn’t merely sociological, which it very obviously is – has NOTHING to do with what I said. Please read what I said (for the fourth time now) and THEN make your argument.

    But I know that if I belabor this point it will go on for ever. So in the interest of expediency, I’ll point to micha, who already cited my sources:

    “micha on July 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    It’s clear from the Moreh 3:18 that hashgachah depends only on one’s knowledge of G-d. Jews have more mitzvos and thus more opportunity to gain such knowledge (Peirush haMishnayos on “lefikhakh hirba lahem Torah umitzvos”) but that doesn’t mean we actually do.”

  125. “Shlomo on July 18, 2011 at 3:55 am
    Hashem gave us and only us the right to settle and rule over all of Eretz Yisrael and its inhabitants

    It’s a conditional right, and it’s very questionable whether we are fulfilling the conditions.”

    WHEN WERE THOSE CONDITIONS EVER FULFILLED?

  126. I agree totally with Micha on the subject of the Tanya and Gentiles. I would go even further, however, in dissociating myself from the view of the Tanya about Jews. As I read the first chapter, I was distressed that he defined a ‘beinoni’ as someone who has a yetzer ha’ra but overcomes such urgings without fail. In other words, only a few individuals can achieve such a status. The rest of us are resha’im according to the Tanya. What hope have we then? We can attach ourselves to a tzaddik, i.e. someone who has no yetzer ha’ra. I might add that a rebbe is considered a tzaddik by his Hassidim, by definition. This appears to be a takeoff on the Christian doctrine of salvation only through the church. As such, it is a dangerous, if not pernicious, doctrine that has crept into Judaism. Besides the theological objection, I don’t accept his main argument from Rabbah who declared “kegon anah beinoni”. He assumed that Rabbah never actually sinned, whereas the story of Rabbah “shechting” Rav Yosef one Purim argues against that assumption.

  127. Mycroft: Probably never. But we try…

  128. WHEN WERE THOSE CONDITIONS EVER FULFILLED?

    In the time of Shmuel/Shaul/David/Shlomo, for example.

  129. “Hashem gave us and only us the right to settle and rule over all of Eretz Yisrael and its inhabitants”

    SInce Abraham aveinu what percent of the time have Jews ruled over Eretz Israel?

  130. “Shlomo on July 19, 2011 at 4:45 am
    WHEN WERE THOSE CONDITIONS EVER FULFILLED?

    In the time of Shmuel/Shaul/David/Shlomo, for example”

    Agreed in general-at most for a few years in David and Shlomos time-the current State of Israel has essentially ruled for about that length of time. Of course, currently it is clear that no Israeli government can be independent of the world-none has claimed sovereignty over most of Yehudah and Shomron for starters.

  131. “I agree totally with Micha on the subject of the Tanya and Gentiles. I would go even further, however, in dissociating myself from the view of the Tanya about Jews. As I read the first chapter, I was distressed that he defined a ‘beinoni’ as someone who has a yetzer ha’ra but overcomes such urgings without fail.”

    In repeated conversation with Lubavitch melamdim, I have been told that the use of the term Rasha and Tzaddik in this context differs from its use when describing judgement in the afterlife. In the latter case, the “tzaddik” would be an individual who has a majority of merits, a “rasha” the opposite.

    Since the Alter Rebbe seems to have difficulty with the notion of a beinoni being an individual who has a precise balance of sins and merits (I agree: I think this is an absurd definition for a beinoni–who is like this?), he defines the three categories in terms of the degree to which the yetzer hara “governs” and individual–viz. the tzaddik not at all (or to a negligible degree), the rasha is captive to his yetzer until he does teshuvah, and the beinoni successfully conquers his yetzer while never nullifying it.

    Thus the above categories describe more psychological states of being rather than conveying any information about what a person will be judged to be in the afterlife.

    A person who sins, and does proper teshuvah, automatically goes back to the status of beinoni, if I understand it correctly. While the ideal beinoni is one who has never sinned, and the Alter Rebbe seems to believe this is possible, it does not exclude those who have done proper teshuvah.

    The view re: Rabbah was that he mistook himself for a “beinoni that ‘prayed’ all day,” as he was was constantly preoccupied with contemplating Hashem, and his Torah. Since the nefesh haelokis of a beinoni is in a state of revelation during davening/hisbonenus, he resembles a tzaddik at that time, although his yetzer returns once he is finished. Since Rabbah never ceased from contemplating Hashem–according to the Baal HaTanya’s explanation–he merely thought himself to be a beinoni who prayed all day rather than a tzaddik.

    I have not heard of the anecdote about Rabbah that your refer to–perhaps it is a stira to the Alter Rebbe’s view. Could you elaborate?

  132. Ach–correction:

    “In repeated conversation with Lubavitch melamdim, I have been told that the use of the term Rasha and Tzaddik has a dual meaning–in this context [of the Tanya] it differs from its use when describing judgement in the afterlife. In the latter case, the “tzaddik” would be an individual who has a majority of merits, a “rasha” the opposite.”

  133. Agreed in general-at most for a few years in David and Shlomos time-the current State of Israel has essentially ruled for about that length of time.

    That’s a very “minimalist” take on it. My impression from Tanach (taking a survey view) is that the southern kingdom was religious for hundreds of years after the northern kingdom went bad. The “reigns” of Yehoshua, Shmuel, and Shaul were almost all good. Bayit sheni is debatable but at least the idolatry of bayit rishon was gone.

  134. Sholom, it’s been many years since I last read that part of the Tanya. As I recollect, he bases his definitions of tzaddik, beinoni, and rasha primarily on the cited statement of Rabbah and the demurral of his talmid, Abaye. I don’t recall how he reconciles his stringent view of what it takes to be a beinoni with other citations in Shas, i.e., an equal balance of merits and demerits, or ruled by both yetzarim. If his definition has nothing to do with one’s standing and entry into the next world, what is its point? In any case, the story of Rabbah and his colleague, Rav Yosef, one Purim is well known although I can’t provide a specific reference in T.B. Megilla. The story goes that one Purim, presumably after fulfilling the ‘mitzvah’ of ‘ad delo yada’, Rabbah ‘shechted’ Rav Yosef. He then had to make amends by ‘resurrecting’ him. Next year, he invited Rav Yosef to his Purim seudah. Rav Yosef declined stating that miracles aren’t guaranteed. However you understand that story [I don’t take it literally], it doesn’t appear to qualify Rabbah as a Tanya beinoni, much less a tzaddik.

  135. Jon-The Rambam in Hilcos Teshuvah clearly differentiates between periods of teshuvah for Jews and Gentiles. RH is clearly of a universal nature for the entire world, whereas Aseres Ymei Teshuvah and YK are particular in nature and reserved for the Jewish People. In Hilcos Gerushin, the Rambam states that all Jews are presumed to want to obey mitzvos-that is hardly a sociological statement. As far as Maamad Har Sinai, Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah states very clearly that the proof of our belief in Nevuas Moshe Rabbeinu is that it was witnessed by the Jewish People, as opposed to any other people. The Perush HaMishnah that Micha cited IMO can also be cited Kpshuto-that every Jew can find one Mitzvah to excell in the performance in.

  136. Y Aharon-Chasidim view their Rebbes not as a conduit, but as spiritual mentors whose influence, Tefilos, and actions serve as a model. One can argue that the RY serve the same function for their talmidim, and that both models are rooted in a Mishneh in Avos-Aseh Lcha Rav, Koneh Lcha Chaver, Lhistakek min Hasafek.

  137. Jon-I think IMO that you are incorrect with your assessment re RH and YK. RH is a day rooted in Hashkafa 101-Malchiyos, Zicronos and Shofaros, but certainly not the elements of Vidui-and one can argue that Malciyos are indeed universal in nature. YK is a day rooted in Teshuvah-whether one focuses merely on Vidui, Kaparah or Taharah-that day and Aseres Ymei Teshuvah are explicitly reserved for the Jewish People. The issue of whether one merely goes through the mechanics of each day without a proper Teshuvah is IMO irrelevant to the Kedudhas HaYom of each day.

  138. “Shlomo on July 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm
    Agreed in general-at most for a few years in David and Shlomos time-the current State of Israel has essentially ruled for about that length of time.

    That’s a very “minimalist” take on it. My impression from Tanach (taking a survey view) is that the southern kingdom was religious for hundreds of years after the northern kingdom went bad. The “reigns” of Yehoshua, Shmuel, and Shaul were almost all good”
    Malchus Yehudah ruled over a much smaller territory than the current State of Israel.
    Even good kings have the refrain rak habamos lo saru.

  139. mycroft on July 19, 2011 at 5:54 am
    “Shlomo on July 19, 2011 at 4:45 am
    WHEN WERE THOSE CONDITIONS EVER FULFILLED?

    In the time of Shmuel/Shaul/David/Shlomo, for example”

    We should also remember the tochacha of what would happen if we did not live up to our part of the bargin…The land would vomit us out!

  140. Steve – of course, you pretended to ignore the citation of the Moreh Nevukhim. Why am I not surprised.

    “RH is clearly of a universal nature for the entire world, whereas Aseres Ymei Teshuvah and YK are particular in nature and reserved for the Jewish People.”

    – So you think, that the Rambam thinks, that God expects the non-Jews to do teshuva on RH? Interesting how that isn’t in the 7 mitzvot…

    “In Hilcos Gerushin, the Rambam states that all Jews are presumed to want to obey mitzvos-that is hardly a sociological statement.”

    -…no, that is absolutely a sociological statement. Do you really believe your own arguments???

    “As far as Maamad Har Sinai, Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah states very clearly that the proof of our belief in Nevuas Moshe Rabbeinu is that it was witnessed by the Jewish People, as opposed to any other people.”

    -…AND? You’ve said this at least 4 times. What does this have to do with ANYTHING?

    “I think IMO that you are incorrect with your assessment re RH and YK. RH is a day rooted in Hashkafa 101-Malchiyos, Zicronos and Shofaros, but certainly not the elements of Vidui-and one can argue that Malciyos are indeed universal in nature. YK is a day rooted in Teshuvah-whether one focuses merely on Vidui, Kaparah or Taharah-that day and Aseres Ymei Teshuvah are explicitly reserved for the Jewish People. The issue of whether one merely goes through the mechanics of each day without a proper Teshuvah is IMO irrelevant to the Kedudhas HaYom of each day.”

    -I don’t really care what YOU think about RH or YK. I care, for the purposes of this discussion, about what the RAMBAM thinks. There is no question – at all, for anyone who’s opened the Rambam – that the RAMBAM thinks that those days signify no intrinsic difference between Jews and non-Jews. (It’s funny that you bring up kedusha – it’s very obvious to anyone that’s opened a Rambam that the Rambam regards kedusha as itself an instrumental concept!)

    This is the fourth time, I think, that you’ve decided to bombard me with the same three non-sequitur – whereas there is a clear and explicit statement from the Rambam (in MN 3:18) that says exactly what I say it does: that, according to the Rambam, Hashgacha operates identically for Jews and non-Jews, and only depends on one’s knowledge of God. I’m not sure why you feel the need to make these giant leaps from random passages (that it’s very clear you didn’t collect yourself) in the MT to the conclusion that the Rambam’s works contradict themselves. You should really try to spend some time thinking about why you have this compulsive need to overturn anything anyone says that’s even remotely anti-right-wing, even when it means jumping through hoops to reach even more objectionable conclusions from a right-wing perspective.

  141. “Chasidim view their Rebbes not as a conduit, but as spiritual mentors whose influence, Tefilos, and actions serve as a model.”
    If true no problem-not sure Prof David Berger believes that about all Chassidim

    ” One can argue that the RY serve the same function for their talmidim” One can argue that to the extent there is a relationship on both sides between talmid and RY. Can’t include relationships where RY didn’t even care if knew talmidims names, or knew who was in his shiur!

  142. Found on Rav Aviner’s site one of his SMS text message responsa:

    “Death to Arabs”
    Q: Why is it forbidden to say “Death to Arabs”?
    A: Because it is not true. Only murderers and those who aid them are deserving of death.
    Q: What is the source?
    A: Do not murder.

    http://www.ravaviner.com/search/label/Text%20Message%20Responsa

  143. Jon-One more time-Non-Jews are commanded to obey the Noachide Laws, one of which consists of renouncing AZ. Your view of Rambam’s well known statement in Hilcos Gerushin dismisses the same as merely “sociological”. That view cannot be reconciled with the view of Rambam in the Perush HaMishnah at the end of Makos. Your citation of MN to the exclusion of the explicit passages in the MT is IMO typical of many who fail to understand that the same Rambam wrote the Perush HaMishnah, MT and MN-albeit for very different audiences-with the Perush HaMishnah being Drush, the MT being a restatement of TSBP, and the MN being a kiruv tool for those who were attracted to and entranced by neo Aristolelian philosophy. The reconciliation of Rambam’s apparently conflicting views in the MT and MN have occupied far greater minds than the two of us, but IMO, you elevate the MN as having some innate superiority to any conflicting passages in the MT-which I cited three different examples where there are intrinsic differences between Jews and Gentiles.

    As far as Kedusha being “an instrumental concept”, why does Rambam have a sefer in the MT entitled Sefer Kedusha, and its unique components? IIRC, RYBS stated the simple answer is that the components therein distinguish a Jew from a Gentile in how a Jew is supposed to conduct his or her life.

  144. Jon wrote in part:

    “I don’t really care what YOU think about RH or YK. I care, for the purposes of this discussion, about what the RAMBAM thinks. There is no question – at all, for anyone who’s opened the Rambam – that the RAMBAM thinks that those days signify no intrinsic difference between Jews and non-Jews. (It’s funny that you bring up kedusha – it’s very obvious to anyone that’s opened a Rambam that the Rambam regards kedusha as itself an instrumental concept!)”

    WADR,look at the language in Hilcos Teshuvah. There is no concept of either Aseres Ymei Teshuvah or YK for the Umos HaOlam as well as the concept that YK is the final day for the Teshuvah of the Jewish People.

  145. For the last time: both those concepts are INSTRUMENTAL concepts FOR JEWS, and do not reflect ANY INTRINSIC DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO.

  146. Jon wrote in relevant part:

    “whereas there is a clear and explicit statement from the Rambam (in MN 3:18) that says exactly what I say it does: that, according to the Rambam, Hashgacha operates identically for Jews and non-Jews, and only depends on one’s knowledge of God”

    I have read that MN 3:18 in my R Kapach edition of the MN, and the very old Friedlander translation of the relevant passage of the MN and it is clear that Rambam is using the Avos and Moshe Rabbeinu,and the Neviim as models for the spiritual heights that a person can reach-as opposed to anyone else,despite their innate potential to do so, which is dependent on their closeness or distance from HaShem.. Where does Rambam write in MN 3:18 that there are no intrinsic differences between Jews and Gentiles? Why would a Jew be a Shomer Torah UMitzvos is the Mitzvos in Sefer Kedusha merely reflected an “instrumental” concept?

  147. For those interested on how RYBS viewed the Rambam and the Ramban, this link is certainly worthwhile http://download.bcbm.org/Media/RavSoloveitchik/Parsha/Lech_Licha_RCA_1968_br.mp3, as well as the verbatim transcription in R D Holzer’s “The Rav on the Parsha” at Pages 3-4.

  148. “Chasidim view their Rebbes not as a conduit, but as spiritual mentors whose influence, Tefilos, and actions serve as a model. One can argue that the RY serve the same function for their talmidim, and that both models are rooted in a Mishneh in Avos-Aseh Lcha Rav, Koneh Lcha Chaver, Lhistakek min Hasafek.”

    Umm…OK. For the record, the idea that the chassidic “tzadik” is just a rosh yeshiva in disguise is patently false. (Ok, maybe if you say “some chassidim view their rebbe as..” it is technically true, but highly misleading as far as chassidic doctrine goes.) For example, there are serious strains of chassidic thought that see the rebbe as facilitator/intermediary required by non-tzadikim to get access to God (if that’s not a “conduit” what is?). See, e.g., http://www.hakirah.org/Vol%207%20Schochet.pdf. (I don’t know anything about the article other than that it is one of the first non-wikipedia sources that comes up discussing these ideas, but the existence of these ideas is a simple fact.) This discussion is already far afield so I am not really planning to engage on this, but I for some reason felt compelled to set the record straight.

  149. ” For the record, the idea that the chassidic “tzadik” is just a rosh yeshiva in disguise is patently false”

    Agreed

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