Crowdsourcing Rambam the Particularist

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Prof. Menachem Kellner is working on a book on Maimonidean universalism and would like your help. He has published previously on this topic, in his Maimonides on Judaism and the Jewish People and Maimonides’ Confrontation with Mysticism, but this book contains new material.

Prof. Kellner has asked that we use the power of the internet, we crowdsource, to find particularist passages in Rambam’s writings, those that can be seen as indicating that he thought Jews are intrinsically distinct from (and superior to) Gentiles. This is, understandably, contrary to the way many read Rambam’s general approach. That is what it makes it so interesting.

Here are eight such sources Prof. Kellner provided (some from a secondary source) to start the exercise:

Mishneh Torah
1) Hilkhos Teshuva II:10
2) H. Issurei Bi’ah XII:4-10
3) H. Issurei Bi’ah XIX:17
4) H. Matenos Aniyim I:1-2
5) H. Chovel u-Mazik V:10
6) H. Avadim IX.8

Commentary on the Mishnah
7) Bava Kama IV:3 (in connection with H. Nizkei Mammon VIII:5 and Melakhim X:12)
8) Avos V:18

Please provide additional sources in the comments, and make sure to note when you use secondary material.

About Gil Student

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

68 comments

  1. I think some of the passages in Hilchot Melachim and Milchamot can be used. But I havn’t looked to be certain. Just seems like a place were such a view could be evidenced.

    Perhaps his statements regarding conquering egypt?

  2. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg)

    In Iggeret Teiman, Rambam says that Non-Jews can be prophets, but i was told once that he contradicts that someplace in the Moreh. Haven’t seen where, though.

  3. Received via e-mail:
    Rabbi Shilat wrote a famous paper regarding the question of Segulat Yisrael & prophecy, comparing Maimonides to Rihal.
    The original is in Daat.ac.il (http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/maaliyot/sgulat-2.htm).
    Lately, he added several more isuues and composed a book, which can be found here:
    http://www.ybm.org.il/hebrew/Product.aspx?Product=125&Category=5

    Isaac Hershkowitz, Bar Ilan University

  4. I would have thought that the first chapter of Avodas Kochavim would be the best example of particularism. Rambam clearly explains how different Abraham’s theology was from the rest of the world. Am I missing something?

  5. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gedalia Walls: The issue is not theology, but whether Jews are, in the Rambam’s view, intrinsically distinct from and superior to Gentles. Hilkot Avodat Kokhavim, if anything, proves the opposite. Israel’s distinctivness there consists in its possession of the divine Law.

    Steg: To the best of my recollection Maimonides in the Guide does NOT say that non-Jews cannot be prophets. Moreover such view would go against his whole world view as presented there.

  6. How about the statement of Rambam in Hilcos Gerushin re the pressure applied to a husband to give a get because of his inner desire as a Jew to perform the mitzvos and the equally well known statement of Rambam in Perush HaMishnayos at the end of Maseces Makos?

  7. Perhaps Hilchot Melachim 8:11 (Akum is among chasidei umot ha’olam only if fulfills 7 mitzvot bnei Noach because believes in truth of Revelation to Jewish people via Moshe)?

  8. didn’t he write the opposite in his intro to “Must a Jew Believe Anything?”?

  9. Lawrence Kaplan

    Barry Kornblau: I do nnot see the relevance of this source of to the issue at hand.

    Steve Brizel: The source you cite from Gerushin would appear to be very relevant, and I am surprised Kellner did not cite it. I would just note that the best texts read mei-ahar she-hu rotzeh lihyot mi-Yisrael, rotzeh le-kayyem ( not “ve-rotzeh”) “Since he wishes to be an Israelite, he wishes to observe the commandments. His desire to fulfill the commandments, thus, is not an innate desire, but follows from his desire to be a Jew in good standing.

  10. This proposal does not seem to fit the strengths of the crowdsourcing method for several reasons: 1) Relatively few people are qualified to do it, 2) Along with many useful suggestions will come many non-useful ones, and the expert effort required to filter those out will be large, 3) There is (currently) no mechanism to avoid duplication of effort.

    Perhaps it would be more effective to get a grad student to read through the Rambam’s writings once with this in mind…

  11. “Prof. Menachem Kellner is working on a book on Maimonidean universalism and would like your help.”

    Sheesh! Why doesn’t he speak to R Asher Benzion Buchman? 😉

  12. Taken out of context this one seems nice.
    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/e510.htm

    יא [ט] גוי שעסק בתורה, חייב מיתה; לא יעסוק אלא בשבע מצוות שלהן בלבד. וכן גוי ששבת–אפילו ביום מימות החול–אם עשה אותו לעצמו כמו שבת, חייב מיתה; ואין צריך לומר אם עשה מועד לעצמו.

    יב כללו של דבר: אין מניחין אותן לחדש דת, ולעשות מצוות לעצמן מדעתן, אלא או יהיה גר צדק ויקבל כל המצוות, או יעמוד בתורתו ולא יוסיף ולא יגרע. ואם עסק בתורה, או שבת, או חידש דבר–מכין אותו ועונשין אותו, ומודיעין אותו שהוא חייב מיתה על זה; אבל אינו נהרג

  13. Lawrence Kaplan

    Avi: Why is this relevant? So far, the only person who has come with a good prima facie source is Steve Brizel.

  14. Why do you think it is not relevant?
    Only Jews get Shabbat, nobody else is worthy of it.

  15. I mean really, how is that statement not relevant?

  16. Larry Kaplan-how about Teshuvah 2:6-7?

  17. Lawrence Kaplan

    Avi: The issue, to repeat, is whether, for Maimonides, Jews, a la Halevi, are *intrinsically* distinct from and superior to Gentiles. The Jews received the Sabbath as a part of the revelation of the Law, and it was that revelation, for Maimonides, and NOT an inherent Halevian inyan E-lohi, which made them distinct.

  18. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve Brizel: How is Teshuvah 2:6-7 relevant. Maimonides there is speaking about the Tzibbur. So? You should have stopped while you were ahead.

  19. Larry Kaplan-Isn’t a fair reading of the halachos in the Yad that I recently quoted to the effect that Aseres Ymei Teshuvah and YK represent a special period of teshuvah for the Jewish People?

  20. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve Brizel: Indeed, it is. But, again, what does this have to do with the issue, to repeat myself yet again, as to whether, for Maimonides, Jews, a la Halevi, are *intrinsically* distinct from and superior to Gentiles?

  21. The Guide 3:51 (the mashal about the king’s palace) might be seen as particularist by some.

  22. Tum’as Mes 1:13

    עכו”ם שנגע במת או נשאו או האהיל עליו הרי הוא כמי שלא נגע הא למה זה דומה לבהמה שנגעה במת או האהילה על המת ולא בטומאת המת בלבד אלא בכל הטומאות כולן אין העכו”ם ולא הבהמה מתטמאין בהן

  23. Why not google Maimonides and particularism-one could then google that search and anyone that one wishes eg Twersy and a lot of others.

  24. Lawrence Kaplan

    Dov: Guide 3:51 particularist? How so? Most criticism of the parable revolves about its not being particularist enough. As for the notorious passage about Turks in the North and Blacks in the south, that clearly does not refer ot all non-Jews.

    As for Tumas Mes: For the Rambam, tumah is a purely functional category. See end of Mikvaot, and Guide 3:47.

    Again, the issue is not whether for the Rambam there are any legal distinctions between Jews and Gentiles. Of course there are.

  25. Lawrence Kaplan

    Mycroft: The issue raised by Prof. Kellner is whether Maimonides subscribes to a Halevian type of particularism.

  26. Larry Kaplan,
    I am a bit confused by your responses. If Avi’s source is not valid because it is rooted in revelation of the law and not an intrinsic difference, then some of the examples in Issurei Biah 12:4-10 cited above would also fail to demonstrate any inherent difference.

    Further, why would Steve’s original example constitute a valid example? The Rambam is merely saying that ALL men wish to follow the law and in this case, the law for Jews happens to include Gerushin. What he is really saying is that all men, by their nature, want to follow the law and if you ascribe to the Rambam some belief in Natural Law, then distinctions in the law ARE inherent differences.

  27. I believe there is a typo where H. Matenos Aniyim I:1-2 is suggested as a source (#4 under Mishneh Torah). Perhaps Matenos Aniyim X:1-3 was intended, where Jewish compassion is presented as an inborn quality of Zera Avraham and the cruel person who lacks it has a suspect lineage.

  28. Lawrence Kaplan

    AAK: You are obviously right, and there is no “perhaps ” about it.

    James: Your observation in your first paragraph is well taken. I think Prof. Kellner’s [K] point needs to be clarified. He believes, as do I, that in truth, for the Rambam, Jews are NOT intrinsically distinct from and superior to Gentiles. He therefore further believes, as again do I, that all those passages which appear to point to any such intrinsic distinctions, upon closer examination do no such thing. Since we are dealing with appearances, the borderlines may not be clear.

    Issurei Biah 12:4-10, as you note, is a borderline example. I am not sure why K included it. It does not seem to point to any intrinsic difference. I assume K included it because the last halakhah is the most horrendous halakhah in the entire MT, with its comparison of an innocent gentile child to an animal and, much worse, her being put to death like one. But if the comparison with an animal suffices to make this halakhah particularist, then Avi’s point that Tumas Mes 1:13 should be in the list is well taken. I assume that K would reply, as I did, that tumah for Maimonides is a purely functional category, and so the comparison there an of a gentile with an animal does not even prima facie point to an intrinsic difference. This is what I mean by a borderline case.

    As for you second paragraph: Where in the halakhah in Hilkhot Gerushin does the Rambam say that all men wish to follow the law?

  29. Lawrence Kaplan

    Let me add an example: Avodah Zarah 11:17[16]. This is a a particularly important example, since how we resolve this “particularist” halakhah provides a key for how to understand most of the others in the list.

  30. “Avi: The issue, to repeat, is whether, for Maimonides, Jews, a la Halevi, are *intrinsically* distinct from and superior to Gentiles. The Jews received the Sabbath as a part of the revelation of the Law, and it was that revelation, for Maimonides, and NOT an inherent Halevian inyan E-lohi, which made them distinct.”

    Sorry, but that makes no sense here. If Jews and Gentiles are entirely the same, except for the revelation of the law, and a non-Jew becomes aware of the law, such that they wish to follow it, then they should be allowed to do so. If the law is the only thing that separates Jews from Non-Jews, then non-Jews should be able to follow the law, and would then become known as Jews. Conversion as a whole would not even be necessary, just a pair of witnesses which delcare that So-and-so follow the Laws and hold them to be binding.

    But stating that a Non-Jew must first become a Jew, and only then may they follow the laws, proves that Jews and non-Jews have an inherent difference. That difference must first be overcome before they are allowed to follow Jewish laws.

    Not only that, but the difference must be overcome before even being allowed to be taught what those laws are!

  31. ” But if the comparison with an animal suffices to make this halakhah particularist, then Avi’s point that Tumas Mes 1:13 should be in the list is well taken.”

    Not sure who you are talking about, but I never mentioned that. I’m still stuck reading over hilchot Malachim and Milchamot.

  32. Lawrence Kaplan

    Avi: And I suppose that American citizens and people who are not American citizens are intrinsically different because of formal ciitizenship requirements and the need for a formal cermony.

    As for the halakhot you point to, there are many rational ways to explain them without resorting to your forced assumptions. See, for a start, the Rambam’s teshuvah about teaching Torah to non-Jews.

  33. Lawrence Kaplan

    Avi: Re Tumas Mes 1:13, I meant Dov. My apologies to you both.

  34. Lawrence Kaplan –

    1) You are right about the parable. I misunderstood it. And about Tumas Mes, I brought it up like you wrote in your previous comment, because of the animal comparison. I hear your answer.

    2) How is the Geirushin halacha relevant? The Rambam makes no distinction there between forcing a Jew and forcing a Gentile (yes, he distinguishes between who is doing the forcing, but the issue is clearly not Jew vs. Gentile but rather הדין מחייבו vs. אין הדין מחייבו).

  35. “Mycroft: The issue raised by Prof. Kellner is whether Maimonides subscribes to a Halevian type of particularism.”

    For the benefit of an uninitiate like myself, can someone provide a synopsis of a synopsis of “Halevian particularlism”?

  36. Dov- Anonymous was me. All I see there is that Jews are more pious.

  37. Shaul –

    That short synopsis really presents two distinct steps: 1)They are superior because they were chosen to be. 2)They were chosen, back then, because of their pedigree, which has chashivus because of the piety of Shem, Ever, the Avos, and the Shevatim.

    IOW ex post facto they are superior regardless of their current level of piety.

  38. but the MT is universalist. At the very center, end of Hil Shmitta veYovel, we have:

    יא [יג] ולא שבט לוי בלבד, אלא כל איש ואיש מכל באי העולם אשר נדבה רוחו אותו והבינו מדעו להיבדל לעמוד לפני ה’ לשרתו ולעובדו לדעה את ה’, והלך ישר כמו שעשהו האלוהים, ופרק מעל צווארו עול החשבונות הרבים אשר ביקשו בני האדם–הרי זה נתקדש קודש קודשים, ויהיה ה’ חלקו ונחלתו לעולם ולעולמי עולמים; ויזכה לו בעולם הזה דבר המספיק לו, כמו שזיכה לכוהנים וללויים. הרי דויד אומר “ה’, מנת חלקי וכוסי–אתה, תומיך גורלי” (תהילים טז,ה).

  39. Shaul — see pp. 242-249 of http://www.amazon.com/Yehuda-Halevi-Jewish-Encounters-Hillel/dp/0805242066/ref=sr_1_1 for the general context of Rambam vs. Halevi.

    And then on p. 296:

    There was nothing unusual about Halevi’s conviction of Jewish superiority. It was shared by nearly all Jews of his age, just as a similar conviction about themselves was held by Christians and Muslims. What was unique was his association of this with what today would be called genetic factors.

  40. Larry Kaplan,

    The Rambam in Gerushin does not say that all men want to follow the law. It says that Jews want to follow Jewish law. Steve thought, and you agreed, that this might be an example of particularism. My point was that leshitatcha, this is not a proof.

  41. Lawrence Kaplan

    James: I did not say that Hilkhot Gerushin 2:19 is a proof for a particularist reading. I said prima facie it appears to lend itself to a particularist view. But, I argued, a close reading of the halakhah, according to the correct text (“rotzeh le-kayyem,” not “ve-rotzeh le-kayyem”) indicates that it does not support a particularist reading.

    James and Dov: Now checking 2:18, which I shoulkd have done to begin with, I can see how one can say that there the Rambam is referring to people in general, not just to Jews. I do not think this is the case, but I dismissed the possibility too hastily. I think 2:19 clarifies 2:18 and both refer to Jews, but the matter requires more analysis. But I have things to do for Shabbat.

  42. Iggeres Teiman (ed. Kafih), from chapter 2:

    וכבר באר ה’ יתעלה בתורה בדברו עם אברהם שכל מה שהבטיחו הקב”ה יתעלה מן הברכות, ושהוא יתן תורה לבניו, ויעשם סגולה, לא יהיה זה אלא מזרע יצחק בלבד, והוא (ישמעאל) טפל ונספח לברכות יצחק, והוא אמרו וגם את בן האמה לגוי אשימנו כי זרעך הוא, הנה באר בזה כי העיקר יצחק וזה טפל. ובאר יתעלה ואמר כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע ונתעלם מישמעאל לגמרי, כלומר שזרעו ואפילו יהיה רב במספרו לא יהא נעלה ולא רצוי, ולא חלק לו בשלמות האנושית כדי שתתפרסם בו ותודע. אלא לא תודע מעלתך כי אם בזרעך הנעלה והוא זרע שיהיה מיצחק…

    Even though this is obviously a polemic directed at Islam, the natural course of this line of thought should suggest that in the world, the Jews are עיקר and the Gentiles טפל.

  43. I’m not sure if this qualifies, but:

    Avodah Zarah 10 – The beginning, which talks about saving the life of an עכו”ם or healing him etc. could possibly be learned as referring only to the seven nations. However from Shabbos 2:20/Issurei Biah 15:26 it can be inferred that all עכו”ם are included. Moreover in teshuva 60 (Pe’er Hador) he writes explicitly that all Gentiles are included, as he ends off ואין חילוק בזה בין עכו”ם לשאר וכו (Mekitze Nirdamim has the version ואין הפרש בזה בין ישמעאלי לנוצרי).

  44. Jon Baker –

    Exactly. That’s why it’s a challenge.

  45. Larry Kaplan-how about the first Halacha in Hilcos Ishus-one can argue ( as did RYBS), that marriage is an institution that has no application to the non-Jewish world. Perhaps, that is because marriage between husband and wife is supposed to be a replica of the marriage like covenantal relationship between HaShem and the Jewish People.

  46. Steve Brizel –

    How does he argue that? If you are going to infer that from that halacha you would have to say that there was no such thing as marriage prior to matan Torah, period. Here’s* a whole list of sources where a variation of the phrase לקיחת אשה is used, many before matan Torah. Also, we have halachos about a non Jewish eshes ish, such as one of the 7 mitzvos, and the added chiddush that even she is included in the halacha of יפת תואר.

    *http://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%91%D7%99%D7%90%D7%95%D7%A8:%D7%9C%D7%A7%D7%97_%D7%90%D7%A9%D7%94

  47. “As for the halakhot you point to, there are many rational ways to explain them without resorting to your forced assumptions. See, for a start, the Rambam’s teshuvah about teaching Torah to non-Jews.”

    Perhaps the point of this post was missed on you. And perhaps you didn’t understand what I meant when I said “Taken out of context”.

    But in the begining you said that my source is irrelevant. You did not say I was understanding it wrong, or that there was some forced assumption, you said it was completely irrelevant. I’m happy now to see you backtracking on that.

    But anyway, I hope that whomever is looking for this information will find it useful.

  48. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve Brizel: Are you sure that’s the position of the Rav? In the very first halakhah you refer to, the Rambam speaks about people marrying before Mattan Torah.There was just no formal marriage ceremony. Also, one of the seven Noahide comments is eshet ish. QED! (I now see that Dov has pointed this out.) Anyway, the halakhah has no relevance for the issue in question.

    Avi: Perhaps you can explain to me how the sources you cited are relevant.

  49. Larry Kaplan and Dov-Yes, I have had heard Ishus 1:1 cited many times as indicative of the need for a communal approval of the marriage process. WADR, none of the sources cited by Dov refer to the process of Kiddushin, which you dismissed as a “formal marriage ceremony”, but which the Rambam in Ishus 1:1 sets forth as a Mitzvah commanded to the Jewish People. Why isn’t the Rambam merely stating the truism of “Nitnah Torah Nischadshah Halacha”?

  50. Jon Baker cited this well known Halacha from Yad, at the very end of Shemitah VYovel:

    “[יג] ולא שבט לוי בלבד, אלא כל איש ואיש מכל באי העולם אשר נדבה רוחו אותו והבינו מדעו להיבדל לעמוד לפני ה’ לשרתו ולעובדו לדעה את ה’, והלך ישר כמו שעשהו האלוהים, ופרק מעל צווארו עול החשבונות הרבים אשר ביקשו בני האדם–הרי זה נתקדש קודש קודשים, ויהיה ה’ חלקו ונחלתו לעולם ולעולמי עולמים; ויזכה לו בעולם הזה דבר המספיק לו, כמו שזיכה לכוהנים וללויים. הרי דויד אומר “ה’, מנת חלקי וכוסי–אתה, תומיך גורלי” (תהילים טז,ה).

    I would suggest that the key to understanding this Halacha are the phrases “לפני ה’ לשרתו ולעובדו לדעה את ה’”, and “ופרק מעל צווארו עול החשבונות הרבים אשר ביקשו בני האדם–הרי זה נתקדש קודש קודשים, ויהיה ה’ חלקו ונחלתו לעולם ולעולמי עולמים

    Only by living in the means by which a person is “לפני ה’ as defined by the Torah and TSBP “can one reach such an exalted level-not by living a life based on one’s DIY definitions of the same.

  51. “Avi: Perhaps you can explain to me how the sources you cited are relevant.”

    Fine, I’ll repeat myself, because I’m nicer than you are.

    Stating that a Non-Jew must first become a Jew, and only then may they follow the laws, proves that Jews and non-Jews have an inherent difference. That difference must first be overcome before they are allowed to follow (edit: Or learn) Jewish laws.

    “Avi: And I suppose that American citizens and people who are not American citizens are intrinsically different because of formal ciitizenship requirements and the need for a formal cermony.”

    No, you suppose wrongly. Which is why the Constitution also applies to Non US citizens who are on US soil, according to the supreme court of the united states. And why any non-citizen can follow and be taught any law in America they wish to learn.

  52. Avi –

    Stating that a Non-Jew must first become a Jew, and only then may they follow the laws, proves that Jews and non-Jews have an inherent difference. That difference must first be overcome before they are allowed to follow (edit: Or learn) Jewish laws.

    Lawrence rightly points out that in the teshuva Rambam clearly doesn’t learn this way, because he permits teaching Torah to Christians. His objection seems to be not due to an intrinsic difference between Jews and Gentiles but to a fear that they will take it and run, so to speak.

    As for following the laws, Rambam writes in a few places (off the top of my head – in Melachim, Milah, and in a teshuva about milah) that they may do the mitzvos and they are rewarded like every אינו מצווה ועושה. This is with the exception of Shabbos though, of course. That might be a good point.

  53. Lawrence Kaplan

    Dov: Indeed, you are correct regarding both your points. That is, indeed, how I understand the responsum. Avi, take note. As for Dov’s second paragraph: “A Noahide who wishes to perform any one of the other mitzovt of the Torah [except for Sabbath] in order to receive a reward in not prevented from doing it in a halakhic fashion.” Why the Sabbath is different is a good question. But the onus of proof is on Avi to show that it has anything to do with intrinsic differnces. I realize that Avi is nicer than I, since he says so, but I think he fails to understand that there is a difference between intrinsic differences between members and non-mmebers of a particular community and legal differences stemming precisely from membership or non-membership in that community. Moreover, how a non-member becomes a member of a community does not indicate, in my view, that there is any intrinsic difference between him and a member.

    The irony, here, is that conversion has always been seen as being problematic for those who claimed that there are intrinsic differences between Jews and non-Jews. And here Avi, strangly, wishes to convert it into a strong point! Don’t you get it, Avi? Intrinsic differences, precisely because they are intrinsic, can NEVER be overcome! At least the particularists could recognize a problem when they saw one.

  54. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve: I am not quite sure what you are seeking to prove by quoting the end of Shemittah ve-Yovel. That text, of course, is a classic proof for the universalists, with its reference to
    “kol ish ve-ish mi-kol bai olam,” “any person from all the inhabitants of the world.”

  55. Again, I will repeat myself. Taken out of context, those halachot, give an argument for a particularist reading of the Rambam. If you wanted to selectively quote the Rambam to distort his true views, that is a section you could use.

    The fact that you want to say that other sections of the Rambam dispute that reading, then fine, but that isn’t what this posting is about. The fact that Rambam was not a particularist, does not mean that you can’t take his statements out of context to “show” that he was.

    As for conversion, there is no such problem. Particularists can argue that people who convert, do so only because they really had a Jewish soul to begin with, and the knowledge of that was lost over the generations. The process of conversion, does not give them a Jewish soul, but confirms to the community that they have one.

  56. Regarding the Halacha at the very end of Shemitah VYovel that was quoted, R’ Charlop in an article in Beit Yitzhak (early 1990’s) makes a similar claim that this halacha doesn’t apply specifically to Jews but would apply to non-Jews as well. When I get home from work I will take a look at the article and try to summarize R’ Charlop’s position here.

  57. Lawrence Kaplan

    Avi: The fact that particularists have to argue that converts have a Jewish soul to begin with indicates that they have problem on thir hands that they are trynig to solve. Note, by the way, Halevi doesn’t make such an assertion.

  58. R’ Charlop’s article is in the Beis Yitzchak from תשנ”ו page 187. He points out that the נושאי כלים on the Rambam don’t bring a מקור for this. R’ Chaim Kanievsky brings מקורות that relate to jews only, implying that he holds that the Rabam is talking about Jews only. R’ Kapach on the other hand says that the Rambam is referring to anyone even non-Jews.

    R’ Charlop concludes that the לשון of כל באי עולם should be taken literally and refers to Jews and non-Jews alike.

  59. Lawrence Kaplan

    Marty Bluke: Thanks for the reference. See also Hilkhot Sanhedrin 12:3(9), where the Rambam uses the phrase “baei olam” to clearly refer to all humanity. Perhaps Rabbi Charlop referred to the parallel.

  60. Steve, Prof Kaplan: Perhaps Steve is reading that halacha in a “secrets of the Rambam” sense? As in, even while he insists that korbanos will return, he secretly believes we have evolved past them?

    So too here, he seems to require that one who reaches this level be an eved Hashem. A non-Jew can never really be an eved Hashem insofar as he cannot observe Shabbos or learn Torah the way Jews dor. In fact, by violating Shabbos every week he will be reminded that he is a second-class citizen (in-process converts have told me as much). Thus, the non-Jew can’t actually reach this level (without converting). Even a Maimonidean ben-Noach isn’t an eved Hashem. He can only really be an atheist in practice – he has to give up non-Jewish holidays and beliefs, can’t institute his own holidays, but still can’t fully participate in Jewish holidays (aliyah leregel, etc.)

    One could argue, in fact, that the whole institution of bnei Noach reinforces Jewish particularism – even though you have given up your old religion, unless you indicate that you really have a Jewish soul and actually convert, you cannot break the glass mitzvah ceiling – you’ll always be a pretender.

  61. that aspect of particularism echoes (prefigures? what’s its source?) Calvinism – by converting, you demonstrate that you had a Jewish soul from the beginning, i.e., you’re one of the Elect, which you demonstrate by good works. But really, since you can’t change the nature of your soul, you’re predestined to be judged as a Jew or a non-Jew.

  62. Lawrence Kaplan

    Jon Baker: Actually, IIRC, there are some scholars, I forget who they are just now, who argue that the Rambam at the end of Shemittah ve-yovel is speaking about a non-Jew who converts to Judaism. The likelihhood of this seems nugatory in my view, but even granting the possibility for argument’s sake, the idea that a convert can reach such a high level serves to suppoort a universalist view.

  63. “The irony, here, is that conversion has always been seen as being problematic for those who claimed that there are intrinsic differences between Jews and non-Jews”
    It is my sociological guess that in general those who in the past couple of decades those who have begun to put the biggest barriers to acceptance of gerim are in general those who ahve trouble with theory of conversion because of a particularistic hashkafa. They can’t theoretically oppose the concept of gerim because there is a clear cut halacha of such but they tendto be harsher and less accepting.

    “As for conversion, there is no such problem. Particularists can argue that people who convert, do so only because they really had a Jewish soul to begin with, and the knowledge of that was lost over the generations. The process of conversion, does not give them a Jewish soul, but confirms to the community that they have one”
    top put it mildly I’ve had problems accepting this type of convoluted reasoning-I am not an expert but isn’t the source of such the Baal Hatanya.

    Of course,Prof Kaplan’s response is certainly accurate”Lawrence Kaplan on January 23, 2012 at 7:22 am
    Avi: The fact that particularists have to argue that converts have a Jewish soul to begin with indicates that they have problem on thir hands that they are trynig to solve. Note, by the way, Halevi doesn’t make such an assertion.”

    “R’ Chaim Kanievsky brings מקורות that relate to jews only, implying that he holds that the Rabam is talking about Jews only. R’ Kapach on the other hand says that the Rambam is referring to anyone even non-Jews.”
    Each has their own basic hashkafot RCKanievsky certainlyfrom the insular Chareidi world-R Kapach who studied at the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva was a dayan and was on the Rabbinical Supreme court before the chareidi takeoverwas far from a classical chareidi.

  64. Lawrence Kaplan

    Mycroft: Your last point was too relativist in my view. Here the clear peshat supports Rav Kapach.

  65. R’ Charlop claims that every place in Shas and the Rambam where the phrase כל באי עולם is used it refers to non-Jews as well. In addition to the Rambam in Hilchos Sanhedrin (12:3) he quotes 3 other Rambam’s using this phrase:
    Hilchos Teshuva (3:6) כשם ששוקלין עוונות אדם וזכייותיו, בשעת מיתתו–כך בכל שנה ושנה, שוקלין עוונות כל אחד ואחד מבאי העולם
    Hilchos Teshuva (6:3) ולמה היה שולח לו ביד משה ואומר לו שלח ועשה תשובה, וכבר אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא שאין אתה משלח… כדי להודיע לבאי העולם
    Hilchos Melachim (8,10) וכן ציווה משה רבנו מפי הגבורה, לכוף את כל באי העולם לקבל כל מצוות שנצטווה נוח

  66. Lawrence Kaplan

    Mart Bluke: Thanks for the info. Again, one could claim that the Rambam at the end of Shemitah veYovel is speaking about a non-Jew who converts. But if that is the case, ha-ikkar haser min ha-sefer. I don’t have the time now, but his wording there is extraordinarly interesting.

  67. Shalom,

    I would like to thank everyone who participated in this discussion, particularly my friend and colleague Larry Kaplan.

    My initial question may not have been clear enough. I have spent a good part of my career arguing that for Rambam the difference between Jew and Gentile is institutional, functional, legal, not what I have called “ontological” – a matter of software, as my friend Danny Lasker puts it, not a matter of hardware. In this Rambam opposes Yehudah Halevi (who is relatively moderate and restrained on the issue), and, following Halevi, Zohar, Kabbalah, Maharal, Hasidut, etc. (i.e., almost all Jews since the Middle Ages, sadly – now you know where I stand on the issue personally). I have explained and defended this position in several articles and in the following books:

    Maimonides on Judaism and the Jewish People. Albany: SUNY Press, 1991.
    Maimonides’ Confrontation With Mysticism. London: Littman Library of Jewish Civilizaton, 2006. (http://www.littman.co.uk/cat/kellner-maimonides.html)
    Science in the Bet Midrash: Studies in Maimonides. Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2009. (http://www.academicstudiespress.com/)

    I am now writing a new book, in Hebrew, in which I continue to make the case, this time by providing a very close reading of the first, middle, and final halakhot of the Mishneh Torah. In order to make my argument as strong as possible, I am including in the book a discussion of places in his writings in which it might be thought (incorrectly) that Rambam adopted the view that Jews and Gentiles are distinguished up front, as it were, by some sort of inborn, native, fundamental, “ontological” feature. In this I am revising and updating pp. 250-264 of Maimonides’ Confrontation With Mysticism. In this chapter I explain various (likhora problematic) passages, much in the way that Larry Kaplan suggests in several of his posts.

    It is in this connection that I posted my query and I once again thank all those who participated. You have indeed brought a number of texts to my attention which I will have to look at.

    The very first post mentions an article and book by Rav Sheilat, shlita. In the book, Rav Sheilat dramatically revises the position defended in the article. In the article he sought to “Halevi-ize” the Rambam; in the book he is much clearer about the fundamental distinctions between them (using a lovely play on words: for Halevi, Judaism is all about “re-iyah” – vision, while for Rambam it is all about “ra’ayah”-proof).

    Many thanks,

    Menachem Kellner

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter


The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

Archives

Categories

%d bloggers like this: