Judaism: Is it Racism?
A reader asked that the JewishTimes address the Torah's "unfair" Torah treatment of non-Jews. Our reader cited numerous excerpts from the Talmud, Maimonides and other sources...some of which were clear distortions. In her opinion, these sources seemingly portrayed gentiles as subhuman to Jews.
Responding to the literally dozens of quotes would be quite lengthy. For sake of brevity, if we can present a difference between two individuals, where one has less rights due to his violation of God's will, this alone will explain why he will deserve different treatment, than another, who obeys God. In such a case, certain Torah laws will not favor that violator, as much as the Torah favors the follower of God's word. The rights of the violator will be compromised, as it is God who bestows rights on all people.
The Torah reveals God's value of various individuals, be it a man, woman, slave, child, unborn, or idolator. Values vary, based on many considerations: the independent sustainment of life (not found in unborns), one's criminal activity, religious deviation, and more.
Let's take the violator – be he Jewish or gentile. He forfeits the degree that God shows him preference, as compared to a righteous person. When a person violates idolatry, for example, and deserves death, we mean to say that he no longer retains rights to existence. He has disregarded his purpose, as willed by God. Now, as a result, once this most essential feature – his existence – is no longer a value to God, it is reasonable that he has certainly forfeited all that is secondary to existence, such as societal fabrications of "ownership", and the like.
Halachikly speaking, if one were to kill a person already sentenced to death, he is not punished with death. This is because Jewish law has now defined the sentenced person as "lacking life". He may be standing before us, breathing and talking, but if I were to kill the sentenced person – whether Jew or gentile – I would not receive the death penalty, since his definition is not a full-fledged "living" status, according to the Torah's definitions. Similarly, if a glass vase was falling from a roof, and before it shattered on the cement, someone broke it while it was plummeting downward, he is not liable. For the Torah defines that object as already "lacking value", due to its inevitable destruction. However, if one is not sentenced to death, stealing is prohibited, be he Jew or gentile.
When assessing the value of human life, we must return to God's acts and laws. He alone determines who retains his or her right to existence, since He alone created life. It is vital that we do not prefer our subjective moral feelings, but that we defer to God's principles. This is the primary error for people accusing Torah as favoring the Jew.
We must note the Ir Haniddachas, a Jewish city that worshipped idols, and is sentenced as a whole to destruction. Jewish Sabbath violators are also killed, even for the simplest act, like gathering wood. (Numbers 15:35) There is no preference to the Jew. In fact, a Jewish heretic and Apikores are worse off than an idolator. (Maimonides, Hil. Eydus 11:10)
"One Torah for the Jew and convert" is mentioned numerous times in our most primary book, the Torah. This means that one's value is based on his choices, not his lineage. Therefore, any gentile can attain perfection, and anyone born to Jewish parents can become despicable. Kings David and Solomon were descendants of Ruth the convert, and the evil Korach was a Jew. David and Solomon attained perfection and the afterlife, while Korach was killed.
Excepting this human equality, there are additional concerns that violators be not strengthened, for the good of the world. At times, the law will not require our return of lost objects, or monetary oversights to those who reject God, for this would strengthen their evil ways, and hurt others. However, it must be stressed that to steal, mislead or cause "any" human to err, is prohibited.
Gentile vs. Jew: Why so severe?
A gentile is killed if he steals a penny, while a Jew is not. Is this a case of favoritism, or superiority of the Jew? No. However we must appreciate the distinction...
The 7 Noahide laws are a minimal threshold for one to retain his or her right to life. This is not a system of "perfection", as a wise Rabbi taught. If a gentile cannot abide by these few laws, he has fallen below the level, where God tolerates his continued existence. So it matters none whether he killed, or stole a penny. In either case, he has not maintained the minimal level earning continued existence. He must be killed. But since the Jew adheres to a "system of perfection", the 613 laws, his infraction of stealing a penny is not indicative of his falling below a threshold. He is performing many other laws, and they compensate. The gentile is not.
A gentile who converts and accepts all 613 laws is treated identical to a Jew. God is completely just. He created all men and women equally. It is unfortunate that we hear nonsensical teachings that Jews possess a "superior soul". God created one human race, and never re-created a second, "more advanced mankind". We all descend from Adam and Eve. Therefore, we must all share the identical design...physically and spiritually.
At Creation, there was no such thing as Jew and gentile. Rather, God created "man and woman" and gave a few laws to them. As time progressed, additional laws were necessary, until the Torah was finally given; a large part of it now countering idolatrous practices that arose. But the most perfected people – Adam, Noah, Shem, Ever, the patriarchs and matriarchs, Moses, Aaron and Miriam – were not Jews. They were as gentile as any other member of the human race. Their elevated status was not a "birthright", but of their own doing. They chose to live lives based on reason, and profound truths, reached through diligent study and the care for truth. This is truly man's merit: his acts. Being "born superior" is false.
Abraham too was a perfected person, and also, as gentile as all other men. He arrived at truths, abandoned idolatry, and sought to help others realize their errors. God selected him as the forerunner of a new nation, to which, He eventually gave a Torah. These people were called "Jews", or Hebrews, from the root "eber", which means "other", as in leading a life "other" than idolatry. But there was nothing magically added to this group, once they were called Hebrews. These Hebrews were never granted some new soul, as many Jews today accept blindly with baseless pride. In fact, it was Abraham "the gentile" who deserves the merit for arriving at such a perfected state, that God commenced communication with him. Abraham "the gentile" received God's communication. Not one Jew today can make this claim, and conclusively puts to rest the "Jewish superior soul" notion.
There is no merit being born to a Jewish parent. Merit is "earned" by one's perfection over decades, not granted unconditionally to feeble newborns. If a Jew violates idolatry, he is not absolved from his crime due to his lineage. God does not absolve anyone from murder, if his grandfather was born in Spain. Similarly, God does not absolve the idolater, if his father was a Jew. "A man in his own sin will be killed". (Deut. 24:16) Merit is earned. So is sin. This must be clear.
The system of Divine "Reward and Punishment" for our actions, is one of our primary tenets. Maimonides says that the 13 Principles are so vital, that to earn an afterlife, we must accept them all, including Reward and Punishment. Therefore, if someone feels his "being a Jew" alone earns him reward, despite his actions, he denounces this fundamental, and forfeits his afterlife. No matter is more severe.
In summary, the position that God favors the Jew is both; baseless, unreasonable, and historically false.
God does not favor someone based on his lineage.
Who does God favor? The person who follows His word.