Are Jews a Super Race?
Alberto: If you remember me, I run a Noahide study Group in Brazil. Learning together the Sefer Kuzari, we arrived at a critical point just in the first part of the book. Rabbi Judah Halevi presents the doctrine of Jewish superiority. He says that the born Jew receives the so called "overflow" of the Divine influence by simply being born Jew, and that comes by a choice of God before the person actually born. And this allows him to achieve elevated spiritual realms, like prophecy. But even if he does not behave accordingly, not receiving it, the "seed" of superiority is still in the Jew so any future descendant of him may become great, being his descendant, citing the case of Terach father of Abraham, in whom Terach this "seed" was hidden, but yet was transferred to Abraham.
Rabbi: This cannot be a correct view of prophecy, as Abraham, Hagar and other gentiles received prophecy. You also cite a theory of a Jewish "seed" that travels through a lineage. Perhaps God desires to ensure each generation has good leaders, and He does so through lineage, as this offers the descendants the identity with their perfected ancestors; an inspiration that although guided by God, still requires free will. Its is difficult to discuss how God acts, unless He teaches us in His Torah. Rabbi Judah Halevi may have reasons for his theory we do not recognize, but you will see that this theory does not contradict reason, or God's true plan of human equality. Planting good leaders within a single family line is a gift to each generation, and in no way indicates that others cannot perfect themselves too.
Human perfection is not reserved for the Jew alone. The Jew's distinction – not superiority – is his "designation", not his human or spiritual design. This is what Rabbi Judah Halevi means. If it were otherwise, this would mean God dooms the gentile to a lesser existence than the Jew. And if this were so, how does God demand many times in the Torah, that the gentile who converts must observe the "same Torah" as the Jew? If a gentile is lesser, he cannot fulfill God's command. And that would be an injustice, which God does not perform. Therefore, the gentile must have the same potential for perfection as the Jew.
The "overflow" of God's providence towards the Jewish nation is precisely so the Jews might educate gentiles. God does not care less for gentiles. As He created us all, He is concerned for us all. In fact, the paragraphs of the Kuzari you cited explains that those who enjoyed God's providence, were gentiles! Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve tribes...all gentiles. The Jew did not yet exist. And these gentile monotheists received prophecy, thereby rejecting the idea of a "superior" Jew. For what Jew today is a prophet? Thus, former gentiles have surpassed us.
God directed His providence over a the Jewish people, or rather, Abraham's descendants. He wished Abraham's monotheism to spread. Without a doubt, the Jewish "nation" is different than all others, as Rabbi Judah Halevi states. However, this does not mean that a sinful Jewish "individual" retains such providence, or that a gentile can never share in the nation's good fortune. And even when Rabbi Judah Halevi says that a convert is not quite equal to a Jew, this is not in terms of his potential for perfection. This means that certain, few laws limit the convert's role in Jewish society, such as restrictions on leadership. But he can reach complete perfection, as Ruth and countless others demonstrated. And these leadership restrictions are no reflection on the gentile. Perhaps this indicates the inferiority of "people" (Jews) whose imperfect natures would be less accepting of a convert for a king. Certain laws are concessions, not God's preferences. These include the female captive.
God's specific providence over the Jewish nation alone is not a "favoritism" for the Jew. God established one nation to serve as a proof of the good man receives when obedient, and the severe punishment when we violate God's word. No other nation experienced our rises and falls. We are an example for the world. This means God cares about the entire world, using the Jew as the example. God set up Abraham as an "av hammone goyim", a leader of peoples, and direct all mankind towards God's ways. (Gen. 17:5) Thus, God desires the good for "all" people. God also asks we observe His laws, as the performance will be our "wisdom and understanding in the eyes of all people" who will respond, "What a wise, understanding great nation this is!" (Deut. 4:6) Why does God desire this response from other nations, unless due to His concern for their perfection? And this must mean that other nations can be imbued by Torah's perfecting laws, just like the Jew.
We all descend from one couple, Adam and Eve. Therefore, we all share the same design. There is no inherent difference between Jew and gentile. Ruth decided to convert. She had no Jewish ancestry. Yet she was superior to many Jews. Her superiority was based on her intelligence. Boaz preferred Ruth over a Jewish woman. Her descendants became our kings, beloved by God. And the Messiah too descends from Ruth – the convert.
Alberto: The non Jew does not have this opportunity, even if he or she behaves in righteous way. Rabbi Judah Halevi says in questions 31 to 43, as is established in nature, plants have a lesser soul than animals, and animals have lesser or inferior souls compared to humans. I wonder if this was the way of thinking of the Ramchal. Accordingly, the Jews should be a kind of super-human class, as is proved by the miracles that occurred to Moses (being without food for 40 days, walking in fire inside Sinai and others miracles) and to the Israelites in the desert. This should be considered as example to the inherently spiritual superiority of all Jews. I wish to mention that I could re-interpret everything here on my own way looking for rational understanding of the text. But I think this is not fair to the author if he did not mean it.
Rabbi: Again, God offered miracles and prophecies for non-Jews, like Hagar. The point here is incorrect. It is not one's birth that determines his status, but death. We stated last week that Abraham was not a Jew, yet God loved him over all others. We learn that one's beginning is of no consequence, all that matters is what he/she makes of him or herself. "Better is the day of death than the day of birth". (Koheles 7:1) King Solomon says this since at birth, one has no merits. But at death, he or she has arrived at a life of perfection. This verse also applies to a Jew, thereby rejecting the notion that at birth, the Jew has any greater value. The Jew too must wait until death to have his soul assessed as being a value or not. And if he can ruin his soul, it is false to suggest his soul is "better".
Alberto: Latter on Rabbi Judah Halevi explains that God revealed His Torah to Israel and not to all humanity due to their inherent inferiority. He explains in questions 94, 95 and 102, 103 to mention just few examples, that this is established in Scripture since its very beginning, starting with Adam – the very work of God – who transmitted his superiority to Hevel something like genetically, and not to Cain, as proved by his behavior. After the assassination, we saw that Shet came into being and receiving from Adam the perfection at birth, and so on until Noah, Shem and Ever. From then the inherent perfection was transmitted to Abraham only. From him only to Itzchak and not Ishmael or others sons. And from Itzchak to Jacob only and not to Essav. Jacob was the first – according to Rabbi Judah Halevi – to transmit that inherent perfection to the 12 sons equally. That's why only the Children of Israel were chosen by God to receive the Torah. If a gentile chooses to join Israel, he or she will receive great reward for it, but still in an inferior state compared with the born Jew.
Rabbi: The fact that certain people like Cain did not perfect themselves rejects this concept of a superior "seed". And Talmud Avoda Zara opens with the medrash of God offering the Torah to other nations. Thus, they must have been equally capable of accepting it.
Alberto: My question then is obvious. Those works, called "Judaism's Classics" makes it clear that if it is so, then humanity is condemned to a lesser degree of spirituality, eternally trapped in this genetic, pre-condition, the very reason WHY they should keep ONLY the Seven Laws of Noah, because they can have no further perfection, the Goyim they are. What kind of Divine Justice is that?
Rabbi: But Maimonides teaches that any gentile wishing to follow additional laws may due so. The 7 Noahide laws are merely a minimum, not a limit. This teaches again that the gentile has the identical capacity as the Jew.
Alberto: I found that this doctrine is found not only in the Sefer Kuzari, but also other important works like those of the Ramchal (Sefer Derech Hashem – The Way of God – Chapter 4: paragraphs 03, 06, 07):
(3) God then scrutinized all mankind, perceiving the levels that should be made permanent in that generation, all possessing the qualities that were deemed appropriate to their root ancestor. The descendants of each of these individuals were thus divided into permanent groupings, each with its own characteristics and limitations. They were destined to father future generations who would inherit these characteristics, just as members of any particular species inherit the characteristics of their forebears.
According to the Highest Judgment, it turned out that none of them deserved to rise above the degraded level to which Adam and his children had fallen as a result of their sin. There was, however, one exception, and that was Abraham. He had succeeded in elevating himself, and as a result of his deeds was chosen by God. Abraham was therefore permanently made into a superior excellent tree, conforming to man's highest level. It was further provided that he would be able to produce branches possessing his characteristics. The world was then divided into seventy nations. All of them, however, remained on the level of man in his fallen state, while only Israel was in the elevated state.
(6) The decree, however, was not that the other nations should be destroyed. It only meant that they would have to remain on the lower level that we have discussed. These nations still have the human aspect, blemished though it may be, and God desired that they should at least have a counterpart of what actually appropriate for all mankind. He therefore granted them a Soul (neshama) somewhat like of the Jew, even though it is on a much lower level.
They were likewise given commandments through which they could attain both material and spiritual advantages appropriate to their nature. There are the seven commandments given to the children of Noah.
(7) In the World to come, however, there will be no nation other than Israel. The souls of righteous gentiles will be allowed to exist in the Future World, but only as an addition and attachment to Israel. They will therefore be secondary to the Jew, just as a garment is secondary to the one who wears it. All that they attain of the ultimate good will have to be attained in this manner, since by virtue of their nature they can receive no more.
It seems to me, Judaism preaches that only the Jews can have true relationship with God, because only they received via their ancestors the perfection needed for it, they are the sons of Abraham so only they can be recipient to God's "everything" (light, knowledge, wisdom, blessings, resurrection, etc). Non Jews can have only an ordinary relationship with God by means of an inferior "angel" who cares for them.
Explain for me please having such sources clearly speaking about Jewish inherent superiority above humanity, do we have any similar work of any sage that comes to teach just the opposite as clear as those works are? If we suppose they got it wrong, why their view were not corrected by anybody? I mean since the publisher to those Yeshivot or Batei Midrashot whom takes responsibility with the commentaries. Many Rabbis preach this idea in public in Israel (like Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak shlita) and no Beis Din, no Tribunal, rabbinic counsel or similar says that perhaps he is wrong on this regard or "is just his opinion". It seems more like this is always the faith of Israel as a People. Of course my reason rejects this idea. But does my reason have any other support than itself and these interpretations of the Tanach in the Jewish literature? I am forced to build my own, personal Judaism because the original is altered or maculated. Should I read only the Torah, choosing very carefully (according to what I think represents reason) those commentaries because many of them are not trustworthy as they should? And when they say something that appears to be "racism" or unfair, should I re-interpret it, closing my eye to the fact that in fact they said it? Because I see more and more hard to find works that corroborate with a rational approach of Judaism.
Quantity is not the issue here. But thinking about the Judaism throughout time, those thousand of communities and Synagogues around the World, and all their history, it surprises me that very few of them where not supremacists. And those supremacists are considered great authorities, among the Jewish People as a whole. Do you have a list of authors that you know for sure, that their works are free from such absurdities (if my judgment is right)?
Rabbi: Alberto, allow me to provide guidelines before addressing your last questions:
1) Rabbis are the first to admit that two opposing opinions cannot be correct. Either one, or both views are wrong. But both cannot be right. So when we hear opposing views on this subject of human equality, be ready to accept that one Rabbi is wrong. Do not allow reputations to blur your thinking; do not permit the silence on this issue throughout time to play any role. Be not impressed that certain books or writings exists. Such labors do not validate their content. Consider that your understanding of a given Rabbi might be flawed. And be prepared to accept that maybe this issue has already been addressed, not like you thought...but it was addressed in the prophets that you have not yet studied.
Finally, once you know a truth, do not allow any other consideration to compromise the golden rule: that which is true cannot change.
2) Understand that hierarchal order of importance of sources. Above all else and of 100% certainty are God's words. The verses located in Torah, Prophets and Writings alone are God's direct communications, which convey absolute truths, while works of men – even great Rabbis – can contain flaws. No man is perfect, not even Moses. He too made errors. Therefore, once an idea is proven as Gods words, it is of no consequence that a great Rabbi might say the opposite. The Rabbi is wrong, and God is correct. This is so obvious, but in today's age, where deification of spiritual leaders and Rabbis runs rampant, we must reiterate this fundamental.
3) For Torah violations, God punishes Jew and gentile alike. Some violations meet with the loss of one's soul, like idolatry. Now, if we suggest that a Jew possesses a superior soul, of what practical difference is this, if he can sin to the point of losing his soul? The claim of a superior soul makes no practical difference. It is also a claim not found in Torah, but only in the imagination of those without knowledge, or those with arrogance.
4) God's Torah system possesses laws, ideals, principles, philosophies...and fundamentals that might permeate any of these categories. In God's system, it is a fundamental that man's action is what merits reward – not his birth status. If mere birth status is the reason for reward, God rewards the Jew for something he did not do! Meaning, his supposed "superior" nature is due to God's act of creation, not the Jew's decisions! And that which man does not do, cannot entitle him to reward.
If you can accept these fundamental guidelines as truths, you will find none of your questions remain. Using reason and God's Torah communications as the deciding factors and determinants of truth, we arrive at the clarity that God did not create Jew and gentile, but rather, one species of man. I repeat myself: God created one human pair: Adam and Eve. All others down to you and I descend from this couple. No one since Adam was created anew: no one possesses a different design or nature than any one else. No one is superior in design. Therefore, it is incorrect to suggest there exists different "types" of humans. Thus, Jew and gentile are identical in design. Where we differ is not in our biological, psychological or spiritual design, but in 1) our Torah obligations, and 2) God's providence over the Jewish nation. But we already explained this to be, since God wishes there to exist an example, "for all people". This must be clear to you: Jews were set apart as a means of educating humanity. To be set apart due to some "superiority" is impossible, since no Jew at birth has yet demonstrated any perfection or superiority.
Yes, Abraham was a unique individual, perhaps created that way at that moment, as God has mercy on every generation, and in his day, Abraham was gifted to mankind to act as a beacon. It is no coincidence that Moses too was created in his time. And the Messiah too will arrive at the proper time.
Torah sources disagree with Ramchal's implications that "other nations would have to remain on the lower level", (unless he means as suggested herein). That implication is an injustice, that God would prevent human perfection of any person.
The sources disagree with Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak, if he means that a gentile is inherently limited. Let the Torah sources alone defend Torah's true position. Follow guideline #2 above, that there is an order to what determines truth. Follow God's words as revealed through the prophets. One who is not a prophet is on a far lesser level. You must agree.
"In the World to come, however, there will be no nation other than Israel." This means that all other religions will be abandoned, as God will show Torah truths to all peoples on that day, as the Prophets forecast.
You write, "only the Jews can have true relationship with God, because only they received via their ancestors the perfection needed for it." I believe we have shown this as false, via the example of Ruth.
You asked, "Do we have any similar work of any sage that comes to teach just the opposite?" Yes, Maimonides teaches in a number of places the equality of all people. In addition to Hilchos Melachim 10:10, see Laws of Shemita and Yovale 13:13. There, he states that any person of any gender who comes to the world; if he/she separates him/herself to worship God as he created them, that person becomes "Holy of Holies" and receives God's providence. He does not distinguish Jew from gentile, but in fact equates them by saying "any human".
You asked, "But does my reason have any other support than itself?" I feel you now see through the Torah's principles and many verses that equality exists for all people. Additionally, I have included in this week's JewishTimes issue an article on the fast-day Haftorah reading in Isaiah 55:6-56:8. I feel you will find here, additional proof.
Again, be not dismayed at the silence on this issue by any generation. If you question God's view, then study His words alone for the answer. All other considerations are of no concern.