Monday, July 25, 2011

Who is a "Righteous Gentile?"

Who is a "Righteous Gentile?"

23 Tamuz 5771

This is similar to the question which continues to plague Israel---Who is a Jew? There are those who like to say, so-and-so may not be halachicly Jewish, but he would have qualified for the gas chamber in Hitler's Germany.

While that is tragic, it is not a reason to abandon the halacha. Hitler, y"sh does not define for us who is a Jew. Only Hashem does. To allow the Nazis to define Jewishness is to allow them to continue the shmad against us by other means and for all time. And just as we do not allow them to define who is a Jew, neither do we allow Yad Vashem to define who is a righteous Gentile.

Despite that Yad Vashem confers "righteous" status on Gentiles who assisted Jews, even to saving their lives, during the holocaust, we are duty-bound to employ the halachic criteria because while we may owe a debt of gratitude to such people, it is the Master of the World who defines this status and it is judged based on the person's relationship to HASHEM, not to Jews.

Today, this is a terribly misunderstood subject and it is causing no dearth of trouble for Am Yisrael as a result. Today, anyone who is "pro-Israel" is called a righteous Gentile, even down to those who would ocnvert us all to their idolatry if given half a chance. It's not only wrong, it cheapens the demands it requires of those who truly earn it. It is a slap in the face to all truly righteous Gentiles, who often have made great personal sacrifices to attain that level. We owe it to them and to the truth and we owe it to Hashem to set the record straight.

Again, "Jew" and "righteous Gentile" are legal statuses defined by Jewish Law as handed down from the Creator at Har Sinai. We are not free, out of some false sense of obligation or gratitude, to move the boundaries Hashem has set in His limitless wisdom.

Before getting into what makes one a "stam" goy and another a "righteous goy," I ought to address another issue which coincides with this. Perhaps, before we can distinguish between goy and goy, we ought first to understand what separates the goy and the Jew. Is there a real distinction or are we "all brothers in the family of Mankind?"

Let's hear Rabbi David Bar Chayim on the subject: The Distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Torah


Over the past few years, there has been a recognizable trend amongst different circles in the religious community -- a humanistic/universal inclination. There are many who have written in praise of love, “for all men who were created in the image of G-d.” We have even been “graced” with a pamphlet of this name, Chaviv Adam Sh’nivra B’tzelem, composed and edited by Mr. Yochanan Ben Ya’acov, the Director General of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement. The explicit goal of those who share this outlook is to prove that all men are equal, that it is forbidden to discriminate against any man on the basis of his race, and that anyone who claims the opposite is nothing but a racist, distorting the words of the Torah in order to fit them to his “dreadful” opinions.

...As will be further clarified, this outlook completely contradicts the Torah of Moses, and stems from an absolute lack of knowledge, permeated with foreign Western “values.” There would not be any need to respond were it not for the many who are mistaken and lead astray by it.

This outlook has even been expressed by some rabbis whose goal is to show how great and important the stature of the Gentile is in our Torah, and who thereby violate the truth by taking things out of context and inaccurately interpreting the words of Chazal and the Rishonim.

(Space does not allow. See the list of halachot which distinguish between Jews and Gentiles here.)

In the book "Derech Hashem," part 2, section 4, the Ramchal explained at length the difference between Israel and the nations of the world:

One of the deepest concepts of G-d's providence involves Israel and the other nations. With regards to their basic human characteristics, the two appear exactly alike. From the Torah's viewpoint, however, the two are completely different, and are treated as ones belonging to completely different genera…

Before Adam sinned, he was on a level much higher than contemporary man… In that state, man was on a very lofty level, fit for a high degree of eternal excellence…He would have then sired future generations while still in that state of excellence. Their number would be accurately determined by G-d's wisdom, depending on how those enjoying His good should best be perfected...

However, when Adam sinned, he fell from his original high level, and brought upon himself a great degree of darkness and insensitivity…. Mankind in general also fell from its original height, and remained on a degraded level…He was thus only prepared and receptive to a much lower level, and it was in this state that his children were born…they were all born into this degraded state…

Until Avraham Avinu who raised himself back up to the higher level through his spiritual work and earned the right to pass this trait on to his progeny through Yitzchak and Yaaqov. Thereafter, his physical descendants and any individuals from among the nations who followed Avraham's path and raised themselves up to his level (converting) would be a separate people---Jews.

...According to the Highest Judgment, it turned out that none of them deserved to rise above the degraded level…not even a little bit. But Abraham, being the only exception, succeeded in elevating himself through his deeds, which led to him being chosen by G-d. Abraham was therefore permanently made into a superior and excellent tree, conforming to man's highest level. It was further provided that he would be able to produce branches [and father a nation] based on his characteristics. The world was then divided into seventy nations, each on its own particular level in the general scheme. All of them, however, remained on the level of man in his fallen state, while only Israel became men in the elevated state.

The verdict, 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. This lower state of man should never have existed, had Adam not sinned… These nations still have the human aspect, blemished though it may be, so G-d desired that they should at least have a part of what was actually appropriate for the true mankind. He therefore granted them a divine soul somewhat like that of the Jew, even though it is not on the same level as Jewish souls are, but on a much lower level. They were likewise given commandments through which they could attain both material and spiritual advantages appropriate to their nature -- the Seven Commandments given to the children of Noah.

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 Jews, 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.

Which brings us back to our original question---Who is a righteous Gentile?

...Maimonides stated explicitly in chapter 8 of The Laws of Kings (halacha 10): 'Moses our teacher was commanded by the Mighty One to force the Gentiles to accept the commandments of the sons of Noah…Anyone who accepts the Seven Commandments and is careful to fulfill them is considered a righteous Gentile and receives a portion in the World to Come. This depends upon him accepting and fulfilling them
because G-d had so commanded in the Torah…'

Meaning that while the actions of some gentiles might be noteworthy and commendable, if he does not obey the sheva mitzvot b'nei Noah, he is a "stam" goy. Additionally, if he observes the sheva mitzvot because he thinks they are nice and good, but not because they were commanded, he is not entitled to the status of "righteous" gentile.

Being precise in our language is also part of being people of truth.

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Anonymous said...

What do you think of a goy (raised Catholic) who studies Torah and then divorces himself from his wife and family to pursue what he believes is a more virtuous lifestyle within the confines of Judaism. Is this noble to abandon one's family? Does G-d approve of this behavior? This man left his family with doubts about G-d's love and empathy for them. His Chabad rabbi refuses to discuss the situation with the wife by not returning phone calls. How do I know? I am the wife.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if G-d approves of the behaviour, but the Rabbi certainly does.

There has, unfortunately, been a lot of bad behaviour from Chabad.

I, for one, would rather be a "righteous goy" than an "evil Jew". Its a lot easier. Less rules to follow.

Get yourself a new husband. He doesn't deserve you. I'm sure you are a beautiful person.