הלכות עבודה זרה פרק א
כיון שנגמל איתן זה, התחיל לשוטט בדעתו והוא קטן, ולחשוב ביום ובלילה, והיה תמיה: היאך אפשר שיהיה הגלגל הזה נוהג תמיד, ולא יהיה לו מנהיג; ומי יסבב אותו, לפי שאי אפשר שיסבב את עצמו. ולא
היה לו לא מלמד ולא מודיע דבר, אלא מושקע באור כשדים בין עובדי עבודה זרה הטיפשים.
ואביו ואימו וכל העם עובדים עבודה זרה, והוא היה עובד עימהן. וליבו משוטט ומבין, עד שהשיג דרך האמת, והבין קו הצדק, מדעתו הנכונה; וידע שיש שם אלוה אחד, והוא מנהיג הגלגל, והוא ברא הכול, ואין בכל הנמצא אלוה חוץ ממנו.
וידע שכל העם טועים, ודבר שגרם להם לטעות, זה שעובדים את הכוכבים ואת הצורות, עד שאבד האמת מדעתם; ובן ארבעים שנה, הכיר אברהם את בוראו.
כיון שהכיר וידע, התחיל להשיב תשובות על בני אור כשדים ולערוך דין עימהם, ולומר שאין זו דרך האמת, שאתם הולכים בה. ושיבר הצלמים, והתחיל להודיע לעם, שאין ראוי לעבוד אלא לאלוה העולם, ולו ראוי להשתחוות ולהקריב ולנסך--כדי שיכירוהו כל הברואים הבאים; וראוי לאבד ולשבר כל הצורות, כדי שלא יטעו בהן כל העם, כמו אלו שהן מדמין, שאין שם אלוה אלא אלו.
כיון שגבר עליהם בראיותיו, ביקש המלך להורגו; נעשה לו נס, ויצא לחרן. והתחיל לעמוד ולקרות בקול גדול לכל העם, ולהודיעם שיש אלוה אחד לכל העולם, ולו ראוי לעבוד. והיה מהלך וקורא ומקבץ העם מעיר לעיר ומממלכה לממלכה, עד שהגיע לארץ כנען, והוא קורא, שנאמר "ויקרא שם--בשם ה', אל עולם" (בראשית כא,לג).
וכיון שהיו העם מתקבצין לו ושואלין לו על דבריו, היה מודיע לכל אחד ואחד לפי דעתו עד שיחזירהו לדרך האמת, עד שנתקבצו אליו אלפים ורבבות, והם אנשי בית אברהם. ושתל בליבם העיקר הגדול הזה, וחיבר בו ספרים. והודיעו ליצחק בנו, וישב יצחק מלמד ומחזיר; ויצחק הודיעו ליעקוב ומינהו ללמד, וישב מלמד ומחזיר כל הנלווים אליו.
ויעקוב אבינו לימד בניו כולם, והבדיל לוי ומינהו ראש, והושיבו בישיבה ללמד דרך ה', ולשמור מצוות אברהם; וציווה את בניו שלא יפסיקו מבני לוי ממונה אחר ממונה, כדי שלא ישתכח הלימוד.
והיה הדבר הולך ומתגבר בבני יעקוב ובנלווים עליהם, ונעשת בעולם אומה שהיא יודעת את ה', עד שארכו הימים לישראל במצריים, וחזרו ללמוד מעשיהם ולעבוד עבודה זרה כמותן--חוץ משבט לוי, שעמד במצוות אבות; ומעולם, לא עבד שבט לוי עבודה זרה.
וכמעט קט היה, והעיקר ששתל אברהם נעקר; וחוזרין בני יעקוב לטעות העמים, ותעייתם. ומאהבת ה' אותנו, ומשומרו את השבועה לאברהם אבינו, עשה משה רבנו ורבן של כל הנביאים, ושלחו.
כיון שנתנבא משה רבנו, ובחר ה' בישראל לנחלה, הכתירן במצוות והודיעם דרך עבודתו, ומה יהיה משפט עבודה זרה וכל הטועים אחריה.
רמב״ם הלכות מלכים סוף פרק יא
אבל מחשבות בורא עולם--אין כוח באדם להשיגם, כי לא דרכינו דרכיו ולא מחשבותינו מחשבותיו. וכל הדברים האלו של ישוע הנוצרי, ושל זה הישמעאלי שעמד אחריו--אינן אלא ליישר דרך למלך המשיח, ולתקן את העולם כולו לעבוד את ה' ביחד: שנאמר "כי אז אהפוך אל עמים, שפה ברורה, לקרוא כולם בשם ה', ולעובדו שכם אחד" (ראה צפניה ג,ט).
כיצד: כבר נתמלא העולם כולו מדברי המשיח, ומדברי התורה ומדברי המצוות, ופשטו דברים אלו באיים רחוקים, ובעמים רבים ערלי לב; והם נושאים ונותנים בדברים אלו, ובמצוות התורה--אלו אומרים מצוות אלו אמת היו, וכבר בטלו בזמן הזה, ולא היו נוהגות לדורות. ואלו אומרים דברים נסתרות יש בהם, ואינן כפשוטן, וכבר בא משיח, וגילה נסתריהם.
וכשיעמוד המלך המשיח באמת, ויצליח וירום ויינשא--מיד הם כולן חוזרין ויודעים ששקר נחלו אבותיהם, ושנביאיהם ואבותיהם הטעום.
Maimonides, Letter to Ovadia to Convert
Thus says Moses, the son of Rabbi Maimon, one of the exiles from Jerusalem, who lived in Spain:
I received the question of the master Obadiah, the wise and learned proselyte, may the Lord reward him for his work, may a perfect recompense be bestowed upon him by the Lord of Israel, under whose wings he has sought cover.
You ask me if you, too, are allowed to say in the blessings and prayers you offer alone or in the congregation: “Our God” and “God of our fathers,” “You who have sanctified us through Your commandments,” “You who have separated us,” “You who have chosen us,” “You who have inherited us,” “You who have brought us out of the land of Egypt,” “You who have worked miracles to our fathers,” and more of this kind.
Yes, you may say all this in the prescribed order and not change it in the least. In the same way as every Jew by birth says his blessing and prayer, you, too, shall bless and pray alike, whether you are alone or pray in the congregation. The reason for this is, that Abraham our Father taught the people, opened their minds, and revealed to them the true faith and the unity of God; he rejected the idols and abolished their adoration; he brought many children under the wings of the Divine Presence; he gave them counsel and advice, and ordered his sons and the members of his household after him to keep the ways of the Lord forever, as it is written, “For I have known him to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19). Ever since then whoever adopts Judaism and confesses the unity of the Divine Name, as it is prescribed in the Torah, is counted among the disciples of Abraham our Father, peace be with him. These men are Abraham’s household, and he it is who converted them to righteousness.
In the same way as he converted his contemporaries through his words and teaching, he converts future generations through the testament he left to his children and household after him. Thus Abraham our Father, peace be with him, is the father of his pious posterity who keep his ways, and the father of his disciples and of all proselytes who adopt Judaism.
Therefore you shall pray, “Our God” and “God of our fathers,” because Abraham, peace be with him, is your father. And you shall pray, “You who have taken for his own our fathers,” for the land has been given to Abraham, as it is said, “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give to you” (Gen. 13:17). As to the words, “You who have brought us out of the land of Egypt” or “You who have done miracles to our fathers” – these you may change, if you will, and say, “You who have brought Israel out of the land of Egypt ” and “You who have done miracles to Israel.” If, however, you do not change them, it is no transgression, because since you have come under the wings of the Divine Presence and confessed the Lord, no difference exists between you and us, and all miracles done to us have been done as it were to us and to you. Thus is it said in the Book of Isaiah, “Neither let the son of the stranger, that has joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, ‘The Lord has utterly separated me from His people'” (Is. 56:3). There is no difference whatever between you and us. You shall certainly say the blessing, “Who has chosen us,” “Who has given us,” “Who have taken us for Your own” and “Who has separated us”: for the Creator, may He be extolled, has indeed chosen you and separated you from the nations and given you the Torah. For the Torah has been given to us and to the proselytes, as it is said, “One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourns with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord” (Num. 15:15). Know that our fathers, when they came out of Egypt, were mostly idolaters; they had mingled with the pagans in Egypt and imitated their way of life, until the Holy One, may He be blessed, sent Moses our Teacher, the master of all prophets, who separated us from the nations and brought us under the wings of the Divine Presence, us and all proselytes, and gave to all of us one Law.
Do not consider your origin as inferior. While we are the descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, you derive from Him through whose word the world was created. As is said by Isaiah: “One shall say, I am the Lord’s, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob” (Is. 44:5).
Meiri, Beit HaBechira Avodah Zara 26b
I have seen many people puzzled by the fact that nowadays nobody is careful to observe these laws. But I have already explained which Gentile nations are meant in this tractate; and the names of their holidays will also testify to it: for, as I mentioned above, they all are feasts of ancient nations, not restricted by the ways of religions, but practicing fervently and persistently worship of idols, stars and talismans, which -- and all things like them -- are essentials of idolatry, as has been already explained. But in any event, with regard to [avoiding] the possibility of violation of the prohibitions concerning Sabbath and the prohibitions concerning food and drinks [of non-Jews] -- e.g. [the ban] on wine of libation, and on their wine per se, and all those type of bans, whether it is only consuming something [of theirs] in food which was banned, or getting any advantage of it, or if the bans were made in order to prevent intermarriages -- all the [non-Jewish] nations come under these prohibitions... From now on, let these things be settled on your mind, so that it will not be necessary to clarify them specifically on each and every occasion, but you should be able to analyze on your own whether in any particular case the ancient nations are meant or the non-Jews in general; examine things, and you will know them.
Rabbi Yaakov Emden, Letter
For it is recognized that also the Nazarene and his disciples, especially Paul, warned concerning the Torah of the Israelites, to which all the circumcised are tied. And if they are truly Christians, they will observe their faith with truth, and not allow within their boundary this new unfit Messiah Shabbetai Zevi who came to destroy the earth.
But truly even according to the writers of the Gospels, a Jew is not permitted to leave his Torah, for Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians (Gal. 5) "I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, the Messiah will do you no good at all. You can take it from me that every man who receives circumcision is under obligation to keep the entire Torah." Again because of this he admonished in a letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 7) that the circumcised should not remove the marks of circumcision, nor should the uncircumcised circumcise themselves.
Many have asked that Paul appears to contradict himself here. In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16), it is mentioned that Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy. And they found this very puzzling, for this act seems to contradict the later text which seems to indicate that he considered circumcision a temporary commandment until the Messiahs arrival; but this took place after the time of the Nazarene! Therefore you must realize--and accept the truth from him who speaks it-- that we see clearly here that the Nazarene and his Apostles did not wish to destroy the Torah from Israel, God forbid; for it is written so in Matthew (Mt. 5), the Nazarene having said, "Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the Torah. I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. I tell you this: So long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter, not a stroke, will disappear from the Torah until it is achieved. If any man therefore sets aside even the least of the Torahs demands, and teaches others to do the same, he will have the lowest place in the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas anyone who keeps the Torah, and teaches others so, will stand high in the Kingdom of Heaven." This is also recorded in Luke (Lk. 16). It is therefore exceedingly clear that the Nazarene never dreamed of destroying the Torah.
We similarly find Paul, his disciple, in a letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5), accusing them of fornication, and condemning one who had lived with his fathers wife. You may therefore understand that Paul doesnt contradict himself because of his circumcision of Timothy, for the latter was the son of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father (Acts 16), and Paul was a scholar, an attendant of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, well-versed in the laws of the Torah. He knew that the child of a Jewish mother is considered a full Jew, even if the father should be a Gentile, as is written in the Talmud and Codes. He therefore acted entirely in accordance with the Halakha by circumcising Timothy. This would be in line with his position that all should remain within their own faith (1 Cor. 7). Timothy, born of a Jewish mother, had the law of a Jew, and had to be circumcised, just as he was enjoined to observe all commandments of the Torah (Pauls condemnation of the man who lived with his stepmother is similarly understandable, as such an act is also forbidden to Noahides), for all who are circumcised are bound by all the commandments. This provides a satisfactory reply to the question...
It is therefore a habitual saying of mine (not as a hypocritical flatterer, God forbid, for I am of the faithful believers of Israel, and I know well that the remnant of Israel will not speak falsehood, nor will their mouths contain a deceitful tongue) that the Nazarene brought about a double kindness in the world. On the one hand, he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically, as mentioned earlier, and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah. And on the other hand, he did much good for the Gentiles (provided they do not turn about his intent as they please, as some foolish ones have done because they did not fully understand the intent of the authors of the Gospels. I have recently seen someone publish a book, and he had no idea about what he was writing. For if he had understood the subject, he would have kept his silence and not wasted the paper and ink. There are also found among us foolish scholars who know not their right from their left in the Written and Oral Torahs and cause the people to err with their pompous pronouncements. But there are true scholars among the Christians, just as there are the chosen few among Torah scholars; and there are few of the truly great.) by doing away with idolatry and removing the images from their midst. He obligated them with the Seven Commandments so that they should not be as the beasts of the field. He also bestowed upon them ethical ways, and in this respect he was much more stringent with them than the Torah of Moses, as is well-known. This in itself was most proper, as it is the correct way to acquire ethical practices, as the philosopher (Maimonides) mentioned. We have written similarly in our Siddur. However, it is not necessary to impose upon Jews such extreme ethical practices, since they have been obligated to the yoke of Torah, which weakens the strength of the (evil) inclination without it. They have taken the oath at Sinai and are already trained in proper practice and nature. These are clear words that will not be rejected by a clear-thinking person.
If certain Christians who consider themselves scholars would understand this secret, who believe that they are commanded to abolish the Torah of Moses from the seed of Israel, they would not engage in such foolishness. The people listen to their self-conceived words, something which was never intended by the writers of the Gospels. Quite the opposite, they have written clearly that they intended the contrary.
Tiferet Yisrael Avot 3:14
Says the commentator: Since we are discussing this topic, let us say something which it is a mitzvah to publicise. My whole life I have been troubled by the statement of the Sages in Yevamot (ibid) which says “you are called ‘Adam’ but non-Jews are not called ‘Adam’.”
I find this difficult – could you think that the Sages would say about an idolater who is in the image of God, as we have explained, that he is considered like an animal? Furthermore, if so, what does it mean when God says, “You shall be more treasured by Me than all the nations”? If all the other nations are only like animals, then this verse is only saying that “You shall be more treasured by Me than all the animals, and all the monkeys who resemble humans with their form.” Furthermore, if so all their actions would be like the actions of animals, who are incapable of receiving reward or punishment. This contradicts what we know that the righteous of the non-Jewish nations have a portion in the World-to-Come (based on Sanhedrin 105 and Rambam chapter 8 of ‘Laws of Kings’).
Even without the holy mouths of our Sages, who tell us this, we would already know from logic, because God is just in all His ways, and righteous in all His deeds. We see many of them are righteous. Not only do they recognise the Creator of Genesis, and believe in His Torah that it is Divine, and they also do kindness like Yisrael. Some have done extraordinary good things for the inhabitants of the world, like the righteousJenner who invented the vaccine (for smallpox) which saves hundreds of thousand of people from illness, death or disfiguration. And Drake (Sir Francis Drake 1540-1596) who brought the potato to Europe, and thus prevented famine many times. Or Guttenberg who invented the printing press. Several of them were not paid at all in this world, like the righteous Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522), who was prepared to lay down his life to prevent the burning of the Talmud. This was commaned by Caesar (Holy Roman Emporer) Maximillian (I) in the year 5262 through the activism of the heretic Pfefferkorn (1469-1523) and the priests, his wicked group. This Reuchlin risked his life and based on his claims he persuaded the Caesar to retract his decree. Because of this he was hounded and the priests, his enemies, made his life a misery. They pressured him until eventually he died in dire straits and broken hearted.
Could we think that all these great deeds would not be repaid in the World-to-Come, behind the ‘curtain’ – Heaven forbid! God does not withhold the reward of any creature.
If you would suggest that even though these righteous people kept all the seven mitzvoth of Bnei Noach (from Sanhedrin 56b), nevertheless they do not have the status of ‘Ger Toshav’ since they did not accept these mitzvoth before three Rabbis (based on Avoda Zara 64b). Furthermore, we do not accept Ger Toshav nowadays, only at the time that the mitzvah of Yovel applies (Erechin 29a). Even so, since they did not act like Esav, they have reward in the World-to-Come (based on Avoda Zara 10b).
Shadal's Letter to Almeda
Mosaism will never become universal, but its fundamental principle—that is, monotheism—can indeed become universal. It is precisely for this purpose that God chose the Jewish people, that is, so that it might become the custodian of these truths and the organ by which they might be propagated among all the nations. The Jewish people was chosen because it was the only one that had already known and professed these truths through the teaching of its ancestors. Revelation to any other, polytheistic, people would have been fruitless, for without the advance conviction of the unity of God, any revelation, no matter how indisputable, would leave it its wake a doubt that some other day, some other god might reveal himself and impart different and contrary doctrines.
Rav Ben-Zion Uziel
Certainly this should not even be said and more certainly should not be written, since the prohibition of nivul stems from the humiliation caused to all humans. That is to say, it is a humiliation to cause the body of a human—created in the image of God and graced with knowledge and understanding to master and rule over all creation—to be left disgraced and rotting in public. There is no difference between Jews and non-Jews, in the sense that all are created in the image of God. The Jew has no claim to higher status in this regard. If one were to prohibit autopsies, then no autopsies could be performed on any body—Jewish or non-Jewish. The result would be that no doctors could be trained, with a consequent result of an increase in illness, suffering, and death.
R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, Letter to Prof. Samuel Atlas, 11/15/1965
In my opinion, it is fitting to put an end to the hatred of the religions for each other. More than Christianity hates Judaism, Judaism hates Christianity. There is a dispute if stealing from Gentiles is forbidden from the Torah, everyone holds that deceiving a Gentile and canceling his debt is permitted, one is not to return a lost object to a Gentile, according to R. Tam intercourse with a Gentile does not render a woman forbidden to her husband, their issue is like the issue [of horses]... We must solemnly and formally declare that in our day this does not apply. Meiri wrote as such, but the teachers and ramim whisper in the ears of the students that all this was written because of the censor.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, First Edition
The great faiths must now become an active force for peace and for the justice and compassion on which peace ultimately depends. That will require great courage and perhaps something more than courage: a candid admission that, more than at any time in the past, we need to search – each faith in its own way –for a way of living with, and acknowledging the integrity of, those who are not of our faith. Can we make space for difference? Can we hear the voice of God in a language, a sensibility, a culture not our own? (pp. 4-5.)
"I have not hesitated to be radical, and I have deliberately chosen to express that radicalism in religious terms" (p. 17).
"Can I, a Jew, hear the echoes of God's voice in that of a Hindu or Sikh or Christian or Muslim. . . Can I do so and feel not diminished but enlarged? What then becomes of my faith which until then had encompassed the world and must now make space for another faith, another way of interpreting the world?" (pp. 17-18.)
"God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims . . . God is God of all humanity, but no single faith is or should be the faith of all humanity." (p. 55, italics in original).