Menu

Sunday, 25 December 2016

107) REINCARNATION - AN AUTHENTIC OR FOREIGN CONCEPT?

R. Saadia Gaon's writing on Hilchot Shechita. From  the Mosseri Collection
INTRODUCTION:

In this essay we are going to explore the sources in an attempt at determining whether the gilgul or reincarnation concept is (relatively) new or ancient, and whether it is unanimously accepted by our rabbis as an absolute definitive model of Torah theology.

TANACH:

There are no direct references to gilgulim anywhere in the Scriptures. However later interpretations do read in allegoric allusions to some verses. 

An example of this is the verse: “Not with you only do I make this covenant...but...also with him that is not here with us today.”[1] This is taken to imply that there is a ‘you’ that is not here today, but will manifest at a later stage.

Another example is: “One generation passes away and another comes.”[2] This was similarly taken to mean that a generation which has passed away, will again return in subsequent generations.

TALMUDIC PERIOD (0-500CE):

There are similarly no direct references to gilgulim found in either the Mishna or the Gemara. And again, later interpretations were to find allusions to the idea, hidden within the Talmudic texts.

KARAITES:

Perhaps the first reference to reincarnation is ironically found in Karaite sources. [See KOTZK BLOG 63.] The founder of the Karaite sect, Anan ben David (715 – 795) wrote that reincarnation was already an established principle in existing cultures. He appears to have been referring to the Gnostic, early Christian factions and possibly some mystical Islamic sects.[3]

Interestingly, it appears as though the Karaites as a whole, rejected the notion of reincarnation, probably because of its lack of Scriptural references.

However, many Jews may have been influenced by some of these early Islamic sects[4] and may have adopted their doctrine of reincarnation. If this is true, it points to an interesting and highly controversial possible influence for the reincarnation concept.

BAHIR:

One of the first clear references to the reincarnation model, within mainstream Torah sources, is to be found in the kabbalistic work known as the Sefer haBahir. This is where things get even more interesting, because its date and authorship are strenuously disputed. 

According to the kabbalists it was written around the year 100 CE by R. Nechunya ben haKanah. 

Others believe it to have been authored by the son of Raavad, Yitzchak the Blind as late as the 1200’s.[5]

According to Sefer haBahir:

Why is there (one type of righteous person who has it good and (another) righteous person who has it bad? – This is because the second righteous person was wicked previously (i.e. in a previous life) and is now punished.”[6]

Title page of first edition of the Zohar, Mantua, 1558
ZOHAR:

There are also numerous references to reincarnation which are found in the primary kabbalistic work, the Zohar. And yet again the date and authorship are subject to a similar dispute. 

The mystics claim it was written by R. Shimon bar Yochai (80-160 CE). 

Others counter that it only first appeared in Spain in the 1200’s and was written by R. Moshe de Leon (1240-1305). [See KOTZK BLOG 87.]

The Zohar says:

As long as a person is unsuccessful in his purpose in this world, the Holy One, blessed be He, uproots him and replants him over and over again”.[7]
The Zohar is the first work to mention the actual term ‘gilgul’, or reincarnation.

RAPID SPREAD OF THE KABBALISTIC DOCTRINE OF GILGUL:

However we choose to date the Bahir and Zohar, it is clear that during the 1200’s the doctrine of gilgul began to enjoy widespread popularity.

RAMBAN (1194-1270):
Although initially, some Spanish kabbalists like Ramban were reluctant to mention the concept overtly and only did so by ‘hints and allusions[8], it didn’t take long for the concept to gain popular acceptance. 
Ramban wrote that the concept of gilgul is vital to understanding and making sense of the stories of the Torah. This is because it offers a whole new perspective to the biblical personalities that we would otherwise never have been privy to. We can understand just why they acted the way they did because we know who they really were in their previous incarnations.[9]

ARI ZAL (1534-1572):    
During the time of R. Yitzchak Luria, also known as the Ari Zal, the concept began to really flourish. This was particularly because of his work Shaar haGilgulim, or Gates of Reincarnation, which explain amongst other ideas, the spiritual roots of many of our great sages.[10]
From that moment on, the concept of reincarnation was fixed within the collective psyche of the Jewish people as an apparent fundamental tenet of belief, and there it has remained to this day.

SHALOH (1555-1628):

Rabbi Yeshaya HaLevi Hurwitz[11] wrote:
There are some sins for which the cleansing in the spiritual realm alone does not suffice...they are forced to undergo a second cycle in this world as rehabilitation...which generally occurs when the soul is faced with the same challenge to which it succumbed in its pervious life.”
MENASHE BEN YISRAEL (1604-1657):

R. Menashe ben Yisrael[12], author of Nishmat Chaim (a work on reincarnation)[13], wrote that Adam was taught the doctrine of reincarnation but that it was later forgotten. Then, Pythagoras (who according to this source was a Jew) received it again through the prophet Ezekiel. 

This is a fascinating reference because it regards reincarnation as entering into the belief system of mankind from the very outset, and of Judaism as early as the 6th Century BCE.

He wrote:

The majority of the sages of Israel believe [in reincarnation], and they wrote that it is a true belief and one of the fundamental principles of the Torah. It solves the problem of a righteous person who suffers. We are obligated to heed the words of these authorities, and have this belief without any doubt or wavering whatsoever...’[14]

POPULARITY WITHIN THE CHASSIDIC MOVEMENT:
The gilgul principle was embraced and embellished by the Baal Shem Tov and his followers, with many Chassidic rebbes claiming to be aware of their pervious personalities.
Some examples:
The Baal Shem Tov (1700-1760) was said to be a gilgul of Rav Saadia Gaon (882-942).[15]
R. Nachman was the soul of Saul, R. Shimon bar Yochai and R. Nachman of the Talmud.
The Chozeh of Lublin once said to his friend R. Zelka of Grodzisk that the reason they were such good friends was because they were father and son in a previous existence.
R. Avraham Yehoshua Heschel said he was in his third ‘cycle’, having being both a Nasi and Reish Galuta in the past lives.
R. Menachem Mendel of Ruzhin said he had been reincarnated one hundred times and that this was his last time.
R. Bertzi Leifer of Nadworna, who perished in the holocaust, said he had been reincarnated three times. -First as the head of a tribe in the biblical generation during the desert wanderings (Kemuel ben Shiftan). –Then as a farmer (arendar) and he visited his own gravesite. – His third incarnation was before the war. (Interestingly, he mentioned that he was most satisfied when he assumed the role of the farmer!)

HUMAN SOULS TRAPPED IN ANIMALS:
There are some stories about Chassidic rebbes declaring slaughtered animals that other rabbis had disqualified, to be kosher! This was because the human soul that had been trapped within it needed to be released. They cited the halachik expediency of ruling leniently with regard to some aspects of kashrut – known as hefsed merubah or great (usually financial) loss. This they interpreted as a “great spiritual loss” to the soul which had to be housed in an animal body. Therefore every effort had to be made to ‘release’ it.
One such story is recorded in the name of the Chozeh of Lublin, who said of a chicken his wife had been told was slaughtered incorrectly; “Know that the poor soul transmigrated in this chicken has already been waiting many years, and now it pleads we eat this chicken this Shabbat to affect its correction.
Another story records how a goose was declared non-kosher by a disqualified slaughtering process, and the tzadik of Alsk took some of its fat and made Chanuka candles out of it. The blessing he recited over the candles ‘released’ the soul trapped within.
R. Naftali Bachrach writes: “Our teacher the Ari Zal said; ‘When you see people who are arrogant and have no shame, know that they were transmigrated in an impure beast, animal or fowl. Just as those have no shame - so these have no shame.’”[16]

REINCARNATION AND GENDER:
As a general rule the souls of men transmigrate to other men, and similarly those of females go to females. However there are exceptions such as when the soul of a man goes to a woman. In such an instance the woman is barren. This was the case with Tamar, who had the soul of a man. Her soul was later transferred to Ruth and therefore she could not bear children until she was given aspects of another female soul.
Another exception was Yehudah, Yaakov’s son, who had a part-female soul.


OPPOSITION TO THE REINCARNATION THEORY:
In light of all the above, it may come as a surprise to many that the theory of reincarnation is not unanimously adopted by all our Torah sages:

RAV SAADIA GAON (882-942):
At about the time that the reincarnation concept was penetrating the Jewish world[17], Rav Saadia Gaon was quick to step in and express his total unacceptance of the new idea.
He wrote:
Yet I must say that I have found certain people, who call themselves Jews, professing the doctrine of reincarnation...what they mean is that the soul of one person is transferred to another and then again to another. Many of them would go so far as to assert that the spirit of a human being might enter into the body of a beat – or that of a beast into the body of a human being – and other such nonsense and stupidities.”[18]
He explained that that well authenticated concept of resurrection precludes a the theory of reincarnation because, in his view, the body and soul were a ‘composite’ and the soul could only return to its ‘own’ body and not to that of another.

RAMBAM (1135-1204) AND HIS SON:
It is surprising to note that Rambam is unusually silent on the issue of reincarnation. He is generally outspoken on so many fundamental issues of Torah theology that one must wonder why he was silent on this essential issue that so many others, especially at that time, were very vocal about[19].
His son, Avraham ben haRambam, however did express his opposition to the belief in reincarnation.

R. YOSEF ALBO (1380-1444):
The Albo similarly rejected the reincarnation theory. He wrote:
There are those...(who assert that) it is possible that the soul that has already served in a human body will return to dwell again in a body. But this is not correct.”
His view is that a soul does not have freedom of choice before it is born into a human body. It is born ‘against its will’. But only after uniting with the body does it acquire it freedom of choice.
This freedom of choice that the soul attains is so valuable that even “the angels erred...and asked to bow down to man...as the angels themselves do not have free will.
Once the soul has become an agent of free will; “why would it return to the body? And why would a potential body be prepared to receive the soul that already served in another body rather than receive a (new and original) soul?
He goes on to say that the only thing more absurd than reincarnation into another human form would be the notion that a soul can also “transmigrate into the bodies of animals.”
He ends with an expression of total exasperation by adding ‘and G-d knows.”[20]

RASHASH (1794-1872):
Rabbi Samuel Strashun in his famous commentary to the Talmud points out an apparent Talmudic proof against gilgulim.[21]

R. SHIMSHON REFAEL HIRSCH (1808-1888):
Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch wrote that belief in reincarnation was one of the major distinctions that set Judaism aside from the religion of Ancient Egyptians as reincarnation was central tenet of the Egyptian Faith.

OTHERS:
Included in the list of those opposing reincarnation are Seforno[22], Avraham ibn Daud,[23] Avraham ben Chiya (Ibn Ezra’s teacher)[24], Leon de Modena[25], R.Yedaya Bershidi, R. David Kimchi and Chasdai Crescas.

ANALYSIS:
Although the common perception today is clearly biased towards the belief in gilgullim, it is interesting to discover that based on an overview of sources from across the board, it must be said that the ‘theological jury’ is still out.
This does not mean that one’s personal belief system should be compromised one way or another. Faith values are by their very nature highly subjective, emotional and must remain one’s religious prerogative.
What is clear, however, is that one cannot claim with honesty and integrity that there is only one definitive hashkafic approach to the question of reincarnation.


REFERENCES:
Transmigration of Souls, Part One, by Gedalya Nigal. An Excerpt from Magic, Mysticism and Hasidism.
Journey to Heaven, by Dr. Leah Bronner.
Saadia Gaon: “The Book of Beliefs and Opinions”, “Refutation of Reincarnation”, Yale Judaica Series, Vol. I “The Soul”, ch. VIII pp 259.
Renaissance and Rebirth: Reincarnation in Early Modern Italian Kabbalah, by Brian Ogen.



[1] Devarim 29: 14 This is one of the Scriptural ‘proofs’ that Rav Saadia Gaon refutes.
[2] Kohelet 1:4
[3] See JewishEncyclopedia.com, Transmigration of Souls.
[4] See Rambam, Guide to the Perplexed, Book 1, ch. 73-76. (NOTE: Rambam writes about some Gaonim being influenced by aspects of the Islamic Kalam. Although the Mutazila sect were rationalist and not mystics -see following post- this source does show that there was some cross-influence taking place during the 700’s and 800’s CE)

[5] R. Yitzchak the Blind(1160-1235). The title ‘The Blind’ was a euphemism for having excellent eyesight.
[6] Sefer haBahir, Part 1, p.195
[7] Zohar 1, 186b
[8] See A Journey to Heaven, by Dr Leah Bronner, p.136
[9] See Ramban’s commentary to Iyov 33:40.
[10] The book was finally put together by the Ari’s foremost student, R. Chaim Vital, and edited by his son R. Shmuel Vital. It borrows much from the Zohar, portion Mishpatim, where these ideas are discussed.
[11] author of the work Shnei Luchot HaBrit
[12] He was originally known as Manoel Dias Soeiro.
[13] The book was published his son Samuel six years before they both died.
[14] Nishmat Chaim 154b
[15] Ironically, as we shall see later, Rav Saadia Gaon was an outspoken critic of the theory of reincarnation. That did not deter the Chassidim from saying that the Baal Shem Tov performed a ‘rectification’ on his (Rav Saadia’s) soul.
[16] See Eimek haMelech ch. 31. 20a
[17] Unless one goes with the mystical view that the Bahir and Zohar were written in around 100 and 160 CE, respectively.
[18] Saadia Gaon, Emunot veDeot (Beliefs and Opinions), 6, 8
[19] R. Yehudah haLevi was also silent on the issue of reincarnation.
[20] Sefer haIkarim 4:29
[21] In summary: The Torah says; “Blessed are you when you arrive and blessed are you when you leave.” This is taken as meaning that just like one’s arrival to this world is without sin, so should one’s exit be without sin.  Based on this, one’s arrival to this world is taken for granted as being without sin. This would preclude reincarnation whose very premise is to return to the world and make right previous sins.  (See Bava Metzia 107a) 
[22] Devarim 30:15,19
[23]Emunah Rabbah Vol. 1, ch.7
[24] Megilat haMegaleh, 50-51
[25] R. Moshe de Modena writes that for the same effort, G-d could just extent the lives of humans so the same person could live longer and atone directly for his own sins.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

106) DO SOULS HAVE A RELIGION?


INTRODUCTION:

In this essay we will look at whether or not, according to rabbinic sources, a soul can be defined by the religion it is born into.

In other words, is a Jew said to have a different type or ‘grade’ of soul than a non-Jew?

THE ZOHAR:

The fundamental book of Jewish mysticism, the Zohar, provides the premise upon which most later sources are based:

It states that since the Jewish people are “the children of the Holy One”, their souls are naturally “holy” as a result of their innate spiritual origin. According to the Bible Israel is called G-d’s “firstborn”[1].  Therefore the souls of the ‘children’ possess a G-dly quality. 

On the other hand the souls of the other nations are said to “emanate from...impure sources”.[2]

The Zohar continues that the soul of a Jew is considered to be “Divine” or ethereal - whereas other souls are regarded as “animal” and of a more earthly or material origin.[3]

This view has essentially influenced much of Jewish though throughout the subsequent generations right up to the present day. Although the Zohar is a mystical work, its departmentalization of souls based on religion is largely accepted even by non-mystical thinkers, to the extent that it may have de facto become a part of mainstream Jewish philosophy.

[For a discussion on the various views regarding the historical origins of the Zohar see here.]

R. YEHUDAH HALEVI (1075-1141):

R. Yehudah HaLevi built on this concept and wrote that even a convert to Judaism can never become a prophet because of the non-Jewish roots of his soul.[4]

R. CHAIM VITAL (1543-1620):

R. Chaim Vital, a student of the great kabbalist R. Yitzchak Luria, elaborated on the Zohar and proposed that a Jew in fact has two souls. This would hold true whether he is righteous or not. And the second soul was “a part of G-d above”. The souls of all other people were formed out of unclean elements which contained “no aspect of good.”[5]

R. MOSE CHAIM LUTZATTO (1707-1746):

Another well known kabbalist R. Moshe Chaim Lutzatto, known as Ramchal, wrote: “While a Jew and non-Jew appear exactly alike in terms of their human characteristics, from the Torah’s perspective, they are so greatly different as to be considered a completely different species.”[6]

R. SHNEUR ZALMAN OF LIADI (1745-1815):

The founder of Chabad, R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi popularised this concept for the modern era. He wrote in his Tanya about how the Jew possesses two souls, one of which is “truly a part of G-d above”.  He added the word ‘truly’ to the original statement of R. Chaim Vital to emphasize his point. Then he continued; “while the soul of a non-Jew is purely animal in nature”.[7]

It is interesting to note that because of the controversial nature of these comments, when this work was to be translated into English, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe was consulted for his guidance on whether or not to include this paragraph.

He responded without mixing his words;

In our day and age, one does not have to be a... confirmed believer... to see what kind of souls the nations of the world have. For all of the nations of the world were witnesses to what took place in Germany...yet they remained indifferent. In light of this, the words of the Alter Rebbe may even be an understatement.”[8]

He further added another interesting take on the Talmudic statement; “A convert who converted (ger she’nitgayer) is like a newborn baby[9]: He explained (quoting the Chida) that technically no one can actually ‘convert’ to Judaism. They can only ‘come back’ to their Judaism after being ‘mistakenly’ placed in a non-Jewish body, because they already possess a Jewish soul!

SKVERE CHASSIDIM:


A further example of a modern day perspective is from the Skvere Chassidim. The following is an extract from their Yalkut Sheilot u’Teshuvot, a book endorsed by the Skvere Rebbe:

Question: - Is it appropriate to not love, or to hate, a gentile?

Answer:  - A Jew is intrinsically good.  A Jew is a part of God above.  Even if at times he strays it is not because he has become evil... However... a gentile is an impure thing.  The entire essence of the gentile is evil and impure. 

(Quoting the Or HaChaim HaKadosh 1696-1743): ‘Even if he occasionally does good deeds he does not thereby become good’...

(Quoting the Shearit LePinchas): ‘To be protected from this there is only one solution; to completely despise the thoughts of gentiles and to realize that all their thoughts are only evil...Hate doesn’t mean wanting to do something (harmful) to a gentile, but it means not being able to tolerate him, not being able to stand him, because of his great impurity, especially when one realizes how harmful this (impurity) is (to Jews and to the world).’

 Understand this – loving a non-Jew is the exact opposite of all the above.”[10]

It must be pointed out that the above is not just peculiar to the Skvere worldview as it references other sources upon which is basis its approach.

R. AVRAHAM YITZCHAK HAKOHEN KOOK (1865-1935):

R. Kook, the first Askenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, who was known for his magnanimous love of all mankind, Jew and non-Jew, religious and secular, surprisingly still found himself drawn to the classical mystical interpretation of soul differentiation. He offers what R. Hanan Balk[11] refers to as “R. Kook’s shocking statement” which “appears to go even beyond the initial view of the Zohar...

R. Kook wrote:

The difference between the Jewish soul...and that of all the nations...is greater and deeper than the difference between the human soul and the soul of an animal...”[12]

As a counter balance, R. Balk then is then quick to point out that notwithstanding that ‘shocking statement’, Rav Kook nevertheless; “...presents one of the most eloquent and poetic overtures toward the love of all men that has ever been composed...” 

R. Kook wrote:

Love of mankind...must extend to all...despite all variations of religion, opinions, and faiths, and despite all distinctions of race...It is right to get to the bottom of the views of different peoples and groups, to learn as much as possible (about) their characters and qualities...for only upon a soul rich in love...of man can...the nation raise itself up in its full nobility...The narrowness that causes us to see whatever is outside...as ugly and defiled, is a terrible darkness that brings general destruction...”[13]

R. Kook appears to be torn between a technical point of kabbalistic theology, and basic morality. Yet no matter the theory, he will not allow anything to get in the way of practical principles of human decency.[14]

TANNA DE’VEI ELIYAHU:

According to the Tanna de’vei Eliyahu Rabbah, a Midrash redacted in the 900’s, a surprisingly 'modern' view is espoused:

Be it a Jew or a non-Jew, man or woman, manservant or maidservant – all is in accordance with the deeds of the person.”[15]

This is a clear departure from the prevalent mystical approach and places the onus upon the individual him or herself for their individual spiritual growth and for the character of their souls.

R. AVRAHAM IBN EZRA (1089-1167):

Ibn Ezra writes in his commentary on the Book of Proverbs that there is no distinction between the soul of a Jew and that of a non-Jew.

RAMBAM (1135-1204):

Rambam, considered to be the father of Jewish rationalism, also championed an idea which was a far cry from that of the mystics. He taught that a soul has nothing to do with its genetic origins, but rather has everything to do with the spiritual (or more correctly according to him, the intellectual) strivings of the individual.

Regarding the nature of the soul, Rambam makes no distinction between Jew and non-Jew - instead he refers to “every person of humankind.”[16]

He bases his philosophy of ‘neutrality of souls’ on a simple Torah principle – absolute freedom of choice.[17] This principle dictates had no one is born predisposed with a holier soul than another.

He stated this view unequivocally when he wrote:

It should not occur to you the idea – (as) the foolish of the nations and...ignorant Jews profess - that God decrees upon man from the beginning of his creation whether he will be a righteous or evil person. The matter is not such. Rather, every man can be righteous like Moses our teacher or evil like Yerabam…”[18]

Here Rambam challenged the view of the kabbalists that different people are born with different souls, and referred to those who espouse such beliefs as ‘ignorant Jews’.

He also didn’t believe, as the kabbalists did, that a Jew is born with an inherent love of G-d. Instead he maintained that the love had to manifest through a process of work and effort. The challenge of pragmatic development would therefore be the same for both Jew and non-Jew.

With regard to prophecy, unlike R. Yehudah Halevi who felt it to be the sole prerogative of the Jew, Rambam believed it to be open to all worthy people (‘benei adam’).[19] He said; “We believe in a prophet or reject him due to his prophesy, not his lineage.[20] He supported this view by quoting Job, Tzofar, Bildad, Elifaz and Elihu who were “prophets to us”, and yet (in his opinion) were non-Jewish prophets.

R. SIMCHA BUNIM OF PESHISCHA (1765-1827):

R. Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, one of the teachers of the Kotzker Rebbe, said rather tellingly:

Holiness is not found in the human being unless he sanctifies himself. According to his preparation for holiness, so the fullness comes upon him from on High. A person does not acquire holiness while inside his mother. He is not holy from the womb, but has to labor from the very day he comes into the air of the world.”[21]

ANALYSIS:

As we have seen, the major sources are, to say the least, divided on the matter of soul differentiation based on birth religion.

To put this concept into a modern idiom, let us look at a question that was posed to Chabad.org:

Why do you speak of a ‘Jewish soul’? How can you put souls in boxes...Isn't it absurd to think that a soul has attributes like Jewish or non Jewish...?” 

To which the response came: “The idea that all souls are the same is one of the biggest mistakes of modern spirituality...”

However, in truth, it is not the ‘biggest mistake of modern spirituality’ because (as attested by our source in Tanna de'vei Eliyahu) we have been debating this issue for more than a thousand years  .

This emphasizes the point that for so many today (within both the chassidic and mitnagdic world), there is only a one-sided approach. The mindset is so fixed. It’s almost as if the views of Rambam, Ibn Ezra, Tanna de’vei Eliyahu, R. Simcha Bunim of Peshischa and many others never existed.

No one is suggesting that anyone subscribe to these or any other views.
But one must acknowledge that the question of soul differentiation based on birth, cannot be answered fully and truthfully, unless all Torah voices are taken into consideration.


REFERENCES:

The Soul of a Jew and the Soul of a Non-Jew. An Inconvenient Truth and the Search for an Alternative, by R. Hanan Balk.

...................................................................

NOTES FOR FURTHER STUDY:


R. Israel Lifschitz (1782-1860) author of Tifetet Yisrael


I thank Mendy Rosin for directing me to the following commentary of the Tifferet Yisrael. It was written by R. Yisrael Lifschitz whose work has been described, 'one of the clearest and most useful commentaries on the Mishna.'

The following translation is by R. David Sedley, who prefaces his translation of this passage with:  

"...I also find his examples of 'righteous gentiles' very interesting. It seems that advancing the world technologically earns [one] a place in Olam HaBa [The World to Come]."


TIFFERET YISRAEL (ON AVOT 3:14):

"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 righteous Jenner 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. 

...Could we think that all these great deeds would not be repaid in the World-to-Come...

Heaven forbid! God does not withhold the reward of any creature."




...............................................................


UNDERSTANDING RAV KOOK'S COMMENTS:

In in the essay, we mentioned the dichotomy between  the two extreme and contradictory statements of Rav Kook regarding non-Jews. I suggested that perhaps, being a mystic he felt compelled to tow the mystic line on a theological level, but that he would not allow that theology to have any practical relevance whatsoever.

I subsequently saw the following teaching in his Orot, where he openly acknowledges that there are difficult statements scattered all over rabbinic literature, which do not speak positively of non-Jews. His solution is to sidestep and 'overcome' what he calls these 'stumbling blocks' which exist only because of our 'narrow' and 'literal' interpretation of those statements. He additionally mentions that one has also to overcome a natural 'national' bias. None of these make the task of loving those different from us an easy one.

He writes:

"The love for people...must not come to us as a prescribed statute. It must come as a spontaneous movement of an inner soul force.

It will have to withstand many difficult tests, to overcome many contradictions that are diffused like stumbling blocks in diverse statements of sages, in the superficial aspect of many laws, and in a multitude of views that result from the narrowing of the literal part of the Torah and the national system of morals."

Orot vol. 3, 318






[1] Shemot 4:22
[2] Zohar, Bereishit 170
[3] Ibid. 171
[4] Kuzari 1:115
[5] Eitz Chaim 5: ch.2  He based this on his reading of a verse in Amos.
[6] Derech Hashem 4:1
[7] Tanya, Likutei Amarim ch.1
[8]Letters from the Rebbe (Brooklyn, 1997) p. 106.
[9] Berachot 47a
[10] Yalkut Sheilot u’Teshuvot, Yoreh Deah, Siman 151, p. 354.
[11] See The Soul of a Jew and the Soul of a Non-Jew. An Inconvenient Truth and the Search for an Alternative.
(from which source most of this article has been derived).
[12] Orot, 156 no. 10
[13] Musar Avicha p. 58
[14] For me personally, I am fascinated by how Rav Kook appears to be torn apart by this issue. On the one hand he is more intense than the most extreme kabbalists. He is an avowed mystic and nails his colors to the mast. Yet on the other hand he is just as forceful in his unparalleled acceptance of the absolute worth of all human beings.
[15] Tanna Devei Eliyahu Rabbah 9:1
[16] Moreh Nevuchim 3:51
[17] See previous post where Rambam is similarly strongly opposed to angelic intercession with regard to prayers, for the same reason - that angels do not possess freedom of choice. Freedom of choice is an exclusive characteristic of human beings alone. And apparently all humans are united having being endowed with an equal amount of this freedom.
[18] Hilchot Teshuva, 5:2
[19] Yesodei HaTorah 7:1
[20] Iggeret Teiman
[21] Kol Simcha. Miketz, p. 47 (It’s interesting to note that the Kotzker Rebbe also believed in the importance of preparation. So much so that the preparation for a mitzvah, for example, was more important that the actual deed. The mitzvah deed was usually discharged quickly and with very little fuss.)