18 September 2016

Whom Does Am Yisrael Serve?

16 Elul 5776

Someone sent me the following...
"...[One rabbi says] that Israel as a nation of Priests of HaShem, Jews are to serve the peoples of the world as the priesthood served the nation of Israel. ...[And another rabbi says] Israel is to be a light to the nations. He said we are 'to disiminate the teachings of the Torah to the whole world'...."
The only thing that counts is what the Torah says. Who does the Torah say Am Yisrael serves - HASHEM or the nations?
Exodus 19:5-6
“And now, if you listen well to Me and observe My covenant, you will be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples, for Mine is the entire world. You shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.”
Rashi: And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes: Heb., מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהִנִים, princes, as it is said: “and David’s sons were chief officers (כֹּהִנִים)” (II Sam. 8:18). -[from Mechilta]
Even if you want to take the word "Cohanim" out of its context and make it mean Cohanim as in the priets serving in the Temple, you can't make it into serving the nations because Hashem plainly said "to Me" and when the Cohanim were serving Hashem in the Temple, they were not teaching the nations.
Devarim 6:12-13, 21-25
Beware for yourself lest you forget Hashem Who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. Hashem, your God, shall you fear, Him shall you serve,....
You shall say to your child, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and Hashem took us out of Egypt with a strong hand. …And he took us out of there in order to bring us, to give us the Land that He swore to our forefathers. Hashem commanded us to perform all these decrees, to fear Hashem, our God, for our good, all the days, to give us life, as this very day. And it will be a merit for us if we are careful to perform this entire commandment before Hashem, our God, as He commanded us.
In the prophets, it says at least eleven times (Isaiah 43:10, 44:1, 44:2, 44:21, 45:4, 49:3, 45:4, 49:3, Ezekiel 28:25, Jeremiah 30:10, 46:27-28) and possibly more: "Jacob, My servant..."

But, before you say well, the Jews serve Hashem by teaching the nations. According to the Ramchal, there are three ways in which the Jews serve Hashem: 1) the learning of Torah, 2) the performance of mitzvot, and 3) prayer. 

If taking the Torah to the nations were our ultimate goal or mission in this world, you'd think that one of these references in the Torah or the Prophets would state so clearly, however it does not. The only reference to this phrase "light to the nations" was addressed to Isaiah himself and nowhere is it ever stated that this is an obligation - a commandment - for Am Yisrael. In fact, it does not appear on any list of the 613 commandments. However, look how many commandments tell us to beware coming close to Idolatry:
  • To entertain no thought that there is any other god except the blessed God.
  • To make no idol to worship.
  • Not to make any idol to be worshipped [by himself or by anyone else], even for a heathen.
  • Not to bow down and prostrate oneself to an idol.
  • Not to worship an idol in the way that it is usually venerated.
  • Not to swear in the name of an idol.
  • Not to lead a town in Israel astray to worship in idolatry
  • To eat or drink nothing from an offering to an idol.
  • Not to turn one’s attention to idolatry
  • To have no benefit from an idol, from its offering or it attendants, or anything done on its behalf. 
  • Not to intermarry with a non-Jewish person. (Interesting juxtaposition)
  • To have no mercy on idol-worshippers.
  • Not to follow the fixed customs of the heathen.
  • Not to pay heed to a person prophesying in the name of an idol. 
  • To entice no one in Jewry to worship an idol.
  • For the enticed person to bear no affection for the enticer.
  • For the enticed person no to relinquish his hatred for the enticer.
  • Not to rescue the enticer if one sees him in danger of death.
  • Not to prophesy in the name of an idol.
  • To make no gashes and incisions in one’s flesh in idol-worship…
  • Not to settle idol-worshippers in our [holy] land.
(With what's going on in the vineyards of the Shomron today, the bolded ones are borderline being broken already.) And I will remind the reader yet again of the Rambam's position in his Mishneh Torah:
The Rambam in Hilchot Avodah Zarah, Chapter 7, Halachah 1:
It is a positive commandment to destroy false deities, all their accessories, and everything that is made for their purposes, as [Devarim 12:2] states: "You shall surely destroy all the places [where the gentiles... served their gods]" and, as [implied by Devarim 7:5]: "Rather, what you should do to them is tear down their altars."
In Eretz Yisrael, the mitzvah requires us to hunt after idol worship until it is eradicated from our entire landIn the diaspora, however, we are not required to hunt after it. Rather, whenever we conquer a place, we must destroy all the false deities contained within.
[The source for this distinction is Devarim 12:3, which] states: "And you shall destroy their name from this place," [implying that] you are obligated to hunt false deities in Eretz Yisrael, but you are not obligated to do so in the diaspora.
From the commentary: On we are not required to hunt after it. - since these lands are not holy, we are not obligated to eradicate idol worship from them. (Kinat Eliyahu)
Here is yet another rabbi's take on this subject...

In case the video does not display for you, it can be viewed here.

Various gedolei hador have ruled that christianity is avodah zarah. In 1964, Rav Soleveichik zt"l ruled that, despite Vatican II, it was still forbidden to teach Torah to christians. He further forbade teaching them how to learn Torah or even to teach them lashon hakodesh. As it is prohibitted to teach idolators Torah, This can only mean that he considered them ovdei avodah zara: there is not other reasonable explanation.

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l ruled at least twice that christians were idolators: he ruled that if one is in the middle of a shiur and a christian walks in, even though it is forbidden to teach them Torah, it is not neccessary to interrupt the shiur. As above, the only reason it would be forbidden to teach christians Torah would be if they were idolators; he also wrote a teshuva to a shailah whether it was permitted to teach a class to a group of reform children (since some of them would obviously be gentiles) that it was permitted because since those children attended a reform "temple" it was unlikely that they were idolators and that the need to teach Jewish children the Emess outweighed the (in this case) unlikely violation of the prohibition against teaching idolators. I can't imagine that Reb Moshe was concerned about an Indianapolis "temple" being overrun by, say, buddhist or hindu children. Clearly he considered christians to be ovdei avodah zara.

More recently, within the past few years, Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliyashiv zt"l has ruled on at least two seperate occasions, in very clear language, that christianity is avodah zara: A Jew planning a trip to Israel was asked by a christain bussiness associate if he would pray for him in Jeruslam. He wrote a shailah to Rav Eliyashiv to ask if this was permitted. Rav Eliyashiv respponded with one sentence: it is prohibiited to pray for an idolator. He also ruled that it was forbidden for Mosdos to accept money from the "International Fellowship of christians and Jews" (an organization almost entirely funded by christian churches) under the prohibition of accepting tzedaka from idolators. (Source: Rabbi Yaron Reuven)


  1. Dear Friends, Israel SERVES The Creator ALONE. Israel FEARS The Creator ALONE. Israel has a FRIEND, The Creator, ALONE. We are "a People that dwells ALONE and is not reckoned among The Nations" (Bilaam - do WE have to learn THIS from the Biblical Darth Vader? Unfortunately ... yes). Once The Creator, and The Creator ALONE, will become THE focus, THE "hub" of the "wheel", for the People of Israel, for us, ALL the "spokes" in the world will align automatically by themselves. The more we do this, the easier it will be for ALL people everywhere to orient themselves properly to The Creator. And straighten out their relationships with us too. When THAT happens, Esau and Ishmael (and all the Peoples of the World) will bless Israel. Their proselytism (Esau) and terrorism (Ishmael) will evaporate in the Light of HaShem's Morning (The Redemption). Shalom from Jerusalem, ISRAEL, Aryeh Yosef

    1. Very well said, Aryeh Yosef. Yasher koach!

  2. Isaiah 49:23

    Kings and queens will serve you and care for all your needs. They will bow to the earth before you and lick the dust from your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord. Those who trust in me will never be put to shame.”

    Zacharia 8:23 also hints ("we will go with you") that they will serve us.

    This makes sense. Our great export in time to come will be the Word of G-d. In exchange, the nations will give us what we need materially. In no sense will we "serve" them.

    1. It can't both be right can it? I'm not so sure these rabbis have actually said these things, but that maybe people misunderstood what they heard. But, many gentiles actually have this understanding that the Jewish People's role in the world is to service their needs and desires - to teach them the Torah, to enable them to connect to Hashem, to benefit them with blessings, etc. I think a lot of the people who have gotten caught up in this just have a very strong inclination towards chesed - like Avraham Avinu. But, where Avraham Avinu had his Sara Imeinu to tell him to throw Ishmael out of the house and Hashem said "Listen to Sara and do what she tells you", these don't seem to hear the many voices calling out to them to stop and think.

  3. Excellent post. The list is vital for all to recognize in their dealings with Jews, tourists and people in general. It deserves a spot in your right column of special posts.

  4. Of course I forgot to mention that Dafka when Jews observe both the Halacha and customs of Judaism they become a light unto the nations and this in and of itself brings blessings to the entire world.

    1. Absolutely! If we want to help the gentiles, we need to be cleaning ourselves and not worrying about them. When we clean up so does the world.

      I guess you could compare it to a tarnished brass lamp with a dusty, dirty shade. Polish it and wash it til it gleams and when it's lit with the fire of Torah burning inside it, it will send off such a glow that it will not only draw those seeking the light to it, but it will illuminate all the hidden dirt that needs to be cleaned in its environment.

      Those who naturally want a clean and pure place to live will then get busy without any prompting from us.

  5. These are Orthodox rabbis with some unorthodox ideas. I don't know where they got them.

    Moishe, what's worse is that they are not even teaching them the p'shat. These non-Jews are being taught kabbalah and they are in turn "teaching" it to others, although to listen to them is to know that they don't understand anything of what they have heard.

    I pity them that they are being led away from the truth of their own unique mission and destiny and relationship with their Creator.

    One famous rabbi who set himself the task of "reaching out" to the non-Jews has simply led them from Xianity with Jewish trappings into New Age with Jewish trappings. It's a tragedy.

    But, our concern must remain with the Jews. We are not so well off ourselves that we can afford to give time and resources to the gentiles who need to take care of themselves and they actually have people who are doing that and at the same time resenting the intrusion of certain "rabbis" into that business.

    People say we are the lowest generation and they say it like it's an excuse to give up trying to be any better, but our main oblgiation is to improve ourselves and our communities first, jsut like the first obligation of tzedaka is to give to family and neighbors first before going farther afield. This really is an obligation and it's not to be ignored in favor of something that clearly isn't.

    This is nothing less than the yetzer hara "dressing up a sin as a mitzvah".

  6. Sorry, LZ, no one fundraises from this page, not even me.

  7. Devash, you wrote that maybe these Jews from the Shomron are full of chesed; I do not believe that. I believe they are doing this for money, and being 'loved' by the nations and mostly because they are Amharatzim. They might be religious externally but have NO deep knowledge of the Torah; otherwise, they would know this automatically. What of the 'rabbis' who should definitely know better? Before this, I never heard of Orthodox Rabbis who were truly learned who would even contemplate this behavior, even an iota. Unless there are frauds such as shabtai tzvi, the evil apikorus, we do not know of such things. If these Jews are truly Jewish neshamot gone astray, we pray they wake up from this wickedness and do teshuvah. May H' have mercy on His children.


    1. Boruch, there's no doubt that there is much truth in what you say.

  8. The true answer to the question in the heading above is 'AM YISRAEL SERVES ONLY H'! nili