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)