Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: I would like to comment on your article “God’s plan and the 9th of Av” in the Jewishtimes, 2nd of July edition. You wrote about human equality and that the greatest people began life as children to Gentiles, such as the patriarchs & matriarchs, Ruth ,Unkelos and many Rabbis. You explained that if a Jew or a Gentile follow God completely, he/she is equally loved by God.
The article then goes on to explain that the Gentile who engages in Torah is like the High Priest and that the Gentile who converts surpasses even the greatest Jew. However I am confused with the following statement: “For how humbling it must be for a gentile to accept his or her very being is not on par with the highest level of one obligated to observe the 613 laws.” This statement seems to contradict your earlier statement that a Jew (who is obligated to observe 613 laws) and a Gentile (who is obligated to observe 7 Noahide laws) are equally loved by God.
Kindly confirm if a Gentile who observes the 7 Noahide laws and Torah is on par with the Jew (including the Gentile convert) who observe the 613 laws. In addition, please confirm if there is a distinction between the Gentile who follows God yet choosing not to convert and a Gentile who converts to Judaism.
Rabbi: We can’t know why God creates one person to Jewish parents, and another to gentile parents. As the Creator, God has full rights—and certainly a plan—for His decisions of whom is born to whom. God knows which situation will be most beneficial for each and every personality. He does not place any man or woman in a state doomed for failure. Creating one person to Jewish parents and another to gentile parents in no way determines one’s merit, as merit and sin are free will decisions made by all people. All God’s acts are beneficial: “God is good to all, and His mercy is over all His works” (Psalms 145:9). We also read:
For the Lord does not reject forever, but first afflicts, then pardons in His abundant kindness. For He does not willfully bring grief or affliction to man, crushing under His feet all the prisoners of the earth. To deny a man his rights in the presence of the Most High, to wrong a man in his cause; these the Lord does not choose (Lamentations 3:31-36).
Thus, God performs only what is good.
Great gentiles who converted did not question God’s justice on how He created them, for they have free will to follow all God’s laws, just like a Jew. Gentile or Jew, neither was created with limitations preventing their respective human perfection.
It is humbling for a gentile to remain following only the 7 Noahide laws, while he knows a more beneficial system is to follow Bible’s 613; certainly, more laws offer more human perfection. It is equally humbling if a Jew does not follow the 613.
All mankind descend from the identical couple, Adam and Eve. Thus, we are equals. Our equality spans the spectrum of all human faculties including biology, psychology and intellect. Thus, all humans possess equal capacity for all action, emotion and intellect respectively. Although people differ genetically from others in accidental features like skin color, eyelid shape and hair, essentially we all bleed, breathe, cry, laugh and find wonder in God’s creation and in His ideas shared with man in His Bible and through His prophets. All this refers to human “design.”
Another fact concerns not human design, but man’s obligations; his role. During an era where the world was idolatrous, God selected a group of monotheists to receive his Bible and teach the world. His appointment of Abraham and his descendants—the Jews—did not make the Jew superior in design. Rather it imposes on the Jew an obligation of study, acting and teaching. Thereby, God taught mankind that there is a higher level of living for which man was created, and which man can attain by following Bible’s laws and principles. Jew and gentile are equally less perfected when not following these laws, but the Jew alone is punished by his abstention from following these 613 laws.
“How humbling it must be for a gentile to accept his or her very being is not on par with the highest level of one obligated to observe the 613 laws” is not a commentary on one’s capacity or design, but on his decisions. Thus, there is no conflict with what is stated earlier regarding human design, that all humans are identical. The gentile who remains following only the 7 Noahide laws must be humbled for opting not to live in a perfected Torah lifestyle. The same applies to the Jew who does not follow the 613. Neither Jew nor gentile should remain in this lesser state, even though the gentile is not obligated to accept all 613. Both should recognize the greater perfection and happiness attained by following the 613 Biblical laws, and all the subsequent rabbinic laws. Both should wish to follow the complete Bible. Both are equals, and both possess identical potential. Both forfeit human perfection when following less than all 613 commands, and both are humbled in that lesser state. One must not err thinking the gentile is obligated in only 7 Noahide laws, and therefore that is what God ultimately wishes from him. This is not so, as the 7 Noahide laws are only a minimal threshold for one to retain a right to live. But these 7 laws are not a system of perfection, as is the 613.
The gentile who chooses to convert and follows all 613 is equal the Jew who observes the 613 laws, as God says numerous times, “One law for the convert and the born Jew” (Exod. 12:49, Num. 9:14, Num. 15:16, Num. 15:29). And in one respect the gentile surpasses the Jew with his/her admirable decision to convert, when the Jew did not undergo that decision. But a gentile following only 7 laws cannot be equally perfected to a gentile or Jew following 613, as more commands generates greater perfection.
In the end, Jew and gentile are identical. Neither one is privileged.