Letters Sept. 2020
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: What is the definition of superior?
Rabbi: “Superior” was explained in the article as a species with unique qualities. But as there exists only one humankind all descending from Adam, with no subsequent event of God changing any descendants, Jews are not superior.
Reader 2: I have never learned that Jews are superior, so I don't understand where the author of the article got the idea that Jewish superiority was something he had to argue against. “Chosen People” has always been explained as a responsibility and not a matter of superiority, so I agree with the authors, but the thesis is not anything new.
Rabbi: Torah repeats vital lessons as repetition is required. This article was a response to a reader, and the Jewishtimes responds to readers, even if the ideas were known to others or previously discussed. But there are popular opinions and texts that claim the Jew has a superior soul. However, this is not found in Torah.
Reader: As Yom Kippur is approaching, I have questions.
1. Are repeated sins and transgressions against Hashem forgiven?
2. Even though every human being has a general knowledge as to what is right or wrong, only after coming to Judaism one gets to know the depth and damage of certain sins and transgression and even become aware of certain things which are right or wrong, good or bad. Thus, are the sins, transgressions and mistakes committed before coming to Judaism forgiven by Hashem?
3. Does one become a “new person” when one becomes a Jew or enters the covenant? Shabbat shalom.
Vetturnimadam, Tamilnadu India
Rabbi: 1. Repeated sins indicate one has not fulfilled the formula for repentance: A) Regret for sinning, B) Abandon of further transgressions. Repeated sins are therefore not forgiven. However, not knowing how we will act in the future should not prevent a determined effort to repent. But we can only say “I will never sin in this matter again” when one honestly knows he won’t sin. Verbalization without sincere commitment is worthless.
2. Talmud Shabbos says oner who never learned of Shabbos brings one sin offering for all violated Shabboses. This means that there is culpability for remaining ignorant of sins. Maimonides too says idolaters cannot blame their upbringing for their sins: they are responsible for their idolatrous acts. They have a mind just like Abraham and can arrive at truths and falsehoods even without teachers and books, as did Abraham. A convert did not sin—and needs no repentance—for eating non-kosher, as that was not part of his obligations prior to conversion. But idolatry is a sin for all mankind.
3. Upon conversion, nothing changes in the person’s design. In fact, the change took place prior to conversion, as this righteous person realized his errors while still a gentile. His change was an increase in knowledge, realization of truths, and accepting to live as God deems best for every human.