03 September 2015

Jewish Birth and Rebirth and Who Has a Jewish Soul

19 Elul 5775

The question arises, what of the descendants of the so-called "lost tribes"? Are they still considered like Jews or are they on the level of the gentiles?

Keep in mind that this is purely my own reasoning based on my own learning of the sources, but my answer is that they are on the level of gentiles, if they were born into gentile bodies, until they are re-born as Jews through conversion. However, some are born as Jews and simply have no knowledge of their tribal identity. (Spiritual rebirth through conversion was originally a Jewish concept co-opted by the xians.)

First of all it needs to be understood that a number of Israelites from the Northern Kingdom made their way to Judea before the exile to Babylon, but without their tribal land, over time they lost their tribal identity. 

We see from the account in the book of Ezra (2:59-62) that in the wake of the Babylonian exile and subsequent return to Eretz Yisrael there were those who could not prove their lineage...
These are the ones who went up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan and Immer, and could not declare their fathers' families and their descent, whether they were from Israel....
Of the children of the Kohanim: The children of Habaiah, the children of Hakkoz and the children of Barzillai, who took wives from the daughters of Barzillai of Gilead and were called by their name. These sought their genealogical records, but they could not be found, so they were disqualified from the priesthood.
Some sources suggest that one of the jobs of Eliyahu the Prophet in the future will be to reveal to each person his tribal affiliation. It's not something anyone today can prove. It's not a matter of physical DNA, but spiritual DNA.

We saw from the writings of the Ramchal with regard to Yishmael and Eisav, that while both of them were physical descendants of Avraham, yet his spiritual legacy was only inherited through Yitzchak and Yaaqov, these other two being deemed "unworthy". 

Anyone today unable to show an uninterrupted tradition of family Jewish identity - not unlike the Ethiopian, Bnei Menashe and Anusim communities - are "disqualified" like those described in the book of Ezra. And like these other communities, they will return by means of the law itself - by formal conversion. 

So, that's one way the "lost" tribes could regain their Jewish identity until Eliyahu comes and clarifies their tribal affiliation. Another way is through simply being born a Jew. There was a rabbi in Eretz Yisrael about seventy years ago who said that the tribes were all represented in the modern return to Eretz Yisrael and that the Jewish people tended to unwittingly choose to settle within their own tribal portion, i.e. they are attracted to those regions without any conscious awareness of it.

On the other hand, we know that some with a demonstrable Jewish lineage are Erev Rav without Jewish souls. And we have many modern rabbis who teach that this generation of Jews is made up in part of the reincarnated souls of the 600,000 who left Egypt - which would include those from every tribe. 

What actually distinguishes a Jew from a non-Jew is an additional level of soul. We are told that Jews receive an additional level of soul on Shabbat that leaves us when Shabbat goes out. And we are told that a Jew who makes aliyah receives an additional level of soul when he enters Eretz Yisrael and that it remains behind when he leaves the land. A convert receives his additional soul that makes him into a Jew when he comes up out of the mikvah

In short, we are talking about a spiritual dimension of humanity that the Creator Himself oversees and He alone knows for sure who has what kind of soul and at what level. 

He gave into the rabbis hands the knowledge of the process of creating Jews from non-Jews and only when those intructions are followed to the letter will the appropriate soul level be attained. As to its tribal identity, the Creator has not seen fit to make that knowledge known at this time, but He knows and He promised that all would return.

And at the end, all those who were "disqualified", for whatever reason, or did not truly have Jewish souls, like the Erev Rav, will be purged from Am Yisrael by HKB"H

So, in case I've muddied the waters more than I've clarified them, allow me to reiterate: according to all the sources I know, with the exception of the Erev Rav, only Jews are on the level of "children" while non-Jews are HKB"H's "creation", including those who may once have been identified as Israel in a previous lifetime.

Again, this is my personal informed opinion. Hope that helps.

"Havdalah (Separation)"

19 Elul 5775

Re-posting since we all need reminding, especially in these days where "unification" is being touted over "separation".


12 Shevat 5775

In the beginning, the Creator made order out of chaos (B'reishit, chapter 1). Those who would deny the Creator and set themselves in His place are bringing chaos from which to create a new world order. Their stated goal is "out of many - one," a global unity without God, r"l, their "one" to replace The One.

Excerpts from Havdalah (Separation) by Rabbi Meir Kahane
in Or Hara'ayon, chapter 25

...G-d established two great and fundamental pinciples for Israel, namely, 1) separation and isolationism from the nations, and 2) clinging to G-d. Israel must separate themselves from evil and from the nations to the precise degree that they are commanded to cling to G-d.

...G-d decreed upon holy Israel that they must be separated from impurity and from the impure nations. The idolatry and foreign culture of the nations cannot coexist with G-d's Torah or with G-d Himself. It, therefore, says, "You shall be holy to Me, for I, the L-rd, am holy, and I have separated you out from among the nations to be Mine." (Lev. 20:26) Our sages comment, " 'I have separated you out from among the nations to be Mine': If you are separated from the nations, then you are Mine, otherwise, you belong to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia and his associates." (Torat Kohanim, Kedoshim, 9)

Israel's being separated from the nations is so important because, if Israel, chosen to be G-d's holy, special people, are not set apart from them, but influenced by their culture, why then, were Israel created? What special purpose is there for the existence of Israel and the world? If they are like Nebuchadnezzar in behavior and thought, in their impurity, arrogance and profanations, why should G-d defend them and ensure their survival?....

G-d established that there must be no unity between Israel and the nations. They must not mix or mingle together. The walls separating them must never come down. Rather, there must be separation, borders, a division. This separation, indeed, serves the purpose of unity, but genuine unity of a world under Divine sovereignty, for a united world of falsehood is not G-d's will....

The argument of the nations... is that we must achieve unity and break down the walls of separation. Is this not fair and logical according to the false thinking of the worshippers of foreign culture? Is not the unity of all nations and the disappearance of differences between Israel and the nations the goal of the Hellenists, who in any event have already put an end to every logical and intellectual difference between themselves and the nations? Before us we have a recommendation for one world and one people, and why should Israel remain alone, a nation that dwells apart?

...The admiration of the whole world, a "light unto the nations"... here is their basic enticement, adopted also by the Hellenists and falsifiers of Israel. They have distorted the concept of Israel being a "covenant of the people, a light unto the nations." (Isaiah 42:6) In their hands, this has turned into a demand that we depart the Land of our isolation and cling to the nations in the exile, living there with them in order to serve as their beacon.

[In our day, it is they who wish to be allowed to come here and join with us in this holy land as one people and one nation - both Jew and gentile together, G-d forbid!**]

To achieve this, we are supposed to abandon unpleasant, "unacceptable" concepts and laws, lest these make the nations hate us, and all this in the name of unity. That is, we are supposed to assimilate for the sake of unity....

Certainly, G-d's goal is world unity, but not based on falsehood and evil, and not through acceptance of the abominable concepts of coexistence and tolerance which pave the way for equating holiness and abomination, good and evil. Unity is desirable but only after goodness reigns in the world and all accept G-d's sovereignty. When G-d's truth and mastery reign on earth, there will be real unity. It will come precisely through separation.

...The separation G-d decreed upon the universe as a supreme value serves to divide between good and evil. Therefore, the Torah says, "G-d saw the light, that it was good, and he separated between the light and the darkness." This implies that not only was the light good, but so was it's separation from darkness, good from evil.

From the Havdalah Service...

Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the Universe
Who separates between holy and profane, between
Light and darkness, between
Israel and other nations, between
The Sabbath day and the six working days....

** JewishIsrael has heard from reliable sources that the Knesset is in the process of appointing a minister for the position of implementing a process of Aliyah for non-Jews.  It seems that government offices are being swamped by requests from Christians who want to immigrate to Israel. This is a cause of great concern and JewishIsrael will be monitoring the situation closely with the hope that those who will be made aware will put a halt to such a development.

02 September 2015

"The Chosen People"

18 Elul 5775

I'm going to remind the Jews of a few things in the interests of truth and fulfilling the Torah admonition not to add to or take away from the Torah's teachings. As it says in the Yom Kippur prayers, we are servants of Hashem, but we are also His children. There is no need to make light of the fact of Jewish chosenness out of fear of offending the gentiles. If Truth offends it is the fault of the hearer only. These words should be better understood now that the foundational concept has been explained in Ramchal's "Israel and the Nations".


Rabbi Meir Kahane, Or HaRa'ayon, Chapter 23, "The Chosen People"

"You are children of the L-rd your G-d.... You are a nation consecrated to the L-rd your G-d. The L-rd has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the Earth to be His own special nation." (Deut. 14:1-2)

Rashi comments on these words:"Your actual holiness comes to you from your fathers, but besides that, 'the L-rd has chosen you.'" Since Israel are the offspring of the Patriarchs, who are holy, they received holiness from them. Yet, in addition, when G-d chose Israel to be His people, he increased their holiness by this very selection. Our sages said (Yevamot, 103b), "When the Serpent attacked Eve, he infected her with filth [spiritual impurity]. Israel, who stood at Mount Sinai, lost their filth; but, the nations, who did not stand at Mount Sinai, did not lose their filth." Israel's holiness through selection gave them a purity the other nations lack.

Similarly, Ohr HaChaim wrote (Deut. 26:18), "The mitzvot are only a safeguard against spiritual abomination and filth." They are the means by which G-d effects the enormous difference between Israel and the nations.

"You are children of the L-rd your G-d!" Israel are called G-d's children; the rest of the nations are not. The Jew is an actual son of G-d, his Father in Heaven, whereas all the rest are not G-d's children, but only His handiwork. As R. Akiva said (Avot 3:18), "Beloved are Israel, for they were called G-d's children. Special Divine love was earmarked for them as a result." Israel are the children of Him Whose word brought the world into existence, whereas all the rest are just G-d's handiwork. Special Divine love beyond that reserved for all the nations is earmarked for Israel.

Woe to the distorters of G-d's Torah! By embracing the alien culture, they flee the concept of Israel as a chosen people and worship the god of equality, unable to accept Israel's supremacy. 

01 September 2015

"Israel and The Nations" - Pt 5

17 Elul 5775

The equality of all mankind is not a Jewish idea. It is a Greek/Roman/Western-democratic idea that Jews have assimilated over time. Humanity does not all exist on one level. Let's look at how Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, ztz"l explains it with commentary provided by Torah.org's Rabbi Yaakov Feldman...



Derech Hashem, Part II, Chapter 4 - Israel and the Nations, Paragraphs 8 and 9

[8] When the world was divided into seventy nations, God appointed seventy [directing] angels as Officers (Sarim) in charge of these nations, to watch over them and attend all their needs. 

Thus, God does not oversee these nations except in a general manner. It is each one's directing angel who takes care of the details, through the power that God gives it for this purpose. God thus told Israel (Amos 3:2), "Only you have I known among all the families of the earth."

This does not mean, however, that the details are withheld from God's knowledge. This cannot be true, since everything in all creation is perceived by God and revealed to Him. What it does mean, however, is that God does not oversee and directly influence their details. This will be further clarified in a later section.

[9] God thus made the rectification and elevation of all creation totally dependent on the Jews. To the extent that this can be expressed, we can thus say that He subjugated His Providence to them. Through their deeds, they can cause [His Light] to shine forth and have influence, or, on the other hand, hold it back and conceal it.

The deeds of the other nations, on the other hand, do not add to or subtract from the state of creation, nor do they cause God to reveal Himself or withdraw. All they can do is bring about their own gain or loss, and strengthen or weaken their own directing angel.

Although God does not involve Himself expressly in the direction of the nations in detail, it is possible that He should exercise His Providence over them when it is required for the sake of Israel. This may be because of a single Jew, or for a number of them. Such a case, however, falls under the category of means, discussed in the previous chapter.

Torah.org - Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

It's not only our interactions with G-d through the mitzvah system that draws our people especially close to Him. It's His interactions with us as well. We'll explore that idea now, as well as the vital role we Jews play in the great rectification of the universe, as we conclude our explanation of the chosen-ness of the Jewish Nation.

We're taught that G-d interacts with other peoples through the agency of their appointed archangel, as each of the seventy core nations of the world has a particular archangel overseeing its perpetuation and well-being.

The point to be made here is that our people's welfare is *directly* overseen by G-d Himself. After all, our life's mission, as we've indicated, is to draw close to and commune with G-d. In fact, though, the interaction is two-sided; for we commune with G-d in close proximity, and He communes with us in kind.

That's not at all meant to imply that G-d has abandoned or is unaware of other peoples! Who would dare even think that of G-d Almighty? The point is that He interfaces with their archangels directly and it's *they* who directly interact with the nation under their auspices. Understand, though, that there's a very fine and subtle metaphysical difference between direct interaction on G-d's part and indirect, but a real one nonetheless. There are instances though in which G-d does directly interact with non-Jews or an entire Gentile nation, but they're exceptions to the rules, and with a particular end in mind.

Thanks to that direct, dare we say "intimate" interaction between G-d and ourselves, we Jews thus play a crucial role in G-d's ultimate aim: universal rectification. For G-d allows His will to be swayed by our wishes and deeds, in a manner of speaking, the way all lovers succumb to their beloved's wishes (though the truth be known, G-d allowing His will to be swayed is in fact a playing out of His will in the end -- but that's beyond our discussion here).

Thus we have it within us to draw down G-d's light into the entire world or to withhold it, by virtue of the fact that we interact with G-d so broadly and all-encompassingly thanks to His mitzvah-system. Others though, with less mitzvot and hence less direct intervention with G-d, haven't as broad an effect upon the world at large, though they certainly do affect their archangel's being as well as their own with their deeds.


"Israel and The Nations" - Pt 4

17 Elul 5775

The equality of all mankind is not a Jewish idea. It is a Greek/Roman/Western-democratic idea that Jews have assimilated over time. Humanity does not all exist on one level. Let's look at how Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, ztz"l explains it with commentary provided by Torah.org's Rabbi Yaakov Feldman...



Derech Hashem, Part II, Chapter 4 - Israel and the Nations, Paragraph 6

[6] The decree, however, was not that the other nations should be destroyed. It only meant that they would have to remain on the lower level that we have discussed. This lower state would never have been meant for man if Adam had not sinned. It only came into being in the first place as a result of his sin.

These nations still have the human aspect, blemished though it may be, and God desired that they should at least have a counterpart of what was actually appropriate for all mankind. He therefore granted them a Divine Soul (neshamah) somewhat like that of the Jew, even though it is on a much lower level. They were likewise given commandments, through which they could attain both material and spiritual advantages appropriate to their nature. These are the seven [universal] commandments given to the children of Noach.

All this had been arranged from the beginning of creation, prepared for the contingency that man would sin. In this respect, it is like other harmful things and punishments, which were also created conditionally, as our Sages teach us.

Torah.org - Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

As we pointed out (2:4:3), the dynamic behind the chosenness of the Jewish Nation comes to this. G-d favored Abraham because he elevated himself; and we Jews, his offshoots, have thus been chosen to carry out Abraham's G-d-centered mission. We learn as well that each and every other nation plays a unique role in the great scheme of things, but not that one.

The other nations aren't to be scorned, and their efforts to draw close to G-d Almighty aren't to be denied. For each and every human has been created in G-d's image (see Genesis 1:26), and thus has an immortal soul as well as a consequent yearning to return to its Source.

We're also taught that non-Jews have been granted mitzvot and thus direct Divine guidance as well.

Those mitzvot are referred to as "The Seven Noachite Laws" (named after Noah, the second father of all of mankind after Adam, who was granted them himself). Thus non-Jews are bidden to avoid idolatry, blasphemy, murder, sexual impropriety, robbery, eating the flesh of a living animal; and they're to set up judicial systems as well. It has been pointed out that each one of these seven mitzvot implies several subcategories, and that there are thus actually some sixty to seventy mitzvot involved, all told.

Still and all, though, the existential reality is such that non-Jews remain on the level of man in his fallen state, unlike the Jewish Nation.


Derech Hashem, Part II, Chapter 4 - Israel and the Nations, Paragraph 7

[7] In the World-to-Come, however, there will be no nation other than Israel.

The souls of righteous gentiles will be allowed to exist in the Future World, but only as an addition and attachment to Israel. They will therefore be secondary to the Jew, just as a garment is secondary to the one who wears it. All that they attain of the ultimate good will have to be attained in this manner, since by virtue of their nature they can receive no more.

Torah.org - Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

As everyone knows, you can tell the content of a person's dreams -- as well as the quality of his being -- by the rewards he hopes to earn for his efforts. And as is also true, the less appropriate his reward, the less pleased a person will be, and the less effort he'll make. That goes for a person's material as well as his spiritual dreams.

So if you value the life of the spirit and pursue metaphysical goals your whole life long, you'd be terribly disappointed being rewarded by a grand banquet, say, in the end, no matter how opulent. And you'd be disappointed to be rewarded by a set of esoteric religious texts, for example, no matter how profound, if you had striven for wealth your whole life long.

Now, as we'd depicted it, the reward due a person in the World to Come is closeness to G-d and the experience of basking in His supernal light forever. Obviously, some people would consider that an off-putting prospect and would do all they could to avoid it.

Ramchal's point here is that since nothing swells the heart of a true descendant of Abraham more than closeness to G-d in the World to Come, which was Abraham's ultimate goal, then we'll indeed be rewarded with it.

His other point is that those non-Jews who strove to draw close to G-d by adhering to the seven Noachite Laws will also earn a place there -- but a lesser one. Because they'd have done less to draw close to G-d here (i.e., they'd have fulfilled less mitzvot) than we had.


31 August 2015

"Israel and The Nations" - Pt 3

17 Elul 5775

The equality of all mankind is not a Jewish idea. It is a Greek/Roman/Western-democratic idea that Jews have assimilated over time. Humanity does not all exist on one level. Let's look at how Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, ztz"l explains it with commentary provided by Torah.org's Rabbi Yaakov Feldman...


Derech Hashem, Part II, Chapter 4 - Israel and the Nations, Paragraphs 4 and 5

[4] God's great love and goodness decreed that the branches of other nations still be given a chance. If they so desired, they still had the free choice to tear themselves loose from their own roots, and through their own actions include themselves among the branches of Avraham's family.

This is what God meant when He told Avraham (Breishis 12:3), "All the families of the earth will be blessed through you." Avraham was thus made the father of all converts.

[This, however, would require effort on the part of the individuals concerned.] Without such effort, they would remain attached to their own roots and retain their natural characteristics.

[5] It is also necessary to realize that each individual tree is also divided, very much as the descendants of Adam were divided into Root, Trees, and Branches. Primary branches can thus be distinguished in each individual tree, and these branches are then differentiated to yield their particular members.

Avraham's tree consisted of 600,000 main branches. These were the individuals who left Egypt, and it was to them that the Torah was given and the land of Israel divided. Every Jew subsequently born is considered to be an element and descendant of one of these primary branches.

It was to these 600,000 original Jews that the Torah was given. When this occurred, the tree was said to have attained maturity.

At this time, God also gave the nations a last chance. In His mercy He had suspended their final judgment until the time that the Torah was given [with the revelation at Sinai]. He then offered the Torah to every nation, giving them the opportunity to accept it.

If any nation would have then accepted the Torah, it would have elevated itself from its lower state. As it was, none of them desired the Torah, and their judgment was therefore sealed completely. The gate was permanently closed, never again to be opened.

It still remained possible, however, for any individual to convert to Judaism. In this manner, he could still include himself in Avraham's tree of his own free will.

Torah.org - Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Though humankind has been clustered into various root groups for many generations now, as we said, we learn here that anyone can still and all change his or her root group. Thus anyone can become an "instant descendant" of Abraham (and a Jew) at will.

We see then that becoming a Jew comes down to leaving one's original people and root group, and attaching onto the Jewish people. Hence it doesn't involve merely vowing to do this and that rather than that and this. It comes down to an utter transformation and transference from one self with one background to a wholly other self with another background. It's more than merely changing one's religion; it's changing one's very family.

Like any family, the family of Jewish-kind has its own ways, perspectives, values, and inclinations. But rather than being a series of phenomena molded by climate and circumstance, Jewish ways, values, and the like are rooted in Abraham's dreams for and directives to his family. And those dreams and perspectives were themselves rooted in one thing alone: drawing close to G-d. That all touches upon the mitzvah system. As a consequence, anyone who'd want to become a member of the "family" would have to find his or her place in the "family system" -- in the mitzvah system.

Now, there was a point in time when other nations were offered the mitzvah system as a lifestyle, but they refused. It was when Abraham's by-then 600,000 descendants became a nation unto itself, left Egypt in the great rush and whirlwind known as The Exodus, experienced the revelation of G-d Himself when He granted us His holy Torah, and attained a high level of spiritual and national maturity that could be likened to an offshoot truly and finally blossoming.

Had those other nations accepted the Torah as Abraham's descendants had, they'd also have ascended spiritually. But they decided not to. So the gate through which they too could have passed to be "chosen" was closed off to them as a whole, though it was left open to those among them who'd join Abraham's descendants.


"Israel and The Nations" - Pt 2

16 Elul 5775

The equality of all mankind is not a Jewish idea. It is a Greek/Roman/Western-democratic idea that Jews have assimilated over time. Humanity does not all exist on one level. Let's look at how Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, ztz"l explains it with commentary provided by Torah.org's Rabbi Yaakov Feldman...



Derech Hashem, Part II, Chapter 4 - Israel and the Nations, Paragraph 3

[3] The Highest Wisdom deemed it fitting that this effort be divided into a period for the roots, and another for the branches. The original effort would thus be that of the roots, while what would come later would involve the branches.

The human race initially had a chance to permanently regain its original state and rectify the spiritual damage that had been done. The proper procedure would have been for the roots and heads of Adam’s descendants to first elevate themselves to the rectified level. Once this was accomplished, both the roots and their branches would remain in this state forever, since the branches always follow the roots.

The time provided for generations to function as roots, however, was limited. During this period, the gate was open and the opportunity existed for any individual to properly prepare himself and permanently become a good and worthy root. He would then be prepared for a high degree of excellence, appropriate for man in his original state, rather than that of man in his fallen state.

Since this individual would perfect himself as a Root, he would attain this for his deserving descendants as well as for himself. They would all receive what he attained, and would therefore all be able to remain on the level and state attained by him as their root.

The period during which this was possible extended from the time of Adam until the Generation of Separation [when the Tower of Bavel was built]. During this period there never ceased to be some righteous people who preached the truth to the multitudes, warning them to correct themselves. These included such individuals as Chanoch, Mesushelach, Shem and Ever.

Man's measure was filled, however, in the Generation of Separation. God's Attribute of Justice then decreed that the time when men could be considered roots should some to a close. Until this time, things could become a permanent part of these roots, depending on what had transpired previously. With the Generation of Separation, this period came to a close.

God then scrutinized all mankind, perceiving the levels that should be made permanent in that generation's members according to their deeds. These things then became a permanent part of their nature in their aspect as roots. It was thus decreed they each should bear future generations, all possessing the qualities that were deemed appropriate for their root ancestor.

The descendants of each of these individuals were thus divided into permanent groupings, each with its own characteristics and limitations. They were destined to father future generations who would inherit these characteristics of their forebears. According to the Highest Judgment, it turned out that none of them deserved to rise above the degraded level to which Adam and his children had fallen as a result of their sin. [Not a single one had risen above it all.]

There was, however, one exception, and that was Avraham. He had succeeded in elevating himself, and as a result of his deeds was chosen by God. Avraham was therefore permanently made into a superior excellent Tree, conforming to man's highest level. It was further provided that he would be able to produce branches [and father a nation] possessing his characteristics.

The world was then divided into seventy nations, each with its own particular place in the general scheme. All of them, however, remained on the level of man in his fallen state, while only Israel was in the elevated state.

After this, the gate was closed on the era of roots. Things would then be directed and brought about upon individuals as branches, each one according to his nature.

Even though it may seem that man was originally the same as he is now, there is actually a great difference. Before the Generation of Separation, man existed in the age of roots, and was dealt with accordingly. When this period ended, things were judged and made permanent, and a new era began. This is the age of branches, which still exists.

Torah.org - Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Many of us work on the assumption that "human nature is human nature" and that our inner beings are no different from what our ancestors' were in antiquity, but that's not so. Let's see how.

Recall that originally there were "root souls" and "offshoots". The root souls were to have regained Adam and Eve's original high spiritual stature, their offshoots were to follow in their wake (i.e., to have "inherited" perfection, if you will), and all of humanity was to have remained on that exalted plane forever.

There were two stipulations, though. One was that there was to have been a fixed period in antiquity for this to have happened by, as we said: from the time of Adam and Eve themselves up to the time of the destruction of the Tower of Babel (see Genesis 1:26 to 11:1-8). The second stipulation was that *anyone* within that time period who strove to could have perfected himself and become a root soul, and all his descendants would have reaped the benefits of his efforts.

Now, this is a very important point for our purposes. There were indeed people at that time who strove for personal perfection -- like Enoch, Methuselah, Shem, and Eber. What we're to realize, though, is that they could very well have become roots souls to *their particular descendants*, who'd then have served as bearers of G-d's message for mankind, as we Jews do. But none of those individuals did. Only Abraham, the father of the Jewish Nation, did. Which is why only we, his descendants, came to inherit his spiritual bounty.

Thus when the time-limit was up and there proved to be no one other than Abraham worthy of being a root soul in a spiritual sense, G-d saw to it that other individuals would serve as root souls to their offshoots only on a genetic, cultural level.

G-d is thus said to have *chosen* Abraham to be the sort of ideal root soul depicted above as a consequence of his having succeeded at elevating himself. And we Jews, his offshoots, have thus been "chosen" -- chosen to glory in Abraham's inheritance and to carry out his mission.

There came to be 70 primal nations in all (with many subsequent subdivisions). And each plays its own particular role in the larger scheme -- while yet remaining on the level of man in his fallen state.

Thus while mankind may seem the same as it always has been, there's actually a profound difference. For, again, up to the time of the Tower of Babel all of mankind existed in the age of potential root souls and was dealt with accordingly; while afterwards a new age began -- the age of offshoots, which we're still in the midst of.


30 August 2015

"Israel and The Nations" - Pt 1

16 Elul 5775

The equality of all mankind is not a Jewish idea. It is a Greek/Roman/Western-democratic idea that Jews have assimilated over time. Humanity does not all exist on one level. Let's look at how Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, ztz"l explains it with commentary provided by Torah.org's Rabbi Yaakov Feldman...

Derech Hashem, Part II, Chapter 4 - Israel and the Nations, Paragraph 1

[1] One of the deepest concepts of God’s Providence involves Israel and the other nations.  With regard to their basic human characteristics, the two appear exactly alike.  From the Torah’s viewpoint, however, the two are completely different, and are treated as if they belonged to completely different species.

We will now delve into this concept, explaining in which way the two are alike, as well as in which way they are different.

Torah.org - Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

What sets us Jews apart from other people? We'll explore that for a while now. For while last chapter dwelt on how G-d Interfaces with us individually, this one will focus in on how G-d interfaces with the Jewish Nation as a whole.

When Shakespeare's most famous Jewish character, Shylock, protested anti-Jewish discrimination by intoning, "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" ("Merchant of Venus" Act 3, Scene 1) his point was that we Jews are just like other people in many, many ways. And that we're not to be feared or loathed, and forever taken as "the other". But in a certain sense, Shylock was off-the-mark. (After all, he was uttering Shakespeare's words and thus voicing a fine and humanistic Non-Jew's indictment against anti-Semitism, and wasn't speaking about us in the sense we'll be dwelling upon.)

For despite all appearances -- despite the fact that most of us would be hard pressed to pick a Jew out in a crowd with assurity (unless one was wearing the telltale outward signs of one) -- we Jews are different. Somehow, fold after fold, layer after layer of physical, emotional, and social likeness to others gives way to a different breed of person.

For like every other nation, the Jewish Nation has its unique national genius which sets us apart from the others. The point is though that our's touches on a very special realm: the ability to draw close to G-d. We Jews can draw close to G-d as no one else can. The fact that we might be attractive, intelligent, gifted, and the like isn't what sets us apart. It's that all-important potential to draw close to G-d.

Many of us -- Jew and Non-Jew -- will squirm at the idea and grow ill at ease, since it's a decidedly unmodern one that's awash in political incorrectness. But be that as it may, the notion isn't our own; it's stated outright in the Torah.

We'll thus spend time exploring the implications of our distinctiveness, including the ideas that every other nation could have wound up being "the Jewish Nation" had things worked out differently in antiquity; that Abraham alone deserved to be the root of the Jewish Nation, and no one else; that other nations had been given a "second chance" later on, but didn't take advantage of it; that other nations thus function differently on a cosmic level; and more.

At bottom there's no reason to grow arrogant at our standing as a nation. It has nothing to do with us, per se, and everything to do with our G-d-given task in this world.


Derech Hashem, Part II, Chapter 4 - Israel and the Nations, Paragraph 2

[2] Before Adam sinned, he was on a much higher level than contemporary man, as discussed earlier (1:3:6).  In that state, man was on a very lofty level, fit for a high degree of eternal excellence.  If he had not sinned, man would have simply been able to elevate and perfect himself, step by step.

He would have then given birth to future generations while still in that state of excellence. Their number would be accurately determined by God’s wisdom, depending on how those enjoying His good should best be perfected.  All these future generations would have then shared this good with Adam.

God had also determined and decreed that all these generations that would have been born of Adam should exist on various determined levels.  Some generations would thus be primary, while others would be secondary, like roots and branches.  Later generations would stem from the earlier ones [and share their characteristics], like branches stemming from a tree.  The number of trees and branches, however, was determined from the very beginning with the utmost precision.

When Adam sinned, he fell from his original high level, and brought upon himself a great degree of darkness and insensitivity, as discussed earlier.  Mankind in general also fell from its original height  and remained on a degraded  level where it was not at all worthy of the eternal high degree of excellence originally destined for it.

Man could thus anticipate only a very much lower level, and it was in this state that children were born into the world.  They were therefore all born into this degraded state. 

Nevertheless, even in the time of his downfall, the elevated aspect that existed in man as a result of his true root was not completely extinguished.  Adam was therefore not cast aside completely, and could still return to the higher level.  [But now he would be functioning under an important disadvantage, since] he was actually on a lower plane [which merely had] the potential aspect of the higher level.

God gave Adam’s descendants a free choice at that time to strengthen themselves and strive to elevate themselves from this lower state and regain the higher level.

The Highest Wisdom, however, determined the length of time best suited for such an effort, and accordingly set a time limit for these generations.  In a way this is very much like the time limit now given to each individual.  Every individual has a limited lifetime and it is during this period of time that he must attain both perfection and his level in the Community of the Future World, as discussed earlier.  The reason in both these cases is that everything that involved effort must be limited in time.  

Torah.org - Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

We'll spend some time now retracing the history of the human spirit in order to understand G-d's plans for the Jewish Nation.

As we indicated earlier on, before they ate from the Tree of Knowledge Adam and Eve were on an unfathomably higher spiritual level than we are. And had they not sinned, they would have been able to grow greater and greater yet in spirit. We learn now that they were to have borne a specific number of descendants who were then to enjoy that same level of being.

There was also to have been a certain order and layout to the lot of them. A certain number of Adam and Eve's early descendants were to have served as "root souls" and to have been of primary importance, while the others were to have served as the latters' "offshoots" and to have been as deeply influenced and defined by their "roots" as fruit-trees are by theirs.

But all that went by the waysides when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree and diminished their -- and their descendants' -- beings (as we also discussed). For those early descendants no longer deserved the abiding glory that was originally due them, and they could no longer people the world with others on a high spiritual state.

That having been said, it's also important to point out that the original "jot" of glory within them was never blotted out, in fact. It always abided in Adam and Eve's as well as their descendants' beings. And so none of them were utterly rejected. But humanity's lower level was still and all not to be denied.

G-d did give those early descendants the ability to consciously choose to garner their inner resources, and to thus strive to elevate their beings to the highest reaches. But there was to have been a time limit (much like the one given each one of us to reach our own spiritual potential). Simply because it's the way of this world that things that call for effort are to be achieved by a certain point, and no later.