Ever Consider Converting?
Jack Saunders went on the radio with the president of the Orthodox Union (“just follow the OU”), Rabbi Steve Savitsky. You can link to it here if you want. The rabbi asked Jack, the First Covenant Foundation co-founder, the Noahide pastor, if he’d ever consider converting to Judaism. Jack said that he’d stay with his own people, at least for the time being. Then the rabbi asked this question:
Rabbi Savitsky: [In relation to the People of Israel, the Jewish People, in the Biblical system], “Do you ever feel like a second-class citizen?”
“Let me ask you a question,” Jack answers. “I’m guessing that you’re not a cohen?”
[A cohen, or priest, is a male direct descendant of Aaron, Moses’ brother; a cohen is one of the Jewish People’s priestly caste, a person privileged by birth to serve, if possible, as a High Priest in God’s Sanctuary.]
Rabbi Savitsky: “No, I’m not.”
Jack: “In your mind, is your connection with the King of the Universe any less than the cohen’s?”
Rabbi Savitsky [loudly and emphatically]: “No!”
Jack: “So you’re on an equal basis [with the cohen] as far as making that connection?”
Rabbi Savitsky [emphatically]: “Yes!”
Jack: “Well, I look at the People of Israel as a priestly people – a priesthood serving Him by being a witness to His wonders, His powers, His justice, mercies, kindness and compassion. Is there any difference?. . . “ [Jack continued] “Rabbi Meyer was asked in the Talmud, in [tractate] Sanhedrin 57, ‘should a Noahite [or non-Jew] study Torah?’ Rabbi Meyer says that ‘a Noahite who keeps the Seven [Universal] Laws and studies them is equal [even] to the High Priest of Israel.’ So,” Jack concluded, “I feel like I have my place, to make this connection with HaShem. So do the People of Israel.”
Cohen, Levite, Israelite, Noahite
We were thinking of that exchange, about how useful and wholesome it was, last week, contrasting it to one of the Torah commentaries we were kvelling about [gushingly bragging about] in the last Covenant Connection.
A gifted Torah teacher can also be a dead-wrong Torah teacher, at times; especially if he or she is a great chauvinist. That’s what one gets in some of these commentaries.
Let’s be straight about this. The People of Israel serve God – that “light unto the nations” thing – but are NOT the whole point of the Providential enterprise. This writer, among others, basing this generally on Scripture’s characterization of the Jewish People, Israel, as God’s “first born,” argues, basically, horribly, that 1) God’s a lousy Father, Who 2) cares only for his oldest. He’s the kind of parent, supposedly, who feels no love for any of His younger children, lavishing all His love on the first born - the kind of horrible pathology of a father so awful that He’s frequently summoned to answer for himself to irate social services bureaucrats, police agencies, and courts.
Obviously, if the first-born of a family speaks this way about dad and the rests of the family, you know there’s something wrong with the family. And, for sure, let’s admit it, there’s a lot wrong with the human family. The animosities and jealousies and envy. . . Many post-Holocaust Torah teachers were stunned by the larger family’s conduct during the Nazi persecutions, the Holocaust, and then in all the opposition to the fulfillment of the Jewish enterprise – the hatred of the State of Israel – subsequently. Generations of loony Jew-hatred has to have had some effect on the Jews. So we generate these strange commentaries, occasionally.
Fortunately, one doesn’t run into Jewish chauvinism all that often. But we can’t say it doesn’t exist. The fact can’t be denied that, because of some commentaries, “the Jews” sometimes make noises like a ridiculously immature and self-centered first-born.
We hope this goes without saying: that there is nothing in Scripture, or in the larger Torah, that remotely supports any such belief, that Israel is the whole point of the human race.
One encounters such stuff, occasionally, mostly in Jewish mystical literature, and – in later times - particularly in modern-day, post-Holocaust commentary by certain “experts.”
What unites them, we believe, is a peculiar theology: an odd way of thinking about God.
The idea that the Deity Who loves Israel – “You, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend” [Isaiah 41:8] – is lacking in love! …
That is so preposterous…
The idea that He is somehow so partial to Israel that He cares not at all for the rest of the family of man – the God Who gives His “son” Israel TO the nations as “a light unto the nations”! – is very strange to us.
What weird claims! Especially since these ideas have no support in the mainstream Tradition.
We spoke in the last issue about our differences with the other Noahide-outreach outfits. They mostly ultimately come down to this basic theological issue: What is the Nature of God?
Is the HaShem of Israel, Abraham, and Moses – the God of all true conscious servants of God, of every race and nation – in ANY way unjust, unholy, or unloving? He describes the People of Israel as serving Him as “My son, My first-born” (Exodus 4:22). But all people are His children.
This shouldn’t be that hard to grasp: ANY conception of God is blasphemous that characterizes Him as limited in His infinity, eternity, or holiness – or love. ANY teaching that His capacity for love – the reach of His love - is limited to the Jewish people (the People of Israel) is blasphemous. It flies in the face of Scripture! It denies the oneness of humanity! It makes God out to be an unloving ogre of a Being Who cares not at all for the vast majority of humankind! Not only that, incidentally, logically: since a Being Who cares nothing for most people could hardly care much for “mere” animals – He couldn’t care much for His animal-creations, either.
We regard this as a theological issue, primarily. What is the Nature of God?
We catch flack from people for not being really “with the team,” for rejecting these ghastly theological arguments – including this ridiculously blasphemous denial of the INFINITE breadth and depth of God’s love, and the scope of His providential concern.
Of course we appreciate the Godly system that elevates certain people – the cohen, the Levite, the plain Israelite – to certain responsibilities and privileges. But we are all – cohen, Levite, Israelite and Noahite – God’s children.
Animals, the lower animals, in their lacking free will, obviously don’t exist “in His image.” Yet they’re His creatures! If there’s ANYTHING that the Seven Universal Laws and the Torah of Sinai teach us is that God truly cares about the pain of animals. So His Torah and His Seven Laws bid us, humankind, His children, to act towards them in a manner respectful of their status as His creatures.
The Torah teaches that God admonished His very angels, at the time of the splitting of the Sea of Reeds – “the Red Sea” – in the Exodus from Egypt. An evil congregation, Pharaoh’s army, the slave-masters’ cruel, murderous, idolatrous armed forces, was floundering in the lightening strikes and the quicksands, kept back from their Hebrew victims. As the returning rushing waters swamped the Egyptians’ war horses, their officers and soldiers, just as the Heavenly chorus was about to let loose, HaShem, the God of loving kindness, stopped them: “The works of My hands are drowning in the sea, and you speak song?” (Talmud, Megillah 10b).
Non-Jews Learning and Teaching Torah
In the same show from the Orthodox Union with Jack Saunders and Rabbi Savitsky, Michael Dallen speaks of a incident involving Jack and the “issue” of Noahides’ relations to the Revealed Torah. Here’s the link to it here: [Note, MD speaks of “Y.U.” within, referring to Yeshiva University and, basically, mainstream American Orthodox Jewry.]
By Michael Dallen