Between Israel and the Nations

The Children of Noah

We often ponder what our relationship to the non-Jewish world should be. Should we criticize their evil tendencies, namely, that they preferred to follow after all kinds of pagan religions instead of receiving the Torah which was given to Israel on Mt. Sinai — as our Sages have said, it was called ‘Sinai’ (the word ‘Sinai’, stems from the Hebrew root ‘hate’ in Hebrew), for “hate fell upon it to the nations of the world”, and it was also called Mt. Horeb because upon it “destruction fell to the nations” (Tractate Shabbat 89b). Or should we love the non-Jewish nations, for one should love all of creation, especially the most complex and wonderful of creation – human beings, who were created in the image of God.
Our teacher Rabbi Kook זצ”ל wrote: “Love of creation must be alive in the heart and the soul; love for all of man, specifically, and love of all of the worlds”. Consequently, a Jew should desire “their spiritual and materialistic elevation and revival”. “Hate should only be felt over the evil and filth in the world”. However, the basic position is one of love. This is the mission of the Jewish nation, to be a light unto the nations in order to perfect the world, together, in the word of God. “It is absolutely impossible to reach the spiritual heights of “Give thanks to God, proclaim His name; make His deeds known among the nations” without an inner-love, from the depths of one’s heart and soul, to benefit all the nations, to improve their possessions, to make their lives happy.” This is the hope of the Redemption, and this ambition brings it closer. “This quality makes possible the ‘spirit of the King Messiah’ to rest on
Israel .”
“In every place where we find hints of hatred, we clearly know that the intention is only concerning the evil, which powerfully restricts the union of many nations… but we must know that the point of life, light and holiness, never left the image of God which He endowed on man in general, and on every nation and language, each one according to its level, and this holy nucleus will elevate everything…” (Midot Ra’ayah ‘Ahavah’ 5).

In Spite of Differences of Opinion and Religions

We, however, are acquainted with reality. There is a difference between saying that the Jewish nation is the heart of the nations whose job it is to perfect the world together with them, and our actual relations with them. For in fact, the deep differences are liable to create a wide gap, especially when justified claims against the non-Jewish nations — that aggressiveness and physical desires are their main motivations – exist. Therefore, Rabbi Kook זצ”ל goes on to clarify: “Love of creation requires great care, despite the differences of opinions, religions, and faiths; despite all the divisions of race and climate.” It’s not enough to just express a fundamental position concerning a positive attitude towards all of creation; rather, the love must be realized through a true interest and a desire to assist. “It is appropriate to fully understand the different nations, to attempt to learn their characteristics and traits, in order to
understand how to establish the fundamentals of human love in a more practical way.”
This is the special virtue of the Jewish nation, who truly strives to perfect the world. Therefore, only a Jew who is partner to this great vision can truly love the Jewish nation – the heart of the nations. Conversely, the fostering of general hatred towards all of the non-Jewish nations destroys the foundations of Judaism.

True Love Increases Hate of Evil

Precisely because of this true love for mankind and a deep care for their well-being, hatred towards wicked people who damage and destroy the world is increased. If they can be corrected, it is preferable. However, if they continue their evil ways, they must be fought till their destruction. This is similar to King David, who called all the nations to “shout to God with the voice of triumph” (Psalms 47:2), but concerning the wicked he prayed: “I have pursued my enemies, and destroyed them; and turned not again until I had consumed them’ (Second Book of Samuel 22:38).

How Can One Love an Idol Worshipper?

Seemingly, one might ask: How can Rabbi Kook write that despite the differences in religions and faiths, we must study the characteristics and traits of the nations in order to understand how to love them, when Jewish law states that a “ben Noach” who worships idols must be killed?
However, only a “ben Noach” who worshipped idols willfully must be put to death (Rambam, Book of Kings 10:1). In order to sin willfully in this issue, one must be familiar with Jewish faith, for Judaism is the only abstract faith without any trace of idolatry. Therefore, nations who have not been properly exposed to Jewish faith are not judged severely for their mistake. Especially, when the Jewish nation was expelled from its land, it was very difficult for the nations to be familiarized with the greatness of the Jewish faith.
In general, it must be known that the litmus test for the nations concerning their level of faith and morality is their relation towards Israel – the bearers of the word of God in this world. Therefore, those Christians who, from the time the Jews returned to their land, began to recognize the attributes of Israel, and strive with all their hearts to fulfill the words of the Prophets who spoke well about Israel, they are the good and righteous non-Jews. And all those who fight against Israel , or attempt to proselytize them, are evil.
The more we merit sanctifying the name of God, the more the nations will call out in the name of God the Lord of Israel.

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