Thursday, July 06, 2006

Free Will: Jews and Non-Jews

Hashem rewards people for their deeds by bringing fortune to their descendants or friends or relatives. It's like if you are guest of honor at a dinner, your family will sit in the front, not because they deserve it, but because it is an honor for you that they are honored.
So too Hashem rewarded Avraham Avinu that his descendants should merit the opportunities of Judaism. Had someone else in the days of Avraham done what he did, some other nation would be the "Jews".
However, there is a "fairness balance" in that Judaism is not an exclusive club. Anybody can join. We accept converts with open arms.
After the six days of creation, nothing additional was created, including all the souls of all the people ever to be born. Your soul was, for the thousands of years until you were born, your soul was living in the "Otzar HaNeshomos", the "Treasure-hold of Souls", that are destined to be born before Moshiach comes. Your soul was living, in other words, with Hashem. It was enjoying the singing of the angels and the company of G-d.
Then it was "forced" to come into this materialistic, decaying, physical world. Your soul yearns for what it once had - namely, G-d and the heavens. And it wants that back. You feel this urge in your desire to be religious and do Mitzvos. If you succeed, when you return, you will be in a much higher and more pleasurable position than you ever were before you were born. You will be complete, having a total connection with G-d.
If it was up to you, you would probably not choose to be born. But Hashem knows better. Thank G-d that the decision is His. Put it this way -- if it would have been left up to you, and you wouldn't have been born, and then you would have seen what you COULD HAVE had, were you actually born and done Mitzvos, you would complain that it's not fair that you weren't born.
The majority of the world is not humans – there are more animals than humans. And the majority of the world is not even animals - there are plants than animals. And the majority is not even plants – there are more inanimate objects than animate ones, such as rocks and sand.
Every creation has its role to play - and just as the trees cannot complain and say, "It is only fair that we, who outnumber humans, should be given the ability to fulfill the Torah", no animals or human can either. If someone was created as a cow, there is a reason; if he was created as a tree, there is a reason; creations have no right to decide what role they play - G-d decides what’s best for them and the world.
And so, just as in a play or movie, the majority of items are background items and not stars, because even one star needs much support in order to play his role, the same holds true in the world.
You see, if I were to decide your future for you, you could ask why I didn't give you the choice, since your opinion is just as good as mine. But if it's G-d Himself Who chose your future, you should be happy that He, the Perfect choice-maker made the choice for you as opposed to leaving it to you.
It's like asking why Hashem made you rich/poor strong/weak etc. without consulting you first. The answer is He does what's best for you, and if it were up to you, you'd mess things up royally.
Same thing with being a Jew. G-d does what's best for you. Trust Him. If Hashem made you a Jew that means it's the very best thing for you, no questions asked. So why would you want a choice to do what's not best?
Any situation you find yourself in not by your own choice was created by Hashem, and given to you because it is the best possible situation for you.
Not necessarily the least painful or the most fun today, but definitely the best for you in the long run. In other words, if you would understand everything about it, you, too, would have chosen what Hashem gave you. It’s just that you can't see the whole picture, since you're not Hashem, that it looks less than the best.
The reason it pays to be a Jew even though there are many more responsibilities is asked by the meforshim on the Chazal that says "Hashem wanted to give His people more reward so He gave them many Mitzvos". They ask, yes, more reward, but also more potential for punishment. So why is more responsibilities, more Torah and Mitzvos, a good thing?
The Shem MiShmuel (Bamidbar, Shavuos) explains that the question is based on a fallacy.
The question assumes that the measure of reward for a Mitzvah and the punishment for an Aveirah are proportionate. That is a not so. The reward for fulfilling a Mitzvah is so great, much greater than the punishment for doing an Aveirah, such that it is worth even going through the punishment of many Aveiros to get it. So therefore, it is better for us if we have more responsibilities, i.e. more Mitzvos, because even if it means we have more chance to slip up, as long as we have more opportunities to do Mitzvos, we are very, very, ahead of the game.
But that is only regarding the multitude of Mitzvos we have as a Jew. If the question is why be a Jew as opposed to a goy, the answer is simply, that through the seven Mitzvos you don't get Olam Habbah, you don't connect to Hashem. Although non-Jews do get rewarded for their Mitzvos, their reward is in a totally different league than the ultimate, eternal, unending, beyond-imagining reward of the Jew.
Remember, to connect to Hashem, to share the Perfect Pleasure that he has, there is no way except through fulfilling the Torah. (Please see the "Basic Judaism" forum on the site for details.)

Then there is the ability to convert. The reason we discourage converts - not reject them - is to weed out the insincere ones. We do nobody any favors by allowing them to become Jews only for them to later discover that it more difficult than they imagined. The discouragement that we are instructed to use is to emphasize the level of worship that Jews are expected to perform. If the non-Jew responds that he considers it a privilege and not a burden we accept him wholeheartedly.
If you do convert, you will be accepted wholeheartedly. The phrase "Once a goy always a goy" is not in the Orthodox lexicon. That will not happen. Moshe Rabbeinu married a convert, as did Yehoshua. Our history is replete with prominent converts, such as Onkeles the great translator of the Torah.
That not withstanding, there are converts that have caused us problems. The most prominent among these is the Erev Rav - the multitude of converts that came out of Egypt with us. That caused untold problems for our nation.
But whether someone is going to be a problem or an asset is their choice. And whichever way they choose, they will be recognized for it.
Some say they have a problem with what is being written about Geirim in Orthodox papers, but then say that these articles are referring to Conservative and Reform Geirim. Yes, such so-called Geirim are only negative detriments to the world, since they are not real Geirim at all, but rather non-Jews who were mislead into believing that they are Jewish by unscrupulous or ignorant people.
But if someone wants to be a sincere Ger they will be accepted. But the fact is that part of being sincere is accepting the Halachah, which explicitly rejects those Conservative and Reform bogus converts, and if you do want to convert, you will have to accept that Halachah as well.
Incidentally, there are a number of books dealing with the many positive aspects of converts in our community. For a small sampling check out [link no longer works -taon]
I happen to know a number of real wonderful converts. One of them, a black woman by the name of Rena Blum of Far Rockaway, New York, is a popular speaker at Yeshiva PTA's and women's gatherings, and is currently working on a book about her experiences. All of the above converts, incidentally, are married, some to other converts, some to Baalei Teshuva, and some to none of the above.
You may not remember Hashem asking you to be Jewish, and I don't remember either. It happened to our souls, and, according to the Shelah, the "stuff" that our physical bodies are made out of, but it was not the kind of conversation that we normally store in memory. But don't worry, it happened. It says so in the Torah.
R. Akiva Eiger ZT"L writes that when the nations refused to accept the Torah, not every single member of every single nation refused. Most did. In general, they did, but there were individuals who did want to accept it. Those individuals, says R. Akiva Eiger, become Geirim.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mod,
You say, >We accept converts with open arms.<

I ask, >Who or what does your "we" mean?<

All 12 tribes , or just Yehudah?

Why only the option of converting to Orthodox-Judaism ? Am I correct that I do not have the option to convert to Karaite-Judaism as a Sojourner from the Nations[Goyim]?

Shemot - Exodus - Chapter 12: 49.
There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who resides in your midst."

There shall be one law: [This verse comes] to liken a proselyte to a native also regarding other commandments in the Torah. — [from Mechilta]

If that option was open, many from the Nations would convert and gladly fight for the land which is now given away by secular Jews to the Arabs/balastinians


11:35 AM  
Anonymous taon said...

The Shevatim don't factor into this, one can not convert into a shevet anyway.
All there is is Judaism. Either one tries to follow the Torah or he doesn't. It's not possible - or worth- converting if one doesn't.

Bnei Noach, or "Noahides" do exist today, though not all of the sources and organization who who teach about this are trustworthy.

Perhaps, but we don't need the soldiers, we need servants of Hashem.

4:18 PM  

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