Ask the rabbi

  • Family and Society
  • Attitude Towards Other Nations

The love for mankind


Rabbi David Samson

14 Elul 5762
In light of the recent outbursts of anti-Semitism around the world, the blood libel against the Israeli Army operation in Jenin, and the constant Israel-bashing in the media, what should our attitude be towards the gentiles?
Firstly, throughout the world, there are millions of non-Jews who are very supportive of Israel. Their voice may not be heard in the media, but their support of Israel is active and most praiseworthy. Even withstanding the terrible anti-Semitism that exists in the world, a Jew is called upon to have a positive orientation towards all of mankind. While it is natural to harbor feelings of hatred towards enemies who persecute you, a Jew is commanded to love Jews and non-Jews alike. Being “a light unto the nations”[1] does not mean despising the gentiles, but loving them and seeking their betterment. The task of Israel is to lead the world to its optimal development, and to guide each and every nation toward the optimal service of G-d. Only by cultivating the holiness, spirituality and goodness that exists in all people, can the nation of Israel bring all of humanity to an ideal future when all of the nations will flock to Jerusalem to learn the ways of the L-rd.[2] Rabbi Kook writes that a love for mankind must be alive in the heart and in the soul. This is a love for every individual and a love for all nations.[3] This feeling should be an active love aimed at uplifting all peoples, both spiritually and materially. We learn this from our forefather, Abraham. As his Hebrew name implies, Abraham was to be the father of a multitude of nations, bringing blessing to all families of the earth.[4] He welcomed all travelers into his tent for a food and to learn about G-d. His love for mankind was an active love, a constant striving to bestow material and spiritual goodness on everyone whom he met. This positive orientation was extended to the righteous and non-righteous alike. It is easy to love people who devote their lives to goodness, but Abraham loved the wicked as well. Even idol-worshippers were welcomed into his home.[5] When G-d wanted to destroy the wicked city of Sodom, Abraham interceded vehemently on its behalf.[6] When his nephew Lot was kidnapped, Abraham went to war to save him, even though Lot had rejected the way of G-d.[7] A Jew is called upon not only to love fellow Jews, but to love non-Jews as well. Rabbi Chaim Vital, the great student of the Arizal, writes in his book, The Gates of Holiness, that a Jew must love all of mankind, even the gentiles.[8] In truth, if one truly loves G-d, he must love all his creations. This is similar to a person’s love for his friend. He doesn’t only love his friend; he loves his friend’s children as well. The Maharal points out that if a person hates people, it is impossible that he feels a true love for G-d, who created them.[9] Hatred, Rabbi Kook teaches, must only be directed at the evil and corruption in the world, and not against people, for all people are created in the image of G-d. “We must know that the basis of life, its light and holiness, never abandons the Divine image with which every man and every nation has been graced, each according to its station – and this nucleus of holiness will elevate all.”[3] Though people may have different opinions, lifestyles, political and religious beliefs, we are commanded to love them all. This is not always easy. Hard work is needed to remind us of the Divine image in all of mankind. We must learn to see the good in all people, and to recognize the value of ideas that may not agree with our own. Enlightenment spreads through the world not, only through the Jewish People, but through a wide spectrum of peoples. Just as there are seventy faces to Torah, each gifted artist, writer, statesman, and thinker adds a unique contribution to the orchestration of life. Rather than rejecting what is different, or foreign, we are to embrace all of the most radiant sparks of light and fuse them into a harmonious, luminous whole. The unique talent of Israel is to unite the talents of all of nations in the service of G-d. It is important to know that a true love of mankind does not preclude an active fight against evil. Judaism does not preach turning the other cheek. As King David says, “Do I not hate those that hate you, G-d, and strive against those who rise up against you?”[10] A wicked man should be loved for the good in him, but his wickedness is to be hated.[11] Israel’s wars are not indiscriminately directed against peoples, but only against the evil ideologies which seek to darken the light of G-d in the world.12 It is precisely out of our love for mankind that we long for the defeat of the wicked. Like a cancer in the body, the evil must be uprooted so that the body’s healthy, holy essence can be liberated. There are times when Israel is forced to adopt a military posture, not out of hatred and a lust for conquest, but out of a desire to do good, to put an end to all war. [1] Isaiah, 42:6. [2] Ibid, 2:3. [3] See the book, “War and Peace,” The Teachings of HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, Introduction. [4] Genesis, 12:3. [5] Ibid, 18:4, Rashi. [6] Ibid, 18:21-25. [7] Bereshit, Rabbah, 41:7. [8] “Gates of Kedusha,” Part 1, Gate 1, Section 1. [9] Maharal, “Netivot Olam,” Part Two, Ch.50, Loving a Friend. [10] Psalms, 139:21-22. [11] Tanya, Chapter 23. [12] Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 12:4.
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