Israel and the Nations: The Vision
The Jewish nation’s grand vision is to add ‘emunah v’bracha’ (faith and blessing) to all of mankind: “Make His deeds known among the nations, make mention that His name is exalted” (Isaiah 12:4). This is what God said to our forefather Avraham: “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3); “Here is My covenant with you: You shall be the father of a horde of nations. No longer shall you be called Avram. Your name shall be Avraham, for I have set you up as the father of a horde of nations” (Genesis 17:4).
There is great importance in sanctifying God in the eyes of the nations, as it is written (Deuteronomy 4:6-7): “Safeguard and keep [these rules], since this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, ‘This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people.’ What nation is so great that they have God close to it, as God our Lord is, whenever we call Him?” And so it was in the days of King Solomon: “And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (Kings I, 5:14). And when Solomon built the Holy Temple, in his prayer he requested from God: “Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of Your people Israel, but comes out of a far country for Your name’s sake…when he comes and prays towards this house…and do according to all that the stranger calls to You for; that all people of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do your people Israel…” (Kings I, 8:41-43). And so will it be in the future: “And it will come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall decide among many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2-4).
Our Relations with Non-Jews
In reality, however, Israel’s relationships with the nations are highly charged; we find several harsh expressions concerning non-Jews in the words of the Prophets and our earlier and later Sages – to the point where it seems that the basic attitude towards non-Jews according to the Torah is one of hate, or at the very least, extreme detachment.
Two factors led to this: First, evilness, which was the main motive for the actions of most rulers who murdered, betrayed, pilfered, provoked wars, and tried with all their might to suppress countries and peoples in order to take their money and enslave them. This evilness was exposed most severely against the Jews – from the time of the destruction of the First and Second Temples, until the terrible Holocaust. This wickedness could not have happened without the full cooperation of numerous people, and partial cooperation by the majority of them.
The second factor: due to our spiritual weakness, especially while we were in exile, a huge concern arose that in order to escape the fate of the Jews, many chose to assimilate and merge with the stronger nations amongst whom we resided. Consequently, even when positive aspects existed, there was a need to stress the bad side of the non-Jew’s actions, with the goal of guarding our own identity, so that when the day came, we would be able to return to the Promised Land, and build our country there – to be a light unto the nations.
In spite of everything, our basic attitude is one of love for all creation – in particular, humanity. True, evil must be denounced, but love remains the essential foundation. Even the denunciation of evil stems from a love and faith in the nations of the world, who are also intended to be righteous and servants of God.
Rabbi Kook on Love of Non-Jews
Thus wrote Rabbi Kook: “Love of humanity must be alive in the heart and in the soul…to benefit all the nations…this character trait prepares Israel for the spirit of Moshiach. In all references where we find hints of hatred (towards the non-Jews), it is clear that the intention is only on the evil, which seizes the alliance of many nations today, and especially in the past, when the immorality of the world was far more repulsive. However, we must know that the aim of life – light and holiness – never moved from the Divine Image endowed to all of mankind, nation, and language…” (Midot HaRaya, Ahava, paragraph 5).
Christians Who Support Israel
About two months ago, I dealt with a question that has recently arisen, concerning the proper way to relate to Christians who support Israel. In the past, except for a small minority of righteous Gentiles, the attitude of Christians towards Jews was negative. They based their beliefs on the humiliation of the Jews, which served proof that the Christians were intended to replace Israel as the Chosen People. However, in the last few generations, changes took place among some of the Christians. There are those amongst them who no longer believe they must humiliate the Jews, and some even believe that Israel remains the Chosen People, whose purpose is to bring the Redemption.
However, they still embrace idolatry, believing that ‘oto ha’ish’ [Jesus] is god and the messiah, who will be resurrected to redeem the world. At the same time, they point out that he is Jewish.
The question arises: Should this position cause a complete rift between us? Every time we meet Christian supporters of Israel, must we denounce their belief in ‘oto ha’ish’?
Rabbi Kook on Christianity and Islam
Concerning the attitude towards various religions, our teacher, Rabbi Kook, wrote (Igrot HaRaya, Part 1, pg.142): “Our goal is not to uproot or destroy them, just as we do not aim for the general destruction of the world and all its nations, but rather their correction and elevation, the removal of their dross, and of themselves they will join the source of Israel, [where] dewdrops of light will flow over them: ‘And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his detestable things from between his teeth, and he, too, shall remain for our God’ (Zechariah 9:7). This applies even to idolatry, and therefore, even more so to religions whose foundations are partly based on the light of Israel’s Torah.” If in regards to absolute idol worshippers the goal is to remove the dross while retaining the general character of their faith and attitude towards good and virtue – all the more so concerning Christianity and Islam.
Don’t Degrade their Holy Personalities
Rabbi Kook also wrote a letter of congratulation (Igrot, Part 2, pg.198) to a Torah scholar who compiled a booklet called ‘Israel’s Faith’ in order to explain the Jewish religion in Japanese, however, he pointed out that the author had erred by expressing disrespect for ‘oto ha’ish’ and Muhammad. “It is impossible to offer supreme, religious content to this nation with insulting expressions concerning the founders of [other] religions, whoever they are. We must only speak about the holy and supreme advantage of God’s Torah, and negation will come by itself.”
What about the Messiah?
Question: Many of the Christians who declare support for Israel believe that ‘oto ha’ish’ is the messiah and he will be resurrected to redeem the world. It seems that most of their support is intended to bring about his resurrection. Shouldn’t we distance ourselves from anyone who believes this?
Answer: True, this is indeed a false belief; nonetheless, discussion about the mashiach and the Redemption to come has a positive side, for it prepares people’s hearts to ‘tikun olam’ (perfection of the world) and the coming of our Righteous Mashiach. As we learned from the words of the Rambam (Laws of Kings 11:4): “Even Jesus the Christian, who thought he was the Messiah… was the subject of a prophesy in the Book of Daniel (11:14): “…also the renegades of your people will exalt themselves to fulfill the vision – but they will stumble.” Could there be a greater stumbling block than this [Jesus]? For all the prophets spoke of the Messiah who will redeem and save Israel, who will ingather all its exiles, and who will strengthen them in the fulfillment of the Torah’s commandments – while he [Jesus] caused Israel to be killed by the sword, their remnants to be dispersed and humiliated, the Torah to be switched for something else, and most of the world to worship a god other than the God of Israel! But – the thoughts of God cannot be fathomed by human minds. ‘For our ways are not like His, and our thoughts are not like His’. All these activities of Jesus the Christian, and the Ishmaelite who came after him, are all for the purpose of paving the way for the true King Messiah, and preparing the entire world to worship God together, as is written (Zephaniah 3:9): “For then I will convert the nations to a pure language, that they may all call in the name of God and serve Him together.”
“How will this work? For by then, the world will already be filled with the idea of Messiah, and Torah, and commandments, even in far-off islands and in closed-hearted nations, where they engage in discussions on the Torah’s commandments: some say that the Torah’s commandments are true but are no longer binding in these times, while others say that there are hidden, deep meanings to them, and that the Messiah has come and revealed their hidden secrets. But when the true King Messiah arrives, and will succeed and will raise them up, all the peoples will immediately realize that they had been taught lies by their forefathers, and that their ancestors and prophets had misled them.”
If so, according to the approach I previously mentioned – that our goal is not to uproot and destroy, but rather to correct and elevate the non-Jews by removal of their dross – we should relate positively to their anticipations for the messiah. For we have learned from the Prophets that when our Righteous Moshiach begins to be revealed, there will be non-Jews who will arise to fight against God and His Moshiach, and there will be others who will accept him. Very likely, it will then become clear to those who accept him, that actually, it was this Moshiach that they hoped for all the time, and they will be the first to receive him and his message, willingly.
The Order of Moshiach’s Revelation
I will conclude the words of the Rambam (ibid): “”If a King will arise from the House of David who is learned in Torah and occupied in the observance of commandments as prescribed by the Written and Oral law, and he will compel all of Israel to walk in the way of the Torah and reinforce the breaches in its observance, and he will fight the wars of God, we may then presume him to be the Moshiach. If he does this and is successful and is victorious over the nations around him, and builds the Temple in its place and gathers the dispersed, then he is definitely Moshiach.”
The Order of the Spiritual Revolution
Precisely by means of strengthening our unique identity in our Land, will we be able to fulfill our mission to be a light unto the nations. As we find that specifically at the time when God commanded our forefather Avraham to go to the Land of Israel, to the place designated for only the Jewish nation, He said to him: “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). And specifically when he was commanded about circumcision, God said to him: “You shall be the father of a horde of nations. No longer shall you be called Avram. Your name shall become Avraham, for I have set you up as the father of a horde of nations” (Genesis 17:4).
How extraordinary it is that precisely these Christians have gone back on the foundations of traditional Christianity, by emphasizing that the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel are the Chosen ones, and anticipating the Jewish nation’s return to fulfill all the commandments in the Torah. Therefore, precisely upon returning to the Land of Israel – the land of our life – we can begin speaking about our global mission.