“Love your neighbour” as long as he’s Jewish

In his “The Distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Torah,” Rabbi David Bar Chaim proffers a profusion of rabbinical sources that “brother” and “neighbour” refer to the fellow Jews only, as in Leviticus 19:17-18, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. 18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”

Rabbi Chaim (his introduction):

“Over the past few years, there has been a recognizable trend amongst different circles in the religious community — a humanistic/universal inclination. There are many who have written in praise of love, “for all men who were created in the image of G-d.” We have even been “graced” with a pamphlet of this name, Chaviv Adam Sh’nivra B’tzelem, composed and edited by Mr. Yochanan Ben Ya’acov, the Director General of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement. The explicit goal of those who share this outlook is to prove that all men are equal, that it is forbidden to discriminate against any man on the basis of his race, and that anyone who claims the opposite is nothing but a racist, distorting the words of the Torah in order to fit them to his “dreadful” opinions.”

Rabbi Yitzchok Bar Chaim, is described as a “gifted lecturer and energetic motivator is a product of Yeshivat Hebron. He has also studied Dayanut at Machon Harry Fischel. Rabbi Bar Chaim was mainly responsible for the establishment of the Nahal Haredi program. In addition to his relentless dedication to the Nahal ( he also serves

as a Mashgiach in Yeshivat Be’ar Avraham. He resides with his wife and family in Jerusalem.” I explain the terms Nahal and Haredi -“Nahal,” more correctly “nachal” (נחל) is the (acronym of Noar Halutzi Lohem, lit. Fighting Pioneer Youth. It is an Israeli Defense Forces infantry brigade, which combines military activities with farming. “Haredi” (more correctly, “Charedi” חֲרֵדִי) Judaism is the most conservative form of Judaism. Haredis are referred to as “ulta-orthodox,” which they regard as a perjorative term. The Nachal brigade is a cooperative effort of Charedi rabbis, the Israel Defense Force and the Ministry of Defense. Members of the brigade are given the scope to maintain their strict Charedi standards.

We see that Rabbi Chaim plays prominent roles in both Jewish orthodoxy and the Israeli Defence Force, and, therefore, his appraisal of rabbinic tradition – no matter how unpalatable it will certainly be to many Jews (and to all Gentiles, of course) – must be treated seriously. I now present a few excerpts from Rabbi Chaim’s essay, in which he makes no bones about the radical separation between Jew and Gentile, where the latter is considered to be no brother or neighbour of the former.

Killing a Gentile

“We learn from the Mechilta that a Jew who killed a Gentile with intent is not put to death by the Beit Din, as he would be had he killed a Jew. The halacha is the same concerning a ger toshav, as is explicitly stated in the Mechilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on the above mentioned verse: “‘Upon his neighbor’ — with the exception of others, ‘his neighbor’ — with the exception of the ger toshav.” (Ger toshav – resident alien ; see more here).

Saving a life “

…it is written in Yere’im paragraph 175 (Schiff edition, in other editions paragraph 248): “…and it is called murder only concerning a Jew, as it is written: ‘who murders his neighbor’ — the murder of one’s neighbor is called murder, but the murder of a Gentile it is not called murder.” And in the continuation of his statement: “Subsidiary [prohibition] of murder: not to kill a Gentile, as we learned in the beraitha in Avodah Zarah chapter 2 (page 26a): The Gentiles and shepherds of small cattle are not raised [from the pit] nor lowered [into it].”[8] According to Maimonides, the Yere’im, and Rabbi David HaKochavi, one who kills a Gentile does not transgress the negative commandment ‘you shall not murder.” And: “It must be pointed out that a Jew who wanted to engage himself in the saving of the life of a Gentile which involved a transgression of the Sabbath, and did so in front of witnesses and after being warned, is put to death by the Beit Din — this is self evident.”

I am reminded here of Mark 3:1-6: 1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

So, healing on the Sabbath was enough to get Jesus killed, never mind claiming to be Lord of the sabbath (and, more outrageous, the Son of God): “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath (Mark 2:27-28).”

Robbery and theft from a gentile

“Thus Rashi wrote on the aforementioned beraitha which appears in Sanhedrin 57a, s.v. yisrael b’goy mutar: “For ‘You shall not exploit your neighbor’ is written, and it is not written ‘a Gentile,’ but there is a Rabbinic prohibition, according to the one who says that robbery of a Gentile is forbidden because of desecration of G-d’s name in the last chapter ‘HaGozel’ [chapter 10 of Bava Batra].” Thus it also appears in Bava Metzia 111b: “And since the first Tanna learned the law from the phrase ‘his brother,’ what does he do with the phrase ‘his neighbor’? That phrase comes to teach something in his view also, as stated in the beraitha: ‘his neighbor’ — and not a Gentile. But isn’t it appropriate to learn that a Gentile is excluded from the phrase ‘his brother’? One [phrase] comes to permit exploiting him [a Gentile] and the other comes to permit robbing him, as he holds that robbery of a Gentile is permitted.”[16] And so it is determined in the commentary attributed to the Ran on Tractate Sanhedrin 57a. Thus, too, ruled the Rama in Even HaEzer, paragraph 28, section 1, and also the Maharshal in Yam shel Shlomo on Bava Kama, paragraph 20.” You shall not hate your brother (neighbour) “It is written in the Torah (Leviticus 19:17): “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall certainly rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin on his account” — so it is clearly stated in the Torah that this prohibition specifically regards Jews. And so Maimonides wrote in The Laws of Mental States, chapter 6, halacha 6 (in the printed edition, halacha 5): “Anyone who hates a Jew in his heart transgresses a negative commandment, as it says: ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart’.” Thus he also wrote in Sefer HaMitzvot, negative commandment 302, and likewise it appears in Sefer HaChinuch, commandment 245 (in other editions 238).” You Shall not Avenge or Bear a Grudge — And You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself “It is written in the Torah (Leviticus 19:18): “You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” — here also the verse yells out “the children of your people.” In Torat Cohanim on the portion of Kedoshim, chapter 4, halacha 12: “You shall not avenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people — but you can avenge and bear a grudge against others” (that is, against Gentiles — explanation of the Ra’avad). In the words of Maimonides in The Laws of Mental States, chapter 7, halacha 10 (in the printed edition, halacha 7): “One who avenges against his fellow transgresses a negative commandment, as it says: ‘You shall not avenge’.”

Let us return to the scripture passage that we started with; Leviticus 19:17-18, especially verse 18 (I capitalise ”but”): “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. 18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, BUT thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” The ”but” connects “the children of thy people” to “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” One grammatical possibility is that “neighbour” refers (back to) the ”children of my people,” Israel. Another is the following as described by Kenneth Reinhard, whom I shall refer to again shortly:

“Readers who limit the meaning of “neighbour” to fellow-Jews often point out that verse 18 falls into two halves, in which the thought of the first part, “Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people” continues in the second, “and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” These interpreters claim that “neighbor” merely reiterates “children of thy people,” and that the verse specifies two types of duties, negative and positive, owed to other Jews.”

“The particle, Reinhard continues,  that links the two halves of the verse, however, can indicate equally a relationship of conjunction or conclusion (“and” or “therefore”) and one of distinction or exception (“yet” or “but”). Hence we can just as easily understand the second clause as qualifying the first, and the entire verse as distinguishing between the two groups, fellow-Jews and neighbors; although this reading does not determine who precisely the re’a is, it has the effect of extending the category of the neighbor at least beyond the limits of the covenant.”

This may be so, but the point I want to make is that there is a very strong tradition held by many stalwarts of the oral law such as the Rambam (Maimonides) who hold the same view of our Haredi rabbi above. In this regard, I return to Reinhard and refer also to Rabbi Schulweis from their respective articles, “The Ethics of the Neighbor: Universalism, Particularism, Exceptionalism” by Kenneth Reinhard, and “The Ethics of the Neighbor” by Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis.

Both articles can be found here http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/tr/volume4/index.html

Kenneth Reinhard

“Although one of the critical elements of the Christian revaluation of Jewish revelation involved the attempt to enlarge the category of the neighbor, disagreement as to the reference of re’a—the “neighbor” in Leviticus 19:18—was also a key point in some of the major ideological and interpretive splits within the rabbinic tradition. The dominant strand of Jewish interpretation of the commandment, from Onkelos (second century C.E.) and Maimonides (twelfth century) at least until the Emancipation in the eighteenth century, has argued that re’a in Leviticus 19:18 refers exclusively to a fellow-Jew, a brother-in-covenant. And indeed at many other points in the Bible there can be no doubt that re’a is strictly limited to the children of Israel. Commentators in this tradition often impose further limitations within the realm of the “fellow-Jew.” Maimonides, for example, seems to confine the category of neighbor solely to observant Jews, to “him who is your brother in the Law and in the performance of the commandments.”

Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis

“A case in point is the verse of three Hebrew words: V’ahavtah l’rechah kamocha, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” How simple—how clear. How are we to love the “neighbor?” And who is my “Neighbor?” Not only are the interpretations different in each different tradition, but they vary within the same tradition. The “love” imperative takes on different meanings. There are rabbis who, on semantic grounds, argue that “thy Neighbor” refers to b’nai amecha, “the children of your people.” Others go further in restricting the meaning of “neighbor” by maintaining that “neighbor” refers only to “good” Jews, to “observant” Jews, achichah b’torah uv’mitzvot,” your brother in law and observance.” Those who argue for a restrictive and exclusivist interpretation of “Neighbor” are thinkers of great prominence such as Maimonides and Rashbam (Rabbi Samuel Ben Mayer of the 11th Century). In the Likutei Amarim, Rabbi Schnayer Zalman, the founder of Chabad, interpreted the passage most of us understand as universalistic in a highly restrictive manner. When the Prophet Micah says, “Have we not one Father, has not one God created us all?” he refers only to real brothers, that is, to Israelites alone, for the source of their souls is in their one God.”

The discussion has pivoted around Leviticus 19:18. But what about verse 33 of the same chapter? Surely this verse resolves the matter: “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself,for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

In the discussion so far, we have been exploring the rabbinic literature of the past. I end with this recent snippet of rabbinical anti-Gentile incentive (and invective), which bolsters the Charedi conviction that there has been no broken links in the oral chain from Sinai to the battlefield. “Rabbis in the Israeli army told battlefield troops in January’s Gaza offensive that they were fighting a ‘religious war’ against gentiles, it has been revealed.” Sources for Rabbi Chaim’s essay are found here and here.