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I have extended my hand not only towards our brothers in distress but also towards those not of the Covenant in order to help them meet their needs. I did so with Nikephoros the Despot of the Greek Orthodox Church, who was left destitute after escaping from the fire set to his palace. I supported him with all my might and took him into my home until the furor passed. During the thirty days of his stay under my roof, messages were sent to him by Consul Rousso, inviting him to come to stay at his abode for respite. He replied: The honorable sire has been preceded by the rabbi whose mercy and faithfulness have been steadfast since the beginning of the revolution, and I will never forget him.
"Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am about to do?" At this crucial moment in the history of the world and of humanity, we hear of the Divine deliberation before He pronounces His judgement and passes sentence on people and nations. Here we meet up with the difference between these two personalities, between Noah and Abraham. Both were put in similar situations, and the LORD announced his sentence to both of them. Noah takes no responsibility for humanity, for he does not have a sense of duty towards the entire world. He is one of those survivors who saved their own souls and while the world was destroyed. Only Noah, of his entire generation, remained alive. Abraham, in his case, was designated for a role, chosen for a vocation. He marches into history as the first to announce the sovereignty of God. Why did Abraham obtain this privilege? "For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is just and right."
"May your home be open wide" to provide food and drink, to meet the wants of all needy people and appease the hungry of all origins. This is the attribute of our father Abraham, may he rest in peace, who sustained all passersby, circumcised or not, as is written, "and he planted a tamarisk at Beer-Sheba", interpreted by our Sages, of blessed memory, to mean: food, drink and lodging. Our father Abraham, may he rest in peace, excelled in the virtue of charity and the virtue of compassion, taking pity on all creatures, and the Holy One, blessed be He, promised that this attribute would not abandon his descendants, as is written: "…that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is just and right".
"Noticing Joseph's sons, Israel asked, Who are these?" He foresaw that Jeroboam, son of Nevet, would issue from Ephraim, and Jahu, son of Nimshi from Manasseh, and therefore wondered, “Where did these come from, they do not deserve a blessing”. "Bring them to me," he said, “that I may bless them." Here is an attribute of the righteous, who look at the positive aspect of things, and by so doing have physical and spiritual influence. This certainly is an attribute of the Holy One, blessed be He, about whom it says, "abounding in kindness". In Tractate Rosh Hashanah, our Sages, of blessed memory, said that the Holy One, blessed be He, tends to kindness, meaning that even a person whose good deeds are found to equal his misdeeds gains the privilege of being next to righteous persons in the World-to-Come.
"Abraham was but one man, yet he was granted possession of the Land. We are many; surely, the land has been given as a possession to us". The Holy One, blessed be He, called Abraham, naming him the father of a multitude of nations. This means that the entire world is named after him, and he is named the father of all people. Maimonides could, according to this, determine that a convert of whatever origin can say "As You promised an oath to our fathers", for he (Abraham) was named "father of multitudes" – for all the world's nations. Despite Abraham having been "but one man", since he inherited the Land and "we are many" and are referred to as "multitudes", Abraham is apparently our father and, if so, "the land has been given as a possession to us", that is, as part of our inheritance. The Holy One, blessed be He, replies, "You eat the blood, you raise your eyes to your fetishes, and you shed blood – yet you expect to possess the land"?! Meaning to say that you are not named after him unless you behave as he did – to fulfill the Torah and its commandments. You will possess the land – as mentioned above and as Maimonides wrote, since he was named father of a multitude of nations – the lands belong to everyone under the Shechina's canopy.
"…for in return the LORD your God will bless you in all your efforts and in all your undertakings", the necessary condition being that the charity given by the person be from what the Almighty has granted him, each person from the work he has done or from commerce done in good faith. Not, heaven forbid, from theft, for the Almighty abhors theft. Giving charity (from what one has obtained) through theft or robbery, even if stolen from a non-Jew or the like, will not only not be considered the fulfillment of a commandment but will act as a curse, and strengthen the sitra akhra (dark side). Any suspicion of theft or of oppression in charity, makes each penny rise towards the Holy One, blessed by He, in vilification, in particular when it is obtained through theft from a non-Jew. That nation's angel immediately rises in denunciation to the effect that the act of charity originates in his nation's monies, and instead of the deed acting on one's behalf, it acts as prosecution, heaven forbid.
Why did Isaac think he had to bless Esau more than he did Jacob? One can hardly even consider that he hated Jacob, heaven forbid… Isaac knew that Jacob occupied himself with Torah study, and did not require a blessing, for Torah rises upward and adds to one's credit. The reason he did not want to bless him was because it wasn't necessary, and so that he would not depend on his blessing and shirk from Torah learning; this was not the case with Esau, who had no Torah learning and therefore did require a blessing.
What was said by our Master and Rabbi Samuel de Medina, that “This custom is learned from foreigners…and we are to follow their custom” clarifies that customs of merchants may annul Halakha. There is always something to learn, even from the widespread customs of non-Jews. See in HaKnesset HaGedola, read Mateh Shimon and read Mekor Baruch, where it is written that in all that concerns laws governing money, custom is foremost and even the customs of non-Jews are learned by Jews.
Our eternal values, those of our saintly predecessors' holy Torah, deeply engraved in our hearts, are what filled our spirits with life and overpowered the spirits of our foes. These lofty values must continue to serve as our guiding light and must be maintained as the foundations of our existence as the nation of Torah in our holy land. We must follow their light and illuminate the darkness surrounding us with them, and spread this light among the nations and countries, as our Sages said: "In the future, Jerusalem will be the beacon for all lands". I would add that our nation will, in the future, be the light shining from that beacon, as the prophet said, "And nations shall walk by your light, Kings by your shining radiance".
"…he cried with a great and exceedingly bitter cry" when he spoke and did not remain silent, so that he bless him, and said to his father, "Bless me, me also, O Father!"! The words 'me also' seem superfluous. For although Jacob needed and received the blessings, this is no reason to reject me entirely. I, too, am your son, bless me with another blessing, as did your father with Ishmael, who prayed until the LORD said to him, "And I have heard you, Ishmael", despite his having been considered a wicked person.
Jacob sent actual angels to Esau! What was his purpose? Messengers would have sufficed. It was to indicate the greatness of peace. That is what the text of the Jerusalem Talmud means, in saying that angels are half fire and half water, and that He who makes peace in His heavens made the angels thus to show that it is best to be at peace. This is what he meant to indicate to Esau, that he be at peace with him…Jacob's most passionate wish was to make peace with Esau. The parable told by our Sages, of blessed memory, is well-known: With what shall I bless you? If with children – these you have; if with wealth – this you have. This explains the difficulty presented by what it says, asking which blessing Jacob required. For he had children, and wealth as well. What did he seek? Peace. This why the Birkat Cohanim says "…and grant you peace", that he might have it with his brother Esau, for that was his passionate wish.
The laws of foreign worship no longer apply to the non-Jewish nations. Therefore, even were "Israel to have a mighty hand" we would not be obliged, in any sense whatsoever, to treat the nations of our day according to the laws applying to idolatry. In all that concerns the relations between Jews and non-Jews, both in Israel and abroad, this means that these relations are not to be maintained only "because of peaceful ways", but because by Halachic definition they no longer engage in foreign worship. Therefore, ensuring their livelihood, visiting their sick, burying their dead, and comforting the mourners among them are all to be done out of moral obligation.
"One sustains poor non-Jews along with poor Jews…on account of 'the ways of peace' (fostering peaceful relations between Jews and non-Jew)". End quote. By writing "along with" our masters might seem to have meant only "along with the poor Jews", and that if the non-Jews are on their own, they are not to be sustained. This seems to be implied by what RASHI wrote in his explanation of what follows in the Talmudic verse, "and one buries dead non-Jews along with dead Jews": "If he found them dead among (dead) Jews". Which means we are obliged to do so, along with dead Jews. This is also the law concerning sustenance. But concerning what RASH"I said, the RA"N (Rabbeinu Nissim Gironi), of blessed memory, wrote that this is not necessarily so; the law applies even when one encounters a dead non-Jew on their own – they are taken care on account of the ways of peace. He brings evidence from the Jerusalem Talmud, which did not teach "with" in any of these cases…Therefore, we are to understand that "with" is based on a Braitha, and is not necessarily the case, and that poor non-Jews are to be sustained on account of the ways of peace on their own as well, as written in the Jerusalem Talmud and by the RA"N, as well.
You who are Man's Guardian, grant our hands the strength that guards the paths of justice, instill in our hearts the ways of Your love and wholehearted awe of You, they will increase our valor. You, whose eyes see the entire world in a moment's glance, plant the seed of peace in the hearts of all residents of Khaled, that they may love one another and be devoted to each other as brothers, as good and loyal friends, and all be as one, that they may offer songs of love and gratitude to You for Your having bestowed Your majesty upon them.
The rabbis of Israel have been aware, and this is not in any sense a marginal thing that I say, with no intent to flatter, as I have often written and published: Christian savants are sincere in their love of truth and science. They judge people favorably, respect the religions and those born to them, and always seek out the truth, going to the root of issues. They are as fearless as lions in clarifying the truth.
There was a prominent and respected family among the Arabs. They hated slaughter, pillaging and profiteering, and had a house of prayer named Ayadrus, after its founder who lies buried within it. His followers consider him a prophet, make vows to him, and visit his grave once a year to hold a hilloula (festive memorial celebration) of sorts. This house of prayer is important and holy even among the desert-dwellers, and has been a godsend to Jews, who have found shelter and protection there at times when desert robbers who came to kill and plunder suddenly attacked their village.
I received a question from a person seeking to dedicate a Torah scroll to the holy Eliyahu community in a procession on the first day of Shavuot. The local custom is to hold a procession with musical instruments played by non-Jews, for the Jews do not know if it is permissible to ask a non-Jew to prepare musical instruments on the eve of the Festival so that musicians may lead the Torah scroll with music on the following day. Should we be concerned about whether they might repair the musical instruments during the Festival?
Concerning our issue, it is certainly permitted. I gave my direct consent, all the more so because this has been the local custom in the past, as several proper individuals have testified before me, and rabbis preceding me had done so on several occasions.
Question: Is it permissible to rent a bicycle to non-Jews for riding on the Sabbath? Response: This has been clarified by Maran’s words in Section 246 paragraph 1, who wrote: “It is permissible to rent implements to non-Jews on the Sabbath, despite that they use them for outright labor, since we were not commanded about implements”. This is the law in our case; it is certainly permissible to rent and this involves no prohibition.
The commandment to "nevertheless raise it with him" is stated in the text concerning an enemy's ass collapsing from the weight of its burden, "When you see the ass of your enemy lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him", also includes the general Divine will and idea that we act for the benefit of our enemies and forget our hate when they are suffering, that we assist and support them to the best of our ability. The person who instils this attribute deep within their heart and helps their enemy in every way and at every opportunity thereby fulfills the Divine will and desire.
The Holy One, blessed be He, is zealous about bloodshed, and one of the natural commandments is that a murderer is to be executed, as it is written, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, By man shall his blood be shed; For in His image Did God make man", and this applies to the evil nation, which always provokes war, because of which much blood will have been shed blood over time. God is, as it were, zealous about this and evokes the hearts of people to be comrades and to love one another, even if they are not close…People are obligated to be comrades and loving in order to sustain the world, so that should a wicked individual approach someone with evil intent, a friend will come to his or her aid. Just as it took place in the case of this dreadful war; if the three monarchs had not arisen to help one another and God, blessed be He, had not supported their efforts to sustain the world, the entire world would have been destroyed. See how the kingdom of France was attacked - France, famous as a true and compassionate kingdom, whose territories are all at rest and free of any misfortune and leave all other kingdoms in amazement at its peace and quiet; it is always the evil Germany that attacks it.
One must be thoughtful concerning hostility towards Christians. We took action, two years ago, presenting our request to the Effendi Despot that their custom be annulled. Their custom, on their holiday, was to create the figure of a Jew and act out their vengeance on it for their prophet having been hung. In those days, in their houses of prayer, they would also preach to sustain their rancor and hatred towards Jews, and would then go out to pursue Jews, and to beat and curse them. Jews could not walk in their streets or go to market on those days for fear that heathens would stone them. We presented our plea concerning all these things to him, and he girded his manly strength, annulling these customs by saying: If their fathers sinned, and are no longer – what have we against their children? And since then, not a word was uttered against Jews. But he also expressed his anger towards us at the time, concerning the custom of Purim, saying to us, "Yours is worse than ours, for we have a basis for our revenge, since your forefathers killed our prophet, and we visit the sins of the fathers on their children. You, however, did as you pleased with Haman and his sons, and he sinned against you in thought only, conspiring yet not acting; why do you continue to strike out in rage? Why are you so fearful?" and so on, speaking in words painful to be heard, and leaving us floundering in humiliation and with no reply to his words…
In these times nothing remains hidden from the nations, for the Jews themselves disclose all the mysteries of our worship, in all their aspects, which was not previously the case. Furthermore, it is the wish of his Majesty that all nations be equal and in fellowship, as written in the book Yaffe LaLev. It is therefore the educator's duty to place the limits and boundaries necessary for repair (tikun), that His Majesty's dignity, and that of the Jewish people along with him, not be compromised.
In Egypt it was customary the custom was to bring musicians to play on the Sabbath of a circumcision. They would do this by inviting them from the Sabbath Eve, so that they could play on the Sabbath, and this is permitted by religious law. Despite the fact that our master Rabbi Ben Zimra wrote that …" in Egypt the custom was to forbid" to instruct a non-Jew to play music on the Sabbath itself, there is no prohibition to instruct the non-Jew on the Sabbath Eve. The prohibition given by our master Rabbi Ben Zimra in that Response does not apply in this case, and those who do so are not to be reprimanded. If there is, however, any suspicion that they will collude in hiring non-Jews to play on the Sabbath day itself, the right thing to do is to apply a safety margin on this matter as well.
The esteemed rabbis of the glorious city of Constantinople, may God protect it, sent a missive about the 24 books of the Bible that were reprinted in London by non-Jews, saying they were invalid and that it is forbidden to read from them, and that by law they should be burned. For reasons of their own they said that they would hide them from sight, and we, in all modesty, were astounded at their trepidation and are unaware of any such law… In the first versions in which changes were made to strengthen their faith, their intentions and thoughts were on foreign worship. This is similar to the disciples of "that person" who twisted the living words of God and whom RASH"I interpreted to refer to heretics, as we mentioned above. The non-Jews of our time, who do not indulge in foreign worship and follow their usual habits and forefathers' customs, are clearly and simply not heretics, and it is permitted to read all books they have published, with the exception of a Torah scroll written by a non-Jew, which is to be archived if discovered, for we demand that the writing be done for its own sake; it may also not be read from in public.
One must beware from theft, and conduct trade in good faith, not only with the People of Israel, for one must beware from cheating a non-Jew, which incurs severe punishment and is a great desecration of God's Name. Although one may benefit from a non-Jew's error when they themselves make a mistake - and this involves no desecration of God's Name - misleading a non-Jew as some do, whether by sliding a poor quality and thin coin in lieu of a thick and good one, or by giving poor quality or thin goods instead of good quality and thick goods by switching them while measuring is absolute theft. This is all the result of a lack of faith in God, for it is He who enriches and bequeaths, and they seek to profit from the sin of theft. Although it may, at the time, seem that profit is being made, in any case this will eventually lead to financial downfall, heaven forbid, in addition to the punishment reserved for Judgment Day. Our sages, of blessed memory, said, "Where there is no judgement below there is judgement above". They are to keep in mind that even if they fear no person, they are to fear the Holy One, blessed be He, in the heavens above, who sees and examines people's deeds and, as it were, recompenses people for their ways and for the fruits of their actions. And we are certain that the saintly People of Israel, sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will no longer do any such deeds, and will beware from desecrating the Sabbath and from the interdiction of theft, even from non-Jews, and that the benediction of goodness will be upon them.
Peace is the greatest attribute of all, for we are not told to pursue any other mitzvah but rather to fulfill them when the opportunity arises, such as "If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest", "When you encounter your enemy’s ox or ass wandering" or "When you see the ass of your enemy". Whereas concerning peace, it says "seek peace and pursue it", to go from place to place to make peace. This is what the Tanah means in Pirkei Avot: "Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace". The meaning is that it does not suffice to love peace when it happens to come by, but that you should also pursue peace, even when it does not happen to come by. This is how, with Heaven's help, I say we are to explain what our Sages, of blessed memory, have said: "Torah scholars increase peace in the world". To be precise, what do "increase" and "in the world" mean? They could have said that Torah scholars make peace, but the text makes it clear that, aside from making peace, they also increase it by pursuing it, in the world, wherever it is necessary to make peace."
"…but you may deduct interest from loans to foreigners. Do not deduct interest from loans to your countrymen." A non-Jew residing in the Land of Israel is called a sojourner, we are commanded to sustain them; they are not considered idol-worshippers. Should a non-Jew, however, who comes and goes only for commerce - such as to buy grain to sell in other lands - wish to purchase and pay later, after their return…it is permissible to take interest from them, since they are earning a profit from commerce, in keeping with the laws among all nations – that the lender takes interest for the use of the money, which lay idle. "Do not deduct interest from loans to your countrymen". The people of Israel were not merchants, and worked the land for their livelihood, selling only surplus to foreigners. Borrowing was done only out of distress… But now that Jews deal in commerce, it seems permissible to deduct interest from them, but not from the poor. Similarly with the non-Jew, if they are involved in commerce, it is permissible to deduct interest from them, but if they are poor – it is forbidden to deduct interest from them, for their case is not similar to the one referred to in the Torah. They live among us and are therefore like the sojourner whom we are obliged to sustain; if the Torah has mercy on the sojourner living among us, it has all the more on the non-Jews among whom we are sojourners. But now that Jews deal in commerce, it seems permissible to deduct interest from them, but not from the poor. Similarly with the non-Jew, if they are engaged in commerce, it is permissible to deduct interest from them, but if they are poor – it is forbidden to deduct interest from them, for their case is not similar to the one referred to in the Torah. They live among us and are therefore like the sojourner whom we are obliged to sustain; if the Torah has mercy on the sojourner living among us, it has all the more on the non-Jews among whom we are sojourners.
“All who are hungry, come in and eat”. There are those who interpret this to mean that since the issue concerns the hungry, and not the fulfillment of the commandment, it would seem to refer to the poor among the nations (non-Jews). For the poor must be fed, not having been able to prepare for the holy festival, which demands extensive preparation and expense; therefore we declare to the poor that they come to eat at our table. As the RaDa”h (Rabbi David Abudraham), of blessed memory, states in the name of the Ge’onim that our Sages, of blessed memory, said: One sustains poor Gentiles along with poor Jews”. Therefore it says, “All who are hungry”, whoever is hungry, and not (all who seek) to fulfill the commandment, should come and eat… When the number of non-Jewish poor neighbors eventually increased, beyond the capability (of feeding them), they would no longer leave their doors open as in the past, and would sustain the Jewish poor in their homes.
"The world is built by love" and all creatures are interdependent and must help one another, whether with their bodies or their monies. An individual who has been granted a favor by another must nevertheless always remember the favor, by saying "When will I have the opportunity to reciprocate and do him a favor"...
He thus ruled that people act in goodwill and in unity, for each person must consider him or herself as a citizen of the one and only republic. He planted this love and charity in human hearts at the very moment that He taught humans knowledge and wisdom, for humankind in its entirety was created by a single God. The progeny of one father, Adam, followed by the seed of Noah, went on to multiply throughout the world. The prophet Malachi therefore said, “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we break faith with one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors?” The prophet calls on two reasons to arouse this tender love in our hearts, to love one another and not wound the other’s pride. First, because humankind all share the same Father and are therefore equally related and free; they share in the inheritance of the world's riches. Second, because we are the creations of one God and His creatures… All we have said thus far serves as faithful testimony and true evidence that a Jew may not commit any inhumane deed that risks hurting any person whose customs and faith differ from Jewish customs and faith – so long as the person respect moral laws and not be impaired by any evil or ugly attribute, and that the person recognize supreme Providence and its unlimited power, its ultimate mercy and wisdom, that rules and sustains everything.
“We came to your brother Esau; he himself is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” Esau really had come to kill him, and it is astounding how he was transformed and began to love Jacob a moment after he reached him. The reason is that Jacob used a ruse to transform his brother’s heart and make him love him. We find that King Solomon, may he rest in peace, wisely said, “As face answers to face in water, So does one man’s heart to another.” For when a person feel hatred towards another, it is a sign that the other hates them as well, and the opposite (is also true); when a person loves another, it is a sign that the other loves them as well. Jacob used this to transform Esau’s heart from foe to friend, by considering his love for his brother Esau in his heart while waiting for Esau to arrive; by saying to himself that he had indeed sinned against his brother Esau by taking the blessing and firstborn’s birthright from him. By soothing himself about this he felt only good things about Esau. Love, therefore, arose in Esau’s heart towards Jacob, and he felt only good things about Jacob, despite his having taken his birthright from him. The power not to relinquish it had been his, and it was he who was responsible. Neither was Jacob responsible for receiving Esau’s blessings, which he did against his will and only because his mother had ordered him to do so. And since human hearts feel the blaze of love from one another, Esau came to love Jacob.
This question was sent from the famous city of New York, where many of our Jewish brethren purchase houses of prayer from non-Jews and make them into synagogues and study houses - asking whether this is permitted and is the correct thing to do. There is yet another reason to discuss and permit this, for non-Jews in our day do not engage in idol worship…There was a time, when priests controlled the Christian people and led them in keeping with their own spirit, when they would fabric images and order the masses to bow down before them. But in our time, it is certain and known by all that such images serve only for commemoration. Even if they place them in their houses of prayer, they are only ornaments, and in their mind the building in which they are placed is itself an ornament or decorative object, so that it is not forbidden, by law, to enjoy it or sit within it.
"Arise, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are Your possession." Since judges do not necessarily judge faithfully, You must judge the earth and save the oppressed from their oppressors, which is why "Arise, O God, judge the earth" is written. This means judgment of the poor and deprived people of the entire world. I am not chagrined only by the injustice committed towards the poor (of the nation of) Israel but by the oppressed and poor of all the world's nations, whose judges distort their sentence; I pray that You may judge them for You are, indeed, the LORD for all the nations in Your possession. You created them, and commanded them to be just - one of the seven (Noahide) laws. You commanded them, and You are therefore to avenge all the oppressed and sustain them in justice.
"Do not disparage any person" means not even a non-Jew, as wrote the Tosphot, 'a' person means a Jew in particular and 'the' person a non-Jew as well. That is what "any person" (all persons) means, whether 'the' - a Jew, or 'a' – a non-Jew. The reason is brought by Tankhuma: "You are busy maligning your brother, defaming the son of your mother" - 'maligning your brother' Esau (Christians), leads to 'defaming the son of your mother' and one of your own nation. For if you accustom your tongue to speak disparagingly to the non-Jew you will speak thus of a wicked Jew, imagining that it is all the same, and then go on to the mediocre, and then on to the righteous – this leads to your mother's son. That is, this will lead to defaming your own mother's son. This is what is meant by 'you have no man who does not have his hour' – there will remain no one in this world without a time during which you will speak of them slanderously.
A question arises concerning the drink customarily prepared by Ishmaelites from date palms, prepared by cutting down the palm tree's top branches, slitting them lengthwise and hanging a vessel to collect the liquid that flows from them. It is sweet as honey and sold in markets. They also prepare a fermented version, made by adding a little leavening in the vessel containing the palm juice. The Ishmaelites are accustomed to fermenting it while the vessel is still hanging on the palm tree, by adding a bit of leavening, so that every drop that flows from the palm ferments. We have recently heard that it is not easy to make it ferment; in the winter, in particular, they need to add a bit of their cooked food, such as couscous and the like, in which there might be a bone, or some non-kosher meat. There are those who do nothing more than placing leavening in the vessel in the usual way. The question has therefore been asked as to the law concerning such palm drink; can the difference be tasted? The palm drink's taste remains as it was, and the vendors all say that it contains no such thing. Reply: Since there are many Ishmaelites who put in nothing but leavening, and tasting it proves that there is no difference in its taste, we can assume that the vendors all act similarly, and it is permitted for consumption.