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Title Author Date
Another response to Mr. Goldstein Makovi, Mikhael Nov 12, 2008
Mr. Goldstein,

You mention that polytheists have by no means had less moral imperative than monotheists. This, however, I would question.

First, it has been noted countless times, that when a pagan wanted to do almost any given activity, he had a god at his disposal to justify. As Rabbi Hertz puts it, a god of high justice and morality could coexist with the god of the most depraved sensuality. With monotheism, there is at least no choosing between alternate imperatives.

(I saw with tremendous satisfaction that Berger (op. cit.) regards the Hertz Pentateuch, for all its shortcomings, as a noble and inspiring source for a truly elevated and edifying view of Judaism. I most wholeheartedly concur, if I may add Rabbi S. R. Hirsch thereto.)

Second, even if a pagan had imperatives, they often lacked moralities very critical to Judaism. Human sacrifice, temple prostitution, to name but a few examples, show that even paganism that included imperatives did not mean that the imperatives encompassed what Judaism would demand.

Obviously, every society has widely varying norms, and there is of course much to discuss about exactly what a gentile should have to profess. What if he professes not to murder or steal, but he still performs abortions and downloads music from the internet? Obviously, there is much to talk about. But I believe it clear that the kinds of gentiles that the
average American Jew meets, for example, are well within what could be considered a decent moral person, whatever the precise parameters.
Moreover, Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, as brought by Berger (op. cit.) claims that a gentile is judged by the majority of his deeds, like any Jew, and that for the remainder he receives Gehinom. So as long as a given gentile is more than 50% righteous in terms of observing the Noahide laws, this would be enough. Rav Ahron has already exempted them from strict
monotheistic belief, as I have noted previously. I agree with you that there is a desideratum of literature on the subject, but I believe the
groundwork already exists, and I believe that at least Modern Orthodoxy is very much prepared to accept the premises and conclusions of this field. May it soon be that all of Orthodoxy follows in the paths of American, British, and German Modern/Neo-Orthodoxy.

I thank you for your essay, which clearly showed what Modern Orthodoxy is going up against in the traditional literature. The first step towards a
solution is acknowledging the problem, after all.

An aside: In the case of the Jewish and gentile shepherds who may be left for dead, you noted that the Jew in question was certainly a
monotheistic one, obviating an argument that only idolatrous gentiles and not monotheistic ones were included. However, following my (and Berger's and Henkin's) interpretation of the Meiri, the solution is simple: monotheistic or not, the Jews and gentiles in question were not moral ones, seeing as how they brazenly violated the laws of theft.

 

Title Author Date
Applying Meiri's shita to today's atheists Makovi, Mikhael Oct 08, 2008
Mr.(?) Goldstein,

You note in your article that Meiri's shita is problematic to apply to today, for his criteria (belief in creation, providence, and repentance)
are not prevalent amongst today's atheists. Your suggested suggestion is that Orthodox Jews start treating gentiles properly, and halakhic
justification will follow. I will not dispute your recommendation for Orthodox Jews to so behave, but I question whether we cannot in the
meantime come up with a favorable halakhic reasoning. Viz.:

It seems to me that we have a right to disagree with Meiri on what constitutes "religion". For Professor Moshe Halbertam's article in the Edah
Journal (p. 19) notes, "The Me'iri differed from his predecessors in how he ranked one possessed of religion and one possessed of wisdom, yet he
derived the concept of religion and its essential nature from the philosophical tradition that preceded him". In other words, Meiri's concept of "religion", and the fact that one possessing said "religion" is to be
treated differently by halacha, are two different independent matters. Thus, we need not necessarily follow Meiri on both - the former is borrowed by Meiri from the ibn Tibbons following Maimonidean tradition, and it is the latter that is in fact Meiri's own unique innovation. Therefore, we ought to be entitled to follow a different definition of "religion" (and thus differ with Meiri according to the ibn Tibbons follow Maimonidean philosophy - we are certainly not inclined to follow scholastic philosophy,
and all the less are we beholden to it!) and yet retain Meiri's own innovation that one possessing of "religion" is to be regarded specially. We simply need to define "religion" differently.

to be continued

 

Title Author Date
Maimonides and Noahides Tvivlaren, Tomas Aug 24, 2005
Dear Mr. Goldstein,

In your article "A Lonely Champion of Tolerance" you wrote:

"Maimonides's famous ruling that the "pious from among the nations" have their share in the World-to-Come refers only to those Gentiles who declare before a Jewish court their commitment to observe the Seven Noahide Commandments, base this commitment on the belief that "God commanded about them in the Torah revealed through Moses," and strictly observe all these
commandments."

Could you elaborate on this, please? I have tried to find more information on the internet but so far failed. Do you by this mean that Maimonides demanded that Gentiles who observed the Seven Noahide Commandments must declare this before a Jewish court in order to have a share in the World-to-Come? Relevant quotes from Maimonides himself on this subject would be appreciated.

I also wonder if Maimonides saw any problems with defining moslems as Noahides?

Sincerely yours

Tomas