Come and Hear™ to increase interfaith understanding
This page has been scanned from The Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906) to ensure availability for future students of Come and Hear™



Gentile (continued)

[page 617] … master, approving this construction, explains that, in his view, the passage teaches that as the sin-offering works atonement for Israel, so does benevolence for the Gentiles.


The following anthology of haggadic observations on non-Israelites or Gentiles is arranged chronologically, as it is essential that the time-element be kept in view and that the opinions of one tanna be not taken as those of the Talmud.

Of Gamaliel II is recorded a conversation with two pseudo-proselyte generals, who, being sent to investigate Jewish practices, take exception only to the provision permitting to a Jew the use of property stolen from a non-Jew (Sife, Deut. 344; B. K. 38a — the law which, in regard to the damage done by a goring ox, does not put Jew and Gentile on an equal footing. In Yer. B.K. 4b they censure also the prohibition of Jewish women from attending non-Jewish women as midwives and nurses. Gamaliel is reported to have repealed the obnoxious law on the use of stolen property (see Graetz In “Monatsschrift,” 1881, p. 493.


Eliezer b. Hyrcanus is less tolerant. According to him, the mind of every non-Jew is always Intent upon idolatry (Git. 45b.) The cattle of a heathen is unfit for sacrifices (‘Ab Zarah 23b). Explaining Prov. xiv. 34, he maintains that the non-Jews only practice charity in order to make for themselves a name (B. B. 10b; Pesik 12b). Gamaliel is credited with the same opinion in B. B. 10b. The persecutions which, at the instigation of Judaeo-Christians, Eliezer had suffered at the hands of the Romans may explain his attitude, as well as his opinion that the Gentiles have no share in the life to come (Tosef., Sanh. xiii. 2; Sanh. 105a). He nevertheless cites the example of a non-Jew, Dama b. Netina, as illustrative of the command to honor father and mother (Kid. 3la: ‘Ab. Zarah 23b; comp. Yer. Peah 15e; Kid. 61b; Pesik. R.. xxiii).


Joshua b. Hananiah, contrary to Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, contends that there are righteous men among the Gentiles and that these will enter the world to come (Tosef., Sanh xiii. 2; Sanh. 105a), though as a rule Gentiles cling to vain things and are rejected (Prov. xxviii. 19; Gen. R. lxxxii). He excludes the descendants of Amalek from the Messianic kingdom (Sifra, Deut. 310; Mek., Yitro, 57a); while all other Gentiles will adopt monotheism (‘Ab. Zarah 24; comp. Pesik. 28b). He is of the decided opinion that gentiles (heathen) may lead a righteous life and thus escape Gehenna (see Zunz, “G.V.” p.269, note d; Bacher, “Ag. Tan” i. 159). It is also reported of Joshua b. Hananiah that in a dialogue with the emperor Hadrian — who insisted that, as God’s name was not mentioned in those parts of the Decalogue addressed to all men, the Gentiles were preferred, Israel being threatened with greater punishments — he controverted that monarch’s conclusions by means of an illustration not very complimentary to the Gentiles (Pesik. R. xxi).


Eleazar of Modi’im, in reference to Micah iv. 5, explains that Israel, though guilty of the same sins as the Gentiles, will not enter hell, while the Gentiles will (Cant. R. ii. 1). In another of his homilies, however, he speaks of the joy with which the Gentiles blessed Israel for having accepted the Decalogue (Zeb. 116a). On the whole, he is very bitter in his condemnations of the heathen. “They profit by their deeds of love and benevolence to slander Israel” (referring to Jer. Xl. 3; B.B. 10a).


Eleazar ben Azariah maintains, on the basis of Ex. xxi. 1, that a judgement rendered by a non-Jewish (Roman) court is not valid for a Jew (Mek., Mishpatim). There is also recorded a high tribute which he paid to a heathen servant, Tabi, who was so worthy that Eleazar declares he felt that he himself ought to be the servant (Midr. Mishle to Prov. ix. 2).


Ishmael ben Elisha used to reply to the heathen’s benedictions mid imprecations: “The word befitting you has long since been uttered.” Asked for an explanation, he referred to Gen. xxvii. 29 (Hebr.): “Those that curse thee shall be cursed; those that bless thee shall be blessed” (Gen. R. lxvi.). In order to protect Jews he would decide in their favor, using the non-Jewish or the Jewish code as suited the occasion (Sifra. Deut. 16; in B. K. 113a this is given as a prescription of his for others to follow, against which Akiba, recognizing that this would be a profanation of God’s name, protests “mi-pene kiddush ha-Shem”).


Akiba, like Hillel, declared the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Lev. xix. 18) to be the fundamental proposition of religion (Sifra, Kedoshim. ed. Weiss. p. 89a: Yer. Ned. 41c; Gen. R. xxiv,: comp. Ab. iii. 14; Ab. R.N. xxxix. Robbery of which a Gentile is the victim is robbery (B. B. 113a). For his opinion of the non-Jewish peoples, the “Dialogue Between Israel and


Dilling Exhibit 273

the Gentiles” is characteristic (Mek., Beshallah, ed. Weiss. p. 44b; Sifra, Deut. 343; Cant. R. i. 3. v. 9, vi. 1). In another dialogue, Israel’s monotheism is shown to be far superior to the ever-changing belief of the Gentiles (Mek. Yitro, x.). His contempt for the folly of idolatry as practiced by the Romans is apparent in his conversation with Rufus, in which he compares the gods to dogs (Tan. Terumah, ed. Stettin, p. 139; comp. Graetz, “Gesch.” iv. 447).


Among Akiba’s disciples Tarphon is noted for his antipathy to the Judaeo-Christians, whose books he would burn without regard for the name of God occurring therein, preferring the temple of idolaters to them (Shab. 116a).


Jose the Galilean rebukes Israel for its inconstancy, which be contrasts with the fidelity shown by the Gentiles to their ancestral beliefs (Sifra, Deut. 87). The good done by Gentiles is rewarded (see Gen. xxiii. 5; Sifra, Ahare Mot, 85b).


Judah ben Baba holds that by the customs of the heathen forbidden in Lev. xviii. 3 were meant the cosmetic arts (Sifra, 86a; see commentary of Abraham ben David ad loc.; comp. Tosef., Sotah, xv. 9; Shab. 62b).


The warning against the practices of the heathen in Lev.xviii. 3 is interpreted by R. Meïr (Sifra, 85b) to refer to the superstitions “of the Amorites” (enumerated in Shab, 67a; comp. Mishnah vi., last section). He would not permit Jews to visit the theaters (arenas) of the heathens, because blood is spilled and idols are worshiped there (Tosef., ‘Ab. Zarah, ii. 5; ‘Ab. Zarah 18b: Yer. Sanh. 40a; Ab. R. N. xxi.). Intolerant of idolatry (‘Ab. Zarah 1. 5. 8; ii. 2, 4; iii. 1; Blumenthal, “Rabbi Meïr,” pp. 82 et seq.), it was Meïr who insisted that in Lev. xviii, 5 the word “man,” not “priest,” “Levite,” or “Israelite,” occurs, and thus claimed that a non-Jew versed in the Torah equals in rank the high priest (B.K. 38a; Sanh. 59a; Sifra 86b, where II Sam. vii. 19 [“ha-adam”]; Isa. xxvi. 2, “goi zaddik”; Ps. xxxiii. 1, “zaddikim,” and cxxv. 4, “le-tobim,” are similarly
R. Meïr.
applied to Gentile and Jew alike. He was on a footing of intimacy with the Gentile philosopher Euonymos of Gadara (Graetz, l.c. iv. 469). In an anecdote, significant as indicating the freedom of intercourse between Jew and Gentile, Meïr illustrates the cynic materialism of a rich heathen who, angry at the lack of a trifle at his banquet, which offered “whatever was created in six days.’ broke a rich plate; pleading that, as the world to come was for Israel, he had to look to this world for his pleasures (Pesik. 59b; Num, R. xxi.). Meïr has a conversation with a “begemon.” who expresses his contempt of Israel, calling the Israelites slaves; whereupon Meïr shows that Israel is a wayward son, always finding, if ready to repent, the father’s house open (Jellinek, “B. H.” 1.21). This anecdote, also, is significant as showing the sentiments of the Gentiles toward the Jews.

Simon ben Yohtai is preeminently the anti-Gentile teacher. In a collection of three sayings of his, beginning with the keyword [H] (Yer. Kid. 66c; Massek. Soferim xv. 10; Mek., Beshallah, 27a; Tan., Wayera, ed. Buber, 20), is found the expression, often quoted by anti-Semites, “Tob shebe-goyyim harog” (=“The best among the Gentiles deserves to be killed”). This utterance has been felt by Jews to be due to an exaggerated antipathy on the part of a fanatic whose life experiences may furnish an explanation for his animosity; hence in the various versions the reading has been altered, “The best among the Egyptians” being generally substituted. In the connection in which it stands, the import of this observation is similar to that of the two others: “The most pious woman is addicted to sorcery”; “The best of snakes ought to have its bead crushed” (comp. the saying. “Scratch a Russian and you will find a Tartar”).


On the basis of Hab. iii. 6, Simon b. Yohai argued that, of all the nations, Israel alone was worthy to receive the Law (Lev. R. xiii.). The Gentiles, according to him, would not observe the seven laws given to the Noachidae (Tosef., Sotah, viii. 7; Sotah 35b), though the Law was written on the altar (Deut, xxvi. 8) in the seventy languages. Hence, while Israel is like the patient ass, the Gentiles resemble the easy-going, selfish dog (Lev. R. xiii.; Sifra, Deut., Wezot ha-Berakah, 343). Yet Simon speaks of the friendly reception given to Gentiles (Sifra, Deut. 1). The idols were called “elilim” to indicate that “wo [Hebr.] is them that worship them” (Jellinek. lc. v. 76). Simon b. Yohai insists upon the destruction of idols, but in a different manner from that proposed by others (’Ab. Zarah iii.3 ‘Ab. Zarah 43b). He extends to Gentiles the prohibition against sorcery in Deut. xviii. 0 et seq. (Tosef., ‘Ab. Zarah. viii. 6; Sanh. 55b).


Judah ben ‘Illai recommends the daily recital of the benediction. “Blessed be Thou … who hast not made me a goi” (Tossef., Ber. vii. 18; Men. 43b. sometimes ascribed to Meïr; see Weiss. “Dor,” ii. 137). Judah is confident that the heathen (Gentiles) will ultimately come to shame (Isa. lxvi. 5; B. M. 33b).