Morality in Halacha
In this essay we will clarify the moral views of Judaism. First we will say that moral issues, as regarding individuals or whole societies, are, it seems, part of our human make-up and not given to rational explanation. Most people in the world agree with and support “justice and mercy” as the Kuzari wrote in essay two, paragraphs 47 and 48: “‘What does G-d demand of you but to do justice and love mercy?’ and much like this. This and others like it are the laws of reason, and they precede the Divine Torah in nature and time. Without them no human community can be led. Even a community of bandits must have some justice amongst themselves or their community will not last long.”
The differences in moral behavior between one person and the next or one society and the next stem, in the final analysis, from the fundamental, basic, and supreme value that Man accepts upon himself, the value which he finds most important. Sometimes Man (his existence and quality) is the supreme value; sometimes “the nation” or “the land” is the supreme value, and for some the supreme value is “the worship of G-d.” An illustration: Though almost everyone agrees that murder is despicable, there are differences in the approach to murder. For example, one who accepts upon himself that Man and his life are the supreme value, regardless of a person’s gender or faith, will find the murder of an idolater the same as the murder of any other person. On the other hand, one who accepts upon himself the value “worship of G-d” as supreme does not consider the murder of an idolater (who denies the worship of G-d) as forbidden and moreover, even considers it a good deed. Thus it is written in Sefer HaIkarim by Rabbi Joseph Elbo, third essay, chapter 25: “One is permitted to kill a person who worships idols and does not want to fulfill the seven Noahide commandments as a ger toshav, as all religions agree. Even the philosophers permit his killing and said, ‘Whoever has no religion – kill him.’ The Torah warned about idolaters, ‘Do not let a soul live,’ and if his body is forfeit, how much more so is his money, for one who worships idols should be killed and not spared.” There are many more citations like this. It is clear that one who accepts upon himself the worship of G-d as the supreme value is not obligated to accept the sanctity of (all) human life. Moreover, according to Halacha one who does not accept upon himself this supreme value and worship idols in place of worshiping G-d deserves death.
Since we have come to explain Jewish morals as reflected in Halacha, we must first detail which supreme value the religious Jew accepts upon himself.
This supreme value is the worship of G-d, to fulfill the commandments of the Torah given by G-d, and thus a person fulfills the purpose for which he was created. It is written in Tractate Nedarim 32a: “R’ Eliezer said: Great is the Torah–for without the Torah the heavens and earth would not exist, for it is written, ‘Were it not for My covenant day and night, the laws of heaven and earth I would not have set’.”
According to the Torah worldview, the world was created only so that the nation of Israel would fulfill G-d’s commandments. Therefore the prophet Isaiah foretells the end of days, the ideal world, thus (Isaiah 2): “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. Many nations 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 they will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ And He shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up swords against nations, neither shall they learn war any more.” Only after all the nations recognize the supremacy and unique character of the Jewish nation and its faith and understand that only from Zion does the law go forth will there be peace in the world. The ideal world will only come with the victory of the Jewish Torah over the ways of the other nations.
Another important thing is that even though there are natural morals common to most humans, such as pity and generosity, the Jew must use them only because Halacha commands him to, as part of worshipping G-d, and not because this is how he naturally feels! As brought in Tractate Megillah 25a, where it is explained why one who says in his prayers, “to a bird’s nest Your mercy reaches” should be silenced–because “He makes the holy One blessed be He’s traits into mercy when they are naught but decrees.” And Rashi explains: “To place upon us His yoke to announce that we are His servants and the keepers of His commandments.” A commandment-fulfilling Jew is forbidden to beg for mercy except in those cases where mercy is a religious decree.
Thus it is written in Responsa Ateret Paz, part one, volume two – Yoreh Deah, notes on paragraph ten, note four: “…the Jewish man is obligated to fulfill the rational commandments not because they are rational but because of G-d’s commandment, as is written, ‘And since you hear the laws…’ Even when it comes to the rational laws you hear what the Torah commanded and do not do them because of your intellect, but as part of the other heard laws [which are not rational].”
Here it is appropriate to note the instructive words of Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz OBM: “There are those who praise the slogan of prophetic Jewish morality. But Judaism is revealed through religion, and this in itself does not permit at all the existence of the classification ‘Jewish morality.’ The religious faith revealed in the Torah and the commandments is not an moral classification. It does not recognize the human conscience; it is not coincidental that none of the 48 prophets and seven prophetesses in Israel ever appealed to the human conscience. The human conscience, its appreciation and its centrality are possible only if man does not recognize G-d. Morals as a supreme and absolute value are atheistic categories, stemming from the view of man as the purpose of reality and the center of creation. The atheist Kant was a great moralist, because for him Man was god. The prophets presented Man standing before G-d, and only from this viewpoint did they discuss the relationships between people. The Jewish nation never marched at the forefront of moral pronouncements. We should not understand our forefathers in a manner different than they understood themselves. Moreover: It is highly doubtful if morality is given to specification based on human groupings, and if there is any sense to the term ‘Jewish morality.’ It is possible that morality cannot be qualified by some adjective taken from the name of a human grouping, nor even perhaps from the name of some ideological stream, from some world view.
“There are only two meaning of ‘morality,’ and it seems to me that it is impossible to invent a third. Morality is either the channeling of man’s volition according to his understanding of the truth of reality [practical morality, judged by results]–the morality of Socrates, the stoics, Spinoza–or morality is the channeling of man’s volition according to his recognition of obligations [theoretical morality with no practical goal], even when opposed to reality–this is Kantian morality. But in the reading of the Shema I and many other Jews say ‘Do not turn to follow after your hearts and your eyes.’ ‘Do not turn to follow after your hearts’–this is a negation of Kant, ‘and your eyes’–this is a negation of Socrates; all this is because ‘I am the Lord your G-d’.” (Judaism, the Jewish Nation and the State of Israel, p. 239)
Prof. Leibowitz’s words are deep and difficult. According to him, the religious Jew has no human morals at all (for in his example of the reading of the Shema he negates the only two meanings of “morality”). One who fulfills the commandments has naught but Divine imperatives which guide his acts, whether he wants it to or not! It is appropriate to look deeply into these matters.
After this introduction we will explain the details of Halachic laws in supposedly “moral” matters, issues of interpersonal relations.
Deeds of kindness–First of all, you should know that most of these commandments are included under the rule Love your fellow as yourself, as Maimonides wrote in Laws of Mourning, chapter 14, halacha one: “It is a commandment of the Sages to visit the sick, comfort the mourners, attend the dead, escort the bride, accompany guests, to busy oneself with matters of burial, carry the dead on one’s shoulder, walk before him, eulogize him, dig his grave and bury him, to gladden the bride and groom and see to their needs.These are acts of kindness in which one participates personally which have no fixed measure; even though all these commandments are from the Sages they are included in ‘Love your fellow as yourself.’ All the things you want others to do for you do for your brother in Torah and commandments.” Similarly, in Maimonides’s Sefer HaMitzvot, root two: “And those who rely on this view counted as positive commandments visiting the sick, comforting the mourners, burying the dead, from an exegesis of what the exalted One said, ‘And tell them the path in which they should walk and the act they shall do,’ in which it is explained (Bava Kama 100a, Bava Metziah 30b): ‘The path’ is deeds of kindness, ‘they should walk’ is visiting the sick, ‘in which’ is burying the dead, ‘and the act’ is what is mandated by law, ‘they shall do’ is more than is mandated by law. And they thought that each and every one of these actions is a separate commandment and they did not know that all these actions and those like them are part of a single commandment (positive commandment 206) of the commandments written in the Torah, as said by the exalted One (Kedoshim 19:18), ‘Love your fellow as yourself‘.”
Therefore it is first appropriate to clarify the commandment Love your fellow as yourself and from that you will learn all the subsections of deeds of kindness.
Maimonides, Laws of Opinions, chapter six, halacha three: “It is commanded upon each person to love each and every person of Israel as himself, as is said, ‘Love your fellow as yourself’.” And it is written in Hagahot Maimoniyot ad loc., section one: “Because he is your fellow in Torah and commandments, but a wicked man who does not accept reproof–him it is a commandment to hate, for it is written, ‘the fear of G-d is the hating of evil,’ and it is said, ‘Do I not hate them, o Lord, who hate You?’…”
Thus wrote the Rashbam on Leviticus 19:18:, “Love your fellow as yourself–if he is your fellow, if he is good, but not if he is evil, as it is written, ‘the fear of G-d is the hating of evil’ (Proverbs 8:13).”
Similarly, in the Minor Tractates, Avot D’Rabbi Natan, version one, chapter 16: “And the hatred of mankind–what does this mean? It teaches that a man should not adopt the rule ‘love the sages and hate the disciples’ or ‘love the disciples and hate the common man.’ Let his rule be ‘love them all and hate only heretics, apostates, and informers.’ So said David, ‘Do I not hate them, o Lord, who hate You? Do I not fight those who rise up against You? I hate them with utmost hatred, I count them as my enemies’ (Psalms 139:21-22). Yet the Scripture says, ‘Love your fellow as yourself, I am G-d’ (Leviticus 19:18)? [But what is the reason for this? Because I] created him, and if he acts like one of your folk, love him — but if not, do not love him.” (See also Pesachim 113b.)
Know that what is written in Deuteronomy 10:19, “And love the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” applies only to the a convert (and not a ger toshav who has not converted) as Maimonides wrote in Sefer HaMitzvot, positive commandment 207: “And the 207th commandment is that we are commanded to love the stranger, as the exalted One said (Deuteronomy 10:19), ‘And love the stranger.’ Even though such a one is included in what He said of the people of Israel, ‘Love your fellow as yourself’ — as this is a righteous convert — since he entered the covenant of the Torah, G-d added more love to him and dedicated a specific commandment about him.”
So you see that the supreme value of one who observes Torah and the commandments is the worship of G-d. Whoever is not in this category (non-Jews, apostates, secular Jews who do not fulfill commandments, etc.) is not included in the commandment “love your fellow”! It is not for naught that the Torah ended the verse “Love your fellow as yourself” with the phrase “I am G-d.”
Here it is appropriate to note that in every human society there is a tendency to protect society members more than all those outside the society. Almost every human group will legislate rules which set standards of behavior within the group and these standards will give an advantage to group members over non-group members. Go look at the laws of developed nations — the state is not obligated to aid and assist those who are not a citizens. Yet: Laws legislated by countries about human rights, equality, and freedom are based on an ethical worldview which holds over time and place, even for those who are not citizens of a particular country. In a system which sees man as the point of reality, whoever harms Man deserves condemnation, while in a system which sees the worship of G-d as the point of Creation, all who interfere in the worship of G-d are worthy of condemnation.
Charity–Deuteronomy 15:7: “If there is a needy person among you, one of your kinsmen in any of your settlements in the land that the Lord your G-d is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.”
And in Maimonides’s Sefer Hamitzvot, prohibition 232: “The 232nd commandment is that we are warned not to withhold charity and support from our needy kinsmen after their need is known as is our ability to sustain them, as the exalted One said (ibid.), ‘Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.’ This is a warning against unkindness and cruelty which will prevent the appropriate actions.”
In Shaarei Teshuva, by Rabbeynu Yonah (R’ Yonah “the righteous,” son of R’ Abraham of Gerona, lived in Gerona and Barcelona, Spain in the 13th century and died in Toledo in 5024 ), chapter 3: “‘Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman’ (Deuteronomy 15:7). We were warned to remove from our souls the characteristic of cruelty and to plant in its stead pleasant seedlings–faithful mercy and righteousness–as is written [ibid., 28:9], ‘Walk in His ways.’ And since it is possible that one will not shut his hand against the needy, but still will show pity to him not in ways of mercy — as is said (Proverbs 12:10), ‘And the mercy of the wicked is cruel’ — therefore it is written, ‘Do not harden your heart.’ And the punishment for cruelty is evil and bitter, as will be clarified in the section on cruelty, with G-d’s help. Our rabbis of blessed memory said (Shabbat 151b): ‘And He will give you compassion and increase you’ (Deuteronomy 13:18)–all who show compassion to others are shown compassion by the Heavens, and all who do not show compassion to others are not shown compassion by the Heavens.”
So we see how meticulous the Torah was to command us on charity and how the rabbis called one who shirks from fulfilling this commandment a cruel creature. But, all of this notwithstanding, there are human beings to whom one ought be cruel.
Charity to a transgressor–But what is the rule about giving charity to one who sins? The Shulchan Aruch wrote in Yoreh Deah, paragraph 251, section one: “There is no obligation to sustain one who intentionally transgresses one of the commandments given in the Torah and who has not repented, nor to loan to him.” The Rama explains in his Responsa, paragraph 62: “R’ Eliezer of Metz said that if one deliberately transgressed one of the commandments given in the Torah and did not repent, there is no obligation to sustain him or loan to him, as it is written, ‘And your brother shall live with you.’ It is written ‘your brother,’ but since one deliberately sinned, he has removed himself from the fraternity until he is punished.”
Moreover, if one sins as a matter of deliberate policy, not only are the others not obligated to give him chairty, they are forbidden to, as the Shach wrote on Yoreh Deah 251, subsection three, s.v. assur lifdoto, “The rule follows that it is forbidden to support him or sustain him.”
So you see that all those who travel by car or turn on electricity on the Sabbath are counted as those who sin as deliberate policy, and it is forbidden to give them charity. The mercy and pity of giving charity are reserved, according to Halacha, not for all those who need the help but only for the needy who observe the commandments! It is forbidden to give the needy secular Jew charity.
Come see the lack of equality between one who learns Torah and one who does not in Halachic “morality.” In Bava Batra 8a: “Rabbi opened the treasuries in drought years and said, ‘Masters of the Scriptures, masters of the Mishnah, masters of the Gemara, masters of Halacha, Masters of the Aggadah may enter, but the common people may not enter.’ Rabbi Jonathan the son of Amram pushed his way in and said, ‘Rabbi, support me!’ He said, ‘My son, have you read?’ He answered, ‘No.’ ‘Have you learnt?’ He said, ‘No.’ ‘If so, how shall I support you?’ [He said] ‘Support me as a dog or as a raven.’ He gave him sustenance. After he left Rabbi regretted this and said: ‘Woe is to me that I gave of my bread to an ignoramus…This is according to Rabbi’s view, for Rabbi said: ‘Punishments come to this world only because of the ignoramuses’.”
And thus ruled the Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah, paragraph 251, section nine: “If there were many needy people before a person and he does not have enough to sustain them all or clothe them all or redeem them all — he should show preference to the cohen over the Levite, the Levite over the Israelite, the Israelite over the child of a marriage forbidden to a cohen, the child of a marriage forbidden to a cohen over one who is illegitimate, one who is illegitimate over a foundling, a foundling over a bastard, a bastard over a Gibeonite [whose people is traditionally considered to have allied with the Jews through treachery, for which they were punished by putting them in the Jews’ service], a Gibeonite over a stranger, a stranger over a freed slave. Of what is this said? When they are equal in wisdom. But if the bastard is a scholar and the High Priest is an ignoramus, the scholar-bastard is given precedence…any who is greater in wisdom is supported before his fellows.”
You, student who desires knowledge and truth, see that in Jewish Halacha the right to a piece of bread, a garment, or any form of human assistance is absolutely dependent on the religious status of the needy one–if he observes commandments and studies the Torah he will get a contribution, and if not, he won’t. Imagine a state which decides governmental services, welfare, health care, and education are only given to members of academia, professors and Ph.D.s, but not to the common people. This is intolerable and a fair and reasonable country gives all its citizens according to their needs and not based on their studies or their outlook. Since the complete opposite is found in Halacha, this is a sign that the value of Man is not the determining factor in Halacha but the worship of G-d. A scholar is esteemed and receives, a common person is not esteemed and does not receive (if there is not enough to provide for the scholars).
Charity to gentiles–is not grounded in law, but only embraced as a way of maintaining peace (so that the gentiles will have no excuse to attack the Jews), as explained by the Tosefta on Gittin, chapter three, halacha 13: “A city in which there are Jews and gentiles, those in charge of the charities levy from both Jews and gentiles to maintain peace and disburse to the needy gentiles along with the needy Jews to maintain peace.” Thus ruled the Rama in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, paragraph 251, section one: “And they support the needy idolaters along with the needy Jews to maintain peace.” The halachic arbiters disagree on whether needy gentiles are only supported along with needy Jews but not when there are no needy Jews. The Darchei Moshe on Tur, Yoreh Deah 251, section one, writes: “The Ran wrote in the end of the chapterHaNezikin (Tractate Gittin) that it is not necessarily with needy Jews, but even needy gentiles alone are supported, to maintain peace. But from the Mordechai there, 617c, it follows that they are supported only along with needy Jews.”
Since the whole issue of giving charity to gentiles is to maintain peace and one needn’t give charity to them as to all other people, Maimonides wrote that this statute will be nullified in the future. Laws of Idolaters, chapter ten, halachot five-six: “The needy idolaters are support along with the needy Jews to maintain peace…this is only when Israel is exiled among the idolaters or when the hand of idolaters rules over Israel, but when Israel rules over them, we are forbidden to suffer idolaters amongst us, even if it is only temporary or while travelling from place to place for business; none of them shall pass through our land until they accept upon themselves the seven Noahide commandments as it is said, ‘They shall not dwell in your land’ — not even for an hour’.”
We see once again that the whole reason for acts of kindness and assistance according to Halacha is for the purpose of worshipping G-d, and if the gentiles do not fulfill the commandments given them (the seven Noahide commandments) one should not give them charity.
It is even forbidden to accept charity from gentiles as explained in Bava Batra 10b, “Ifra Hormiz, the mother of King Shapur, sent 400 dinar to R’ Ami and he did not accept them. She sent them to Rabba and he did accept them to maintain peace with the monarchy. R’ Ami heard this and got angry; he said: Does [Rabba] not know what is written, (Isaiah 27:11), ‘When its crown is withered they break; women come and make fires with them’.” Rashi wrote, “When their merit runs out and the moisture of their acts of charity dries, then they will break.”
A Jew is forbidden to accept charity from a gentile so that the gentiles will not gain merit, for charity redeems (and it is forbidden to assist a gentile and give him merit so that he may, G-d forbid, earn the mercy of Heaven…).
Thus ruled the Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah, paragraph 254, section 2: “If an idolatrous official sent money to a Jew as charity, it should not be returned to him, to maintain peace, but it should be taken and given in secret as charity to gentiles, so that the officer shall not hear of it.” The Shach gave a reason: “But not to needy Jews, as is written, ‘When its crown is withered’…when their merit runs out and the moisture of their acts of charity dries, then they will break.”
Returning lost items–Deuteronomy 22:1, “If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow.” In Maimonides’s Sefer HaMitzvot, prohibition 269: “The 269th commandment is that we are warned not to ignore a lost item but to take it and return it to its owners, as the exalted One said, (Deuteronomy 22:3), ‘You cannot ignore it.'”
Is this true, that you cannot ignore it? Let us see whom it is even an obligation to ignore.
Returning a lost item to a secular Jew who does not keep the Sabbath–Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, paragraph 266, section two: “One must return a Jew’s lost item, even if the owner of the lost item is an evil man and eats carcasses for pleasure. But one who eats carcasses to anger [the Heavens] is an apostate, and it is forbidden to return the lost item of apostates and Samaritans and Jews who violate the Sabbath in public, just as of idolaters.” This law is learned from Tractate Avodah Zarah 26b; see there.
Know that anyone who walks along Shenkin Street in Tel Aviv (where most people “violate the Sabbath in public”) and finds there a lost item is not obligated to return it at all!
Returning a lost item to a gentile–Tractate Sanhedrin 76b: “One who returns a lost item to a gentile–of him the Scripture says (Deuteronomy 29:18): ‘To the utter ruin of the moist and the dry alike; the Lord will never forgive him’.” And Rashi explains: “One who returns a lost item to a gentile–one who equates and links gentile and Jew and shows on his own that returning lost items is not important to him as a commandment of his Creator, for he does so even to a gentile, of whom he was not commanded.”
We find in the Jerusalm Talmud, Bava Metzia, chapter two, halacha five, that Simon the son of Shetach returned a lost item to a gentile for the glory of G-d, and thus wrote the Shulchan Aruch, Choshem Mishpat, paragraph 266, section one: “The lost item of an idolater is permitted [it should not be returned], for it says ‘your brother’s lost item’ (Deuteronomy 22:3). One who returns it transgresses a prohibition, for he strengthens the hands of transgressors. Yet, if he returns it to glorify the name of G-d, so that they will praise the Jews and know that they are faithful people, it is commendable.”
In the Yam Shel Shlomo, chapter 10 of Bava Kama, section 20, it is written, “And God demands intent — if this is what he aims at [to glorify G-d’s name, it is permitted]; but if his intent is that he will be praised and not the faith of Israel, or if he cares for the gentile and pities him, it is forbidden.”
Your own eyes see how much Jewish morality leads to only one goal, the worship of G-d. It is forbidden to pity a gentile even if he is very pitiful and it is forbidden to return any lost item to him. Only if the intent is to glorify the name of G-d (as a result of the lost item being returned gentiles will praise the Jewish faith) is it a commandment to return the lost item, but if the Jews themselves are praised, it is forbidden to return lost items to gentiles.
Loaning at interest–Deuteronomy 23:20-21: “You shall not deduct interest from loans to your brother, whether in money or food or anything else that can be deducted as interest, but you may deduct interest from loans to foreigners. Do not deduct interest from loans to your brother, so that the Lord your G-d may bless you in all your undertakings in the land that you are about to enter and possess.”
The prohibition against loaning at interest is due to brotherly love and mercy, as Nachmanides wrote on Deuteronomy 23:20, “And from here it is clear that charging a gentile interest is permitted, which is not the case regarding theft or larceny, as is said (Bava Kama 113b), ‘larceny of a gentile is prohibited.’ But interest, which is charged with the knowledge of both parties and with their consent is not forbidden [amongst Jews] except due to fellowship and mercy, as is commanded (Leviticus 19:18) ‘Love your fellow as yourself,’ and as is said (Deuteronomy 15:9) ‘Beware lest you harbor the base thought…’ And therefore it is said ‘so that the Lord your G-d may bless you’ — for mercy and pity will be done toward his brother when he loans without interest, and it will be considered charitable. Similarly, shemita is brotherly mercy, and therefore it is said (ibid., verse three), ‘You may dun the foreigner,’ and blessing is mentioned in that regard also — for the Scripture mentions blessings only in relation to charity and mercy, not in relation to theft and larceny and fraud.”
Maimonides, Laws of Lender and Borrower, chapter five, halacha one: “Idolaters and the ger toshav may be borrowed from and loaned to with interest, as it is said, ‘You shall not deduct interest from loans to your brother.’ From your brother it is forbidden, from the rest of the world it is permitted. It is a positive commandment to charge interest to idolaters, as it is said: ‘From the foreigner you shall deduct.’ They learned from tradition that this is a positive commandment and this is the rule of the Torah.”
Not only is there no “brotherly love and mercy” toward gentiles (only amongst the Jews), but one who wishes to be merciful towards the gentile and loan to him, in good faith, without charging interest, transgresses a positive commandment.
Nachmanides, on the other hand, supposes that there is no explicit commandment to loan to gentiles at interest (Deuteronomy 15:3): “It is not that there is any commandment to loan to the gentile at interest,” but it is permissible. This is also the opinion of the Raabad in his glosses on Maimonides: “‘It is a positive commandment to charge…this is the rule of the Torah.’ I have not found this statement and perhaps he [Maimonides] erred in what he found in the Sifrei (portion of Ki Tetze), where it says that charging interest to a gentile is a positive commandment. But this means only that the prohibition against charging a Jew interest is a prohibition grounded in a positive commandment.”
Loaning at interest to a convert away from Judaism–Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, paragraph 159, section two: “It is permissible to loan to a convert away from Judaism at interest and it is forbidden to borrow from him at interest.” But according to the Rama, “There are those who are stringent even about loaning to a convert away from Judaism.”
In Responsa Yabiah Omer, part five, Yoreh Deah, paragraph 13a, it is ruled leniently. “The Chacham Tzvi (paragraph 43) wrote that, it is doubtlessly permitted to loan at interest to one who publicly violates the Sabbath. See there. Yet the Shvut Yaakov, part two (paragraph 73) adopts the Bach’s view described above. In any case, it appears that there is room to be lenient since the plain words of the author of the Shulchan Aruch are ‘a convert away from Judaism.’ It is brought in the Beit Yosef that even if one eats carcasses to anger [the Heavens, and not for his own benefit], it is permissible to loan to him at interest… And in the Beit Yosef Yoreh Deah (paragraph 288) it is written that one who publicly violates the Sabbath, even for his own benefit, is as one who eats carcasses to anger [the Heavens].”
According to the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch, one who eats in a non-kosher restaurant (and he counts as one who eats simply to anger, as he has the opportunity to eat in a kosher restaurant across the street) may be loaned to at interest and the commandments of mercy and brotherly love through which the Torah commanded we not charge a Jew interest, once again do not apply to him, though he is fully a Jew.
Again we see that all the mercy and brotherly love and pity of the Halachic/Torah world is bent only towards the worship of G-d. There is no mercy for a man who is needy nor brotherly love for a person who is indigent nor pity for a man simply because he is a man. Mercy and brotherly love and pity are all based on what a man puts into his mouth and belly, according to the commands of religion.
All that we have written and said above was already written by the Ramchal in his book Mesilat Yesharim (one the most important books ofmussar), chapter one, “Concerning Man’s duty in the world”: “The foundation of piousness and the root of perfection in the service of G-d lies in a man’s coming to see clearly and to recognize as a truth the nature of his duty in the world and the end towards which he should direct his vision and his aspirations in all of his labors [the supreme value for which man lives]…Our Sages of blessed memory have taught us that man was created for the sole purpose of rejoicing in G-d and deriving pleasure from the splendor of His presence; for this is true joy…But the path to the object of our desires…the means which lead a man to this goal are the commandments, of which we were commanded by the Lord, may His Name be blessed.” The supreme value is “deriving pleasure from the splendor of His presence” and the way to achieve this pleasure is through observing the commandments.
There is no need to say that against this worldview stand, equally valid, many other worldviews (philosophical, social, and religious), each with its own supreme value and each with its supreme joy, according to its own theories, and each with its own ways to that joy.
One of the great Jewish philosophers, Baruch Spinoza, wrote: “After experience had taught me that all the usual surroundings of social life are vain and futile…I finally resolved to inquire whether there might be some real good…For the ordinary surroundings of life which are esteemed by men (as their actions testify) to be the highest good, may be classed under the three heads — Riches, Fame, and the Pleasures of Sense: with these three the mind is so absorbed that it has little power to reflect on any different good…All these [disturbances of mind] arise from the love of what is perishable, such as the objects already mentioned. But love towards a thing eternal and infinite feeds the mind wholly with joy…” (B. Spinoza, On the Improvement of the Understanding, in a compendium of Spinoza’s works published by Dover Publications, 1951, v. 1, pp. 3-5).
Thus Spinoza determined in favor of philosophical love and the search for “eternal and infinite” truth as his way of life. Even Spinoza found this truth in G-d, but there is no comparison between his G-d and the G-d of Judaism. Therefore Spinoza, according to his creed, had mercy on all men without first checking whether they are circumcised and wear tzitzit.
We can conclude that the wise man who looks and thinks seeks on his own for joy and the way to give his life meaning. Two and a half millennia of human thought stand by his side, from the Greek philosophers to the modern thinkers. The information and experience available to us is vast. The number of religions, philosophies, and social systems is great. Each of us must think, struggle, and decide about values, meaning, and the way which speaks to him. In this difficult struggle not only reason, but also emotion must play a part.
According to Judaism (see the opinion of the Ramchal above) the meaning of life in this world is the fulfillment of commandments according to which a person should behave and determine his way of life. Therefore one who does not fulfill the commandments (because he is not obligated to or does not wish to) is not important in Judaism and one does not show him mercy, pity, or render assistance. Even when he innocently loses an item, there is no obligation to return it.
This, too, is a legitimate moral viewpoint. Thus, too, can one aspire to meaning in life. But there are pleasanter ways.
Words of True Knowledge.