By: Avi Weschler (’14)

This year’s first communal Honors College took place this past Thursday, as each grade’s Honors College cohort gathered together in the library for an exciting lecture. We were honored to have Rabbi Yosef Blau, RIETS Mashgiach Ruchani, come speak to us. The chosen topic of the night was “Jewish attitudes toward non-Jews, according to our rabbinic traditions”. Rabbi Blau began by quoting a Rashi on the topic of Eved Evri  – a Jewish slave. Rashi said that if the Jewish community found out that a fellow Jew was sold into the service of an idol-worshiping gentile, they must raise money to buy their fellow Jew out of servitude. From this, Rabbi Blau made the point that we must treat gentiles fairly, as seen that the Jewish community must buy and not forcibly take back their fellow Jew.

Next, he moved to a machlokes between the Rambam and Tosfos.  The Rambam says that we have a moral duty to treat gentiles fairly, as they are human beings. Tosfos on the other hand says that we should treat them fairly out of fear of what the nations might do to us if we did otherwise. Rabbi Blau then added that, while we must treat them fairly, we don’t have to treat them the same way that we would treat a fellow Jew. For example while we may not charge interest on a loan to a Jew, one may do so for a gentile. On top of that, if one had the choice of giving a loan to a Jew or gentile, he should forfeit the extra money acquired through interest and give the loan to the Jew.

The topic then moved to the modern day issue of Jewish attitude toward gentiles in a country run by Jews. To answer the question, Rabbi Blau brought up the Sefer Hakuzari. This sefer, written by R’ Yehudah Halevi, is about the King of the Khazars and his search for a new religion. He requests for a Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholar to come to his palace and to each convince him that their religion is the one for him. The Christian and Muslim both claim that their religions are loving and just. However during that time period, the Christians were involved in the bloody crusades and the Muslims were equally brutal to their conquered peoples. Disgusted with their hypocrisy, the King of the Khazars sent them away. When it comes to the Jewish scholar, he says that since the Jews have never been in power, he cannot know with certainty that they wouldn’t be equally brutal should they gain power. However, the Jewish scholar answers that he is confident in his belief that his people wouldn’t do such a thing.

Rabbi Blau concluded that even if the Jews had their own country, they must treat the gentiles in residence fairly. He proves it through the Rashi on Eved Evri. Since it was based upon a pasuk in the Torah, and the Torah was written for a Jewish nation autonomous in Israel, it must be that we must treat gentiles fairly in a country run by Jews. We all then gave Rabbi Blau a round of applause, and enjoyed a delicious Carlos and Gabby’s dinner, a fitting end to a wonderful night.

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