Sunday, November 26, 2017

Interlude – Who is qualified to be a Teacher of Torah?

In this article I want to deal with the issue of who is qualified to be a teacher of Torah in general and specifically for the Laws of Noah. This is critical because non-Jews, especially on the Internet, are confronted by many people teaching Torah subjects who are openly unorthodox (unOrthodox), and unqualified. How are these non-Jews (and some Jews) to know if they are being fooled as they were in their previous religious experiences?

This is an issue of extreme importance in these series of articles for two reasons.

1. Underlying these articles is an attempt to explain clearly why a number of Rabbis who are expert in the 7 laws have come out against the ‘Ger’ business and see it as dangerous to the non-Jews themselves who wish to be close to HaShem as HE wants them to be, and also dangerous to Judaism.

2. Why should you believe me anyway? As non-Jews are not raised or trained to have the skills to discern who is learning the Torah texts as they were meant to be understood, why are my words to be given more consideration than theirs?

This discussion requires us to start with a basic but obvious assumption. What I am writing here and in these articles are for those Jews and non-Jews who believe:

There are 7 laws required of all non-Jews and that their observance is defined within the oral Torah. The later includes the later commentaries on the Talmud and codes. There is no other valid expression of HaShem’s will. The system of the oral and written law is called today ‘Torah Judaism’.

If you deny that obligatory nature of Torah Judaism, which includes the works of our Rabbis, than not only what I say here is of no purpose for you, but the true meaning and the obligations of the 7 laws themselves are outside your worldview. It is not a part of these articles to prove the validity of the oral law.


There are some pretty basic prerequisites needed, which should be obvious to all, and without them, you cannot even consider whether this person is qualitied.

First is that the person needs to be an Orthodox Jew who is faithful to the Torah, oral and written. His life is based on the foundation of Torah Judaism. His faithfulness to the Torah needs to be unquestionable.

This person needs to have spent years in the study of Talmud and Halacha in general, and works discussing the 7 laws in particular. The reason is that true Torah knowledge takes years to acquire. Proper understanding of Halacha requires knowledge of many areas. It is not acquired just by reading some books in English.

The teacher should not be a new convert or Baal Tshuvah (and certainly not a non-Jew). It not only takes time to gather the skills to understand a page of Talmud or a Halacha in Rambam or Shulchan Aruch, it takes time to learn the Torah perspective and approach to life in general. One who has not absorbed the Torah life style, cannot understand the nuances.

This person should have credentials to show they have some qualifications to correctly teach Torah subjects. The best thing would be that the person has already taught in a yeshiva or gave shiurim in a kollel where they were held under scrutiny to see if they mastered the Torah subjects they were teaching. Internet classes have no review and so are not qualifications.

Smicha also indicates some knowledge, but not with regards to the Noahide laws, nor does it indicate an ability to teach.

Without these some letter of support from someone who is qualified who will confirm the teacher’s qualifications is also good. Unfortunately there is no test of ones knowledge of the 7 laws that exists today. Acceptance by others who have interacted with him who are known to have the knowledge is certainly a positive indicator.

The bottom line here is that a teacher needs to be someone who isn’t learning the subject as he goes along, or who never gained the skills. We don’t want someone who is fooling people influencing people in life effecting decisions. Yeshivas don’t just hire people from the street, you should not accept someone who could never be accepted to teach in a real live Yeshiva.


Having the above is not enough. I think there are a few things that are key in choosing who you are going to follow and listen to.  

Is this person knowledgeable? It is not hard to appear knowledgeable when speaking to people who do not know the sources. So how do you tell? One way is if the person is part of a community and is respected as knowledgeable there.

Does this person present the material in a way that, from beginning to end, is organized and understandable? If you don’t understand what he is trying to say then this person may not be such a good teacher, or worse, he may not really know the material well.

Are they prepared when they teach? Or do they try to wing it? All gadolim I have known were prepared BEFORE they would teach. I heard this from one of my Rebbes, HaRav Shmuel Kraus ZT’L. He once saw his Rebbe the Galanter Rov HY’D before giving a shiur looking over the Gemara. He asked his Rebbe why he did that since he knew all of Shas (all of the Talmud) and certainly knew the material he was going to teach. The Rov HY’D told him that he was taught that before one gives a shiur one has to review the material you will be teaching, even if you know it.

Many issues in the Talmud and in Halacha will have differing views. It may come as a surprise, but Jews don’t always agree with each other, and that is also the case with Rabbis. Does the teacher understand them? Can he explain what the differences are; why they disagree and why we follow the Halacha like one of these views?

If there are doubts in your mind, especially on key issues being taught, then this person is not qualified.


It is interesting to note that in Shulchan Aruch in the laws dealing with from whom we can learn Torah it is not sufficient to know the subject material; they have to be of a certain character. How do you discern who has the right character? How do you discover who is qualified.

Just as an example: I taught for a number of years in a chassidic yeshiva, and also as a private Rebbe where my students were weekly tested on the material I taught. I with my sons are integral parts of a rather large sized Chassidic group. As to my knowledge of the Noahide laws, I was personally approached to sign the letter about the ‘Ger movement’ because I was known to have in depth knowledge of the subject of the 7 Laws. This last point will become more apparent as these articles continue.

As I have pointed out in previous articles, Chaim Clorfene has continually denigrated Torah Judaism, as such he is not qualified for us to learn from him Torah subjects. (I would like to point out that after pointing out his previous articles to some who even considered him a friend, not one will say they support his views on Torah Judaism, and they agree it is outside of what is acceptable.) David Katz is another story. There is no question in my mind as to his allegiance to Torah Judaism. I have other problems with his works that I feel would disqualify him.


Let’s move from the theoretical to the practical. A good way of approaching this problem is to look at those kinds of things that lead people away from Christianity (or any other false beliefs) in the first place. These red flags apply here too. This opens some good tools of analysis that adds to what was said above.

The first thing is the distortions or mistranslations of the Tenach. In this case there are many good examples from Katz’ book and lectures which are similar. I intend to have a whole article on the misuse of the Biblical words by Katz which seems to be the foundation of the theories of Clorfene and Katz. Let me just give two here.

The first is a minor point in the whole picture but it indicates what the big problem is. In The Laws of Ger Toshav and more in his lecture series on Ger, Katz distinguishes between the pshat (פשט) and the lefi pshuto (לפי פשוטו). This happens in his lectures often when discussing Rashi where he claims Rashi is not ‘pshat’ but ‘lefi pshuto’. But this is a total distortion and misunderstanding of the Hebrew language.

First pshat (פשט) is a common noun but pshuto (פשוטו) is possessive. It literally means: his (or its) pshat. They mean essentially the same. He then compounds his error by a misunderstanding of Rashi. Rashi never says he is explaining the ‘pshuto’. What he says is that he is explaining the ‘pshuto shel mikra’ (פשוטו של מקרא), which literally means ‘the pshat of the verse’. (See Rashi on Bereishis 3:8 as an example.) These mean the exact same thing as just saying ‘pshat’.

Rashi’s use of Talmudic and Midrashic sources in his commentary are well known. It is also well known that his grandson the Rashbam many times disagreed with his grandfather as to what the true pshat was, but there is no indication that Rashi’s intention was other than to explain the pshat (except where he explicitly says he is quoting from a Midrash and bringing a Midrashic interpretation.) All this is known to those who learn Rashi weekly, as mentioned in Halacha, and are familiar with his method of interpretation.

To add to this there is the famous dictum of the Talmud (Shabbos 63a, Yavamos 24a)  Ayn Mikra Yotzei mYidei Peshuto (אין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו) which means that a verse is not to be interpreted other than according to its pshat. Making a distinction between these two words is just wrong and deceptive.

Next I want to just discuss a single word of the many I will discuss in a later article. This is the word ‘nochri’. On page 11 of The Laws of Ger Toshav Katz says a nochri is ‘a goy/akum’ (i.e. idol worshipper).

On page 144 we learn of a ‘nochri chasid’ who appears similar to a Ger toshiv. His language is hard to comprehend there. It seems to be based on something that appears in Od Yisroel Yosef Beni Chai. On page 7-8 there the term ‘chasid nochri’ is used by the Beis Yosef in his commentary, which appears to mean the same as chasidei umos haolom’. This ‘nochri’ is clearly not an ‘akum’.

Then we see on page 149 where he says something different again, but here it is much closer to the proper definition. He says ‘nochri’ is “synonymous with acum, goy, non-Jew and sometimes kuti.”

However the clearest definition of ‘nochri’ is in the Talmud Brochos 47b. There the Talmud discusses the Mishnah that says that we do not make a zimon (united blessing after meals) with a ‘nochri’. There it says the Mishnah refers to a non-Jew who is in the process of converting but has not yet immersed, and it states: “however long he has not immersed he is a nochri.” That means everyone born a non-Jew who is not a Ger Tzedek is a nochri. That is how it is meant in all places in Halacha. (As to the Biblical text, I will discuss the Biblical terms used in verses in a later article.)

Besides that he has a continual tendency to misunderstand or misuse texts. For example chapter 304 has a big place in his book and it is based on the Gemara in Yavamos. He wants to use it as some proof of what a non-Jew is or is not allowed to do for a Jew. But that is not what the purpose of that is.

I will be discussing Yavomos and the sources behind 304 at length. In short 304 is about slaves and Shabbos, because it is interested in when it is Biblically forbidden for a non-Jew to do work for themselves or when a Jew cannot Biblically ask a non-Jew to do work for themselves. The Biblical prohibition applies when the non-Jew is under the control of a Jew either as property, or otherwise.

The general laws for non-Jews and Shabbos work are that they are rabbinic and are discussed in other places like: chapter 307:2-5 (Laws of Shabbos related to speech) 243 (Laws of renting land and a bathhouse to non-Jews) 244 (The types of work a non-Jew can do for a Jew) 245 (A Jew and non-Jew who are partners; how should they act on Shabbos.) 246 (Laws of borrowing and renting to a non-Jew on Shabbos) and various other places throughout the laws of Shabbos. Those are the places we need to look for the relevant laws that apply to a non-Jew today.

Likewise he misrepresents the view of the late Rebbe of Lubavitch ZT’L. He claims the Rebbe Z’TL ‘got Ger’ but the Rebbe was clear that there was no Ger Toshiv today. (See Lekutei Sichos vol. 26 page 136. Also the responsa of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZTL in HaPardes May 1985 page 7).

The confusion seems to come from a simple error. While it is clear in the sources, like the late Rebbe ZTL there is no Ger Toshiv today, there are many sources who agree that a Noahide is treated as one in many cases, like being allowed to live in Israel for example. But that doesn’t make that Noahide a ‘Ger’

The term itself is found offensive by some true Gerei Tzeddek because it negates the difficulties and sacrifices they have made in order to undergo full conversion. Because of the effect this has on true Gerim calling non-Jews ‘ger’ may even violate the commandment to ‘love the ger’, which means the Ger Tzedek. (See Rambam Sefer HaMitzvos positive command 207 and Sefer HaChinuch mitzvah 431 where it states explicitly this is a ger tzedek who has completed conversion.)


One of the big issues is with contradictions within the New Testament. Obviously someone who writes a book or teaches and contradicts himself is a problem. We are not talking about minor misstatements, which anyone can make, and do not indicate lack of qualification. No book comes out without errors. However contradictions that effect key issues and concepts are what we are concerned about.

In this case Katz’ book is a good example. In the back he has two chapters which are almost the same in purpose. One is an ‘Elucidation of Terms’ and the other a ‘Lexicon’. But when you read the same definition/issue in both of them and compare you are led to total confusion.

To give one example of the contradictions if we compare what he says about Ben Noach gamor/kosher in both places there is a clear contradiction. Page 141 says this means a gentile in the time of the Jubilee who has accepted the laws before a rabbinic court. But on page 148 this is a Ben Noach who has taken on more than the 7. In fact if you just compare all the multiple categories of Ben Noach and Ger Toshiv in these 2 chapters you will be totally confused.

If we compare what he says about these terms with the Ritva, which he discusses on page 165, these definitions make no sense and are totally confusing. It is either a clear contradiction or just an indication of total confusion by the author.

I will be clarifying all the issues with regards to this in the upcoming articles, but let me here summarize 99% of the issues involved here:

1.     According to the Ritva, Ramban and basically all the Rabbinic sources I have seen there are 3 categories of non-Jews:
a.     Those who do not follow the 7 Laws.
b.     Benei Noach/Noahides who do keep the 7.
c.     Ger Toshiv who are Noahides who have appeared before a Beis Din (Jewish Court) to formally accept upon themselves the observance of the 7 mitzvos.
2.     Of those Noahides who keep the 7; according to the Rambam if they do so because of a belief in the Torah of Moshe, then they are called Chasidei Umos HaOlam (pious of the nations) and have a place in the world to come.
3.     There are views that a formal acceptance before three Jews of the 7 laws today have a spiritual benefit to the Noahide. (I agree and will discuss it later)
4.     There is no Ger Toshiv today. Anything that would apply to a Ger Toshiv (except what I discuss in the next point) does not apply.
5.     In some ways a Noahide is considered like a Ger Toshiv today (allowed to live among us/forbidden to do harm to them) and they are therefore considered like Gerei Toshiv, even though they are not.
6.     Tosephus (Avodah Zarah 64b Who is a Ger Toshiv) indicates #5 applies to any non-Jew who repudiates idol worship and has not been convicted of violating any of the other laws. In this case the concept of ‘Ger’ as opposed to a Noahide seems meaningless to Tosephus,

That’s it in simple words. In general all teachers of Noahides really try to influence non-Jews to be Chassidei Umos HaOlam. What appears above is the view of virtually every Rabbinic work on the subject. Sometimes Katz seems to agree; other times clearly not. It is just impossible to make out what he thinks at times.


Another issue is that of being deceptive or being less than totally truthful. One of the obvious examples of this is done by messianics, who while being non-Jews dress like Jews and imitate Jews in various ways. I have seen non-Jewish Messianics who you would think they were very religious Jews, even Rabbis or Rebbes.

There are many followers of Katz and Clorfene who you would not know were not Jewish if you looked at them and didn’t know.

We see a similar thing with Katz and his book. It has a nice picture of him with a hat and suit jacket. That is the ’uniform’ of a Litvish or Yeshivish man. However in real life all the pictures of him show him without hat or jacket, and looking like what is called ‘Chardel’. This is not a big point, and there is nothing wrong with that, but many people would find it strange that the picture of him does not match how he normally dresses.

Though not specifically deceptive, it is interesting that Chaim Clorfene in his last missive ( uses the nickname ‘serious six’. His followers use similar names as does Katz. But the Rambam is clear (Laws of Repentance chapter 3 Halacha 14) that using nicknames for people, and even more for Talmidei Chochamim (of which there are among the six) is one of the things for which you lose your place in the world to come. (I will not even bring what appears in Shaarei Tshuvah says on such things which is even stronger.) He is misrepresenting himself when he acts that way.


The final issue is that it is really common for Christian pastors to act as if they are prophets and have special knowledge which makes them above others. One need only look at Chaim’s last missive to see that this is a perfect description of him. Besides that he insults the Baal Shem Tov and all the Holy men who follow in his teachings, whose spiritual path was not Chaim’s.

There are various spiritual paths within Judaism, so who is he to denigrate any of them? One thing is clear, it is a sign of arrogance, which the Talmud teaches (Sotah 5a) that if one is arrogant, HaShem cannot stand to be together with him. That is even ignoring his constant attacks on Torah Judaism, which place him beyond the pale.


In conclusion, there are many Rabbis and teachers out there, who are knowledgeable and what they teach has clear sources in Halacha. They do not distort these sources, and even when there are issues on which we disagree, we can agree that the views were arrived at within the Halachic system, by people who understand the sources.

That is absolutely not the case with Chaim Clorfene, and David Katz. I will be examining many of these issues in the next articles in the hope that Katz and others will read them and reexamine what they have misunderstood. Maybe it will influence them to change what they are saying so they teach in accord with what is accepted.


I would like to point out that unfortunately these articles will take time to finish. I have no intention of making a book of this, nor making any money. I do not insist anyone follow me. Just listen to those who teach Toras Emes. What I write is just to clarify and spread Torah. But it will take time.

I again ask for comments, but keep it on the topic and no personal attacks please.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Shituff and the Noahide

The most consistently raised issue by the ‘Ger’ crowd against other Noahides is with regards to what is called Shituff. That is the technical term for the belief of Christians in the middle ages. It was coined to distinguish it from the type of polytheism that we find in the time of the Talmud which was the practice of the Romans and the other nations surrounding the Jewish people.

Some Ger people claim that other Noahides are akum (idol worshippers), and believe in Shituff and their Rabbis tell them they can believe in it. This is one of the things, the Ger people claim that makes them different/better than Noahides. As I mentioned in the previous article this is blatantly false. In this article I will clarify the issues around Shituff and how the Rabbis who rule on this and advise Noahides actually teach.


Before getting into the issue of shituff and where it comes from, and how a Noahide is required to act/believe, we need to discuss an issue that relates to how Halacha is discussed and decided.

Every action a Jew does falls into one of a few legal categories.  Likewise when a Rabbi makes a decision about whether an action is allowed or not, it is because that action falls into one of a number of possibilities. Let me list some of them. This is not the place to go through all of them in detail. Nor will I cover all the issues involved in making legal decisions. I want to include only those that clarify what will appear in the articles I will be writing.

First are those things that are forbidden and the violation of them is punishable. This is the status of all of the 7 laws themselves. Things like this are called issur (forbidden) and chiyav (punishable).

There are some things that are forbidden, but we don’t tell people about it because they will not listen. This does not apply to Torah commands it would only apply to Rabbinic prohibitions, so it is not relevant to Noahides.

Then there are things that are forbidden but not punishable. We call them patur (non-punishable) aval issur (but forbidden). This is an important category for Noahides, as will be discussed in future articles.

Next are things not forbidden, nor required, they are just permitted. They are optional. Some of these are practices that are so positive that we consider it a blessing for those who do it. Sometimes these are referred to as Chumras (stringencies).

Next there are things permitted that some even require, but which you can only do them if you are of a certain level of observance, where doing it would not be a sign of arrogance (yehorah).

Another similar type of permitted action is one that is permitted but because it could lead to something forbidden we do not teach it openly. We refer to this as “Halacha (it is the law) vAyn Morin” (but we do not teach it). In some cases only a big Talmud Chocham is allowed to do this action because we are not afraid he will err and do something that is forbidden if he does this.

Then there are acts that are not required but expected. This is very relevant to Noahides, and I will be discussing them in a later article discussing the prohibition of ‘baal tosef’ (not adding to the Torah) and how it applies to a Noahide

Finally there are those things required and their non-performance is considered a sin, and in some cases is punishable.

Not all of these categories will be relevant in our discussions about the Noahide laws, but they are good to have in mind. It should make us aware that categories like allowed or forbidden do not take in the whole range of actions.


Rabbis decide questions of law with the above in mind and also with many other principles. For example if the particular act could be a violation of a Torah law as opposed to a Rabbinic one. This is the source of many of the differences we find in Halacha and in approach to Noahides. For example, I know of someone who follows the Rambam even when later sources ignore his view, and even against the commentaries on the Rambam.

I would like to start to explain how I usually answer questions posed to me. My answers follow from some pretty simple principles. Most of what I say can be traced back to Rabbis who discussed these issues before the modern Noahide ‘movement’ started. Unlike the customs of Ashkenazim and Sefardim, which have a clear legal tradition, the Noahide laws do not have a clear tradition of how to rule.

The primary source is the Talmud and the commentaries on it. This gives the basic background to understand what the poskim are saying and the general principles involved. Then there is the Rambam and those commentators on him. When the Rambam disagrees with what is codified in Shulchan Aruch or other later rabbis, I favor them as opposed to the Rambam.

Rav Moshe Feinstein Z’L discusses Noahide laws in a number of places in his responsa, as does the Viener Rov Z’L (Rabbi Yonason Shteif) in his sefer on the Noahide laws. Their views seem to represent the majority or consensus view.

What I mean by consensus or majority is what the major Rishonim have seen as the Halacha based on the discussions of the Talmud. In the first article I discussed the mechanics of Halacha, and that is applied here.  Since there is no tradition to draw on, we have to follow the standard practice of following the majority/consensus.

I will also look into the more recent works written specifically for Noahides, of which I have many.

One of the reasons for following the majority is that there are sources that say we need to consider the 7 Laws for a non-Jew on the same level as a Torah law for a Jew. That requires us to not be more lenient than the majority view. No Jew would eat in the kitchen of another Jew who ran his kitchen based on ignoring the majority views and using the leniencies of individuals.

I am sure this will be confusing at this point, but we shall go through a number of issues over these articles and this will be clearer.


What is Shituff?

While polytheism says there are many gods, Shituff says that there is only one God but he has partners with Him. In Christianity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This Christian belief was/is usually justified by appeals to Platonic or Aristotelean philosophical ideas, which were considered scientific fact during the Middle Ages (and still are in the Catholic Church.)

As far as a Jew is concerned, both polytheism and Shituff are exactly the same and are idolatry and worship of such a god is covered under the prohibitions of idol worship. This is indisputable. But with regards to the laws of Noach, there is a disagreement, and from that disagreement there appears in Halacha three distinct views.


Before we can discuss what the Halacha is with regards to Shituff, we need to know what exactly shituff is. The translation of shituff is partnership. For example: if Reuven and Shimon own a business or work together with each other; each of them is the shituff of the other. In the religious sense, however, it does not mean two or more gods working together on a project. The Greek gods often worked together but the Rabbis did not apply the word shituff to that.

One of the problems I have seen in the literature is an assumption of knowledge as to what shituff means, when that is usually not the case. The name shituff was introduced in the realm of religion in the middle ages for a specific purpose. To understand that purpose we need to discuss the history of idol worship.

Unlike Judaism and Christianity, the ancient pagans had no idea of exclusivity. They had their gods and accepted that the gods of other people were also real. In their stories they relate supposed exploits of their gods. For example in the Iliad of Homer the Greek gods divided as to which side they supported. Some supported the Greeks and some the Trojans. We do not refer to these ‘partnerships’ of gods as shituff.

Likewise, there were various levels of being a god in the ancient world. There were the major gods, than lower levels ones, and at the bottom were men who became gods, like the Emperors in Rome. Basically their gods, were gods because they had powers and were considered to be immortal. Jewish Rabbis were familiar with this and the law with regards to this kind of idolatry is well documented and is discussed at length in Tractate Avodah Zara and in Shulchan Aruch Yoreah Deah.

The problem was how to look at Christianity which has a total different theology. Many people today do not even see why there should be a problem, and the truth is that, at least in America where the overwhelming majority of Christians are Evangelical or have similar beliefs, it is easy to understand why some don’t see why there would be a question. Ask your local Christian who G-d is and the answer is ‘Jesus’. If you ask them who ‘Jesus’ is they will also answer God. They pray ‘in Jesus’ name’. When they say ‘god’ they think ‘Jesus’. This is clearly not shituff, but idolatry, both in practice and belief.

However in the middle ages the Christianity the Rabbis encountered (and at times debated with) had a theology strongly influenced by the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. If you would have asked the priest who is G-d he would have said ‘Father Son and Holy Ghost.’ Ask him who Jesus is, he will say the Incarnation of the Son. The formula of prayer used until today by the Catholic Church is ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ All three. When they say ‘god’ they mean all three. This is where the concept and terminology of ‘shituff’ comes from.

Shituff is the denial of the unity of HaShem and for a Jew the denial of the Unity of HaShem is idolatry. However there is a discussion among authorities whether it is the same for a non-Jew.


It should be noted that the problem is only with belief, and not worship. That is clear in the sources and is the unanimous view of the Rishonim and Achronim. To understand this distinction fully we need to look at two discussions in the Talmud and how they are understood by later authorities.

The Talmud in Sanhedrin 56b says: “Those things that a Jewish Beis Din gives a death penalty for (a Jew) a non-Jew is warned against (i.e. forbidden and punished); that which a Beis Din does not give a death penalty a non-Jew is not warned against (not punished but could still be forbidden.)”

This clearly forbids a non-Jew to worship in any way that is forbidden for a Jew. Worship of shituff is forbidden for a Jew by all authorities, hence that is the same for a non-Jew. Any act of Christian worship is therefore included.

But what about belief? Just believing in an idol and not doing anything is not punishable by death in a Jewish court. It is forbidden for a Jew, but what about a non-Jew? This Talmud passage does not address that issue.

This issue comes up as the result of a discussion of another issue. The Talmud in Sanhedrin 63b has a discussion based on Exodus 23:13 where the verse forbids even saying the name of an idol. The Talmud then relates that the father of Shmuel taught that it is forbidden to make a partnership with a non-Jew because it could lead to him making an oath in the name of his idol. This would then involve the non-Jew saying the name of his idol. This would imply that belief is also forbidden. That is, in fact the view taken by Rambam; the author of Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 156:1) and is the accepted view in Sefardic lands. This can be called View 1: no partnerships with idolaters (even believers in shituff).

However there is a Tosephus there which argues that today the law is different and it is allowed to make partnerships with them because “Even though they mention the name of heaven (i.e. God) and their intention is for something else (i.e. the Trinity) that Is not the name of an idol and also they understand that they are referring to the one who makes heaven (and earth). And even though they join together the name of heaven (i.e. God) with something else (i.e. the Trinity) we have not found anywhere that it forbids anyone to cause another to mention shituff (i.e. saying God and meaning Trinity). And ‘before the blind’ (lifnei aver) does not apply because Benei Noach (non-Jews) are not warned against that.” This leads to the famous comment of the Rema in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 156:1 that today we are allowed to make partnerships with non-Jews because even if they do make an oath, shituff is not forbidden.

Here we see that according to Tosephus a business partnership is allowed (and that is the view of Ashkenazim.) This view seems tied in to there not being any prohibition to make a believer in shituff mention their god. However the reason why it is not forbidden is the subject of some famous disagreements among the Gadolim of Ashkenaz. This leads to two more views.

The Shach and probably the majority of Rabbis in Ashkenaz understand Tosephus and the Rema as saying that shituff is not forbidden like idol worship as a belief for non-Jews under the 7 laws. (As I said above this does not mean that it is allowed, just that such a belief is not one that is forbidden.) Therefore partnerships can be made and if they want to make an oath by their god there is no prohibition because the belief in shituff is not forbidden for a non-Jew, only the worship of shituff. Those having this view include: Shach; Tzvi Chatos, Tashbatz and the majority of Rabbis of Europe. (It appears to be the view in Lubavitch also.)

There is another view by the Pri Magadim and others which maintain Shituff is forbidden but that we don’t worry about causing them to mention their god since even if they mention their god there is no prohibition on US for causing it. Therefore we can make a partnership, and if they need to make an oath by their god, this Is not a problem; the prohibition of ‘lifnei ever’ does not apply in this case. Those having this view include: Pri Magadim; Minchas Chinuch; Nodah bYehudah, Mishnah Berurah


As a question of practical Halacha: What should a non-Jew believe? What should we teach them? A majority of all the Rabbis forbid shituff and that is what should be taught. In Judaism we follow the majority of recognized authorities. But as I said above this discussion applies ONLY if the non-Jew truly believes in shituff. The majority of Christians in America do not. Therefore even those who would say that shituff is allowed, would forbid the Christian belief common in America.

If we look at the works on the 7 laws we see that even when they bring this disagreement the conclusion is that we advise the non-Jew that they should not believe in shituff. (Sefer 7 Mitzvos HaShem chapter 1 footnote 7)

However there is no support for a status change that is tied to shituff; those who forbid it say it is outright idol worship and hence a non-Jew is forbidden to believe it. Those who will say a non-Jew is not prohibited would consider it as being not punishable but not that it is fully allowed. And they do not assign any status difference in rejecting shituff. No Rabbinic authority say it is 100% allowed for any non-Jew.

To summarize:

1.     Shituff is forbidden to worship according to all opinions.
2.     The Sefardic Rabbis all follow the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch which would forbid belief in shituff.
3.     The majority of the European (Ashkenaz) Rabbis say belief is not forbidden.
4.     A significant minority of important Ashkenaz Rabbis disagree and forbid this belief.
5.     The majority of all Rabbis forbid.
6.     No Rabbi with any knowledge who is teaching non-Jews today will say that it is acceptable for a non-Jew to consider themselves a follower of the 7 mitzvos and believe in shituff. This is especially the case with those who call themselves Noahides because of their relationship with the ‘Noahide movement’.
7.     The common belief of Evangelical Christians is NOT shituff, but actually idol worship and polytheism.

My next few articles will deal with general issues of Noahides; what is the purpose of the Noahide Laws and what is a Torah based Noahide Spirituality.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Interlude – On Spirituality outside Halacha 2

I had not intended to discuss any further the strange and confusing ideas of Chaim Clorfene, but due to a number of discussions I have had, and also a second article of his which appears to state more openly his theories, I felt that it was needed, especially since a number of very sincere people I have been having dialogues with have been taken in by some of his distortions of fact. Most of the comments I have seen appear in this article and so I will address them:

Not everything he says there is totally false. Some of his ideas have sources, but there is much that is a problematic. He has written a third article ( which somewhat clarifies some things, but still leaves some issues in confusion and unanswered.

By his mixing good and bad interpretation of sources he is able to convince people that he knows what he is talking about; and that it is true, new and profound and they should make life changing decisions based on it. Let me go through some of the main ideas and distinguish what is true/false/confused.

First he says:

Exile and Redemption (Galut and Geulah) are opposites

That is not totally true, it is a bit more complicated. While the definition of each seems to preclude the other that is not the truth. Geulah is a process. It is not totally one or the other (until the final Geulah occurs.) This is a part of his creation of false dichotomies which Noahides are very comfortable with from their Christian backgrounds, but which is unknown to Judaism.

For example there is a Midrash that says that Moshiach was born on the day the Temple was destroyed. The commentators say that means that in the very depths of Galus, the Geulah can be found. The beginning of Galus starts the revelation and unfolding of Geulah.

In Kol HaTor the Gra is quoted as having a similar idea, seeing the Geulah as part of a process that occurs during Galus. (I believe this is what the late Rebbe of Lubavitch ZT’L meant when he said we are living in the times of Geulah. There will be a time before Moshiach comes when it will be possible tangibly to actually feel that it is coming, much like the sands going out of the top of an hour glass. Not everyone can see or feel it. He said that because he had felt it. Even though Moshiach could be days or weeks or months or years or even decades away from actually coming.)

We have left the 2600 year era of Galut and have entered the “new heavens and new earth” of Geulah.

This is false on two accounts: 1. Galus started less than 2000 years ago when the Temple was destroyed. No source in Niglah or Nistor (revealed or hidden) says different. As long as the Temple stood Galus had not started. (If you are saying it starts when Jewish autonomy ended, then that is 2200 years ago with the end of the Choshminoim Dynasty. 2. We are FACTUALLY still in Galus. There is no Temple, nor an autonomous Davidic Kingdom. Saying we are not doesn’t change it to fact. There are certain things that need to happen for us to say that Galus has ended and the Geulah Shelamah (complete redemption) has occurred. If he thinks that it is the case I need only ask him who is the Moshiach living amongst us today and ruling in Jerusalem on his throne?  

Ger is a prime factor in Geulah.
Ger did not exist in Galut.

It is not surprising that Clorfene does not attempt to bring sources or proofs of these statements for the simple reason that they do not exist. From the Talmud and in niglah and nistor, Geulah depends on tshuvah. His non-Jewish ‘Ger’ theory has no place except in the imagination, as opposed to the importance of the ‘ger tzaedik’ to Geulah, which is well documented in Niglah and Nistar.. And if his ‘Ger’ exists today, it exists in Galus.

These four points add up to the need to surrender one’s will to G-d in order to be worthy of Geulah.

I fail to see anything from what he said, even were it true, that leads to the conclusion he asserts.

However what he says about surrendering our will to G-d is true. That is in fact what our purpose is. The Holy Rebbe of Tzanz said that ‘a person should have no will for anything but to do the will of HaShem.’ (Sounds better in Yiddish J ) That clearly applies to everyone, even the Noahide. As Rebbe Mechele Zlotchover, one of the talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov taught it is the ‘I’ that separates us from HaShem.

Here he is confusing the issues again. Because the Holy Zohar says: ‘Israel, the Torah and the Holy One Blessed is He are one’, we have been taught in Chassidus that one can see the amount of love a person has for HaShem by his love for his fellow Jew. All he does here is create a new mitzvah (Baal Toseif) and tries to make that the foundation of Judaism and Geulah.

After this Chaim floats some ideas which are erroneous and unfounded and have more in common with new age ideas than Torah:

But in Galut we are stripped of our ability to love. The Jew in exile lacks the ability to love a goy. And the Christian in (spiritual) exile lacks the ability to love himself. I won’t mention Islam or any of the eastern religions because love does not seem to be a factor in them, although the Church of Hinduism talks about it a lot.

Of course we can love even in the Galus, and so can non-Jews. No support in Torah literature exists for what he says, just an assertion. As to relationships with non-Jews, this is also false. Many Jews have warm relations with Noahides. This is clearly the case with many of those Rabbis and groups that he considers ‘anti-Ger’.

Then he says:

In Galut, G-d conceals Himself. In Geulah, G-d is revealed. This is why exile and redemption are opposites.

This sounds good but in fact it is not quite true. The Baal Shem Tov taught that when we are aware of the concealment, then that concealment disappears, and HaShem is no longer hidden. (If something is hidden under a pillow, and you know it, than it is not really hidden.) This occurs at any time and any place, even in the Galus. G-d is unchanging and hence whatever hiddenness there is exists from us and not Him.  All this is known from Kabbalah and Chassidus.

The Baal Shem Tov brings a parable about a King who promised his daughter to anyone who could enter his palace. This palace was surrounded by 7 large walls. When the prince got through them all he turned around and saw that, in fact, they were not walls but mirrors that only made them appear as walls. The king was never concealed in the first place.

In Galut, it is as if there is no G-d. Hence, of necessity, religion is born, rabbinic Judaism in this case. All religions are the Church. They are all obsessed with ruling over others, not for the Name of G-d, but so that their will should prevail. Judaism, the best of religions, was born in Babylon in order to preserve the Jewish people in a world where G-d is concealed. The only way to do this was to take away the Jew’s free will. Otherwise, all the Jews except for the Levites would have run to avodah zara and the pit of destruction. Therefore, taking away Jewish free will was correct in Galut.

Here Chaim starts off with a serious distortion of what our rabbis teach and from that ends up attacking Judaism and Jews, and stating totally confusing things. It is taught in the Talmud with reference to the special place the Land of Israel has for the Jewish people and HaShem; ‘he who lives outside of the Land of Israel is as if he had no god; he who lives in the Land of Israel is as if he had a god.’ This is based on the verse which tells us that the eyes of HaShem are on the land of Israel from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. This has nothing to do with the ideas Chaim is trying to proclaim, and does not depend on Galus or Geulah.

He then goes on to attack Judaism, and in so doing makes a number of false statements. Rabbinic Judaism actually started in Judea, and not Babylonia. The Mishnah was from Israel, and many of the Rabbis of the Talmud were also, as is known to anyone who has learned Talmud. Judaism and the Torah are not to ‘preserve’ the Jewish people, although it has certainly helped do that, it is HaShem’s will for us. No more and no less. To think otherwise places you outside of the 4 amos of halacha and would be considered heretical by most religious Jews. The same Talmud that tells us about the ‘ox that gores’ tells us ‘these are those that have no place in the world to come.’

The rest is just incorrect. Jews have free will, and to think that we would worship idols if we didn’t is just not true. I take it he is trying to allude to the Talmud where we are told that HaShem nullified the Yetzer HaRah for idol worship, but not that we have no Yetzer HaRah anymore.

As to his remark about Judaism in the next article on his blog he seems to back off a bit from that negative assessment, but it is still a mass of confusion. I guess my problem is this: Does he believe that Halacha and Judaism are separated from truth, and Torah? Is there any other certain expression of G-d’s will for us outside of Halacha and Torah? If not from the Rabbis, scholars of Torah, how do you know what the Halacha is? Does he deny the Oral Law and it’s primacy?

While I am commenting on his last blog post I need to correct something for those reading who do not know the Orthodox Jewish world. First I have met Rov Ahron in the past before he died. He never was Brisker Rov. The Brisker Rov lives in Jerusalem and runs the Brisker Yeshiva there. However Rov Aharon was a descendant of the Rabbis of Brisk and he had a yeshiva called Brisk, and he also gave a shiur at YU.

As for Brisk, the Rabbis of Brisk were heads of yeshivas and NOT poskim. The Brisker ‘derech’ which Rov Ahron followed was a method of learning Talmud, and it was the method of learning Talmud taught in Brisker Yeshivos. It had nothing to do with deciding what the Halacha is. There is a BIG difference between a Rosh Yeshiva and a Posik.

As to the question he posed, it is simple that unintentional sin applies to a non-Jew raised in an idol worshipping house. That appears apparent from the Rambam. (I wonder how the Ger people feel about what Chaim said here? There is such an uproar about shituff, but outright idol worship is OK???) In any case, this is no chiddush to anyone who has learned Rambam and other sources on the 7 Laws.

As to his further discussion there about mercy, I wonder if he really knows what that means. Is it more merciful to warn someone when they are doing something that places them under a Divine death sentence, or is better to let them fall under Divine wrath when you could have warned them? The Torah would say the former, and that is why there is a mitzvah of warning people when they are doing something that is wrong. Then he says there:

Rav Ahron Soloveichik’s view of the law concerning an unknowing idolater is consistent with his view that there is a Ger Toshav today, thus permitting every righteous Gentile to observe the holy Sabbath.

This is absurd. Shituff is not consistent with Ger Toshiv, but idolatry is?

Back to the blog article I was talking about previously, he goes on to say:

A couple of weeks ago, a blogger attacked me (Chaim) for saying that in Geulah, rabbis will no longer teach us. G-d Himself will teach us.

I think he would find it interesting that I agree with him on this. There are a number of verses in Nach and Midrashim to back it up. However it is a subject of disagreement in the Talmud, and the Rambam explicitly would disagree. I can only say on that, I hope the two of us will be there to see which view is the correct one.

However I would NEVER casually and openly discount a view said by the Rambam in the way he has. The Rambam (and Shmuel in the Talmud which is the source) are far above either of us in knowledge of these things. Judaism teaches us respect for men like them.

The rest of the blog article just continues with his new age interpretations of Judaism.

What I would like to see, is a clear definition of what ‘Ger’ means without the new age blabber of meaningless phrases which at appear times to be self-contradictory. Many non-Jews may not know but what distinguishes the mysticism of Judaism and Kabbalah is that it is a ‘rational’ mysticism.

Before finishing this David Katz posted a blog article ( partly about his relationship to Chaim Clorfene and partly an attack on me personally. (I wonder if he found out I was a Levite it would have made a difference?)

I found it interesting and informative. However while I could spend a lot of time countering what was said, that is not my purpose in these articles. My purpose is to examine what texts actually say, and what is and is not within the limits of what is Toras Emes.

I need only make one comment that is that whether one is an amateur or professional has nothing to do with the title one takes (that’s Christianity), whether one knows how much milk needs to fall into a pot to render it forbidden, or how many years one learns how; It is whether or not the person knows the material and what the texts actually say. This is my primary problem with Katz. It has nothing to do with him as a person. It is not that we always disagree in our conclusions from the texts; but that from his explanations of texts it is clear he does not know the material.

I will bring a simple example, and just leave the full proof of this claim to the later articles where I will discuss those sources he claims prove his ideas.

Recently on FB I had a discussion with one of his people about the definition of Ger Toshav as it appears in the Talmud (AZ 64b). I mentioned that there are three views, but one is rejected outright in halachic sources. This fellow went back to Katz and asked him about what I said and he responded that none of the views was ever rejected. I will discuss this passage in the Talmud at length in another article.

However the third view of ‘others’ is ignored in Halacha. I would not expect Katz to be familiar with the responsa of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe in HaPardes in 1985 (this was a responsa to support his view of spreading the 7 laws). There the late Rebbe brings this gemara and he excludes the third view. But if Katz was serious in knowing how we look at this from a halachic viewpoint he would have known that the Rosh excludes it. The Rosh is one of the pillars of the Halacha in Shulchan Aruch and particularly for Ashkenazim.

I could go on about all the halachic sources that mention the view of the Chochamim, which is how we rule on this, and occasionally that of Rabbi Meir (first view) but exclude that of the third view. One need only look at note 17 in the Artscroll Talmud to see that.

I will not belabor this point at this time as I will have an article on what a Ger Toshav is and whether it applies today and to what extent. My point is that one’s ability to learn and on what level is to be seen from one thing only: Does the person show he actually knows the relevant texts needed to understand the Halacha or not. I contend that this example is not the exception with regards to issues involving non-Jews, but it is indicative of his lack of knowledge of the sources.

Next up is a discussion of Shituff (barring some response that will require me to respond.) 

Purpose of the 7 Laws – Part 2 In the first part we discussed the overall goal of the 7 laws and differentiated them from the 613 mit...