Contamination From The Goyim

Joe emails: "KBY had to fire a number of their teachers after the Rabin assasination, but still seems to have an unfortunate racist bent. I was stunned to see this up, and on Hirhurim as well."

From Rosh Hayeshiva Harav Mordechai Greenberg, shlita, at Kerem B’Yavneh website:

The more something has the value of life, the greater its absence is. Hence, its expression of this absence – the impurity – is greater. Therefore, the death of a Jew causes greater contamination than the death of a gentile, and the death of a gentile is greater than the impurity of an animal’s carcass, and a carcass is more than a dead insect. "Because of the minimal nature of this loss, it and those similar to it are only felt to those who possess a pure soul, and the elevated souls that hope to cling to Heaven."

For this reason, the removal of spirituality and vitality from something leave a mark of impurity. The seed that was worthy of being the source of life, when it is lost leaves an impression of impurity. This is also the case with a mother who gives birth, when the infant leaves her body, and of tzara’at of houses, when the Divine Presence leaves them. Bodily refuse, on the other hand, which has no potential for holiness, leaves no marks of impurity. Similarly, a gentile, who does not possess holiness, also does not possess any impurity.

Rav Natan Ra’anan zt"l, the son-in-law of Rav Kook zt"l, adds to this based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin (91b), which asks: It says, "[Hashem] will eliminate death forever" (Yeshaya 25:8), yet it says, "for the youth of one hundred years will die." (65:20) The Gemara answers: The first pasuk is talking about Jews, whereas the second about non-Jews.

The perfection of Israel is the elimination of death entirely; the perfection of non-Jews is only length of days.

This is because death is a defect and imperfection [only] in Israel, while it is not a defect and imperfection in non-Jews. The pasuk (25:8) says, "He will remove the shame of His nation" – His nation, specifically. Death is a shame for Israel, while death is not a shame for non-Jews.

The secret of the red heifer – the purification of death – is the nullification of the expression of imperfection. The meaning of this secret is reserved only for those who are wholesome, as it says in Chukat: To you [Moshe] I reveal this reason of the heifer, but for others it remains a decree. "You have made him [Moshe] but slightly less than the angels."

Whereas regarding Shlomo, even though, "He was wiser that any person" – even from Heiman – this is Moshe, even so [Shlomo writes in Kohelet], "I thought I could become wise, but it is beyond me" – this is the heifer. It is because this is not dependent on wisdom, but on wholesomeness.

The reason of the heifer was revealed only to Moshe, but to all of Israel, I decreed a statute, and you have no right to be skeptical about it.

Luke: "What’s so racist? This is Torah." Joe replies: "Not in any Torah I know. The sole source of that whole way of thinking is the Kuzari, who, paradoxically, writing in Spain, was very influenced by the Spanish concept of "limpieza" or "pure blood". So while there are medieval texts of that sort, it is a way of thinking that has been way superceded, or ought to be. Look at the "Aleinu" sequence. The first part is very much about uniqueness, but the second part, "V’al ken" expresses a universalist approach. I think that after WWII we ought to have learned to move past "blood" and racist thinking. I’ve no problem with religious teachings advocating the supremacy of an idea, practice, or belief, but when they state that the death of a gentile is of no significance, that’s off. Interestingly, they quote the son-in-law of R. Kook, but R. Kook himself was quite the universalist."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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