Question about Judiasm

This has been spawned from the end of this thread, since the discussions were getting to be seriously off-topic. I am here reposting the post of Jojo, so his questions can be addressed without distancing that thread further from its roots:


I read the linked posts.

I note that the Jews must follow 613 commandments while gentiles need follow only 7.

Is the gentile who faithfully follows his 7 equally as worthy as the Jew who follows his 613? When I say “equally as worthy” I mean will both be treated in exactly the same manner by God?

If they will both be treated the same then what is the difference between them? Why make it harder for the Jew?

If they are both to be treated the same then it seems as though the Jew is almost being punished whilst the gentile gets off lightly.

Or conversely will they be treated differently even if they both follow their commandments? Will the Jew receive some kind of “preferential” treatment merely by virtue of being a Jew?

If this is the case then it appears that the Jew is a member of an exclusive club which no one else can join. The Jew became a member of this “club” purely by accident of birth.

If I were a non-Christian then I could convert to Christianity and then get all the benefits of “full membership”.

If I were a non-muslim then I could convert to Islam and also get all the benefits of “full membership”.

But Judaism seems to require some kind of family link, you need to be one of the ten tribes.

If you aren’t Jewish then you are forever damned to getting “second-class membership” at best.

Is this correct?

You can probably guess what I’m getting at - it all seems slightly racist to suggest that one race is in some way superior to another in the eyes of God.


I’m sure that Chiam will give a much more learned answer but I’ll stab at it.

First off, others can join. Converts are allowed, just not pursued.

Secondly, your premise is colored by a Christian mindset, concerned about the afterlife, judgement, and all that. Judaism doesn’t have that same focus. This is simply following through on a contract made ages ago. We were given Torah and are following through on our side of that deal.

You are right though, being “chosen” puts an onus of responsibility on the people more than giving any special privelige.

As a Jew, I don’t give a hoot how others are held accountable or not; if they are left off easy, so be it. My job is my job and enough for me to worry about. This lifetime is enough for me to worry about without worrying about what is going to happen when I die.



Here’s a snippet from that thread on the other message board I referred you to earlier (it’s on page 11):

(end of quote from that other message board. The following quote is from Jojo’s message again:)

As DSeid wrote, that is not correct. Judaism accepts converts. Jews do not actively proselytize, because we do not believe, like some other religions, that non-Jews are doomed to punishment for not being of our faith, but if someone is interested in converting to Judaism, and, after studying the details, they still think it is right for them, they are very much accepted as converts, with no less Jewish status than a born descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

But being Jewish is serious business, and, as you correctly noted, it is harder to be a good Jew than to be a good non-Jew. Judaism is (in Orthodox Jewish belief) an opportunity for greater spiritual refinement, but that opportunity must be acted on properly, or the wasted opportunity is worse than having never had or sought that opportunity in the first place.

Chaim Mattis Keller

To use your music analogy, it would seem that Judaism is something like having access to a good music education. In that case, if music is the ultimate purpose of life isn’t it unfair that one set of people(the Jews) have access to this education and others don’t. Sure the education is demanding but presumably according to you its spiritual benefits far outweigh any difficulty. So if God is just why didn’t he give the Torah to all people so that all of them have the opportunity to acquire those benefits?


Excellent question, which I could answer in one of two ways.

The first way is by citing a Midrash (an oral tradition, so this doesn’t explicitly appear in the Bible) that says that at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, G-d did offer the Torah to all other nations on Earth. Each of them asked what was in it, and, when told of its conditions, turned down the offer. Only the Israelites accepted it, and did so unquestioningly.

The second is probably more clearly in the Bible, if you prefer to not trust the Midrashic sources. It seems from the Bible that G-d’s giving this opportunity to Abraham descendants was a reward to Abraham for his righteousness, as someone who had discovered G-d on his own in a world full of idolatry. However, converts from other nations are, as I said, accepted to Judaism…provided that they make such a discovery, as Abraham did.

Chaim Mattis Keller

What if I believe in neither the Bible or the Midrash.:wink:

In any event it doesn’t stike me as particularly fair that only the descendants of Abraham get the benefit of the “revelation”. Isn’t the converse of that that all non-Jews are denied the benefit simply because of what their ancestors didn’t do. How is that fair?

“However, converts from other nations are, as I said, accepted to
Judaism…provided that they make such a discovery, as Abraham did.”
Yes but that still puts a much higher bar for the non-Jew because he has to to independently make the discovery whereas the Jew is simply born into the culture and the Torah is much more accesible for him/her.

Of course you have the same problem with Christianity where non-Christians obviously have a much lower chance of accepting Christ as their saviour but at least Christians try to correct for this by trying to get the message out as much as possible.

It seems to me that if you accept the idea of the Torah as being a path to higher spiritual refinement, which is potentially accessible to anyone, you should actively seek to spread the message to as many non-Jews as you can.

Not that that would make any difference to a hardened atheist like myself.:wink:

When judging man, G-d takes into account not just a man’s actions, but also his circumstances. Each individual is given different hurdles to overcome and is judged not only by where he ends up, but also by how far he goes.

Moses was punished severly for striking the rock instead of speaking to it. He was Moses; He should have known better.

To go back to the musical analogy: Someone born in a home with no music who learns to become even a casual listener, might be judged more favorably than someone who was given every opportunity to become a great-one, and only turned out average.

But there is one important point, CyberPundit. Not everyone is capable of, or wants to, deal with 613 commandments. As Chaim pointed out earlier, it’s not easy and it’s serious business.

Converting someone to Judaism who is not going to keep the commandments is actually doing a disservice to the person. Before his conversion, the person could work on Saturday, eat at Red Lobster and do many other things that the Torah prohibits without any consequences to himself spiritually. However, upon converting, this same person would now be sinning by performing those same activities. It is certainly better, in such a case, not to convert the person.

That is one reason why Judaism doesn’t actively seek out converts. Not everyone is ready to, or even wants, to make that commitment. If a person does want to, we’re ready to accept him/her; but that’s a decision the potential convert must come to on his/her own.

Zev Steinhardt

It actually goes even further than this. Since someone who willfully sins is more culpable than one who does not know he is sinning, one shouldn’t tell someone they are sinning unless there is a reasonable likelihood they will change their actions. This would apply to a Jew or non-Jew.

While your statement is true on the surface MHand, it is wrong in the context of this discussion.

The reason we don’t actively seek converts is not to keep gentiles in ignorance in order to lessen their punishment. The gentile who works on Saturday and eats at Red Lobster is not sinning at all.

Zev Steinhardt

Methodist here.

I have always admired my observant Jewish friends, especially after coming to a higher understanding of my own spirituality.

Being Jewish (as opposed to just being a jew) seems to be very hard work, but rewarding.

And I believe that the Torah and it’s teachings are indeed available to all who seek them. I’m afraid that most people just don’t seek enlightenment when it requires discipline or restraint. They want instant enlightenment over a cappucino, as long as it doesn’t require any strenuous lifting.

If I were ever going to leave my faith (not that the label is the most important thing to me, but it’s habit!), I would be very interested in Judaism.

Thank you to Chaim and Zev, your posts are always informative and helpful.

I should have said more; I was trying to explain why we don’t even actively try to educate gentiles about the details of the 7 Noachide laws they are supposed to follow.

I’m still slightly confused.

As I understand it, the situation is as follows:

The practicing orthodox Jew must follow 613 commandments whereas the practicing gentile must follow 7 commandments.

(what are the 7, by the way?).

If the gentile knows the whole of Judaism as well as the orthodox Jew does, then does he still have to only follow the 7?

Assume we are dealing with a very knowledgable gentile who is familiar with all the 613 commandments and all the Torah, does he still only have to follow the 7?

I understand your musical analogy - that by following all 613 he will all the more appreciate that which God offers - but in order to satisfy God he doesn’t actually have to follow all 613. Since he is a gentile he can get away just following the 7 and still please God just as much.

It still seems to me like the gentile is getting the better deal.

Lets face it its much easier to not follow commandments than it is to follow them. (At least the lesser commandments anyway, obviously the biggies like “Thou shalt not kill” is a pretty easy one for most people to follow).

If a gentile faithfully follows his 7 then he is not sinning even if he is aware of what all the other 606 are.

A Jew on the other hand must follow all 613 or else he is sinning. Following 612 isn’t good enough.

And this is all because the ancestors of the Jew happened to be in a particular place at a particular time.

“Not everyone is capable of, or wants to, deal
with 613 commandments.”
Agreed but it seems to me that there isn’t necessarly a strict corelation between Jewish ancestry and this capability. So I still would say that it would be your duty(given your beliefs) to at least make available the basic information of the Torah and its benefits to as many people as possible and then let them decide whether it’s for them.It’s not so much encouraging conversions as much as making the information available to people who might possibly benefit from a conversion.

(I am assuming that you are right and MHand is wrong and that just the knowledge of Jewish commandments by itself doesn’t mean that non-Jews who don’t follow those laws are sinning. If Mhand is right I guess it would be logical not to educate other people about the commandments.)

BTW your post suggests that Jews who aren’t strictly observant(presumably a majority) are sinning. Shouldn’t they be encouraged to convert to other religions if they never intend to become strictly observant ? That would seem to be the logical corrolary of discouraging converts who aren’t capable of strict observance.


The seven are:
Prohibition against murder
Prohibition against sexual crimes
Prohibition against idolatry
Prohibition against theft
Prohibition against blasphemy
Prohibition against eating from a live animal
Commandment to set up courts, governments and to live as a normal society.


A gentile only needs to keep those seven, regardless of his/her level of knowledge.


In some ways, yes, he is getting the better deal. In other ways, not. I consider Judaism, for example, to be highly spiritually rewarding. Someone who does not live by that, does not get that reward, of course.


Correct. Eat at Red Lobster to your heart’s content.

Mostly correct on the first part, not correct on the second. It’s not that a particular ancestor happened to be lucky. That particular ancestor devoted his life to worshipping God and making Him known throughout the world. That particular ancestor brought monotheism to the world. That particular ancestor (in Jewish thought, of course) was therefore rewarded by having his children accept the Torah.

And, of course, there is the midrash that Chaim cited earlier too (about all the other nations being offered the Torah).

Zev Steinhardt


The basic information is available. Find the closest Barnes & Noble to your house. There are scores and scores of books avaialble on Judaism.


See MHand’s latest comment.

No, for two reasons:

  1. Once you are a Jew, you are a Jew for life. It is not halachiclly possible to convert.
  2. The act of worshipping in another religion is itself a sin for a Jew.

Besides, even if it were possible to “push them out the door,” it would behoove us as a community to put our efforts into reaching out to them, not pushing them away.
Zev Steinhardt

I’d just like to say that this has been one of the most educational threads I’ve ever seen on the SDMB.

I have a question regarding Reform and Conservative Judaism. Basically, how did they come about and what are the official Orthodox position regarding them?

Reform Judaism is a movement that started in Germany about two hundred years ago. The goal, in short, was to “modernize” Judaism by discarding much of the ritual.

The Conservative movement was an outgrowth of the Reform movement. The Conservatives were alarmed at the degree to which the Reformers broke with tradition and traditional practice.

The Orthodox position on these groups are that they are not performing the mitzvos (commandments) and are therefore wrong.

However, many contemporary authorities view one who was raised in a Reform/Conservative household and lived that way all their life as a tinuk shenishbah (a captured infant). Such a person is not culpable for their actions since they did not know better. Having never known what it meant to keep the mitzvos, these people are not “hard core sinners.” Of course, this does not apply to one who knows better, or one who was Orthodox at one time and is no longer so.

Zev Steinhardt

“The basic information is available. Find the closest Barnes & Noble to your house. There are scores
and scores of books avaialble on Judaism.”
Well you know, there are large portions of the world where people don’t have access to Barnes and Noble.;).
“Once you are a Jew, you are a Jew for life. It is not halachiclly possible to convert.”
Well this is definitely unfair to non-observant Jews isn’t it? Just because of their ancestry they are forced to either become fully observant or be sinners. There is no third option of obeying only the seven commandments.

BTW what happens in Judaism when you sin?

       "Besides, even if it were possible to "push them out the door," it would behoove us as a community to put
       our efforts into reaching out to them, not pushing them away."

Well what’s wrong with “pushing them out” if it means they stop living in sin?( assuming for the time being that a sinless conversion is possible). It would seem that conversion would be in their best interest. After all they can always convert back if they want to become strictly observant again.

Are there any subgroups or sect of Judaism that require one to be of jewish heritage (ie blood) to be “truly Jewish”? Wasn’t there some problem in Isreal about Jews whose mother was not Jewish?

So, lets say a Orthodox Jew decides to go “Reform”, and thus “sins”( but otherwise leads a pretty moral life). Is there punishment in the afterlife, or what?