R. Hirsch’s answer to the Jewish Question: Why wouldn’t you convert?

Unfortunately it happens too often for me. A Gentile will realise the truth of the God of Israel as Creator of everything and will leave his old worldview behind, whether it’s atheism or hinduism or christianity or whatever to embrace that truth. Yet that person remains a Gentile. And a Jew who takes his own covenant seriously, that of Moses, will go to that righteous Gentile and ask, “why wouldn’t you then become a Jew?” It’s as if, in that Jew’s mind, to embrace truth is to become Jewish.

There was a wise rabbi in the 19th century by the name of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. In the midst of his own Jewish community that was sliding into secularism and atheism, he was a standard and pillar of faithfulness to the Torah, the law of God. This rabbi studied the Torah in its original Hebrew to such an extent that he saw how individual Hebrew words and letters were linked to the point where an etymological dictionary of Hebrew could be written based on his extensive commentary of the Torah. It’s called “the Eytmological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, based on the commentaries of Samson Raphael Hirsch, by Matityahu Clark” from Feldheim Publishers, ISBN 1-58330-431-2.

It’s been my position that each class of people, Jew and Gentile, has a purpose and thus, although it is an option, there is no command or necessity for Gentiles to become Jews, but rather each should keep their respective divine laws and be better people. Whilst reading the commentary of Rabbi Samson Hirsch in the book Terumath Tvi, I came across a powerful commentary that I’d like to share. To some it may be lengthy, but I would ask for patience and that it be read all the way to the end. It is on page 4, the commentary on Genesis 1:11-13. It says the following:

With this eleventh verse we first enter into the sphere of organic life. We are shown “deshe”, the vegetation that sprouts from the soil, the seed-bearing plants, the first fruit trees that produce fruit. We learn that all those countless varieties of creation are governed by one and the same law: “l’meeno”, “l’meenehoo” [“according to its species.”] Each of them is to work only for its own species and to develop only within the circumscribed sphere assigned to its own kind …

… All substances and energies must operate and develop within expressly defined limits and in clearly prescribed ways. This great law which is made so obvious to us by the infinite variety of vegetable organisms, this law which, all-powerful, all-pervading and all-embracing, rules over minute fibers and seedlings even as it does over the giant trees that reach toward the sky, and which permits each individual plant species to develop only within the limits set for it – this all-powerful law that has been proclaimed for every blade of grass no less than for the mighty ceder is known by the catchword: “l’meeno” [“according to its species”]…

Each species preserves its reproductive energies only “l’meeno”, for its own species, and only human caprice would force it into unnatural, that is, unlawful unions. If left to itself, each seedling will belong to its own species as exclusively as did its earliest ancestor, concerning which and concerning all of whose descendants the Creator first proclaimed His law: “l’meeno” [“according to its species”]. It is clear that this law which the Lawgiver of the universe implanted into organic life must be of prime importance also for our own calling, both as human beings and as Jews, for it has caused every aspect of our lives to become interwoven with Him. God’s Word not only forbids us to interfere directly with this law in that it prohibits unnatural cross-breeding of plant and animal species which nature has set apart from one another … It also controls all our relationships with the plant and animal world – sowing and planting, the use of animals in our work, the utilization of textiles derived from plants and animals for our clothing, and even the food we eat (… [the laws of forbidden seed mixtures, the prohibition against the use of an ox and a donkey together with the same plow, forbidden mixtures of textiles, and the separation of milk and meat]). All these laws remind us again and again of the “law of species” and of Him Who gave it.

These constant reminders are designed to admonish us to revere God as the Lawgiver also for our own species, to permit His Law to rule also over our own drives and energies, and to translate His Law into reality in all our activities. It is true that we have certain energies, drives and developmental phases in common with plants and animals. We are born, we take nourishment, we grow, we age and finally we die. Nevertheless, God has crated us to be a particular, higher min [species] among living things because we are human beings, and among human beings He has appointed us to a particular min [species] as Jews. He has set down the law of life for both man and Jew.

The Law of God does not begin only with and for the Jews. We are subject to the Law of God already by virtue of the fact that we are living creatures; only within the limits He has drawn for us can we fulfill the calling He has assigned to us. Like all other living creatures we, too, can develop our individual freedom and independence to the fullest extent only within the framework of the Law of God. The whole Torah is nothing but the “law of species” for the human being who is a Jew. That same law which rules automatically over creatures that have no free will has been explicitly proclaimed to man and to the Jewish person so that they may accept it of their own free will, to rule over all their energies, their drives and over all the manifestations of their strength and will power. It is through this voluntary self-subordination to the Law of God that they can bring their higher min, the higher vocation of their species, to pure and complete realization. God needs the blade of grass as well as the cedar, the ear of corn as well as the grapes of the vine, in the household of His world, and He has given to each its own law, within which each one of them is to live its own appointed life without questioning why it is a blade of grass and not a cedar, an ear of corn and not a vine. Each leaves the planning of the world to God, gladly and loyally making its own contribution to the whole.

In the same manner God also needs in His kingdom of humanity both Jews and non-Jews. Jew and non-Jew each has his own calling and his own law, and God’s sublime purpose will be attained only if each one, Jew and non-Jew, will gladly and faithfully carry out that calling and obey that law which God has set for him, and in so doing will make his own contribution to the common good as God expects him to do …



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