Is Torah for All People?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: Should a gentile read the Jewish Scriptures? Are these scriptures a guide for all people, or for the Jew only? I find that these scriptures is primarily directed to Israel and do wonder if I should continue reading it.
In addition, I have looked into Islam previously and read the Quran (in English translation). The Quran is more universal in the sense that most of its message is for mankind in general.
Almost all products made by man comes with some sort of manual. I believe that G-d as Creator would have also given a “manual” for His creation i.e mankind to follow. However the “manual” i.e Torah is directed to Israel. As an example, the prohibition against idolatry in the Torah or Tanach in general is directed to Israel and not to the nations at large. So why is it wrong then for the nations to commit idolatry?
This is not the situation in the Quran, where prohibition against idolatry is directed to all of mankind.
Thank you for looking into this query and appreciate your feedback.
Rabbi: The Torah is for all people. This is expressed through the Talmud’s statement (Avoda Zara 2b) that God offered the Torah to other nations, but they rejected it. This is not historical fact, but a homiletical lesson that Torah’s principles are intended for all people.
God did not create different types of humans; we all descend from Adam and Eve. Thus, we all possess the identical design and potential. Therefore, multiple religions is a nonsensical idea. The “best life” can be achieved by all peoples, through the identical Torah system. It is a great misnomer that people are different, justifying various religions. History proves that God never gave a religion other than Judaism at Mt. Sinai 3,330 years ago. This was witnessed by millions, and why other religions adopt this as historical fact. But their invented religions do not claim mass witnesses, thereby subjecting acceptance to mere belief and faith alone; they possess no proof of their claims.
The patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) their wives and children were not Jews. They preceded Judaism by centuries. Thus, they were gentiles, as were all members of the human race. Their distinction was that they were monotheists, while the world served idols. God selected them to be the forerunners of Judaism, a formalized religion with Torah, monotheism and intelligence at its core, and Jews as its teachers to mankind. Yes, the Torah’s focus is on its adherents, the Jews. But it clearly states in many places that Torah is to be followed by the convert, just as the Jew follows it. God does not impose conversion, but allows one to decide to convert, and the wise individual will convert, as all other religions are man made built on primitivism and falsehoods. But if one does not convert, there are a number of Noahide laws a gentile must follow, which include the prohibition of idolatry. These Noahide laws were followed by the patriarchs prior to Torah and Judaism.
Good intended the Jews to be distinct through his laws, in order that the true Torah authority (the Jew) is not confused with others who do not have Torah obligations as the Jew, and therefore, will not be as rigorous in Torah study. This would lead to inept people teaching Torah. Therefore, Torah focusses on the Jews’ obligations, and prohibits gentile Torah study (except for that which they wish to observe) and also prohibits Shabbos observance, which would blur the lines as to who is the true Torah authority. Appearing as a Jew (through Shabbos observance and Torah study) the gentile, through his lack of Torah competency, will destroy Torah. But if he studies Torah to convert, he is equal to the born Jew after conversion.
The Torah is not simply the Five Books of Moses, but there is also the Oral Law, which is Mishna and Talmud. Torah cannot be understood without the Oral Law. The Talmudic source I cited above is an example of how at first, you did not think Torah was for all people, but Talmud clarifies that. God created two Torahs (Written and Oral) as His will is that man engage his mind, and probe God’s wisdom throughout his life. Thus, the Oral law’s “interpretive” nature of the Written law (the Five Books) follows many principles and rules that act as keys which unlock greater and greater wisdom as one probes. The Torah study process takes years to master, is unmatched in pleasure, and amazes man at every turn.
In summary, God created one mankind. He formulated and gave man only one religion: Torah. All other religions are false. As we share one human design, one religion is applicable for all people. His intent is for all mankind to benefit from this lifestyle. Idolatry is the most severe sin and applies to all people, as Torah states. God killed many idolatrous nations, as through that sin, they forfeited their purpose in life to recognize God.