Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A Noachide on Selfishness

A Noachide wrote commenting on Tanya chapter 1.  The end of Tanya chapter 1 seems rather harsh, describing the spiritual motivations for doing chesed (kindness) to others…

Tanya, end of Chapter 1 - The souls of the nations of the world, however, emanate from the other, unclean kelipot which contain no good whatever,

כמו שכתוב בע׳ חיים שער מ״ט פרק ג׳: וכל טיבו דעבדין האומות לגרמייהו עבדין

as is written in Etz Chayim, Portal 49, ch. 3, that all the good that the nations do, is done out of selfish motives.

Since their nefesh emanates from kelipot which contain no good, it follows that any good done by them is for selfish motives.

וכדאיתא בגמרא על פסוק: וחסד לאומים חטאת — שכל צדקה וחסד שאומות העולם עושין אינן אלא להתייהר כו׳

So the Gemara comments on the verse, “The kindness of the nations is sin” — that all the charity and kindness done by the nations of the world is only for their self-glorification...

When a Jew acts in a benevolent manner he is motivated mainly out of concern for the welfare of his fellow. The proof of this is that were his fellow not to need his help, this would give him greater pleasure than the gratification derived from his act of kindness.

Concerning the nations of the world, however, this is not so. Their motivation is not the welfare of their fellow; rather, it stems from a self-serving motive — the desire for self-glorification, a feeling of gratification, and the like.

It should be noted that among the nations of the world there are also to be found those whose souls are derived from kelipat nogah.  Called “the pious ones of the nations of the world,” these righteous individuals are benevolent not out of selfish motives but out of a genuine concern for their fellow. (End of Tanya, Chapter 1.)

I was recently in the offices of a multi-national corporation.  As with many such large companies their walls are covered in motivational posters.  A number of these posters display employees who have made various commitments to their communities, such as tutoring, fundraising for worthy causes, etc.  Each one of these posters finishes the the tagline “volunteer, it feels good.”

That said, the quote from the Tanya still seems rather harsh.  Our friendly Noachide continues…

I never doubted what the holy (Jewish) sages wrote or thought it off target.  Sort of.  But I used to wonder why there was such a blanket statement on the selfishness and self motivation of the 70 nations, though some respite is given below to righteous believing gentiles.

Reb Gutman responds: Know that the Tanya is speaking of a non Jew who does not keep the Seven Commandments of Noah. These things do NOT apply to a non Jew who accepts and follows the ways of the righteous Noah as you do.

(Our Noachide commentor continues…) Today after reading what former U.S. President Nixon did and said regarding Jews, I can understand why it was written that everything gentiles do (except the righteous believing gentiles) is for SELF and self glorification.

It is true what was written on Mystical Paths, that Israel has only ONE friend, and that is Hashem. If only they would realize it.  Fortunately we have Israel as our friend, and if only our people would realize it.

Thank you for your thoughts.  We are humbled and awed as you’ve helped us to realize the responsibility we carry.  While it may be understandable that we have forgotten this due to the continuous persecution of the nations, that doesn’t relieve us of it.  We will continue to work to be worthy of it.


  1. Here's one more interpretation. In Tehillim, there are various references to "the nations" as awful and as needing to be destroyed -- and a belief that Hashem will destroy them. What this tells me is that people often use the term "nations" to refer to the people in the world who are trying to destroy the Jews.

    Even if this applies only to those following the 7 Noahide commandments, it may be that many or even most people in the world are following them without knowing what they are. For example, in medieval Jewish literature some rabbis claimed that Xianity was a Noahide faith, while others disagree. Some may have the same debate about Islam.

  2. Are we ALL children of HaShem, regardless of whether or not we choose to act like it?

    Does HaShem have a "no child left behind" policy?

    Does "redemption" mean "to buy back" (i.e., something that was yours in the first place)...?

    Does the Multiverse as a whole need tikkun (i.e., repair, restoration, etc.)...?

    How is Amalek (i.e., the Nations) to be destroyed - through force of arms, fire and brimstone, or teshuvah and emunah (i.e., when the "concealed" is "revealed" and safek is removed from the equation)...?


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