A rebel Israeli living in Denmark has definitively exposed the “Love thy neighbor” Torah quote—often used by Jewish groups to justify welcoming immigrants and refugees to any country except Israel—as a cynical hoax by revealing that the original words in Hebrew refer to Jews only.
Writing on the anti-Zionist website Mondoweiss, Jonathan Ofir, who is described as an “Israeli musician, conductor, and blogger,” said that the quote—which is also in the Christian Bible in Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 5:43, 19:19, 22:39, Mark 12:31, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8—has an entirely different meaning in its original Hebrew format to that which is commonly ascribed to it in English.
“One of the most iconic phrases in the whole Torah, which Jews will typically refer to, is ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’” Ofir wrote.
“You will also hear some Jews bragging about it, because it got picked up as the 2nd most important commandment by Christianity (after ‘love thy God’), and so this is often regarded as Judaism’s ‘gift’ to humanity—love and kindness, as it were. See for example here in ‘Judaism 101,’” he continued, going on to explain in detail:
But let us scrutinise the source, really. It is Leviticus 19:18:
This translates commonly to: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
There are two problems in the common translation: The main one is that “your neighbor” is not really precise. ‘Re’acha’ in Hebrew could better be understood as ‘your friend’ or ‘your companion’. The second one is that ‘your own people’ is ‘amcha’ in Hebrew, which is commonly understood today as ‘your nation’. In an ancient tribal society, this could be very much the perception.
So the question becomes, how tribal is one’s perception? Is this about just loving the ‘Hebrews’ or later the ‘Jews’, loving each other amongst themselves?
Ofir then goes on to quote a number of authoritative Jewish rabbinical and Israeli sources which discuss this question, showing that all of them regard Jews as different to Gentiles.
Therefore, Ofir concludes, the reference to “love thy neighbor” as used in the Torah and Leviticus refers specifically only to Jews.
Finally, Ofir reveals that the “Talmud contains extremely problematic, to put it mildly, passages regarding the biological status of non-Jews.”
He then quotes two of the passages:
In Bava Metzia 114b it says:
“Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: The graves of gentiles do not cause ritual impurity in a dwelling as it says (Ezekiel 34:31) “Now, you [Israel] are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are Man (Adam)…” You [Israel] are called Man (Adam) and gentiles are not called Man (Adam)”.
In Keritot 6b it says:
“One who uses the official anointing oil [that has been consecrated] to smear on an animal or vessels is innocent of violating the holiness of the oil, to smear on gentiles or corpses is innocent. Certainly an animal and vessels as it says (Exodus 30:32) “It shall not be smeared on flesh of man (Adam)…” and an animal and vessels are not man. One who smears on corpses is also innocent since it is dead it is called a corpse and not a man. However, why is one who smears on gentiles innocent? They are men! No, as it says (Ezekiel 34:31) “Now, you [Israel] are My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, you are Man (Adam)…” You [Israel] are called Man (Adam) and gentiles are not called Man (Adam).
Ofir concludes by remarking “Whilst there are milder interpretations, these opinions certainly leave a wide space for perceiving non-Jews as lesser than human.”