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"Who has not made me a non-jew"

Endearment and Obligations

Endearment and Obligations

Endearment and Obligations
"Who has not made me a non-jew"

Blessed are You, G‑d, L-rd, King of the Universe, who has not made me a non-Jew. (Liturgy, Morning Blessings)

Eighteen morning blessings are said each day upon arising, after one has dressed and washed hands. The basic meaning of this particular blessing is clear: "Thank you for not making me a member of any other nation or faith." This gratitude and pride in being Jewish does not imply condescension toward other peoples. Rather, it derives from the enormous responsibility that we have been entrusted with. A non-Jew has seven divine commandments, while a Jewish male has 613. Since we have more avenues by which to fulfill G‑d's will, our potential to be connected with Him is greater.

A firstborn is proud in his extra responsibilities regardless of the extra work involved...

It is not always easy to live up to this responsibility, yet the Jewish people take pride in it. G‑d calls the Jewish people "My child, My first-born, Israel" (Ex.4:22). A firstborn is proud in his extra responsibilities regardless of the extra work involved, because they signify his parents' greater trust in him. In this blessing we express gratitude for not having been created with only seven Noahide commandments to fulfill.

In the Torah, the word "goy" does not have a negative connotation. We even find it used in a superlative sense: "Who is like Your people Israel goy echad ("one nation") in the land" (Chronicles 17:21). The Jews are a "unique nation," a "nation of the One" (two possible derivative translations of goy echad) who have elevated their lower attributes. At his high level they can unify G‑d's unique name and draw it down "into the land", thereby fulfilling their purpose of spreading divine consciousness.

While keeping in mind this positive sense of "goy," in this blessing we stress our gratitude for not having been created a member of those nations that are not involved in this service of unification, but instead separate themselves from G‑d by asserting their independence of Him.

The prayers of non-Jews go only to the external sources of the divine energy…

The Ramak (Rabbi Moshe Cordevero - the predecessor to the holy Arizal as the main teacher of Kabbalah in 16th century Safed) wrote that the prayers of non-Jews are not nearly as effective as those of a Jew, for the prayers of non-Jews go only to the external sources of the divine energy. Therefore, in preparation for prayer, we thank G‑d daily for not making us a non-Jew, so that our prayers retain the potential to ascend to the highest possible place.

He further stated that, because of misdeeds, an alien soul of a non-Jew can connect itself to a person and tempt him to stray from the right path. Indeed, we sometimes see a person's behavior unexpectedly change in a manner unusual for him. One possible reason is the foreign soul that has temporarily connected itself to him. Therefore, we thank the Creator each day for not having let us be changed into something different than what we were the night before, even temporarily.

The Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, 1534-1572) approached the question from a different perspective. He taught that there is a non-Jewish aspect within each one of us - an intermediate level of impurity that contains within it the potential to be transformed by us into something positive.

The first fourteen blessings focus on removing us from the inevitable, absolute impurity that connects itself to us when we sleep, for "sleep is one-sixtieth of death", the ultimate impurity. Now we are ready to try to remove ourselves from the intermediate, more subtle level of impurity also, in preparation for the morning prayers, which can be a vehicle for ascending to great spiritual heights.

For this reason, in Chassidic and Sephardic prayer books, which are based on the arrangement of the prayers set out by the Arizal, this blessing (and the two that follow it) come after all the others. In the Ashkenazi siddur, they come before, since the simple level of their content relates to the essence of the person, while the other blessings focus on particular aspects.

Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter is a co-founder, executive director and featured teacher of Ascent-of-Safed.
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Anonymous miami, florida via July 18, 2013

prejudice This article is very alienating and honestly smug in tone for a non-Jew. I follow the noahide laws and am a devoted student of Kabbalah. I was under the impression that noahides were welcome to study Torah and help with the great correction. Why did Kabbalah on line publish this when its stance is noahides are welcome? Reply

Anonymous beverly hills, ca July 29, 2011

question We thank G-d for not making us non-jewish, because we are thanking G-d for more commandments. Just like we do with women etc. So by that token why doesnt a kohen say "Thank You for not making me a Levi or Israel," or a levi saying "Thank You for not making me Israel." both these tribes have more commandments to fulfill? Reply

Jordan Norwood, MN February 1, 2010

The Ramak's comment A Gentile who keeps the Noachide Laws is considered righteous and will have a part in the World to Come, so why would his/her prayers go only to the external sources of the divine energy? Did'nt G-d say that He is near to all who call upon Him in truth? Reply

Anonymous perth, australia November 24, 2009

why in the negative? is it discussed anywhere why it isn't written in the positive: thanking G-d for being a Jew; rather than for not being a gentile? Reply

Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles via September 22, 2009

To Matthew Rand Only benefit can come to a Gentile who keeps the Noachide Laws: who does what he is supposed to and does not do what he is not supposed to do.
As the expression goes:
"Keep the seven; go to Heaven" Reply

Matthew Rand Staten Island, NY September 18, 2009

Souls of the Gentiles B"H

Dear Mr. Leiter,
Does anything happen to the souls and prayers of the Gentiles who follow the Noahide Laws? Reply

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