Project Genesis

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Jewish Challenges

Question: I am having difficulty understanding the concept of G-d giving the Jews challenges so that he can reward us when we overcome them. Specifically, if Jews are generally the recipients of these commandments and rewards, why do non-Jews have the same challenges? What is the purpose for them?

An example is the “Yetzer Ha-rah” (our internal inclinatin towards evil) that tries to sway Jews to do sexual action forbidden by the Torah. Non-Jews get the same temptations yet no reward or punishment. Why do they have a “Yetzer Ha-rah”? If they do not have one, what is the difference between the Jew’s desires and the non-Jew’s?

Answer: Interesting questions. Here’s how I would address them:

I would first slightly rephrase your words. The purpose of the commandments is to “perfect” the Jews (rather than “reward” them) – see Braishis Rabba 44:1. Reward will come in its good time, but it isn’t the purpose. The challenge of living up to the Torah’s standards is meant to imbue in us the attitudes and instinct God wants for us.

Now we might rephrase your question. Why do Jews need these commandments more than non-Jews?

Perhaps we actually don’t…maybe they need it just as much as us. But perhaps God somehow provided non-Jews with the opportunities for inspiration to achieve perfection in different ways (through the Seven Mitzvos?). Or perhaps, not having adopted the Torah voluntarily, they don’t have any “easy,” well-marked path in this area.

I can’t know for sure, but I suspect that my first possibility is more likely.I hope this helps.

With my best regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

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