A Discussion of Rabbi Kaganoff’s Response Regarding the Doubting Moslem

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First some excerpts from Rabbi Kaganoff’s site at https://rabbikaganoff.com/tag/noahide-laws-2/
In his post about Bnei Noach and Korbanos Rabbi Kaganoff raises 3 questions that bother Gentiles that wish to observe the set of commandments that G-d gave to Non-Jews in order that they too, can gain a share in the world to come (Olam Haba). A certain heretic asked me, what makes you think there is a different set of commandments for Jews and Non-Jews? Why not say everyone in the world is commanded to obey all the commandments in the Torah. I answered him that from the Torah itself, we see there is a different set of commandments for Jews and Non-Jews. For example, we see such a distinction in Deuteronomy 14:21 (translation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan at http://bible.ort.org/books/pentd2.asp?ACTION=displaypage&BOOK=5&CHAPTER=14)

14:21 Since you are a holy nation to God your Lord, you may not eat any [mammal or bird] that has not been properly slaughteredYou may give it to the resident alien in your settlements so that he can eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner.

Now to quote from Rabbi Kaganoff’s site.

Question #3: The Doubting Moslem

“My coworker, who still considers herself a Moslem, confides in me a lot of her doubts about her religion. Should I be encouraging her away from Islam, or is it not necessary to do so, since they do not worship idols?”

Answer: Mitzvos Bnei Noach

All the questions asked above were by Jews about non-Jews. Indeed, although it may seem strange for a non-Jew to ask a rav a shaylah, it should actually be commonplace. After all, there are hundreds of gentiles for every Jew in the world, and each one of them should be concerned about his or her halachic responsibility. As a matter of fact, there are many non-Jews who are indeed concerned about their future place in Olam Haba and, had the nations not been deceived by spurious religions, thousands and perhaps millions more would observe the mitzvos of Bnei Noach that they are commanded. It is tragic that they have been misled into false beliefs and practices.

Fortunately, there is a revival of interest among gentiles to observe the requirements given them in the Torah. There are now many groups and publications devoted to educating non-Jews about their halachic responsibilities. The mitzvah requirements of non-Jews are usually referred to as the “Seven Mitzvos of the Bnei Noach,” although in actuality, these “Seven Mitzvos” are really categories. A gentile is required to accept that these commandments were commanded by Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu (Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 8:11). A non-Jew who follows these instructions qualifies to be a “righteous gentile,” one of the Chassidei Umos Ha’olam who merits a place in Olam Haba.

Jews should be familiar with the halachos that apply to a non-Jew, since it is forbidden to cause a gentile to transgress his mitzvos. This is included under the Torah’s violation of lifnei iver lo sitein michshol, “Do not place a stumbling block before a blind person.” In this context, the verse means: Do not cause someone to sin if he is blind to — that is, unaware of — the seriousness of his violation (Avodah Zarah 6b). For example, a Jew may not sell an item to a gentile that he will use for idol worship, or an item that is designed for criminal activity.

After providing this introduction Rabbi Kaganoff begins to deal with the first 2 questions that he raised in his post that we will skip for now. Then he deals with our issue.

The Doubting Moslem

“My coworker, who still considers herself a Moslem, confides in me a lot of her doubts about her religion. Should I be encouraging her away from Islam, or is it not necessary to do so, since they do not worship idols?”

Without question, observing Islam is a grievous sin, even for a gentile, despite the fact that there is no idolatry involved (see also fRitva, Pesachim 25b). Hashem gave very specific instructions of how He wants mankind to worship Him, and any other attempt is prohibited. Therefore, if your coworker is asking you for direction in her life, you should explain to her the fallacies of Islam and how she could indeed fulfill Hashem’s wishes by becoming a proper bas Noach.

Comment on the Post (revised 24 Iyar 5782):

There is a dispute among the rabbis if Islam is considered idolatry. Rambam if taken at face value seems to indicate those that practice Islam are not guilty of idolatry but guilty of another spiritual crime that it was too dangerous to put into writing. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in Igrote Moshe Yoreh Deah 2:7 possibly indicates what Rambam had in mind. Rabbi Kaganoff seems to be among those that take Rambam at face value.

But here is a short summary why some (but certainly not all) of the rabbis consider Islam Foreign Worship (Avoda Zara).

  1. Questions & Answers, Divrei Yatziv, Y.D. Ch. 40 by Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam

    Behold Foreign Worship (Avoda Zara) has 2 aspects. Service to idols and denial of the true L-rd as handed down to us by Moshe Rabbeinu in the holy Torah, that this is in essence the prohibition of Foreign Worship (Avoda Zara). And the matter of distancing oneself from Foreign Worship is affiliated to the principle of the Denial, and not to the prohibition of serving idols.

  2. They continue the original pagan rituals practiced in Islam before the advent of Islam. Some rabbis accept the Islamic excuses why they continue these practices (such as Rambam in his letter to R’ Ovadiah the convert) and some like Rabbi Nachshon Gaon, Meiri, and the uncensored Kuzari do not. Check out some of the sources  brought in the post. When Is It Permitted to Bow to Men and When Is Bowing Considered Forbidden Intermediary Worship, According to Rabbeinu Nissim .
  3. Some Rabbis take Ohr Hachaim’s approach (see his book Pri Toar 19:10) that Islam might have avoided idolatry during Rambam’s time. But in the many centuries between Rambam’s death and our days, Islam has evolved and many that follow the religion in modern times are guilty of idolatry. Rabbeinu Nissim might be part of this camp. See the post When Is It Permitted to Bow to Men and When Is Bowing Considered Forbidden Intermediary Worship, According to Rabbeinu Nissim. See also: How Does the Yishmaelite Religion Violate the Restrictions Against Foreign Worship (Idolatry) See also: Lavan {Laban}, the Father-in-Law, the Trinity Believer, the Swindler, the Aramean is Blamed for Destroying our Forefather Yaakov
  4. Because of the rebuke of the Magid to Rabbi Yosef Karo after Rabbi Karo visited the Sufi Moslem Tekke, it is unclear in which camp to place Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch. See the post: Yabia Omer Used This Incident As Proof That You May Not Visit Churches – In Reality the Incident Was Referring to a Sufi Muslim Tekke
  5. See the post: How Does the Yishmaelite Religion Violate the Restrictions Against Foreign Worship (Idolatry)  for other idolatry accusations raised against the Islamic religion by Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman and the Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin.
  6. Ritva to Pesachim 25b considers their denial of the Supremacy and Eternity of the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) regarding Kiddush Hashem issues to be on the level of idolatry.

חידושי הריטב”א מסכת פסחים דף כה עמוד ב
והוי יודע שאמונת הישמעאלים, אף על פי שהם מייחדים [את השם], עבודה זרה גמורה חשיבא ליהרג ואל ישתמד, שהרי המודה באמונתם כופר בתורת משה שאינה אמת כמות שהיא בידינו וכל כיוצא בו ע”ז היא
Translation: Insights of the Ritva to Tractate Pesachim 25b

And let it be known that the Yishmaelite faith, even though they have monotheistic beliefs, should be considered complete idolatry to be killed rather than to convert, for one who admits to their faith denies the Torah of Moshe considering it as if it is not true as it is in our hands and everything similar to this is idolatry (literally foreign worship).

Radbaz agrees with Ritva on this point and so does the Chafetz Chaim in his book Nidchei Yisrael Chapter 19. For a lot of Jews, the Chafetz Chaim usually has the final say on what is the Halacha. The author of this post also has a letter from Rabbi Dov Lior agreeing with the Ritva on this point.

It is possible to claim that for other issues these rabbis don’t classify Islam as idolatry.

I have a theory how Rabbi Kaganoff might try to reconcile his citation of both Rambam and Ritva on the issue of Islam. He might hold for example, that the standards demanded from Gentiles are a bit more lenient. But it is best to ask Rabbi Kaganoff directly, because there are several possible answers he might offer.