In a conversation with a Chabad rabbi, he brought up that all items, including items Jews may not associate with, have divine sparks in them. As an example, he said that a cheeseburger has divine sparks in it, but a Jew cannot raise those divine sparks by eating it. However, he then said (paraphrasing but as close as I can manage) that "One advantage non-Jews have over Jews is that they can eat a cheeseburger and, if they use the energy in the service of God, they can raise the divine sparks." (He distinctly referred to it as an advantage, I remember this). We have rules about how we interact with the world around us that non-Jews do not, and what is banned to us is allowed to them (with exceptions, of course).

This leads to the question: Consider, for example, a devout Muslim, who keeps strictly halal. One day, the Muslim - for whatever reason - deliberately breaks this rule and eats a cheeseburger with bacon, without anyone's life being at stake. They use the energy in the service of God. On the one hand, this Muslim is not subject to kashrus and as long as they follow the Noahide laws, we as Jews are not directly concerned with their dietary habits, so would be able to raise the sparks. On the other hand, in the same way that we have divine sparks that we can access and others we cannot, the Muslim also has dietary restrictions in the service of God, and because they just violated them, may not be able to raise those sparks, because just as Jews have restrictions on how they may interact with the world, so do Muslims.

The implications of this question are large. If it is case 1, that Noahide laws are all that matter, it follows that religions other than Judaism are "not important". They can follow their laws, they can break their laws, it's of no great concern to us. If it is case 2, then it's just the opposite. There would be divine sparks only Hindis can raise, divine sparks only Muslims can raise, divine sparks only Shintoists can raise. It lends great validity to those other actions - regardless of whether their beliefs about God are objectively "right", by acting within the restrictions and traditions those religious beliefs place on their lives, they become able to, or unable to, raise certain sparks. Or, in other words, if case 2 is correct, all religions of the world would be required to bring Moshiach.

So which is it? Can non-Jews raise divine sparks particular to their practices and beliefs, or is it simply Jews and non-Jews? The answer to this is extremely important for how we as Jews relate to, and acknowledge the validity of, followers of other religions.

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    Might be related: chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/73827/jewish/…
    – Shmuel
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:07
  • The Rebbe Rayatz (Sefer HaMaamarim 5702, p. 69) explains that there are converts who converted because at first, they were far away (from G-d), but through their own effort, they left the impure state of their inner sparks, and that brought up the G-dly sparks. See: hebrewbooks.org/…
    – Shmuel
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:15
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    @Shmuel It is indeed related. In particular, this paragraph: "The "bound" elements of creation also have a role..." Essentially my question amounts to: How does this resistance and the holiness resulting from it extend to non-Jews, and what are the implications of this and how does this affect our relationship to/evaluation of non-Jews?
    – Benyamin
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:16
  • What does halacha say about the validity of other religions? Are their laws ever attributed to being actually Divine? I think not (I believe Tovia Singer holds this way, as well as the fact that practicing Muslims are bnei Noach), happy to be proven wrong. If perhaps we say that its Hashem's will that he keep the morality of Islam, that's the morality he knows and Hashem expects us to be moral, this might be a consideration in the spark elevating in his following Godly service. Your overall theory seems unlikely, the general two categories for this inyan are Jew and Non-Jew (e.g. in Tanya Ch1)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:46
  • In response to your above comment, you've hit the nail on the head. Our relationship to Non-Jews should be that we are on the same team, they have Divine sparks, Hashem's children, here to serve Hashem like us, we must learn all this so we can teach it to them - they have sparks to rescue! They have a role only they can fulfil, in some ways more important than our role (who is the ikar, the student or the teacher?). Being jealous of the fact they have a bigger resistance, & aren't given "cheat" advantages like מאמינים בני מאמינים and sefaria.org/Yevamot.78b.14 actually makes sense!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 16, 2023 at 21:57

1 Answer 1


Rambam says in Melachim uMilchamot - Chapter 8 (11)

Anyone who accepts upon himself the fulfillment of these seven mitzvot and is precise in their observance is considered one of 'the pious among the gentiles' and will merit a share in the world to come.

This applies only when he accepts them and fulfills them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moses, our teacher, that Noah's descendants had been commanded to fulfill them previously.

However, if he fulfills them out of intellectual conviction, he is not a resident alien, nor of 'the pious among the gentiles,' nor of their wise men.

The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim 10:9 writes:

The general principle governing these matters is: They are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the mitzvot or retain their statutes without adding or detracting from them.

(They are allowed to take on more Jewish mitzot with some exceptions as the Rambam continues and they must be performed accurately. This may lead to conversion).

According to Sefer Sheva Mitsvos Hashem vol I, Perek 3 (which deals with the prohibition of creating a new religion) they are forbidden both to add or subtract.

Regarding the concept that a non Jew can elevate sparks.

What is it to elevate sparks?

This is a kabbalistic/chassidic concept that there was an event figuratively called 'the shattering of the vessels' that caused sparks of light to explode out and leave the realm of kedusha (holiness) and falling into the four impure husks of the sitra achra (other side).

I would contend that while well intentioned the Rabbi was not quite accurate, although there is one situation he may be right.

Tanya (seminal work of Chassidus) explains that a Jew has two souls. Chapter 2, Likutey Amarim

The second, godly soul is what elevates sparks.

Out of the four impure husks, there is one that is neither inherently good or bad. It is intermediate. It is called klipas nogah.

Definition here

All Noahides come from klipas nogah. All converts come from klipas nogah.

As a person ascends closer to kedusha, to the point they may cross over into kedusha through conversion, they become like a high priest according to their place.

Nevertheless they are still on the "other side." Therefore any sparks consumed there cannot be elevated to kedusha unless that person eventually converts. As the food one eats becomes a part of them the eventually conversion in a sense elevates these sparks as the person will be using that body to serve HaShem.

Yet there is a story in the book 'Bnei Avraham Ahuvecha: Gerim in Chassidic Thought (Dov ben Avraham, the Breslov Institute) about a convert who was put to death as a martyr, who had rejoices in his Jewish soul but explained how he had lamented over his goyish body and desire to be freed from it. Sometimes the past leaves a residue that can be hard to overcome. Those traif foods dull the mind and make it harder to learn.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said, "Although a ger has a body that is not very holy, he has a soul that comes from a very lofty place. The ger must focus on the final outcome, his soul, and not on the fact he was formed from an impure drop of seed." Likutey Moharan II:33

"The soul of a Jew is a "portion of God above." The holy books explain that this is an actual portion. Once a ger completes his geirus, he separates the life force of his body and soul from the Other Side and attaches it to God." (Likutey Moharan v'Toldos Levi ben Yitzchok. Megillas Rus)

By definition, it is the job of a Jew specifically to elevate sparks which means to extract the good trapped within the other side, and incorporate it into oneself, thus elevating it to kedusha, where the godly soul of a Jew exists.

"The Sages of the Talmud taught that prospective gerim (converts) will not be accepted in the days of the Messiah. One reason for this is connected to the statement that, unlike the Egyltian exile, there will be no need for thr Jewish people to leave this Exile in haste - this is because all the sparks of holiness that the Jews are in Exile to elevate will have been elevated.

When in Egypt, the Jewish people were commanded to leave in great haste as soon as all the sparks there had been elevated, and to travel to other locations to continue this work. However, once the last spark in thr world is elevated, there will be no place else for the Jewish people to hurry to, and they will then leave Exile calmly and peacefully." (Kesser Torah, Parshas Vayigash, cited on p. 53 of Bnei Avraham Ahuvecha: Gerim in Chassidic Thought).

One more thing, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said, "Bring me lights of chaos in vessels of rectification."

The lights of chaos have to do with Edom and the sitra achra while vessels of rectification refer to Torah.

Certainly the only reason for the continued existence of the false religions is only because of the existence of holy sparks entrapped within them. Mundane ideas that are neither fundamentally good nor bad but have a holy use within the framework of Judaism.

It is certainly not the case that these religions are kosher or one can whitewash something with a fundamentally corrupt source, but one of the reasons for delayed geulah (redemption) is to give us the time to extract all the remaining good trapped in the world that can be used in the Holy "vessels" of Torah. Light that can be contained without causing another shattering event.

When all those sparks are extract, by Jews, both born and converts, then there will be peace on earth and everyone will know and understand. The nations will say, "We have inherited lies" (See Jeremiah 6:19-21).

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and ty for this very detailed answer. I don't remember the exact source, but I believe that chassidei umot olam also have a nefesh elokis. Therefore they should be able to elevate sparks according to what you wrote, so what makes you say that only if they convert to Judaism? What if he ate a cheese burger 10 minutes before conversion? Otherwise, excellent sources on the validity of foreign religions and the adding/subtracting to Noahide laws, thank you for that. Your final comments on the continued existence of foreign religions is also wonderful thank you
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 17, 2023 at 14:49
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    Hi R. Kaii, TY. From what I have learned (primarily from Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh shlit'a) is that someone who is a sincere Noahide has a very high potential to be a convert. As it is written "When a convert comes to convert..." implying that a convert has always had the Jewish soul. From the POV of chassidus it is in their surrounding light, only at the conversion mikveh is it drawn inside of them and they cross to the side of kedusha. I would imagine this is the source of the idea that chassidei umot olam have a nefesh elokis - it is in their surroundings light. The fact they reached this...
    – C P
    Jan 17, 2023 at 15:22
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    level implies a high likelihood they have the potential to go all the way to conversion. Rabbi Moshe Genuth (secretariat for Rav Ginsburgh) once told me that Naaman is the example of a male convert who ascends level to level and can potentially stop at either righteous of the nations, ger toshav, or ger tzedek. (His immersion in the Yarden can variously be seen as for purification or for full geirus). Whereas a woman can go straight from the sitra achra to kedusha as per Ruth.
    – C P
    Jan 17, 2023 at 15:25
  • Thanks CP, that answers that. One more question: Where in chapter 2 does it state that it is the nefesh elokis that elevates sparks? I've seen a sicha from the Rebbe that it's actually Hashem Himself who rescues the spark. Why can't this apply to a non Jew?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 17, 2023 at 15:30
  • The source in Tanya doesn't state this, it is the other sources about the purpose of exile being for Jews to extract sparks and the whole idea that the purpose is to bring them out of the sitra achra, an impossibility for someone still in the sitra achra, makes it clear it is the job of the Jewish soul, which exists in kedusha. (Please excuse my first reply I sent too early).
    – C P
    Jan 17, 2023 at 15:34

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