Wikipedia claims that a Jewish yeshiva teaches that Jews have different souls than Gentiles. To support the claim, wikipedia says that one of their teachers quoted Abraham Isaac Kook as following:

The difference between the Jewish soul, in all its independence, inner desires, longings, character and standing, and the soul of all the Gentiles, on all of their levels, is greater and deeper than the difference between the soul of a man and the soul of an animal, for the difference in the latter case is one of quantity, while the difference in the first case is one of essential quality.

The given source is not available anymore. Other examples of the quote like this petition source it to Talmud Unmasked, which is an antisemitic book with fake or out-of-context Talmud quotes.

My main question would be if Kook wrote this, and if the quote represents what Kook believes, or if it is taken out of context. Secondary questions would be if the teacher quoted Kook approvingly, and if the yeshiva actually teaches that Jews and Gentiles have different souls.

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    Already discussed in Judaism.se
    – ugoren
    Dec 11, 2017 at 13:22
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    @ugoren and again at Judaism.se
    – Henry
    Dec 11, 2017 at 14:19
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    @Oddthinking Good point. I wasn't familiar with this concept at all. In case that it's just completely made up, antisemitic nonsense, I doubt that it would have been a good fit at judaism.SE, so I didn't want to risk that. It seems that it is instead a complex theological issue, which would indeed have been a better fit there (although as it seems it would have been a duplicate; my mistake was to google the exact quote instead of the broader question).
    – tim
    Dec 11, 2017 at 17:17
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    Great point about taking quotes out of context. This is very common with Talmud quotes - one of the famous ones is the Talmud quote saying that non-Jews aren't people - the reality is that it does say that, but it says that in the context of interpreting specific Bible passages where God says that all "people" have to do something when that passages was really written specifically to Jews. Dec 11, 2017 at 17:28
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    @JackOfAllTrades234 - I presume the implication is that anti-Semitic people are fond of this claim - even that such might be the main context in which this claim would be encountered.
    – Obie 2.0
    Dec 11, 2017 at 19:17

2 Answers 2


Something like that, yes; but like everything else religious it's complicated. The basic idea, as far as I understand it, is that Gentiles have less Nefesh (נפש) but all have Neshama (הנשמה). Note that both words translate to the same English "soul", and that according to most sources I saw it has no real practical meaning - we are all descendants of the same ancestors.

Read here. It's in Hebrew, you can try to translate it with Google.

Here is a translation of what Rabbi Uziel Eliahu wrote in 2004:

Everything created by G-d has a neshama. The Living have a living neshama, plants have a plant neshama, The people of Israel have an Israelite neshama and the Gentiles have a Gentile neshama, etc.

The word neshama includes various parts:
The nefesh (soul) part of the neshama.
The spirit part of the neshama.
The neshama part of the neshama.
The animal part of the neshama.
The unit part of the neshama.

But you must know that each part itself divides into five, and these parts divide themselves into five, etc. And what you have been told about the Gentiles might mean they don't have the this part (one of 25 or one of 125). But this is not practical and not relevant to our lives here and now.

In days past they could tell about a person which parts he has and which are missing, which are in transition and which need to be corrected, etc, but nowadays none of us knows what, why and if. And it does not matter.

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    It would aid this answer if you copied the relevant parts (preferably translated) into the answer itself. Links rot.
    – Jamiec
    Dec 11, 2017 at 12:44
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    I think you swapped Nefesh and Neshama. The OP's Rabbi Kook's quote talks about Neshama.
    – ugoren
    Dec 11, 2017 at 13:28
  • I have fixed the markup a bit, but I was not sure if the last sentence is from you, and not part of the quotation. Please check, and add a line break if it's your words.
    – DevSolar
    Dec 11, 2017 at 13:38

R (Rabbi) Kook did write this, it is in his work Orot. He speaks here of the highest level of the soul, kabbalistic ideas which are hard to understand for those who are not familiar with their context. This doesn't mean that he felt that Gentiles were inferior to Jews - just that they have have souls of a different nature (this is what is meant by "a different quality").

R Tamir Granot explains here

This passage was cited together with several other passages in order to show that Jewish thought is based on racism and essentialist discrimination. This unfortunate claim is based on misunderstanding (as is not infrequently the case). As we learned, the term “the Jewish soul” describes the internal-spiritual character, the essential mind and will of Knesset Yisrael [the Jewish nation] – as a nation, not as individuals. The expression “the soul of all gentiles” similarly refers to the national spirit of the gentile nations. In other words, Rav Kook does not attribute any personal differences to Jewish and gentiles, only differences between the spiritual personalities of [the Jewish nation] and the gentile nations.

The same R Kook also writes (in Orot ha-Kodesh vol. 4, p. 405; emphasis mine)

The highest state of love of creatures should be allotted to the love of mankind, and it must extend to all of mankind, despite all variations of religions, opinions, and faiths, and despite all distinctions of race and climate.

It is right to get to the bottom of the views of different peoples and groups, to learn, as much as possible, their characters and qualities, in order to know how to base love of humanity on foundations that approach action. For only upon a soul rich in love for creatures and love of man can the love of the nation raise itself up in its full nobility and spiritual and natural greatness.

The narrowness that causes one to see whatever is outside the border of the special nation, even outside the border of Israel, as ugly and defiled, is a terrible darkness that brings general destruction upon all building of spiritual good, for the light of which every refined soul hopes.

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    In (at least one subfield of) the economic sciences, "quality" is simply defined as all aspects of a good except the price, in particular, there is no inherent ordering on quality, there is no "better" or "worse", there is just different. It sounds like something like this is more the meaning intended in the quote. Dec 11, 2017 at 13:56
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    @Jivan The road's existence isn't fundamentally problematic. If people want to go do bad things they will always find a way. It's the responsibility of good people to not get to bad places by any road. In any event, we aren't here at Skeptics to judge the position, only describe it.
    – Double AA
    Dec 11, 2017 at 14:12
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    @Jivan I think your logic is questionable. But apart from that, Hitler most certainly did not say "something along the lines of" that. Of course he considered Jews "worse". He considered Jews to be "the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil". Which is also why his goal was not "different treatments" but the "annihilation of the Jewish race".
    – tim
    Dec 11, 2017 at 17:33
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    @Jivan As to why I find the underlying argument questionable: Take a different example. People who can hear, and people who cannot are different. That doesn't imply an order, but it should lead to different treatment in some areas. For example, I wouldn't gift a deaf person an audio book (but instead a paper book). Difference isn't a problem at all, different treatment isn't necessarily a problem, immoral or inhuman treatments are a problem.
    – tim
    Dec 11, 2017 at 17:49
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    Rationalize all you want, but if a European or American had written, "The difference between the European soul, in all its independence, inner desires, longings, character and standing, and the soul of all the Jews, on all of their levels, is greater and deeper than the difference between the soul of a man and the soul of an animal", he'd be branded anti-Semitic, and pilloried so fast it would make your head spin.
    – RonJohn
    Dec 11, 2017 at 22:28

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