“Proselyte Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the Thought of Judah Halevi”

Daniel J. Lasker, “Proselyte Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the Thought of Judah Halevi,” The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 81, No. 1-2, 1990, pp. 75-92  


“The incongruous details included in Judah Halevi’s account of the conversion of the king of the Khazars lead to the conclusion that Halevi saw proselyte Judaism as having a different status than that of “native-born” Judaism. This conclusion fits in well with Halevi’s explicit statement that proselytes cannot be equal with Jews by birth. This inequality is expressed throughout the “Kuzari,” and Halevi shows, mainly by the king’s constant use of the second person when discussing Judaism, that proselytes are not full participants in the religion. To understand Halevi’s view of proselyte Judaism, it is useful to analyze his attitude towards Christianity and Islam, which, to a certain extent, are inferior forms of proselyte Judaism. Halevi argued, both in the “Kuzari” and in his poetry, that the two daughter religions of Judaism are poor imitations of the original. They do, however, fulfill the role of preparing humanity to accept Judaism as the correct religion. Their very success is to be attributed to the fact that they imitate the true divine religion; this success, in turn, serves as proof of the truth of Judaism. Eventually humanity will turn to proselyte Judaism which is a more exact imitation of Judaism but still not a perfect copy. Despite their lower status, proselytes may aspire to become pious saints who achieve a form of subprophetic inspiration. Halevi’s attitude towards proselytes is a consequence of his theory of Jewish chosenness and may be a result also of his selective, particularistic reading of rabbinic sources.”