Ḥasidei Ummot Ha-Olam

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ḤASIDEI UMMOT HA-OLAM (Heb. חֲסִידֵי אֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם, lit., "The pious ones of the nations of the world"), a rabbinic term denoting righteous gentiles. The concept is first found (albeit in a limited form) in the Midrash. The Yalkut Shimoni, for instance, explains that the verse "Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness…" (Ps. 132:9) refers to "the righteous of other nations who are priests to the Holy One in this world, like Antoninus and his type" (Yal. Isa. 429). The notion that the ḥasidei ummot ha-olam also merit a place in the world to come (a true sign of their worthiness) is found in the Tosefta, which teaches that they are as eligible as any member of the House of Israel to a share in the hereafter (Tosef., Sanh. 13:2). This dictum is twice codified by Maimonides (Yad, Teshuvah 3:5), who also defines the concept (Yad, Melakhim 8:11): "All who observe the Seven Commandments"—obligatory to the descendants of Noah (see Noachide *laws) are ḥasidei ummot ha-olam, provided that they are motivated by belief in the divine origin and the authenticity of Moses' prophecy, and not by mere intellectual cogency. In the latter case they are to be considered only as "wise ones of the other nations" (ḥakhmeihem, according to some versions). Without specifically naming the righteous gentiles, Maimonides also equates "all human beings who ardently seek God… desire to worship Him, to know Him, and to walk uprightly in His ways…", with priests and levites (Yad, Shemittah 13:13).The concept of ḥasidei ummot ha-olam was elaborated and embellished in medieval Jewish literature. It is mentioned by such philosophers as Hasdai *Crescas (Or Adonai no. 364:4) and *Abrabanel (introduction to commentary to Isaiah), R. Isaac *Arama states, "Every true pious gentile is equal to a 'son of Israel'" (Akedat Yiẓḥak, ed. Venice, ch. 60). The concept is mentioned in a legal context in the Shulḥan Arukh (YD 367:1, Be'er ha-Golah). The Zohar states that all gentiles who do not hate Israel, and who deal justly with the Jews, qualify as ḥasidei ummot ha-olam (Exodus, 268a).

Since World War ii the term has been used for those non-Jews who helped Jews to escape the Nazi persecutions. (See *Righteous Among the Nations.)


Zunz, Gesch, 388; M. Guttmann, Das Judentum und seine Umwelt, 1 (1927), 171.

[H. Elchanan Blumenthal]