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Bad Samaritans

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Topic: Good Samaritan

Janet from Dallas, Texas wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Could you please tell me the ways in which Samaritans differed from other Jews? I am preparing a talk and would like to be able to enumerate why the Samaritans were considered different from other Jews. Thank you for your help.

Dear Janet,

The Samaritans were non-Jews brought to Israel by the Assyrians to populate the North after the exile of the Ten Tribes. They ostensibly converted to Judaism, but in reality they continued worshipping idols, save for a period when they were mistakenly considered genuine converts; hence the Samaritans were not considered Jews, neither by Jewish law nor by the Jewish people.

They did not accept the Oral Tradition, which forms the overwhelming bulk of Jewish law. They also did not accept any books of the Bible except for the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua. Today, the Samaritan version of the Torah manuscript differs from ours by about 800 letters.

The Samaritans often acted as enemies of the Jewish people. They tried to destroy the Temple and to inform against the Jews to Roman authorities. The parable of the "Good Samaritan" was actually an anti-Semitic story intended to discredit the Jews.

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