Aime Palliere

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Aimé Pallière (1868-1949), born and educated a Christian had been marked by his encounter with Israel, an alive Israel. His itinerary, complex, coherent, and certainly very personal, develops through the continual search for a correct spiritual and religious position towards Israel. It would be a teacher of Italian Hebrew, the rabbi Elia Benamozegh, who would show him the universal aspects of the Israeli Torah, that is, the part of the Torah destined to the Gentiles, the teachings of which Israel has faithfully conserved in her religious tradition. Those teachings which form the noachide doctrine, had in the same rabbi his modern architect. Despite Aimé Pallière never declared himself noachide in the sense that the Italian rabbi intended, he didn't withdraw himself from the task of confronting such a proposal with his own high spiritual demands. Aimé Pallière was a pioneer of the noachinian research legitimate from a Hebrew point of view and authentic from a Christian point of view.


Born in 1879 in Lyons, France, Aimé Pallière grew up from early childhood seeking truth through religious expression, and his surroundings led him to feel a call to join the Roman Catholic priesthood. A man with an inquiring mind, he tried to find the deeper meaning of everything that he encountered. His examination of the basic Christian texts led him to believe that something was amiss. A word like "virgin" bore a different meaning in Christian translation than it had in the Hebrew from which it derived. He looked further, and he found no solution.

He was a religious man, who had been brought up in a Catholic atmosphere, and now fundamental Catholic dogmas were presenting him with problems. What was he to do? His first response was to join the Protestant fold. The Salvation Army, based in England, was beginning to establish small missions in the industrial cities of France. Like many people at that time, Pallière saw the evils of working-class slum existence as the most pressing problem of all, and the Salvation Army was trying to do something. He began mission work in Lyons, but again he was disappointed. The Salvation Army meant well, but he felt there was something about their basic doctrine that left them at a loss when dealing with ordinary people.

What was that "something?" All his observations led him to conclude that it was the "Trinity," the item of belief by which Christianity separates itself from all others. At this time, he became acquainted with Jews from the small Lyons community, and he realized that theirs was a religion with no such concept to distract the mind. There was one God alone, and the only service was that related directly to Him. He studied Torah and, gratified by what he learned, he made up his mind to become a Jew himself. After all, this was the faith in which all the others originated, and it was the meanings in the Hebrew text that had led him to question what he had first been told.

The convert to Judaism had to abandon his previous non-Jewish identity altogether

When he found out more of the details of the conversion process, he became discouraged once more. The convert to Judaism had to abandon his previous non-Jewish identity altogether, acquiring an entirely new personal nature like that of all other Jews in order to approach the fulfillment of the whole Torah.

Pallière did not question the need for this, but he was not at all sure what the effect would be on himself. He was deeply attached to his mother, and he had many other relatives and friends to whom he was closely linked. How could he separate himself from all of this? Was it worth nothing in the scale of truth? And his mind was forming an even more important question, one that placed him on an original level in his own time: Why, indeed, if only the Jewish faith was the true one, had God created him as a non-Jew in the first place?

His Jewish friends saw his dilemma, and they realized the honesty with which he was seeking his true path. They made inquiries on his behalf, and they came up with a name and an address which gave hope of solving the problem. Over the southern border of France, at Leghorn in Italy, there was an ancient community of Sephardi Jews whose ancestors had fled there from the Spanish Inquisition. The rabbi of that community, Elijah Benamozeg, was a senior scholar and writer with a wide education and a liberal mind.

Pallière wrote to him, asking for a meeting. On arriving in Leghorn, Pallière received a note saying that the rabbi was coming to greet him at the small hotel where he was staying. This personal approach, far removed from hierarchy or protocol, made a great impression on Pallière, who knew he was much younger than the rabbi. This was confirmed when a knock on the door of his room announced a most ordinary-looking old man, bearded and stooping, with conventional clothes and a ready smile.

The Unknown Sanctuary

In The Unknown Sanctuary, written many years later, Pallière described what followed. The rabbi listened to him explain his doubts about becoming a Jew, and the rabbi acknowledged them all. He told Pallière that there was no duty on anyone's part to become a Jew, and that the anguish his mother might feel on being parted from her son was certainly not misplaced. He went On:

We Jews have in our keeping the religion destined for the entire human race, the religion to which the Gentiles are subject and by which they are to be saved, as were our Patriarchs before the giving of the Law. Could you suppose that the true religion which God destines for all humanity is only the property of a special people? Not at all. His plan is much greater than that. The religion of humanity is no other than "Noachism," not because it was founded by Noah, but because it was through the person of that righteous man that God's covenant with humanity was made. This is the path that lies before your efforts, and indeed before mine, as it is my duty to spread the knowledge of it also.

Rabbi Benamozeg explained that the present non-Jewish religions acknowledged their origins in Judaism but were not prepared to admit that Judaism was still what it had always been, preferring to insist that the Jews should convert out of their ancestors' faith.

"They are founded on the principle of the abolition of the Torah even for the Jews," he told the Frenchman, "and they ignore in the Jewish prophets all that you yourself have known so well how to find in them."

A great and far-reaching concept existed

Pallière was transfigured by what he had heard. The elderly rabbi had told him that a great and far-reaching concept existed where he had thought there was nothing at all. There was a place for the non-Jew who realized Jewish truth but could not become a Jew. He had never heard of a religion which offered something to those who were not entirely a part of it, and he realized immediately that only the Jewish faith possessed the expanded views, and the humility, to make such an offer. Rabbi Benamozeg saw the effect of his words, and he added:

The future of the human race lies in this formula. If you come to be convinced of it, you will be much more precious to Israel than if you submit to the Torah of Israel. You will be the instrument of the Divine Providence to all mankind. If you were a skeptic like so many others, you might as well preach one doctrine as another, but you have earned the right that I should speak to you as a believer.

He smiled, and continued: "I am surprised that I have expressed myself so freely, but it is proof of my sincerity, and of the deep interest that you have inspired in me."

Such words change the whole course of the life of a man. Pallière took his leave, and the two never met again, but until the rabbi's death three years later, the two men exchanged letters carrying forward the suggestion that had been made and accepted.

Adapting his life to a set of beliefs that he alone knew and understood

Pallière had to face the task of adapting his life to a set of beliefs that he alone knew and understood, and it was not surprising that his confidence did not immediately jump to the level that was needed. He wrote, "Not to be a Christian, not to be a Jew and yet after a fashion to adopt Judaism, was an equivocal position which in that state of faith had little attraction for me."

He expressed his indecision in letters to the rabbi, who replied at length with the aim of helping his pupil to face the challenges of the new position:

If I understand you correctly, "Noachism" seems to you a far distant and superannuated thing, and you ask how after the passing of so many centuries of progress I can dream of taking you back to the foundations of worship that existed after the Flood. Is this possible? Yes it is, and I trust you will soon see that its future prospects likewise would not be possible if they had not also been present so far in the past.
The "Noachic" religion is not a contrivance nor an invention. It is an established fact, discussed on every page of our Talmud, and our wise men generally admit that it is little known and much misunderstood.
According to the teachings of Judaism the Jews as the "priests" of humanity are subject to the Law of Moses, while the "laymen" are linked to the early universal religion alone. Christianity on the other hand introduced confusion into this, by either imposing the Law on the Gentiles through James, or abolishing it for the Jews through Paul (The Unknown Sanctuary).

The importance of the non-Jewish identity

Rabbi Benamozeg answered Pallière's heartfelt query about the importance of the non-Jewish identity:

Can it be imagined for a single moment that after having concerned Himself for so long with the descendants of Noah, God would give a special Law to the Jews as His "kingdom of priests" and then not trouble Himself further about the rest of the human race? Would He thus leave them totally abandoned, without revelation and without law, abolishing His ancient Noachide bond with them, so that they must rely for long centuries on their own poor reason? Not even a mortal man would behave in such a way. (The Unknown Sanctuary).

He went further, explaining the manner in which the Talmudic masters expounded the detailed provisions of the Seven Laws.

You will find there in abundance the complete elements of the code that you are seeking, and you who know Hebrew can convince yourself of it without difficulty. If one takes into account the circumstances in which the Sages discussed these questions, threatened with dire penalties even for teaching to their own people, their words unmistakably bear the Divine seal. They make an impression on the faith and the admiration of everyone, they rise to heights that even you do not dream of; it is Rabbinic Judaism and its authorized interpreters, the princes of wisdom and dedication. (The Unknown Sanctuary).

He continued on his path

Pallière was convinced. He continued on his path and eventually came into positions of responsibility in both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds that no one else had ever held at the same time. He earned the love and respect of all who came into contact with him. For the rest of his life, the memory of his dialogue with Rabbi Benamozeg inspired him. He described the meaning that it held for him in the personal sense.

One cannot sufficiently admire the way in which the master used language that a young Catholic would understand. But what was even more remarkable was that he was not merely assuming a position for the occasion, because of the nature of the argument; he was giving his beliefs an exact expression. And I say simply that no human being ever spoke to me as he did. (The Unknown Sanctuary).

The Rabbi had given him the comfort he needed when he wrote,

Why do you speak of feelings of isolation? I see all around you a great multitude of believers. I grant you that the outward signs may not be visible, but nevertheless you will truly be of the community of your brethren, the community of the future. For this, according to the Jews, is the true religion of the Messianic times.

Now Pallière knew who and what he truly was

Now Pallière knew who and what he truly was, and many people came to know of how Torah applied to non-Jews through his example. But the world around him was afflicted with evils, turning toward the turmoil of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the rise of Nazi power. The Jews were facing the terrible challenge of modern machine persecution, and he alone could not lead the non-Jewish peoples out of their situation. During the Nazi occupation of France, he was compelled to stop his work for fear of the Gestapo, but they did not come to harm him of their own accord. Hitler had no idea what he represented and therefore was not afraid of him. He died in 1949, beloved by everyone who had known him, leaving his writings and his example to those who would come after.

(Rabbi Bindman, The Seven Colors Of The Rainbow, Resource Publications, Inc. San Jose, California, 1995, p. 25-32).