“The L-rd said, “I will blot out from the earth the men whom I created- men together with beasts, creeping things, and birds of the sky, for I regret that I made them.” But Noah found favor with the L-rd.” (Genesis 6:7-8)
“This is the line of Noah.- Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his age; Noah walked with G-d.” (Genesis 6:9) (JPS Hebrew English Tanakh)
Disclaimer: The following article should not be seen as an authoritative stance on the issue of the B’nai Noach, which is a complicated, multifaceted one requiring the input of learned decisors of Jewish law. Every genuine Ben Noach today works closely with at least one reputable rabbi to discuss issues related to the life of adopting such a disciplined system. As I note in the article, the life of a Ben Noach is difficult and demanding, and requires constant vigilant supervision. These are merely my reflections on this critical topic, based upon classical Jewish sources, in particular, the Rambam who presents the most precise, elucidated framework for expressing the Noachide Covenant. Always consult a proper Torah authority for clarification.
The upcoming portion of this week’s Torah reading, Parshat Noach, is a unique opportunity to address a long neglected issue: the requirement of gentiles to live their lives in accordance with the “Seven Laws of Noach,” and the obligation of Jews to impart this knowledge to the non-Jewish world. Despite what biblical critics maintain, Noach was a real person, who long ago remained a lone beacon of good in the most corrupted of ages. (We can be pretty certain that he neither looked nor behaved like Russell Crowe.) The Seven Laws of Noach recall the legacy of this righteous man, and provide the Torah framework for gentiles to follow.
Certainly, for much of the past two thousand years, Jews had few opportunities to engage in such endeavors, since all of our collective efforts were focused on protecting ourselves from spiritual and physical threats. While we still face many such threats today, we have ample opportunities that did not exist in the past. Baruch Hashem, many Jews and gentiles are taking advantage of this unprecedented historical period. Righteous gentiles the world over are living their lives according to the Sheva Mitzvoth. In a world of constant Chillul, this is a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.
Judaism proclaims a unique destiny for the Jewish people, based upon the framework of Torah, as revealed to us at Sinai. We Jews are the Am Hanivchar, the “chosen people,” insofar as we adhere to Torah ourselves. But The Almighty has not neglected or abandoned the non-Jew. For the gentile, the means of fulfilling G-d’s Will is by adhering to the Seven Laws of Noah. While the particularistic aspects of Judaism are real and specific to our own people, there are genuine universal aspects to Judaism. The problem is that the ideas of universalism expressed by most Jews today are usually based upon non-Jewish concepts, specific to liberalism or some other false belief system that has no commonality with our Divine Law.
The truest form of universalism in the Torah is the Jewish obligation to spread the knowledge of G-d to the non-Jewish world. As we recite in the beautiful Aleinu prayer, L’taqen Olam B’Malchut Hashem,” our mission for the rectification of the world can only occur in the framework of the “Kingdom” of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
It is an understatement to say that we Jews have few friends in the world. Particularly today, when the State of Israel faces a host of enemies on our holy soil and throughout the world, the desire of Jews to find alliances is understandable. Yet it is tragic, since in the absence of true friends without hidden (and perhaps not so hidden) agendas, many Jews grasp strange hands as they grope about in darkness. Across the religious and political Jewish spectrum, confused Jews look for forbidden partners to identify with. Liberal Jews usually find friends among those expressing radical
agendas, which for them, with the cataract of ignorance glazing their eyes, they equate with “ethical Judaism.”
In Israel today, we can see that the other end of the religious and political spectrum is just as vulnerable to falsehood. We bear witness to a terrifying spectacle. Jews have eagerly taken the hands of evangelical christians for support. Many Jews foolishly label them allies and take the bait of economic aid. I have written about this in recent months (See Esau Rising: Part II), and I do not wish to rehash all that I have written. I merely want to emphasize that there are many righteous Gentiles who are following the correct path that Hakadosh Baruch Hu has chosen for them. I want to state that these are the only friends that Am Yisroel has. And for Halachic and hashkafic reasons, not to mention our religious obligation, they alone deserve our alliance and attention. Certainly, the Halachic questions pertaining to the permissibility of gentiles residing in Eretz Yisroel and the status of a ger toshav can only be broached within the context of this important issue.
The Sons of Noach have rejected christianity in the U.S., and a host of other pagan religions across the world. They care only of Torah and the unique path of articulating it that G-d gave them. Like the original Noach, who clung to The Almighty while the inferno of corruption consumed the earth, these righteous gentiles of the world fight the war for Hashem.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 56: a) states that The Almighty gave the sons of Noach the Seven Laws.
Contrary to what too many misguided Jews believe, and tragically what too many rabbis disseminate as a Jewish truism, it is NOT ok for gentiles to worship how they see fit. While the Jewish people have a unique covenant with G-d, gentiles have a covenant of their own: The Covenant of Noach as expressed with the Seven Laws of Noach. Gentiles are not abandoned by G-d, nor are they permitted to abandon G-d themselves. They have the opportunity, and indeed, the obligation to discover the truth of His Name and live their lives in accordance with the tenets required of them.
Maimonides lists the seven laws in the “Laws of Kings and Their Wars,” Chapter 9, and elaborates upon them:
א עַל שִׁשָּׁה דְּבָרִים נִצְטַוָּה אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן–עַל עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה, וְעַל בִּרְכַת הַשֵּׁם, וְעַל שְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים, וְעַל גִּלּוּי עֲרָיוֹת, וְעַל הַגָּזֵל, וְעַל הַדִּינִים.
ב אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁכֻּלָּן קַבָּלָה הֶן בְּיָדֵינוּ מִמֹּשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ, וְהַדַּעַת נוֹטָה לָהֶן, מִכְּלַל דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה, יֵרָאֶה שֶׁעַל אֵלּוּ נִצְטַוּוּ. הוֹסִיף לְנוֹחַ .מִצְווֹת שֶׁבַע נִמְצְאוּ); ד,ט בראשית” (תֹאכֵלוּ לֹא דָמוֹ בְּנַפְשׁוֹ, בָּשָׂר-אַךְ” שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר, הַחַי מִן אֵבֶר )Machon Mamre Online(
1: “Regarding six things was Adam commanded,- (the prohibition of) idolatry, ( the prohibition of) cursing The Almighty, (the prohibition against) murder, (the prohibition against committing) incest and adultery, (the prohibition against) theft, (and the positive injunction) to set up courts.”
2: “Despite the fact that we received all these commands from Moshe…….G-d added for Noach the prohibition against consuming flesh of a living animal. As it states (Genesis 9:4), “You must not however, eat flesh with its life blood in it.”
Maimonides proceeds to explain how G-d added additional mitzvoth to the individual Patriarchs:
* Abraham: circumcision and the morning prayer.
* Isaac: tithes and the afternoon prayer
* Jakob: the prohibition of eating the gid hanashe (sciatic nerve), and the addition of the evening prayer.
Throughout history, prominent poskim have debated and discussed the precise break down and categorization of these laws. Many have suggested that additional laws were given. Furthermore, there is the complicated Halachic discussion relating to which additional mitzvoth and responsibilities B’nai Noach may adopt, as well as the permissibility (and indeed the requirement) to study and understand all Torah matters pertaining to their respective obligations.
The Seven Laws of Noach: Several Myths Exposed
* Myth #1: It is easy to be a Ben Noach. It is extraordinarily hard. The Seven Laws (even more according to many poskim) are seven broad categories that encompass a plethora of subcategories. The penalties for a gentile who abrogates this covenant are much stricter than they would be for a Jew who abrogates them. Were their proper courts in effect today, the penalty for abrogating the seven laws is death by decapitation. A Ben Noach must be a disciplined intellectual to properly live this rigid code of law. All of this should make us appreciate the commitment of righteous gentiles who have abandoned their religions to follow Torah. The following link features a profound essay about the challenges facing the Bnai Noach, written by Rabbi Yisroel Chait, shlitah, of Yeshivah B’nai Torah.
* Myth #2: Christians and Muslims are B’nai Noach: While there were poskim, both medieval and contemporary, who have designated these religions as falling within the rubric of B’nai Noach (ex: the Meiri’s stance regarding x-tians), many Jewish scholars opposed this status. Some viewed it as a form of p’shara (Halachic compromise) that was taken out of expediency, due to socio-economic factors that required a more liberal reading of the term. In his classic work, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, Jakob Katz noted the following:
“As we shall see later, the Jewish evaluation of contemporary christendom turned mainly on the question whether christians satisfied the terms of the Noachide Covenant, which included belief in the unity of G-d. There was, however, no doubt that gentiles, christians not excluded, stood outside the bounds of the biblical covenant in the full sense of the term.” (page 3)
It should be noted that according to Maimonides, neither Islam or christianity is an acceptable vehicle for gentiles, who are required to accept the sovereignty of The One True G-d within the framework of the 7 Laws of Noah. While the issue with christians would seem apparent based upon the fundamentals of their beliefs, since Islam is a false religion with a false prophet, which rejects the eternal Jewish covenant with The Almighty, they cannot be classified as B’nai Noach. I have not even gone into the more overt prohibitions that they have abrogated by them since time immemorial. According to Maimonides, even a genuine monotheist fails to qualify as a Noachide if he accepts it merely because it seems logical to him, rather than accepting it as a Divine revelation.
To summarize: It is a distortion of Halacha to say that christianity or islam is fine for gentiles. The former remains a primitive form of idol-worship, the latter a pagan “monotheism” which actually is a blood-worship of jihad. Both religions are theological usurpers who either subscribe to “replacement theology,” or in the case of Islam, a complete distortion of Jewish history and a rejection of the Masoretic text as a corrupted
text. While it is true that Maimonides places these two religions into a historical context and sees the two religions as perhaps being a way to wean the world away from the more overt forms of false worship, they are clearly inappropriate means of worship for him that fail to meet the criteria of Noachide.
For too many religious rabbis, a convoluted sense of universalism clashes with authentic Judaism. The 7 Laws of Noach are a good example of this tragic tendency. Many Jews are afraid of “bringing “ this knowledge to the world since it comes off to the ignorant as intolerant and fundamentalist. While Judaism surely respects the human condition which often necessitates a long and arduous spiritual search, ultimately every gentile is required to follow the 7 Laws of Noah, an intensive, disciplined way of living, and not a religion (which is prohibited to the gentile).
* Myth #3: It’s enough to be a “good person” Or “All moral gentiles follow the seven laws”: Again, since these are broad categories laden with concepts, it is impossible to follow these laws without knowing and studying them. Furthermore, most gentiles will, by virtue of their respective religious beliefs, subscribe to ideas that would be deemed idolatrous/heretical according to Noachide criteria. From a Jewish perspective, the only proper expression for being a good person is to follow the Shevah Mitzvoth. That doesn’t mean that gentiles who are unaware of these laws are bad. Hashem will judge them based on their intellectual pursuit of truth. But ultimately, this is the designated framework for gentiles to attain the status of righteous gentile. Yahadut maintains that the righteous of the world are guaranteed a share in the world to come. As a general rule, for the non-Jew, the Noachide Laws are the only vehicle for obtaining this status. Individual gentiles may under certain circumstances obtain reward for their actions independent of whether or not they ever commit themselves to these laws. The Talmud records such instances. The Almighty alone knows what’s in a man’s heart, and to what extent he committed himself to the pursuit of truth in his lifetime.
* Myth #4: The B’nai Noach movement is a cult/“Rabbinic” creation: Generally, this is the position of anti-semitic x-tians who are terrified that gentiles may discover the Noachide system. Missionaries and evangelicals denigrate the Laws of Noach as a cult since they want gentiles to remain x-tian, and the last thing they want is for their flock to discover a system for gentiles that predates the creation of x-tianity. They know that belief in Jesus is threatened by the ancient code of Noach. Attacking B’nai Noach is also a means for undermining the oral law as a rigid “rabbinic creation”. Unfortunately, one sometimes hears ignorant Jews express this notion that B’nai Noach are a cult, since they have never heard of a contemporary movement of gentiles who reject Jesus and embrace a Torah path.
* Myth #5: Jews should spend all their energies helping Jews: We Jews don’t live in a vacuum. We either impact the world based on the words of Hashem, or we lose our concepts to distorted gentile’ interpretations. By helping B’nai Noach, we also help ourselves, since assisting them in finding the true knowledge of G-d is an obligation. Without teaching B’nai Noach, we neglect the most righteous of all gentiles, and invariably pursue relationships with those who are not fulfilling G-d’s will. And the inevitable result is that they effect us.
Gentiles have an obligation to study and adhere to the 7 Laws of Noach. But in the absence of such a system, gentiles have no means of articulating this obligation. As such, we Jews are obligated to adopt the mantle of teacher like our forefather Abraham in order to disseminate this
knowledge to the world. Our failure to embrace this task surely constitutes a Chillul Hashem.
There are many gentiles who are eagerly waiting for the Jewish people to reach out to them. They are eager to learn. There are many who are already living the Noachide Laws and need our support. We must not ignore them. The time is long overdue to cast away the halachically prohibited “friendships” of calculating two-faced evangelical x-tians who lick their lips as they dole out millions to Jewish charities. One Jewish soul is worth more than any number of billions of dollars these predators can throw at us. All of our energies towards gentiles should be directed towards the righteous sons of Noach.
Several years ago, I was privileged to meet and share a few words with a committed Ben Noach. I can tell you that these are truly special people, who have forsaken their lifelong beliefs to follow Torah. In this case, the individual had previously been a devout christian. How can one not get goose bumps when you consider what these individuals have accomplished? I am in awe of the intellectual honesty, fortitude, and courage that one must have to undertake such a lonely and difficult path. These remarkable people have an unwavering commitment to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, that we Jews should emulate.
May The Almighty strengthen them.