Sunday, November 06, 2005

Seven Noahide Laws

By rabbi tuvia bolton

Judaism's message to mankind.
According to the Jewish prophets there will come a day when the entire world will worship only the G-d of Israel.
In fact, this is the 'Motto' of Judaism. "Hear Israel, G-d is our G-d, G-d is one" (Deut.6:4) as Rashi, the foremost clarifier of the Torah explains:
"Listen Jews, now G-d is only ours, but in the future He will be 'one' i.e. worshiped by all mankind. As it says (Zephaniah 3) "Then I will transform all mankind to a clear language that all will call in the name of G-d, and serve Him with one shoulder." and (Zechariah 14) ' "On that day G-d will be one and His name one.
And so Maimonides (the foremost codifier of Judaism) says: Obligation to bring the entire world to observe these commandments (Laws of Kings 8:4)
In other words everyone will be religious, worshiping the G-d of Israel through The Noahide commandments.
At first this may sound like the Jewish counterpart of the dark ages.
But, in fact opposite is true. The prophets were referring to an era when all mankind will realize their positive, G-d given potential. When the good, love and gratitude to the Creator concealed in each of us will be revealed war, destruction, famine and even disease will cease to exist.
And this can only be accomplished through observing the seven Noahide Commandments.
1) Don't worship other gods
2) Don't kill people
3) Don't steal
4) Don't blaspheme
5) Don't do sexual offences
6) Don't eat meat taken from a living animal
7) Make courts of Justice (to enforce the above six commandments).
Or, in a more positive way:
1a) Worship only the Creator
2a) Value life
3a) Value property
4a) Honor the Creator
5a) Honor the family
6a) Be kind to animals
7a) Be just.
These seven are definitely not all of G-d's plan for the gentiles.
Rather they form a basic framework for a complete meaningful, and exciting way to express love and gratitude to the Creator with every aspect of life and make a better world.
Get ready for the most meaningful reading in your life.
First Let us first understand this G-d that everyone will serve:
The Jews worship a completely different G-d than all the other religions and it is the G-d that everyone should be worshiping.
All other religions worship a spiritual god or gods that are separate and distant entities from the world and mankind while the Jews worship only the Creator.
Not just a creator is distant and pristine and who made the world long ago, but the G-d who creates it all anew every instant.
In other words the Jews want you to worship YOUR creator! The G-d who is creating YOU right now!!
This is undoubtedly the most natural yet most difficult concept possible. Natural because we are certain that we really exist as one philosopher put it, "Cogito ergo Sum" My awareness is proof of my existence. Nothing is closer to us and we must admit that we are not creating ourselves.
But difficult because it means that there is a G-d and His existence is more real and intensely present than ours in fact His is the only REAL existence.
In simple English; G-d is infinitely close (He creates us) and incomprehensibly real and 'distant'.
This is the G-d of Israel.
He is the source of all existence and He alone creates all being constantly …… FROM NOTHING! Look around you. The air, the trees, the sky, the ground, yourself it is all being created constantly by G-d.
It is even possible to feel this; G-d is the source of life, of all good, of all consciousness, all matter and all spirit.
In the language of the Torah "Ain Od Milvado" there is nothing but Him.
But He is also intimate.
He gives us eyes to see, ears to hear, all our senses, talents and abilities as well as the urge to develop and use them to improve the world.
And….. He CARES;
He listens to our prayers, provides our needs, gives us life, livelihood, joy, meaning and love.
He saved Noah from the flood that destroyed a totally evil generation and through him began a brave, new world.
He took the Jews from Egypt, fed them Manna and water and protected them in the desert for 40 years. And He has been protecting them ever since to this very day.
He is a living G-d.
But in order for mankind to really express their gratitude to the Creator it must be according to the rules that HE HIMSELF gave in the TORAH.
Fifty days after G-d took the Jews from Egypt He brought them to Mount Sinai and amidst fire and thunder personally SPOKE them and gave His Torah.
This was undoubtedly the most eye witnessed event in history. Millions of Jews were there. G-d spoke to them all. They all saw and heard it and it has been passed down from generation to generation without exception through holocausts, expulsions, pogroms and unspeakable hardships.
Although the other religions believe that such a thing did actually happen: nevertheless none of them ever even made up such a tale regarding themselves; it would simply be too impossible to support.
For over 3,300 years, since Mt. Sinai, The Torah has been read publicly four times a week to insure that it will not be forgotten or changed (as some religions say it has been) and it's 'oral' interpretation, the Talmud, has been handed down, discussed and learned intensively in tens of thousands of schools called Yeshivot for thousands of years to insure the proper interpretation of the Torah is preserved.
Anyone who has heard a public Torah reading in a Synagogue or learned Talmud in a Yeshiva knows that mistakes do not go unnoticed nor are they tolerated.
So it is not enough just to believe in the Creator and pray to Him alone, we must also believe in and follow His Torah.
Perhaps the most organized list of what complete faith in G-d implies comes from the pen of the incomparable 13th century spiritual giant and Torah genius Rabbi Moses ben Maimon. They are called the 13 principles of faith.
Every Human Being must believe that:
1) G-d exists; He creates all being but He is not created. All creation comes from Him but His existence depends on nothing.
2) G-d is alone: there is no other creator. In fact, He is the only real existence and He creates all else constantly from nothing.
3) G-d has no body or limitations (even spiritual ones). All the anthropomorphisms in the Bible are only metaphors to understand facets of His infiniteness as He interacts with His creation. But in fact He has no form or definition.
4) G-d is not limited to time. He always existed and there was no existence preceding His. Rather He began and creates time
5) G-d wants us to serve Him. Although we are only creations our service is important to G-d. But only to Him should we direct our prayers, praises, service and good deeds and not to any of His creations, formations or manifestations …. no matter how spiritual, powerful or helpful they may seem to be. He wants us to change and improve the world.
6) G-d speaks through prophets. There are very strict qualifications for prophesy listed elsewhere. Among them: all prophets must be Jewish, know and observe all the Torah. All prophesy must be ONLY to strengthen Torah observance. Those other religions who claim a prophet came to negate or reinterpret the Torah are mistaken.
7) Moses is the greatest and the 'father' of all the prophets, He brought us the Torah and every word in the Torah, both written and oral, is precisely the word of the Creator.
8) The Torah and its explanation are unchanging. The Torah that we have today, including the Oral Torah i.e. Talmud etc., are precisely the same that G-d gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. There has been no alteration, addition or subtraction.
9) G-d does not want us to alter, add or subtract anything from the written or the oral Torah (the rabbinical edicts are not an alteration but rather a fulfillment of the Torah commandment 'Don't stray after what they tell you etc (???) (There are strict qualifications as to who can be a Rabbi and what are their powers and restrictions.)
10) G-d knows and Cares about what each of us does, says and thinks. He is infinitely close and nothing is outside of His awareness. In fact He directs, causes and creates every action and interaction in creation.
11) G-d rewards and punishes. He reacts to our deeds, speech, thoughts, prayers. Often there are results in this world and often after death: in heaven and the raising of the dead.
12) G-d will bring Moshiach Immediately. Moshiach will be a Jewish King that will totally strengthen Torah observance and Jewish identity. He will eventually build the Third Temple, gather all the Jews to Israel and eliminate all enemies of Judaism. Anyone who doesn't believe and await Moshiach every instant denies the entire Torah.
13) G-d will raise the dead. The souls will leave heaven, dead bodies will be reformed and will again return to life. Indicating that this physical world is really 'higher' and infinitely more G-dly than spiritual heaven.
This is the G-d Abraham, Issac and Israel the founders of Judaism.
Their every moment and every breath was a message to the world:
G-d is One. He is the infinite, powerful, awesome, infinitely far, incomprehensibly close loving Creator and Director of the Universe. And He wants us to transform His creation; this entire world, into a 'dwelling place' for Him and make it a heaven on earth:
These are the seven Noahide commandments,
Noahidism is not a religion.
Rather it is the way for all mankind to directly and with no intermediates, reveal the full positive potential of each individual and make Heaven on Earth.
If this sounds grandiose it is. But the power to make it happen is in …… THE TORAH
The Torah is G-d's will and wisdom and when it is learned and followed it empowers us to change the world… positively.
All the other 'Bibles' are the product of spiritual revelations to one or a few individuals.
But the Torah was given by the CREATOR HIMSELF and is imbued with the power of the Creator to change the entire creation if followed with joy, love, courage and gratitude.
When G-d gave the Torah He included in it all the laws relevant to all mankind. There are really many of them but the negative ones are called 'Seven Noahide Commandments'.
Six were given to Adam and the last was given to Noah.
They are:
1) Don't worship other gods
2) Don't kill people
3) Don't steal
4) Don't blaspheme
5) Don't do sexual offences
6) Don't eat meat taken from a living animal
7) Make courts of Justice (to enforce the above six commandments).
Or, in a more positive way:
1a) Worship only the Creator
2a) Value life
3a) Value property
4a) Honor the Creator
5a) Honor the family
6a) Be kind to animals
7a) Be just.
In addition, each of these commandments has many implications; here are some according to the Encyclopedia Talmudit of Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin:
1) Idolatry:
a) Don't pray to anything other than the Creator
b) Don't pray to G-d through or together with anything else
c) Don't make an oath to any other power or figure (Encyclopedia Talmudit pg 350 column b)
2) Blasphemy:
a) Not to curse one of the Hebrew names of G-d
b) Not to curse even a nickname of G-d in any language (En.Tal. 351a)
3) Murder:
a) Killing unnecessarily even in self-defense
b) Suicide,
c) Abortion,
d) Euthanasia or mercy killing
e) Purposely spilling semen (Sdai Chemed ??)
4) Sexual sins: it is forbidden for a man to have relations with
a) His Mother
b) His maternal sister
c) His daughter
d) His Aunt (mother's sister; some say father's sister)
e) Some say his father's wife even after his father's death.
f) Someone else's wife
g) Animals
h) Another male (En.Tal. 352)
i) Some say even the relations one has with one's wife must be in the way that is possible to have children. (En.Tal 353b)
Therefore: j) prostitution and k) casual sex are forbidden
5) Thievery:
a) Kidnapping
b) Taking spoils of war
c) rape
d) Some say even seduction i.e. not for the purpose of marriage. (En.Tal 354a)
e) withholding worker's pay
f) Some say even to desire other's possessions is forbidden (En.Tal 354b)
g) Some say taking interest on loans
h) Some say being dishonest in business.
i) Stealing from a thief
j) Stealing even the smallest amount or value.
k) Damaging others
6) Eating a limb taken from a live animal: It is forbidden to eat:
a) Meat taken from a living animal
b) Some say blood from a living animal
c) Some say anything from an animal that died on it's own and was not killed by man.
d) One must not cause unnecessary pain to animals.
7)Making a legal system:
a) To educate the people not to transgress the commandments
b) To judge every injustice or transgression of the previous six commandments (some say the same monetary damage laws as the Torah)
c) Not to take bribes
d) Not to Judge in a biased way
d) To set up judges in every city or area
e) Some say it is forbidden for gentile litigants to make judgments outside of court without judges. (En.Tal. 355)
The Talmud (Chulin 92a) states that there are Thirty Noahide Commandments that the gentiles have accepted on themselves. Although the Talmud does not enumerate them there are great rabbis who have (see the appendix of Encyclopedia Talmudit Vol 3 pg 391)
Many of them I listed above but here are more. I also listed many obligations which fall under the category of "L'shevet Y'tzara'; literally 'Improve the world'. This also includes 'Midot Tovot' good character traits, which puts the number well above thirty.
Even though possibly some of the following are not as obligatory as others, nevertheless all are to be considered seriously.
1) Unifying G-d,
2) Praying to G-d,
3) To know G-d
4) To serve G-d,
5) Sacrificing animals
6) Honoring the Torah,
7) Learning the Torah relevant to Bne Noach. (This would include anything pertinent to all the things listed here, i.e. monetary etc. laws, knowing G-d, improving one's character etc. This is what the Talmud means when it says that a Gentile Torah scholar equal to the High Priest. (Baba Kama 38a and more).
8) To give portions of produce to the Temple,
9) To follow G-d's commandments,
10) Not committing suicide,
11) Not to keep the Sabbath,
13) Not to learn irrelevant Torah,
Rebbe) Not to serve G-d together with or through a creation (Kol Boey Olom pg. 87),
14) To give charity
15) Honoring one's mother and father,
16) To make laws,
Rebbe) Mourn for the dead (Kol Bo'ay Olom pg 89),
Not to lie or cheat (KBO 93),
Providing for one's children and Educating one's children (K.B.O. 95),
17) To make marriage ceremonies,
18) Having children,
19) To marry the widow of one's childless brother,
20) Not making false oaths,
21) Not to castrate animals,
22) Not to cross-breed animals,
23-31) Not to do witchcraft (9 types enumerated in the Torah: Kosem, M'onen etc i.e. necromancy, soothsaying, witchcraft etc. )
32) Not to cross-breed trees,
33) Not to strike a Jew,
34) Keep vows and promises
35) Not to cause pain unnecessarily even to animals.
36) To empathize with the suffering of the Jews.
In addition there is a G-dly obligation for non-Jews to have good character traits as the Talmud says, without the Torah we could learn modesty from a cat etc. ( Aruvin 90b).
If so we could include: Honesty, kindness, politeness, modesty, loyalty, integrity, industrious, joyous, understanding, optimism, brotherhood, love, gratitude.
Story "1)
I was once approached by three Missionaries in Manhattan who decided to show me the 'real' meaning of the Torah.
They went on and on and I couldn't stop them until suddenly I announced that had an idea; They fell silent and I asked:
"Are you familiar with the Old Testament?" They smiled knowingly and almost snickered, 'Of course, we know ALL the Bible'.
"Good" I continued, "Then I'll ask the second question: Do you think that G-d is spiritual?"
They hesitated for a few seconds… looked at one another unbelievingly as to say 'what type of stupid question is this?!' and answered,
"Certainly G-d is spiritual. What could G-d be if not spiritual??
I looked them in the eyes and said "I'm surprised that you don't even know the first sentence in the Bible!"
They were dumbfounded. They looked at one another shrugged their shoulders, and then at me, smiles gone, and one of them slowly said:
"The first sentence in the Bible is, 'In the beginning G-d created the Heavens and the Earth'".
"There you are!!" I replied matter of factly; "'The 'heavens' mean the spiritual worlds and 'the earth' means the physical….. In other words G-d isn't spiritual….. He CREATES the spiritual and the physical as well!! Or, in simple language" I concluded……
"OUR G-d creates your god."
They turned and walked away.
Story #2) Years afterward I stuck up a conversation with a gentile I met on a flight from Amsterdam to Israel who told me his name was Hans. He told me that he had seen Jews putting on Tefillin (Phylacteries) and wondered if I could explain what exactly they were.
I told him that they were commandments of G-d to show that G-d is not just in the heavens but also in the earth and He cares what we do.
But he was still interested.
So I explained that they were made of leather and contained parchments upon which were the four Torah paragraphs that mention this commandment.
But he still wasn't satisfied. So I told him that the main paragraph says: "Listen Jews, G-d is our G-d, G-d is ONE" and that 'One' means that He is the ONLY existence and He alone creates the entire universe constantly. Then I ended off with. "Do you know what that means, Hans? It means that G-d is creating YOU every instant! For free! " His mouth opened in amazement.
"And do you know why He is doing this?" I continued,
Hans shook his head no.
"He's doing it because He loves you! He's creating you for free because He loves you!
Hans was really deeply in thought and was staring at me to see if I was really serious.
"So" I continued "If he is creating you for free, then do something for him for free…. Be a good person. Pray only to Him, give charity etc. seven Noahide commandments etc. "
Hans stood up (he was seated for the entire conversation) straightened his tie, raised one finger in the air and said at the top of his lungs.
"This Rabbi is right!! And I want to apologize to him for what my people have done to his people. We have taken a man and claimed he is G-d… and tried to negate the HOLY COMMANDMENTS!!!!"
He shook my hand heartily, straightened his tie again and sat back down to his newspaper.
These two stories happened years ago…. But they really changed my life. I began to realize that what I read in the books of Chassidut is really right.
The main message of Judaism is not merely that, as far as gods go there is only ONE.
Not at all!
The real 'news' that there is a CREATOR.
and He creates all that exists, and He does so …. Constantly.
Which explains why these forefathers were so 'un-Biblical'; They did no miracles, raised no dead, split no sea, brought no Manna from heaven or fire from above to destroy their enemies… in fact they didn't even behind a set of rituals, meditations, prayers or even conquered lands.


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