A different perspective and an uplifing one on the role of a Gentile in the world. Please, take a look.
The natural state of humankind is to be a Ben Noach. A gentile who observes the laws God gave Adam and Noah. The first 20 generations of humanity had no Jew among them. God made people the way He wanted them to be. But then He added a different role, that of the Jew later on. But if it wasn’t broke, why fix it? How do we understand this?
Before Sinai, people kept making bad choices that precluded spirituality in a world without Torah. But the Torah demanded going beyond the normal service expected from humans. God gave Noah seven categories of commandments, approximately 60 laws in total. But the Torah has 613 commandments. The Torah was an upgrade to a world that in some ways was not ready for it. Yet, God knew most nations would not accept the Torah. Therefore, it was not God’s intention to make the spirituality…
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I was talking to a colleague of mine.
We’ve got this game that I enjoy. Although he’s speaks Spanish fluently, he writes to me in English and when I respond, I respond to him in Spanish. I don’t know enough Spanish to hold a conversation but I use Google Translate or Bing Translate. I try to keep my sentences simple to avoid confusion. Amazingly enough, we’ve had a smooth conversation for over a year. I’m enjoying it.
Sorry, where was I?
Oh yeah! I was talking to an associate about the prohibition against idolatry. We were discussing whether it was prohibited, according to the seven commandments, to be present at an idolatrous event without participating in it.
During the process of our discourse, we hit upon the fundamental difference I have with the author of the book called “The Divine Code.”
It is plain in Rambam’s Mishneh Torah and the Talmud that the main prohibition is against actively worshipping an idol according to its customary rites or using specific acts of worship used in temple worship, including slaughtering/offering sacrifices, bowing and pouring libations. Essentially actively accepting something or someone else as a god other than the one true God is idolatry.
That is the law of idolatry for non-Jews.
But rabbi Weiner puts in his book that, for example, it is part of the prohibition of idolatry to believe in God, it is commanded. He says Gentiles are commanded to fear and honour God. In another place, he says on a rational level, it is forbidden to enter a house of idol worship, listen to idolatrous songs.
The difference between the approach of the Divine Code and that of the sources I’ve learnt from was succinctly stated by my colleague.
It’s merit, not precept.
I don’t think I need to add any more to that.
Instead of a Jew trying to legislate for Gentiles, to attempt to make authoritative rulings on non-Jews for matters outside of the seven, to make commands where there was none, an approach encouraging and detailing meritorious acts would seem to be more accurate and potent than “laying down the law,” especially when so much of the “law” in The Divine Code isn’t law.
At least that’s my point of view.
I’ve seen cruelty done in the name of the law.
When someone tells me “it’s legal, so it’s ok,” then it shows me the dangers of the sort of people I live amongst.
When someone who knows Torah and/or the seven laws, be it Gentile or Jew, tells me “it’s legal so it’s ok,” then it shows me that knowing Torah and/or the seven laws doesn’t diminish the danger.
Or the foolishness.
Yet both is a normal occurrence for me. And it’s hard to put a finger on the negative feeling I get when I know and see it happening. It’s one thing to have a gun to your head. But it’s another thing when those who are supposed to be the good guys are, in effect, agreeing with the gun to your head.
But that is the blessing with the seven laws, at least as I understand it. The seven laws do not automatically make you part of a select group. You don’t get membership to a club. As far as day to day life goes, I basically have my family, my wife and children, as my main “social” group. I don’t have to see rabbis. I don’t have to go to regular meetings with anyone like me with regards to acknowledging the seven laws or the God of creation. I can be just out in the world, like the spark or shard that I am, alive for a short time and then fizzling out to nothing with no promise of futurity.
You see, for me personally, I think that meeting someone who knows something about Torah sets up an expectation in my mind about them. They’re supposed to have reached some basic level of goodness. And when, as is often the case, they hold an ideal or a value or live according to a code that is below that expectation, that disappoints me. For things that are not important, disappointment doesn’t matter too much. Life goes on and the general consistency of it is unaffected. But for core values … for me, that sort of disappointment causes me to start to withdraw, maybe out of self-protection. The consistency is broken to a significant extent.
It’s difficult to be close to someone who is going to pat the back of your attacker. It’s difficult to be close to someone who, with glee, takes a dump on that which you value most. It seems to be a betrayal to be close to someone who vocally and actively hates the person you love.
At least when I deal with total strangers or the normal pleb around me, that expectation is not there. I don’t expect for that person to be decent, good or bad. When the immoral opinions come or immoral acts, I can shrug my shoulders and just get on with it. I don’t have to challenge it or feel challenged by it. Why not? Because there’s no standard that that individual is supposed to have for me to feel dissonance at the lack of consistency that I perceive!
It makes me somewhat chuckle that people think that first they “become noahide,” (which to me just means joining a religious group … that’s not a complimentary or approving statement), and then crave to be part of something so they look to create or participate in “noahide groups” or “noahide communities” or “noahide virtual communities” as if that element, the religious “noahide” element, will curb the loneliness. It’s their lives. My chuckling is not to scorn what they want to do. Well, not all of it anyway.
I chuckle because of the difference in my own personal life journey. I’ve found less loneliness on my own than amongst “noahides.” Loneliness abates, for me, when I’m just having a rare chat with some guy from my wife’s church or some guy I play football with. [I’m from the UK, so when I say “football” I mean “real” football, the game you play controlling the ball with your feet, which americans call “soccer.” I had a good laugh with some american having a non-serious play argument with him about his “football” as opposed to european “football.” LOL!] I have a deep and intense love for God and Torah, that doesn’t seem to be my point of loneliness right now.
I embrace the fact that a non-Jew, a Gentile, and therefore I’m in a world mainly full of Gentiles, people who are not Jewish. I didn’t “join the noahides.” I distance myself from those who call themselves “ger.” I’m just a dude, a guy, out in the world. And I think acknowledging that as opposed to looking to or for seven-laws-knowledgeable Gentiles and Torah-observant Jews may save me a lot more heartache.
At least, that’s how it looks for now. It may change by next week. Who knows?
Every now and again, I like to think about one of the seven laws, go through its basic principles and just revise that law. By “revise,” I mean the sort of revising someone does to prepare for an exam, looking through previous notes to absorb and retain info. So first I’ll write down what I think the core details are – that’s my main aim here, not necessarily the extensions – and then I’ll compare with the resources I have.
So one of the laws is known as “eiver min hachai,” or the prohibition against eating meat taken from an animal while that animal is alive.
So this does not mean it is forbidden to take meat or a limb from an animal while it’s alive. It means that it is forbidden to eat that meat.
This prohibits the eating of the meat, not the blood. The core command does not forbid the blood taken from a living animal. Also, once the animal is dead, there is no prohibition regarding the blood. I remember, as a christian in a non-mainstream denomination, thinking I had to wash the meat or soak it to remove the blood. It is a command for Jews to remove the blood, but it is not so for us Gentiles. So we can wash meat out of logical hygiene, but there is no divine command upon us to be scrupulous about the removal of blood.
Essentially, our aim should be to make sure an animal is fully dead before eating it. That death refers to death with a total cessation of movement. If a person cuts the meat and afterwards the animal spasms, then the cut meat is forbidden.
It doesn’t matter if that meat gets packaged, frozen, stored for days or weeks. None of that matters. The issue is this: was the animal dead before the meat was taken?
I’m not quite sure the prohibition includes the bone. I’ll have to check the resources when I get to the next section.
This prohibition does not cover insects and it doesn’t cover … ah, I was about to type birds, but it’s not “birds” as we define it. It is more properly “flying things.” So the prohibition doesn’t cover insects or flying things or water creatures, like fish. It seems limited roughly or generally to what we call “mammals.”
Ok, so that’s the core prohibition. Let me compare that to the resources I have. (I am writing this “chronologically,” so any mistakes I’ve made will remain to be corrected by what follows.)
Rashi says this when commenting on Genesis 9:4:
flesh with its soul: He prohibited them [to eat] a limb [cut off from] a living creature; i.e., as long as its soul is in it, you shall not eat the flesh. — [from Sanh. ad loc.] [i.e., if the limb is cut from the animal while it is alive, it is forbidden to be eaten even after the animal expires.]
with its soul, its blood: As long as its soul is within it.
flesh with its soul…you shall not eat: This refers to a limb of a living creature. And also, its blood, you shall not eat-This refers to blood of a living creature. — [from above source]
Then let’s see what Rambam says. He agrees mainly with what’s been said above but disagrees on a certain point. This is from Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 9, halakhot 10 to 12. It does continue to 13 but nothing significant is added there for the purposes of this article.
(10) Similarly, a gentile is liable for violating the prohibition against eating a limb or flesh from a living creature. This applies regardless of the amount involved, for the specification of minimum amounts only applies to Jews.
A gentile is permitted blood from a living creature.
(11) The prohibition applies to a limb or flesh that is separated from either a domesticated animal or a beast. However, it appears to me that a gentile is not executed for eating a limb taken from a living bird.
(12) Though one slaughters an animal, even if one severs the two signs that distinguish it as having been slaughtered in a kosher manner, as long as the animal moves convulsively, the limbs and meat which are separated from it are forbidden to a gentile because of the prohibition against a limb from a living creature.
The words I emphasised shows the difference between Rashi and Rambam. Let’s see what Ramban can add to this.
Rashi writes: flesh with its soul means while its soul, i.e., its life, is still in it. – The verse means: flesh with its soul you shall not eat. Thus you have the prohibition against eating limb which is severed from a living animal. And, in addition, blood you shall not eat. Thus you have the prohibition against eating blood drawn from a live [animal].
[Ramban clarifies the essence of Rashi’s interpretation:]
Accordingly, [Scripture] is saying, Flesh with its soul “and” the blood of [such flesh], you shall not eat.
[Ramban disagrees with Rashi’s interpretation and presents his own:]
But this explanation, according to the plain meaning of the verse, is not sound. Furthermore, even according to rabbinical exegesis, [Rashi’s explanation] is not halachically true. For the Noahides were only commanded concerning refraining from eating a limb that was severed from a living [animal], as is the opinion of the majority of the Sages, but not concerning eating blood drawn from a living [animal], as is the opinion of Rabbi Chanina ben Gamliel (Sanhedrin 59a).
Rather, the interpretation [of the verse] is: But flesh with its soul – which is its blood – you shall not eat, for the soul of any creature is its blood. (taken from “The Torah: with RambaN’s commentary, translated, annotatated, and elucidated, Bereishis/Genesis” where Ramban comments on Genesis 9:4)
As the explaining footnotes are very helpful, let me quote them too.
4. i.e., Rashi understands its soul and its blood as two separate terms, and the verse thus includes two distinct prohibitions: (1) a limb from a living animal, (2) blood from a living animal.
5. There is no conjunctive [vav or waw] (“and”) preceding the word [damo, “its blood”] to justify interpreting the verse as, and its blood.
6. Ramban is noting that though Rashi’s interpretation of the verse does concur with the opinion of Rabbi Chanina, it is only the minority view, and it is not accepted as halachah.
7. Leviticus 17:14. Hence, the term soul and blood express a single concept and, unlike Rashi, our verse includes only the prohibition against eating a limb of a live animal … (.ibid)
To refer to a few modern books, I’ll start with The Divine Code, by rabbi Moshe Weiner. On page 303 it says,
… a Gentile is liable for a capital sin only for eating eiver min ha’chai meat from mammals (in the specific conditions explained in topics 1:12 and 3:1 which follow), but not from birds.
I do know that rabbi Moshe Weiner says that the prohibition applies to more creatures, but I’m focusing only on what is part of the core seven laws, that which makes a person liable. According to the Talmud and others, what is part of the seven laws makes a person liable. Hmmm … Maybe someday I can do another article about how the core commands blossom out into much wider teachings.
Please note, I’m using this quote as it is concise and encompasses a lot without me having to add too many quotes.
Anyway, let’s carry on with the info from the resources. A few more from the Divine Code.
The prohibition against consuming flesh from a living animal does
not apply to fish and insect-like creatures. (.ibid, page 300)
Blood from a living animal is not included in this prohibition. (.ibid, page 303)
A little aside, page 307, topic 3 says bone is not included in the core prohibition.
In rabbi Mikhael Shelomo bar-Ron’s book, Guide for the Noahide, Part 2, section 6, he writes this:
Not to eat raw flesh or cooked meat removed from an animal before it has completely cease to convulse after slaughter or death by other means, be it a domesticated or non-domesticated mammal, from pure species (that can be offered on the altar) or impure species (that cannot be offered). Again: the capital prohibition for non-Jews does not apply to bird flesh and certainly not fish …
… There was never a Divine prohibition against consuming blood that was removed from a non-living animal for non-Jews; only for Israel. Despite the overly literal reading, blood — even from a living creature — is not forbidden for Noahide consumption. (Laws of Kings & Wars 14-17[10-14])
I could quote from other resources that I have. I love the way Elisheva Barre’s book, Torah for Gentiles, puts this across. But when it comes to discussing the practical parts of the law, it’ll just be a rephrasing of what has been said before.
Now, going through the different books, it’s amazing how much more there is to this law: the deeper meaning to the law, the possible reasons for it, the lessons and principles that are not the core but are still important to know. Believe me, I think this law is taken for granted. I think this law, like the law of Dinim/Justice, is not given as much airtime as other laws, like that of murder or idolatry, but for a different reason than the law of Justice.
I’ve heard people say it’s too simple, that it is obvious, that people keep it nowadays naturally. But again, the principle of making sure an animal is actually and fully dead before partaking of it … it requires a patience and attention that, I believe, is easy to just brush past. Does everyone have the same definition of death? I think there is an importance in this law that is too easily brushed aside.
Anyway, that’s all where it comes to the law.
But there is an objection that I’ve heard which I want to tackle here. Someone said, with disgust, that this law allows a person to eat even roadkill. The objection was against the seeming basic nature of this law. The implication was that there aught to be a divine law against eating certain other dead creatures like roadkill.
To me, there is a morality to this law that I can’t help but respect. What is it? Make sure an animal has absolutely no chance of having to experience the removal of a limb while it is conscious. And then once that animal is dead, then you can start the chopping, cooking and eating process.
Now, what is immoral about eating an animal that has died? Even if it died from a road accident or whatever vehicular means, where’s the immorality? There aught to be a law? Really? Even if there is a question about hygiene, is it really just and right to punish a Gentile for eating roadkill? I don’t think so.
Remember, the seven laws, although quite a detailed system, is the bedrock, something foundational for a non-Jew to build upon. And I believe that truly appreciating the laws, even this one, can lead to a morality that exceeds them.
I’m a person who has rejected the claims of Jesus’ messiahship, but very often the people I end up being around are devout christians.
I’m against the modern governments of the world including the government of the land I live in. I have serious misgivings about the morality of its existence and the acts necessary for its existence (like taxation and many of its dictates). I could be called an anti-statist (against the state). But the vast, vast majority of people I live among willingly support the government and advocate for funding it, its different policies and laws, think it necessary for one set of humans to force their will on and aggress on others. This is the same being amongst Jews and seven-law-aware Gentiles.
I personally want nothing to do with the vast majority on national holidays, like Christmas and Easter. Most of the people around me enjoy celebrating these holidays to some extent.
Although I hate evolutionism, the belief that whole diversity of life came from a common ancestor, that the universe and earth developed from a “big bang,” that all this happened over millions and billions of years. Yet the vast majority of people around me accept it to some extent. This is the same being amongst Jews and seven-law-aware Gentiles.
Much to the ridicule of others, I don’t accept that the earth has an absolute spinning motion on an axis or moves around the sun or that it travels around the galaxy in a universe with no centre. Yet the vast, vast, majority of the people accept it as the true truth to some extent.
I don’t accept as good the concepts of democracy. I see as a farce the idea of “rule of law.”
In all of these things, I hold a minority view, a view which hardly anyone around me accepts. And I haven’t even touched my acceptance of the seven laws.
In so many ways, I am very much alone in my point of view where I live. In so many ways I’m alone even amongst people who call themselves observers of Torah or conscious keepers of the seven laws. I would be ridiculed even amongst them for espousing some of my views.
Yet, I can’t say I’m totally alone. Despite my difference of opinion, I can get along with people who would oppose and ridicule me. I can get along with people of different worldviews and religions. Sometimes I’ll have way more in common with someone who doesn’t know the seven laws yet lives in my vicinity than someone else who knows of, accepts and keeps the seven. Hell, I have a christian wife and have pretty good relationships with members of the church she goes to (even those I despise what they teach).
You see, as a non-Jew, I should never complain about being alone because most of the world is not Jewish. I should never complain about it unless I isolate myself. I did not join a religion, a distinct group of people, when I embraced God’s obligations for humanity. I don’t have commandments that necessarily segregates or separates me from the majority of others. The seven laws (and the other rational obligations for Gentiles) don’t separate people as the Jewish laws (and covenant) separates the Jewish people from all other nations.
Being amongst my “fellow Gentiles” I have many personal reasons to isolate myself. But there are many better reasons to integrate with them as much as I can, to learn from this experience and the people in it. It is an opportunity to learn and impact the world as a Gentile can. I can be challenged and learn the basis of a resolute and righteous position. I can make whatever difference I can, even if it is to and for myself. It’ll be an added bonus if I can help others and make a positive difference.
But I do all this as part of the Gentile world, not as some separate class or group.