So Katz published his article which can be found here. In that article, he put his own spin on an Torah ruling by Rema in such a way that he then inferred from it that AskNoah International (which had quoted from that ruling by Rema) is identifying all “Noahides” as “akum.” That false accusation by Katz is an offense called “motzei shem rah,” a law Jews like Katz are supposed to keep.
Note: “Akum” is an acronym found in the Talmud and in legal writings by the “Rishonim” and “Acharonim,” Torah authorities from different parts of Jewish history. It literally stands for “Avodai Kochavim U’Mazolos” (worshippers of stars and planets). But as you will see later, contextually, it often is not limited to that meaning. But Katz does not explain that, something that can be seen as deceptive. Katz added his spin by claiming that “akum” as it appears in that ruling by that rabbi called “Rema” only means an idolator, implying that no other categories of Gentiles are included in Rema’s ruling.
As I wrote my previous article, I chose to look at AskNoah’s posts to see if “akum” there really had the limited meaning that Katz not only applied to the word, but that he also imposed upon Ask Noah.
Let me quote what is posted in that discussion thread on Asknoah.org – the words of rabbi Moshe Weiner, the author of the Divine Code (with my highlights added).
It is known that Gemara (Talmud) and Halachic (Torah Law) authorities used an over-all term for all Gentiles (non-Jews) as AKUM (acronym of “Ovdei Kochavim Umazalos,” I.E. “Idol-worshipers”).
Examples: Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 124:6: “Any ‘Akum’ that does not worship idols…” [in regard to laws of wine touched by a non-Jew] – it is obvious that a Gentile here is called “Akum” as a general name, and not because he is indeed an idol worshipper.
Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 2:1: “The slaughter by an ‘Akum’ that does not worship idols…”
Therefore wherever “Akum” is mentioned in Talmud and Halachic literature, it means every Gentile (non-Jew) (unless explicitly said otherwise!)
Radvaz (gloss on Rambam, Laws of Kings 10:10 – in regard to observant Bnei Noach (not idol worshipers!) clearly writes the BN should not put on tefillin or affix a mezuza!
Therefore, although the Rema uses the inclusive term “Akum,” one cannot understand this as a permission for a non-Jew that is not an idol worshiper to affix a mezuza.
To claim otherwise is playing games with semantics.
A “Noahide” in modern terminology is not an idol worshiper – indeed he is forbidden to do so (Rambam, Laws of Kings, ch. 9); nevertheless, he is not a Ger Toshav either.
According to AskNoah’s correct explanation of Rema: Both a Noahide (I.E. a Righteous Gentile) and a Gentile idol-worshiper may not affix a mezuza to his doorpost. (from response #10 in the AskNoah forum post called “Mezuzah” at https://www.asknoah.org/forum/showthread.php?tid=96)
I chose to set the teaching of AskNoah apart from my article because my article may be strewn with mistakes and views that AskNoah may not share. But at least here it can be made clear the following:
Rabbi David Katz doesn’t speak for AskNoah, nor does he have the authority to impose his (mis)interpretations upon their words.
AskNoah’s understanding of akum in those words by Rema is not negative towards any non-Jew as it is simply understood in the context there as “non-Jew,” as rabbi Moshe Weiner proved.
If I feel like it, I’ll critique rabbi Katz’s next blogpost. But then again, if I don’t, I won’t.
Thanks for reading this.
It’s been a while since I wrote on this blog. I have a bit of time and an opportunity so I’ll just take an article that was shared and critique it.
It’s an article called “The Modern Noahides of Noahism are Aku”m” written by rabbi David Katz. It can be found here. Or it should be better titled “I’m attacking a strawman; watch out for hay!”
In this article, Katz aims at something he refers to as “neo-noahism.” What is that? You tell me. He says,
Modern [invented] Noahism is a contemporary man-made religion. In the post Vendyl Jones era, Noahides are being rounded up to conform to a secular neo-noahism.
Now I know some people who identify as “noahides” in a way that distinguishes them from Gentiles on a whole. I know some who claim to use “noahides” to refer to all Gentiles. I think both these groups would be as puzzled as I am about what the hell Katz is talking about. I believe that they like me would wonder how aiming to keep and learn the depth of the seven divine laws would be “a man-made religion.” I myself am wondering why Katz would, rather than attempting to be clear and direct in his points, instead use ambiguous terms like “secular neo-noahism.” Is he using secular as in “godless?” Is he using secular as “worldly?”
And who distinctly is he referring to? There are various groups and individuals who follow the seven law teaching with differing approaches. Is he referring to those who primarily use Maimonides’ teachings in the Mishneh Torah? Is he referring to those who follow the Divine Code of rabbi Moshe Weiner? Is he referring to the more solitary individuals who follow Ramban and Hirsch? Who is he talking about?
You see, rather than actually pinning down individuals or approaches, he creates an outline, fills it with straw, and then, from the get-go, before even giving definitions and individuals, he starts the deconstruction of his imagined figure.
Neo-noahism has created a special distinction for non-Jews by referring to them as akum. The immediate logical question is what does akum mean? It means idolater. But that would imply that all non-Jews are idolaters. Neo-noahism would then respond that akum also is a general term for any non-Jew.
So Katz stuffs words into the strawman so that it can talk. And the Katz-invigorated scarecrow says that akum is a general term for any non-Jew.
Of the two or three people who actually read this blog … oh … oh wait, … was I being too generous with myself? Too proud? OK, let me correct myself.
Of the one and a half people who actually read this blog (myself included), who has heard it said, as a norm, that “idolater” or “akum” is a general term for any non-Jew? I guess I’m one of the people who read my blog, I can answer.
Now I’ve read that the word “akum” was a gloss, a word used by Jews to cover the general term “goy” which does normally just mean “non-Jew” so that their texts wouldn’t be burned by christian censors (for example, see https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/47762/akum-nochri-and-goy). I thought that was common knowledge. So in the Talmud, in Sanhedrin 56a-60b, whenever akum is used, it generally replaces the historically neutral word, “goy.” Go check out the Talmud at http://www.mechon-mamre.org and you will see many times that “goy” is meant to be used.
Now, before the excited follower of Katz should jump in and say “goy means idolator,” the main source used to get that definition is Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah which was written centuries after the Talmud and doesn’t claim that this “idolator” understanding of “goy” is meant to be used throughout all time. Hell, the small section of the Mishneh Torah that does say it gives no license for it to be used throughout the whole Mishneh Torah.
Now I did what Katz failed to show that he did: I looked for people who claimed that akum/idolator was a general term for all Gentiles, and I found one. It is rabbi Moshe ben Chaim from http://www.mesora.org. I found an article of his that seems to clearly show his using akum/idolator to refer to all Gentiles. It’s at http://www.mesora.org/GentilesandTorahStudy.htm. I’ll quote him.
Now, a proof for my argument is derived from Talmud Sanhedrin 59a. It states there that an idolater who studies Torah is culpable of death. But that very Talmudic portion then asks, “Why is this prohibition not an eighth ‘Noachide’ law?” Consider carefully: this Talmudic question cannot be asked, if this portion were not including Noachides in the general term “Star Worshipper”. The Talmud is clearly referring to all Gentiles including Noachides, with its general reference of “idolater”.” (Gentiles and Torah Study, by Rabbi Moshe ben Chaim, http://www.mesora.org/GentilesandTorahStudy.htm)
Now I strongly advise you to read rabbi Moshe ben Chaim’s (rMbC) article. In fact, I think you should read it a number of times. I did. Firstly I can see that rMbC takes a wholly different approach to me. He doesn’t even see “akum” as a gloss for “goy.” He takes “akum”/idolator as if it’s both part of the Talmud and part of the Mishneh Torah. Secondly, and amazingly, I can see that it doesn’t help Katz’s case at all. In fact, it will be very applicable later on where Katz attempts to take on AskNoah.
RBmC’s approach to “akum” is as different to Katz’s as a sharp scalpel in the hands of a calm surgeon is different to a sledgehammer in the hands of a enraged brute. [No, I’m not saying Katz himself is an enraged brute; I’m comparing approaches, not men.] Whereas Katz uses akum/idolator as a slur on all Gentiles who are not part of his “gerring” group or who don’t fit into or reject his category of “ger toshav,” smearing all non-“gerim toshavim” as idolators, rMbC sees a more subtle teaching, looking more at the role a Gentile can take when approaching his own seven laws and those laws in the Jewish Torah that are meant to distinguish Jews from Gentiles.
Now I’m not saying I wholly agree with rMbC’s take on akum/idolator (or more properly “akum/star-worshipper”) but he at least shows it may be possible to see the Talmud and other Jewish resources as referring to Gentiles as “akum/star-worshipper” without belittling Gentiles who are not part of Israel, as Katz is happy to do a can be seen later on in his article.
I’ve not seen anyone else make the claim Katz’s straw-golem makes. But when Katz begins to attempt to criticize AskNoah for an approach they take, rMbC’s approach is going to rear its head again.
Anyways, to make a long message short, I believe if Katz is gonna claim something about someone, even his scarecrow, he should do what he and a good number of his followers (not all of them) fail to do: get a number of direct and relevant quotes from the source(s) they oppose. The claim that “akum in and of itself is a general term for non-Jew” and some real group of “noahides” say this, is a baseless claim.
Let’s go on.
Neo-noahism defines its Noahide congregants as Faithful and observant Noahides [B’nei Noach] as opposed to secular and plain descendants from Noach. In other words, in Noahism, there are [only] two kinds of people in this world: Jews and non-Jews. And there are [only] two kinds of non-Jews: observant ones and secular ones.
Again, Katz fills his strawman with his own words and not a quote is in sight. I’ve not heard anyone making this claim. But then again, I’m just a loner in the UK. Maybe there are whole mobs of Noahides from … what was that thing again … oh, “neo-noahism,” walking around the streets of Denmark or the United Slaves of America labelling themselves observant and the rest as secular.
Look, even my friend, Alan Cecil, who wrote a book about what he calls “noahide philosophy,” a book called “Secular by Design,” even he doesn’t call one group of non-Jews “observant” and the next group “secular.”
So this Katzian scarecrow seems to have a life of its own unrelated to “noahides” on a whole.
Now here comes a lengthy quote from Katz. But bear with me. You’ll see why it’s important as you read it.
At this point I have introduced to you the bulk of their terminologies in reference to non-Jews; remember there is only one category of non-Jew in contrast to the Jew. They are just non-Jews. And they are:
– B’nei Noach
– observant [ones]
– secular [ones]
…and there are more that are beyond the scope of this blog post
Try to paint a picture of a classic ‘Noahide’ within these terms. He is a non-Jew. I suppose he isn’t idolatrous, i.e. he is not a practicing Christian. Today there is no longer any Biblical idolatry left in the world. He is somewhat righteous; pious from the nations. He keeps the 7 Laws happily and responsibly. He is frum, observant, and therefore faithful. Until now this sounds really good, and if we are sticking to context, our Noahide stands on good ground.
Before continuing, I would like to point out that up to now we have not given any source text [Hebrew original] and we have described him purely from opinions and colloquial terms. If it happens to be technically correct in some areas, it is not intentional to the point where we can draw conclusions. And please keep in mind this is all English. Also keep in mind, this is how Noahides today are being taught in this style and format. They are not presented with anything deeper, more authentic, Hebrew, nor made aware of the bigger picture going on in this discussion [according to Torah].
Isn’t this oozing with subtle toxicity? “somewhat righteous?” “just opinions and colloquial terms?” “Noahides today are taught in this style and format … not presented with anything deeper, more authentic, Hebrew, nor made aware of the bigger picture?” In the eyes of Katz – shall I call him “Katz the humble? – the classic “Noahide,” the gentiles of today taught by their various teachers, bereft of Katz’s guidance, don’t have access to the deeper more authentic and Hebrew truth. And if they don’t have his “bigger picture,” then logically they must have a smaller picture, a narrower view.
Should I still call him “Katz the humble?”
Then I come upon a faulty conclusion based on false premises as he continues,
Do you see a problem with this picture?
Our good characterized Noahide is clearly being seen in a positive light. But there is an elephant in the room. He is a non-Jew… And therefore he is an akum. No matter how high he climbs, he is still an akum. He is a Shabbos goy, and he is being told he will never not be a Shabbos goy. The most he can hope for is to be a supremely loyal and faithful and observant Shabbos goy. He is an akum. Some would call that [as mentioned above] an idolater. Others would quickly chime in and say akum just means non-Jew. But the conflict is how can a legitimate righteous and pious Noahide be forever confined within the term akum?
All of the laws [halachot] for akum would then be applied to our Noahide. The Noahide [observant] is then halachically the same as the nonobservant [Ben Noach]. Nothing was gained from piousness.
So based on the false notion that “idolator” is a general name for non-Jews, he presents fallacy upon fallacy. He essentially asks, “how can a righteous person forever be trapped in the term idolator?” But no “noahide” I know (I’m using “noahide” to refer to that group that distinguishes itself from Gentiles on a whole) made Katz’s faulty claim. You’ve, here in this article, read how I see the common knowledge regarding akum and goy. It’s altogether unrelated to the Katzian straw-golem. See jewfaq.org/m/glossary.htm where it says:
Lit. nation. A non-Jew, that is, a member of one of the other nations. There is nothing inherently insulting about the term; the word “goy” is used in the Torah to describe Israel.
See also the article by Gil Student at angelfire.com/mt/talmud/goy.html.
“Goy” simply meaning “one from the nations outside of Israel” is fairly synonymous with the term “ben noah,” a descendant of Noah who is not part of bnei Yisrael, used in Sanhedrin 56a.
So this idea that the modern “noahide” is trapped in the status of idolator, essentially equal to a Gentile who breaks the seven laws, unable to rise higher, who can only look forward to being a “loyal shabbos goy” [is it just me, or is he portraying something like a faithful lapdog?], this idea is, to put it diplomatically, an unfounded statement without merit. I’ll leave it to you to imagine the non-diplomatic version of that.
As I’ve said elsewhere, the goodness or “piety” of a Gentile is not limited to the strict letter of a halachah or legal statement. For us, to not be distinctly commanded something doesn’t mean it is not expected of us. Not only are our laws not strictly and specifically detailed precepts and sub-precepts, as taught in Sefer HaChinuch, but the rational obligations or responsibilities that come about just because we’re made in God’s image, all of these show that we Gentiles are capable of a lot more.
Before I continue, I know that a particular individual (and I don’t believe he’s alone) can’t get his head around the fact that we can be expected to do something good or abstain from something bad when there is no explicit command concerning it, but this article isn’t about that subject, and I’ve dealt with it somewhere else … I think.
The way these principles and laws can perfect a person highlights that a lot can be gained through so-called “piety.
Now dig a little bit deeper, if there is a halacha for an akum idolater, the same halacha applies to the Noahide.
If they’re both Gentiles, bnei Noah, what’s the issue? An idolator is forbidden from worshipping idols. So is a person who hasn’t committed idolatry. An idolator is forbidden from theft. So is any other Gentile. Katz makes a redundant statement here. I’m sure it had meaning in his own head. Not much further though.
Simple logic [along these lines] mandates that I [the Jew] am to consider the akum idolater the exact same as the pious Noahide.
That may be Katz’s subjective reasoning. He gave no Jewish or Gentile Torah law to back it up. A wise Jew would judge a person based on actions, not label. But just imagine that: Katz sees a non-Jew worshipping an idol and another Gentile avoiding the prohibited acts diligently, but who doesn’t respect Katz’s teaching about “ger-dom.” I have to question his reasoning and integrity if he treats or considers both the same.
Katz then takes issue with AskNoah advising a Gentile not to put up mezuzah. In this portion of his text, he clearly points to AskNoah as being a main source for “Noahism,” which he had earlier called a manmade religion. Just to make sure you see I’m not misquoting the guy, here’s the first bit he said.
An example of this is in the following question that was asked and posted on asknoah.org: “Can Noahides put up a Mezuzah scroll on their doorposts, though they are not commanded to do so?
You can see he’s referring to AskNoah. And then he says shortly after,
Let me be clear: Someone asked the official site for Noahism whether or not a Noahide may hang a mezzuza on their doorpost…
So he’s clearly saying that AskNoah is promoting a manmade religion! It reminds me of when a follower or friend of his, James Rogers, on a public youtube video literally gave the middle finger to AskNoah. That’s the attitude that Katz and some of his ilk foster. Not much evidence provided that AskNoah is part of or promulgater of a manmade religion, but the accusation can be thrown with ease, as many weightless objects are. Actually giving substance to those empty accusations is something else entirely, something which “Katz & the acolytes” seldom do when it matters.
Anyway, so Katz’s beef with AskNoah in this case is that, to him, they give advice that he thinks is only for his overgeneralized “akum.” Someone on the asknoah forum asks about putting up mezzuzah on their house, and AskNoah says a Gentile shouldn’t do this based on a teaching from an ancient rabbi called “Rema.” Sledgehammer Katz goes to the source (apparently) and sees that Rema was saying that the “akum” cannot put up mezzuzah. With AskNoah giving this advice to an observant Noahide, the sledgehammer approach kicks in in Katz’s mind, and to him AskNoah have made all Gentiles, observant and non-observant, nothing but idol-worshippers.
But then two things stand in the way of Katz’s indictment against AskNoah, perhaps three.
1) the gloss;
2) the other approach; and
3) the question of AskNoah’s approach.
My issue is that there is a chance, a fairly good chance, that the akum used in Rema is another gloss that just replaced the original “goy,” and thus it actually rightly forbids any one that is not a native or naturalised Jew from putting up mezzuzot.
I’m not sure why anyone would have an issue with that prohibition. As many places actually state, this is one of those laws that is meant to separate Jew from non-Jew. If anyone respects the holiness and separate nature of the Jewish nation, there should be no issue with such reasoning. This is stated in rMbC’s (rabbi Moshe ben Chaim’s) article, the importance of establishing a separatedness between Jews and the Gentiles.
That’s leads sweetly to the next point: the different approach. As I said before, I did find someone who held that “akum” is the proper reading of the Talmud, Mishneh Torah and possibly other resources; and that was rMbC. But take a look at his article, all of it. Not only does this man accept the “akum” reading without worrying about treating observant Gentiles as idol-worshippers, his approach also highlights a non-derogatory way of understanding Rema.
In rMbC’s understanding, both the “ben noah” and the “akum” refers to the same non-Jew but with respect to different laws. For him, there is a part of the Mishneh Torah where Maimonides has to clearly distinguish the individual who is a star-worshipper from Gentiles who are not (Laws of Forbidden Foods 11:8). So he makes clear in that place, to paraphrase, “when I say idolator in this section, I do actually mean star-worshippers.” But in other places, he uses the word interchangeably with “goy” or “ben noah” (the bog-standard non-Jew).
But in Laws of Kings chapter 10, Rambam uses akum to refer to the same Gentiles (bnei Noah, “noahides”) who were commanded the seven laws in the previous chapter. The difference in chapter 10 though is that he’s warning non-Jews not to do things in the mindset of the idolator, to not only create religions and “divinely commanded” rites, but also in eroding the set-apart role of the Jew, by studying irrelevant parts of Torah, keeping Sabbaths, etc.
And why is it stated in other places that non-Jews shouldn’t keep specific “sanctifying” Jewish commands? To preserve that sanctity. In rMbC’s eyes, the mindset of the akum is to erode that set-apartness. And these “ingredients” also apply to the Jewish command of mezzuzot and a possible understanding of Rema.
So with this understanding, Rema is referring to the non-Jew and how these special Jewish laws “view” any non-Jew as an idolator. To clarify, the understanding of akum is only in relation to those laws a non-Jew is not supposed to do as opposed to actually condemning the Gentile wholesale as an idolator. I think I’m getting the gist of rMbC’s approach here. But as I repeatedly say, check his article out first, listen to it for a few times and see if you get the gist too.
Now remember! I don’t fully accept rMbC’s argument although it has its compelling qualities. But he is an example to show that there may be other ways of viewing the oral tradition’s use of akum to refer to Gentiles other than Sledgehammer Katz’s “an idolator is all you can be without becoming a ger toshav.”
Now the last point, the third point, is the question of AskNoah’s actual position and approach to Rema and “akum.” It is very easy for Katz to come along, quote Dr Schulman of AskNoah, and then smear all of it with Katz’s own understanding. Remember, it is not AskNoah that says “all Gentiles are idolators,” it’s only Katz giving his essentially baseless view of what seems to him to be the only logical conclusion of AskNoah’s position. Please take note of a clear fact of Katz’s article: At no point does he give a quote from Dr Schulman about his approach to the word “akum” and how it applies to Gentiles. For him and his followers/friends, AskNoah is one of the enemies, so it’s not as if he will do the honourable thing and get the clarification from Dr Schulman and then quote what he actually said about his approach. Instead, I just read Katz attempting to shout his view where AskNoah is silent.
I can see the laughing, scoffing face of one of his friends/followers in my mind gleefully scorning, “But he quoted asknoah; you can’t deny it: He quoted asknoah!” It’s best to combat emotion with cold, hard facts. I’d reply that I know Katz quoted AskNoah’s conclusion about mezzuzah, but he didn’t quote anything where they explain how they view and approach the use of “akum” to refer to Gentiles.
Then I just walk away and discontinue.
So Katz comes to his article’s after attempting to foist himself into the minds of AskNoah to give more life to his lifeless scarecrow. After claiming that AskNoah makes all Gentiles idolatrous, he ends with this:
But the Torah is merciful, and allows for a third category, one who proactively rejects idolatrous ways according to the Torah. This is called Ger Toshav. It exists today, and the idolatry that they reject is called shituf; the idolatrous behaviour, thoughts, etc. while today there is no outright idolatry. Many have left their idolatrous ways, but fulfillment comes through a full rejection of all forms of idolatry, even shituf. This takes the Noahide out from being categorically ‘akum’
I’ve dealt with his “ger toshav” futility in another article. I won’t drag that corpse around anymore. But he say that no outright idolatry exists today. Well, that’s definitely an opinion. It’s not backed up by Rambam who calls christians idolators. Having left christianity, and still having experiences with christians and their teachings, I don’t see any value to his opinion. You can take a look at my article “The Shituf Excuse: Preserving Madness because it’s Permissible.” In fact, even books like Michael Dallen’s book, “The Rainbow Covenant,” and Clorfene’s old book, “Path of the Righteous Gentile,” only permits shituf as long as it remains conceptual, just a belief. But once that partner or intermediary is worshipped as a god, it’s [outright] idolatry. Having read the Divine Code, I conclude that its discussion on intermediary- and shituf-worship is one of the best laid-out positions on the topic (see “The Divine Code,” the footnote that continues from pg 136-138). Outright idolatry exists according to the halakhah given in Rambam and the Talmud and other places.
What’s clear from Katz’s article is that it is neither his strawman, the imagined “neo-noahism,” that condemns all Gentiles as idolators. It’s not AskNoah, the kingpin of his so-called “manmade religion.” It’s not rMbC. Oh, he mentioned “secular,” but it isn’t Alan Cecil that’s condemning all the world as idolatrous. It’s not … man, I don’t know who this phantom is that he’s meant to be attacking. But there is one person in his article who condemns the world as idolatrous except for those who jump on board his “ger toshav” train: it’s Katz himself.
I remember being on facebook, in a group debating the fact that the new testament teachings contradict the Torah. And then someone appeared promoting David Katz’s book, “World of the Ger.” Amongst his opinion, he stated that he was a “ger toshav” and that all the nations of the world are toxic, that there is no real hope for the Gentile who remains an outsider to Israel. Looking at David Katz’s own blogpost, it becomes clearer and clearer to me where the source of such ideas stems from.
You know, there have been times where I wanted the more educated rabbis to publicly condemn Katz. But seeing some of what his partner, rabbi Clorfene, has said about those that disagree with his view, even if they did speak, I doubt that would make a difference. What stands too true is the words of the Rebbe, the warning that we Gentiles have to really know and understand the seven laws for ourselves so as not to rely upon certain Jews, like Katz.
Written in a facebook post, by Robert Higgs. Although it only mentions Americans, it applies to politicians internationally.
“Are you ever struck by the number of ultra-criminal individuals — people who have great amounts of blood on their hands (e.g., Henry Kissinger, Ed Meese, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama — who are not only not in prison, not only permitted to move about freely in society, but are treated as decent individuals and, on some occasions, feted as great and honorable ones? Truly has it been observed that the person who kills one or two is a murderer, but the person who kills thousands or even millions is a national hero.”
This is a personal one, not really focused on the seven laws, but it’s something I feel like sharing. Hope you don’t mind.
So I travel in an automobile.
I know that’s an odd way of writing it that way … but the kind few who read my stuff know of my antiestablishmentarianism (lol, what a word!) and may have a slight awareness of the legal weirdness with the word “drive.” If you don’t, then just accept my weird phraseology.
So I travel in an automobile. And recently the headlights on that automobile died. It was at night that I found out so I learnt of what lights I still had. There were still functioning lights on the car, some lights to make me more visible during the day, floodlights (too strong for normal night travel), and some weak lights used to support the headlights. But none of these lights were good for night travel in normal weather, being too strong for other drivers or too weak to illuminate the way ahead, and it was needful for me to travel far distances so I still used it.
In what could be seen as an unwise move, I transported my family to a town over 20 miles away because of an appointment my wife had, and while there night fell and I had to get my family home.
So I took a chance and traversed on roads I believed to be well-lit.
I was wrong.
What I thought was a well-lit motorway had sections with no light whatsoever.
It was at that time that I discovered that the daylights were the brightest lights I had on the car in such darkness, but such was the workings of my car that to turn those lights on would mean that my backlights would turn off. I guess it’s logical, right? Those lights are for the day where no backlights are needed. The only problem is that at night, those backlights make me visible to those behind me, especially on dark roads. Having those backlights off at night makes it way easier for a following driver not to see me and increases the risk of that driver smashing into the rear end of my automobile.
If I turned on the weaker lights, they would make me visible to others and the backlights would be on, but I wouldn’t be able to see any of the road ahead. On a well-lit road, I could work with this. But on those dark stretches, those lights were useless.
I spent the whole journey looking around me, toggling between daylights but no backlights to see the road when there were other cars were far off, and weak lights with backlights when other cars were much closer and could light the way. It’s the mercy of God that I didn’t cross the path of road pirates (the govt thugs, the police) who would likely use this as an opportunity to extort money from me whilst attempting to fill their quotas.
Now why the hell am I even writing about this? To remind myself of two lessons I learned throughout that ordeal that seems to mean more than just travelling safely in a automobile at night.
1) Sometimes a person will not know how little light they have until they find themselves in the dark.
This reminds me of horror video games that I watch at times where the player are given a flashlight that is so dim that much of a room or a path is still in such darkness that a threat could be lurking.
You see, the meaning or application I get from this lesson is that sometimes the only way I can see how ineffectual my efforts or skills or learning are is to be landed into trouble. It warns me that I have to pay careful attention to what I’m doing and not to get any arrogance in my abilities before I’m really tested. Actually I should avoid deluding myself with arrogance about what I’m doing.
I may just be doing practically nothing.
There may be other meanings. If someone’s reading this, maybe you see a different meaning.
The other lesson is as follows.
2) Sometimes a little light is practically useless for a task.
I think I’ve been told that a little light can dispel a lot of darkness. And this may be true in certain cases.
But as I travelled down that dark road with those weak lights, I realised how a little light can be useless in other cases. It doesn’t dispel the dark. It just makes you a bit more visible.
And that can be both a good and a bad thing depending on who’s looking at you or for you.
But for certain tasks, where clarity and energy is needed, a little light on its own is practically useless
I hope I remember these lessons and see the depths and useful nature of them. I think I may need them in future.
Oh, by the way, my wife got those headlights fixed that same night …
Just in case you were wondering.
For me, this article has been long overdue. It’s been in my mind to do on my blog for some time. Even though I wrote an article on the same subject elsewhere, I wanted to re-do it here, keep the mental juices flowing rather than mechanically copy-pasting it from its original source.
So here goes.
When I was in the final phases of being a christian, before I rejected Jesus as any sort of messiah or prophet or anything of practical relevance, I believed it was forbidden to eat blood and that it was wrong to eat meat with blood still in it. I would take steps to remove any blood that was in the meat I bought to cook and eat.
And I thought the source of this conclusion was Genesis 9:4. Here’s what it said in the King James Version, which I would read.
But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
Now although some would say that this isn’t a terrible translation, I was led to interpret it like this:
“Don’t eat blood!”
“Don’t eat meat with blood in it.”
Now people who can actually read the text would notice that I was not really taking meaning from the text. The text did not say “don’t eat blood.” So that “interpretation” was not really proper exegesis. It says nothing about blood on its own.
But some may agree with my other conclusion, that a person should not eat meat with blood in it.
But years later, before I had wholesale accepted the oral tradition or the seven laws (but I was learning about them) I spotted an error in my reading.
You see I was reading it like this:
“But flesh with its blood you shall not eat.”
But what does it really say?
But flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat.
Each word has a meaning and has importance. So why had I ignored those words “its soul?” Or better yet, what did that word mean?
The Hebrew word, nefesh, is rendered a number of ways in English. The KJV and the JPS render it here as “life.” Others translate it as “soul.” Hebrew dictionaries available online like Brown-Driver-Briggs, Strongs, Gesenius use words like “soul, living being, life, vitality.”
So the word seems to have something to do with being alive.
So the text seems to be talking about flesh with its life, flesh that is alive.
I could have just stopped here and thought that the text is still talking about blood, the red stuff, and thus it still says, don’t eat flesh with its life, its red stuff. And thus nothing has changed.
Now the question to ask is this: does the context mention blood? And if so, how is it used?
Let’s look. Genesis 9:3-6.
3) Every moving thing that lives shall be for food for you; as the vegetation I’ve given you everything. 4) Only flesh with its life/soul, which is its blood, you shall not eat. 5) And surely your blood of your lives I’ll require; at the hand of every beast will I require it; and at the hand of man, even at the hand of every man’s brother, will I require the life of man. 6) He who sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made He man.
Now what I have to ask myself is if the word “blood” here simply refers to the blood, the red stuff, regardless of whether an animal or man is alive or dead? Is verse 4 really telling me that if I have a dead animal, any red stuff is forbidden?
When God says, “I’ll require the blood of your lives,” is he simply talking about any speck of the red stuff? When he says “he who sheds a man’s blood,” are we talking about any release of red stuff? If I slip and cut my knee so that it bleeds, have I sinned by shedding my own blood? If someone else cuts me, have they transgressed this law?
Now the odd thing is that it’s widely understood that the usage of “blood” in the verses that follow verse 4 refers actually to the life or, loosely, lifeblood. And we’re not just talking about drops of blood either. The text is still talking about “life.”
For example, if I strangle someone to death, and not one drop of blood is shed, I would still have transgressed the law against “shedding blood.” Now this would seem odd only if I had ignored what verse 4 seems to really be saying and understood “blood” in a hyper-literal way to speak of any of the red liquid in an animal or human.
What do I mean by ignoring what verse 4 said?
Didn’t verse 4 warn me how it was going to be using the word “blood?” Didn’t it tell me that “life” is “blood?” Or that I’m supposed to understand “blood” as “life?” Didn’t it say “flesh with its life, which is its blood …?” That’s not simply “the red stuff.”
The use of “blood” in the text should tell me that we’re not talking about “any red stuff” neither in verse 4 nor in verse 6. In this context, it’s talking about an element of life.
So based on the context, I’m not being told to wash meat before I eat it; just like I’m not being told specifically not to remove any blood from someone else.
I conclude, like the sages of old, that this passage forbids eating flesh taken from a living animal. I now reject the idea that this text isolates “the red stuff” and forbids its consumption.
In other words, the prohibition of eating meat taken from a living animal seems closer to the simple reading of the text than a simple general prohibition against any blood. That may be in the law for Jews but not for the descendants of Noah on a whole.
I could have quoted rabbinical sources, but I’m focusing on my own conclusions here.
So there have been a good amount of occasions where judges, lawyers and cops get away with apparent miscarriages of justice. I just heard of an occasion where a guy goes to a government official’s home to get an interview. That G.O. doesn’t particularly like this so he takes the guy’s smartphone from his hand, takes it into his garage, uses a hammer to smash the person’s phone and then uses an adequade saw to chop it in half and then returns it to the person wanting the interview.
No, that’s not the end.
The person who wanted the interview is arrested and the district attorney sets such a high amount of money for bail the guy can’t get out of jail until the trial. And the G.O. who smashed and destroyed the guy’s phone? The same D.A. drops all charges against him.
Now this is just one example of many of things that agents of the govt do that I personally see as immoral.
People can be imprisoned for asking the wrong questions to a judge, will have charges piled against them by police and lawyers, will be arrested and harrassed when doing nothing wrong or even illegal, will be killed or injured by government officials with no repercussions for those government officials.
And something I often hear from people is, “that’s not the way the system works” or “that shouldn’t happen.”
I’m puzzled by such a response. Well at least part of me is.
Think about the basis for such a statement. People only say “that’s not the way it works” because they think the system should work for justice, fairness and righteousness. They say injustice shouldn’t happen because they think the system should be for the cause of justice, fairness and righteousness.
But when you consider how government officials get their positions and what law is, something doesn’t make sense. There is incongruence between what many accept as the way people get into such roles and how law works, and the result they are expecting.
People hold up a person’s act in light of the government’s law. To be a criminal, convicted or accused of going against the law, is generally seen to be a morally bad thing. Legislation is seen as morality. Those that go against law are seen to have opposed morality itself.
Just to be clear, when I talk about people, I’m including Torah observant Jews and Gentiles. To my grave disappointment, in my experience, many of those who have made govt law seem moral, who have defended the political and legal systems in the land they live in, are Torah observant Jews and “noahides.”
Yet, what factually is govt law? What is the nature of govt law? It’s basically the written opinions of politicians, people whose level of righteousness or moral intellect is at best questionable, that are backed by the threat of coercion.
But just like in science, so in politics, the words of men are elevated to a different plane of existence, as if holy or sacrosanct, by pure and simply magic or faith.
However, when I think about what govt law actually is, its nature, the opinions of the questionable unknown politicians backed by threats, then I personally begin to wonder if I should really expect justice, righteousness and fairness from such a thing.
And since it is understood that govt law is just opinion backed by threats, then I’ll return to the idea of being a criminal, a law breaker. Essentially it is simply going against an opinion of someone else. It’s not, in and of itself, immoral. Someone’s opinion doesn’t make objective morality. The views of a group don’t make objective morality. Objective morality stands regardless of humans.
So necessarily the government’s law is not moral law. In order for legislation to be moral, it has to accord with proper morality. And there are historical examples of immoral state law. Sometimes the criminals are the good people.
It’s not a popular point. But I believe it to be a true one.
So if government law is not in and of itself moral, then what about the concept of “rule of law” if govt law has such a flaky, weak and potentially immoral nature? Don’t even some “noahides” and noahide webpages see some great importance to “rule of law?” For example,
Today, the principle of the “rule of law” is universally recognized, that is, the incumbency of establishing a just legal system, which is applied with fairness and before whom all are equal. A law that violates fundamental human values does not satisfy this concept of the rule of law. (The Noahide Universal Law, by Nahum Rakover, http://www.lif.ac.il/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=349&Itemid=1331)
Society only functions because of the rule of law. (Introduction to the Noahide Laws, at Noahide Nations, http://noahidenations.com/index.php/academy-of-shem/for-all-mankind/229-seven-noahide-laws/introduction-to-the-noahide-laws/385-an-introduction-to-the-noahide-laws?showall=1&limitstart=)
I’ve seen resources online that even equate the first of the seven laws, Justice or Dinim, with “rule of law.”
So what about “rule of law?”
So yes, I’ll get to that. I’ll just deal with another matter first.
Righteousness, justice and fairness are not prerequisites for government jobs. To join the police, you don’t have to be a morally good person. To be a policeman, you don’t have to be fair and upright. This should be obvious by the willingness of police to throw their weight around, to use threats of imprisonment and physical violence and the taking away of children to gain compliance their individual dictates.
“Tell me your name or I’ll arrest you for obstruction.”
“If you don’t do what I say, I can help make sure social services get involved with your kids.”
“Leave this public place or I’ll arrest you for trespassing.”
Judges are worse since they are nigh-absolute dictators in their courtrooms.
To be a law-maker in many countries, or a politician or a judge or a lawyer or many govt roles, the desire for truth and restoration, and a good moral fibre are not necessary prerequisites.
But they do have to be somewhat good at knowing govt law (yes, whenever I say that, I’m still only referring to a normally written opinion backed by a threat). And this opinion may or may not be for the good of individuals on a whole. But the govt officials, those who don’t need to be decent people, must be good at using it.
And not just using it, but interpreting it as they wish at the time that they have to deal with a potential “criminal.” Judges have to do this in a system where lawyers are not paid to get to the truth but rather to defend their client, and will do what they can to be the grand salesman, advertisers and promoters for the position of their client. Cops have to use this written opinion when (or if) they choose to deal with the public. Politicians … hahahaha … well, they have their role too.
But in such a system that is not based on punishment, not restoration and restitution, where bureaucracy, money, prestige, pride and power have a strong part to play, where righteousness, justice and fairness are not in the important parts of the system, yet people believe it to hav some vague aspirations of good, in such a system, how can there be any real hope of real justice???
And then after all that, the fact that govt law is merely opinion backed by threats but held to be real moral precepts, even by those who uphold the objective morality of Torah, the fact that righteousness, fairness and justice are not the vital ingredients for a govt official to get an office, after all that, then I approach a concept that seems to be highly praised amongst godless and godly people alike: the rule of law.
What is the real basis and product of “rule of law?”
I found the rule of law article in the legal dictionary part of freedictionary.com to be most useful. You can click on that link to read it yourself.
It speaks of three parts to this “rule of law” schpeel.
1) Ruling according to law – politicians have to act in line with written and established laws. They can’t seek to punish people who haven’t broken a law.
2) Ruling under law – No one is above the law, not even politicians. So the law rules everyone equally.
3) Ruling according to a higher law – the laws set in place have to accord with an authority, a law, higher than human law, universal principles that apply to everyone.
Now, I’m hoping that someone reads all that, thinks about it in principle and in how it is played out in real life and at least chuckled at its foolishness. Inside, I’m laughing it to scorn even as my face currently is fiercely focused on getting it finished.
For points 1) and 2), since law is just opinion backed by a threat, and it is created by questionable sources, normally written with enough ambiguity to be played with, and then interpreted and re-interpreted by judges who have their own agendas, judges who can stretch and restrict terminology as they please, these notions are altogether a joke, a sad and despicable joke.
One fantastic example of this is the American constitution which was supposed to limit its government in size and power. Yet, regardless of its words or possiple original intent (or the fact that it actually has no real authority except by faith), the judges and politicians have helped make sure it has grown in scope, size and power to such an extent that people can’t even cross the road without breaking a law, that some are forced under pain of death to put their kids into public school, that no one really owns the land they paid for because they still have to pay the politicians rent called “property tax,” that so many of their actions are interfered with by one piece of legislation or another.
That’s a fantastic example of the useless or empty or totally flexible nature of ruling according to or under law. When a judge or politician can flex it this way or that way to suit their purposes, the law just becomes what it is: opinions that can be played with.
Let’s not forget how notoriously difficult it can be to actually have a govt official punished for immoral acts and crimes. Getting judges punished for their tyranny, or cops for falsely arresting people or killing them or lying in their reports and court testimony, getting politicians punished for war crimes, like lying about reasons for going to war, for shifting the creation and formulation of laws in favour of donors, unions and corporations, getting any of these sorts of bad actors punished is much harder than the normal Joe. Those are just a small set of examples. It should be staggeringly obvious that people are NOT treated equally!
Although I’m sure there are examples of repercussions for govt officials, the plethora of abuses in the area makes “rule under law” a pretense at best, a propaganda tool used to give the serfs the impression that everything is generally ok, that their masters are just and good.
And then I have point 3), accountable to a higher law. Now part of me says that this is a good thing, a recognition of a higher law. This acknowledgement may be a sign of rationality tapping into the intellect that some theorize as coming from the fact that we’re made in God’s image.
But where it concerns ruling according to a higher law, in this secular or multiple-personality multicultural society, that too is a court jester, fumbling and messing around, but only with dire consequences.
So with no god, or a culture with a plethora of gods, or ideas or philosophies, what exactly is this “higher law?” The “universal” human rights? Rights are simply privileges given in different measure depending on which ruling class you happen to live under. There’s no such thing as universal human rights. What about conscience? Ah, that’s subjective and fickle as well. What about the unalienable rights of the Americans or the unwritten constitution in the UK? Oh, that’s the govt privileges again; pick your flavour of ruler.
As hopeful as point 3) can be, currently it’s a pipe dream.
So “rule of law” in all its aspects, and at least in this world, is a myth. And I can’t say much about the imaginings of “noahides” and Torah observant Jews as too many of them think ruling classes should exist (as opposed to courts) and have the “right” and power to make up laws that it sees fit. You can see I have no trust or faith in that.
Anyway, going back to the point of this blogpost, consider the responses of people who see the injustice (that takes a lot for anyone to do) and then exclaim that this isn’t how the system works or things shouldn’t happen this way. Unfortunately too many of them are already committed to their ruling class and system of dictatorship, be it democracy or republic or parliament, whatever. And in light of what govt law is, i.e., the enforced opinion of the morally questionable, in light of the lesser priority given to proper moral fibre in those put in places in the government, in light of the questionable status of the morality of govt officials, and in light of the myth of the rule of law, in light of all things, I’d say that, when immorality happens in govt, and injustice happens in the courts, when innocent people become victims of the police and the “citizens” are little more than cattle for the ruling class …
I’d say things are happening exactly as they should; the system is working as it is meant to.
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?