A subheading of this post could well be “Does every capital crime have to be spelt out?”
Now this post is NOT an indictment or accusation against AskNoah.org, an organisation that I not only respect, but I also recognise them, Dr Schulman, in being instrumental in my acknowledging the truth of the oral tradition and my growth in the seven laws.
This post is rather about my path and ponderings about the details of the seven laws.
So I read a publicly shared pdf from AskNoah about the law of Justice. And in that pdf I read a startling position.
See in Part VII, The Prohibition of Theft, that one who rapes a woman … is not held liable to capital punishment in a Noahide court, since it does not fall within the category of one of the absolute Noahide Commandments. (pg 6, footnote 21, Establishment of Laws and Courts, https://asknoah.org/wp-content/uploads/noahide-laws-and-courts-ch1.pdf)
To me, this says clearly that rape is not forbidden in the core seven laws since it is clearly stated in the Talmud and multiple other well-accepted sources that breaking the seven laws brings liability of death. I’ve quoted this so many times on this blog, I’m not gonna do it again. If someone reads this and asks for the quotes, I’ll give them.
But, at least in the eyes of the author of that pdf, rape doesn’t bring liability of death, therefore it’s not amongst the core seven laws.
Now this was surprising to me because I knew I had been taught differently in the past, that rape was included in the core prohibition against theft. But I struggled to remember where I had been taught this. I did not want to just have such conclusions in my mind that just came from myself.
So I searched and easily found the previous teaching.
Rape is a form of kidnap, which is a type of theft of a human being. It is therefore a capital crime according to the Seven Laws. (Laws of Kings & Wars 9:13) The classic example of this is the rape of Dinah, who was an unmarried Noahidess (the Hebrews only received the legal status of Israelites when they accepted the entire Torah at Mount Sinai). Note that “thou shall not steal” in the “Ten Commandments” (part of Israel’s Torah) specifically refers to the theft of a person, which is a capital crime for Jews as well. (Exodus 20:12, Deut. 5:16 cf. Book of Injuries, Laws of Theft 9:1) (under the chapter “5. Stealing”, Part II, A, The Seven Noahide Commandments, Guide For the Noahide, by Rabbi Michael Shelomoh bar-Ron)
Rape by a Noahide is a capital offence. (Noahide Commandments, by Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, translated by Yitzhak A. Oked Sechter, can be found at http://www.okbns.org/pdf/Noahide_Commandments3_503107.pdf)
One is liable for punishment whether he brazenly robs in public or sneaks into a house on a moonless night.
Later authorities rule that a man who rapes or seduces a woman who is not forbidden to him is liable for punishment because he is stealing from the woman’s worth for his own personal use. (laws 4 and 8, chapter 10, Theft, Path of the Righteous Gentile, by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky, emphasis mine)
Each of these resources states, in one way or another, that rape gets the same punishment as robbery, i.e., the liability of death.
Yet the pdf from AskNoah states differently.
So, once again, when a Gentile is faced with two opinions from different rabbis, what is he to do? Let me rephrase that. When I’m faced with different opinions from different rabbis, what do I do? You see, I’m not a rabbi. I don’t have their training or learning. Yet there is a difference of opinion on what a core detail of the seven laws states.
All I can do is my best, so that’s what I’ll do.
Kidnapping is forbidden as a clear core prohibition in the command of theft. And stealing, taking, using or withholding someone’s property without consent, is forbidden as a core component of the law as well.
If a Gentile steals and then returns it, he’s still guilty of the crime of theft.
Kidnapping is when you seize a person and deprive them of freedom. Using the same principles, even if the kidnapper frees the captive, he’s still guilty.
Rape is where a person (a woman?) is seized, used without her consent. Whether physical damage is done or not, she has still been taken and used. So regardless of the fact that the rape finishes, the rapist is still guilty of kidnap, a core portion of the law of theft, and, therefore, is liable. Some would list this under “damages”, although I don’t know if every rape produces significant physical injury. Searching for some answers, I found that a few sources said that most times the physical injury is minor. But rape is the seizing and using of a person without consent. That’s the essence of theft.
But the problem for me is that it makes sense to me but the Talmud doesn’t give a clear statement about it with regards to Gentiles. Rambam doesn’t appear to spell it out either. In his section on the seven laws in the Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, chapter 9, law 9, he mentions “stealing a person” or “kidnap.” Is that enough?
This article may not be to give answers. It may just raise questions. Even my own conclusions may be suspect because I’m not a Torah-educated Jew. Man, most wouldn’t even consider me to be a Seven-Laws-educated Gentile! So I have to do this for myself, to get intimate with the law I claim to be devoted to, to question it.
For me, as long as theft includes kidnap, includes the concepts of taking, using and withholding person and property without consent, then rape has to be among the core seven laws.
I’m trying not to be swayed by the grievous nature of the act. I want to be faithful to the law. But the issue is this: if rape is not distinctly spelt out and distinctly named by the accepted ancient writings about the oral law, then is it part of the law?
I’ll leave that there for me to think about.
This article was inspired by a friend of mine. I want to at least make mention of him to respect the part he had to play in its writing. I’m NOT saying he agrees with everything that I write or believe, only that he helped me see some truths that go into this article. HRV, I’m grateful to you, man.
So the title itself should answer itself, right? With regards to whether we need the orthodox Jews or the rabbis or a Sanhedrin to sanction or allow a Gentile (simply meaning “non-Jewish”) court to judge and penalise according to the seven laws for humanity, the simple answer would seemingly be “no”. The Jews judge those under their jurisdiction and each of the other nations judge those under theirs, one not needing the peimission of the other.
It would seem simple, right?
And in light of that conclusion, this would mean that the law of Justice from the divine Gentile laws isn’t as theoretical as some would have us believe, as it is always in the power, within the reach, of a group of Gentiles to begin to apply God’s principles to our communities in a legal sense.
To those Gentiles who read/study the Talmud or the Mishneh Torah, this shouldn’t be any new news to you because of statements like the following:
But R. Aha b. Jacob answered thus: The Baraitha informs us that they were commanded to set up law courts in every district and town. But were not the sons of Noah likewise commanded to do this? Surely it has been taught: Just as the Israelites were ordered to set up law courts in every district and town, so were the sons of Noah likewise enjoined to set up law courts in every district and town! (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56b, found at https://halakhah.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_56.html)
What must they do to fulfill their requirement regarding the Law of Justice? They have to set up magistrates and judges in each district to judge the people with regard to these Six Commandments; and they must issue warnings (about them) to the people. (Mishneh Torah, Book of Judges, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 9, halakhah 14, can be found at https://www.sefaria.org/Mishneh_Torah,_Kings_and_Wars.9?lang=bi or https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188354/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-9.htm)
It should be clear from these quotes that we Gentiles set up these courts ourselves and implement the laws ourselves with no reference to Jewish oversight or some obligation to get rabbinic permission.
But, with help from that good friend, there is support for this conclusion and teaching from The Divine Code which seems to reveal implications that contradict the notion that the law of Justice is merely or only theoretical. This information can be found on pages 424 and 425 of the Divine Code, in footnote 151. It says as follows.
It appears that for Gentiles, this does not depend on having a valid Sanhedrin court (which has not existed since before the destruction of the Second Temple). This is because Gentiles can be judged by their contemporary Gentile courts even regarding the death penalty. Therefore, within Torah Law, it is permitted nowadays from the outset for a blood-redeemer to kill a murderer, as explained in this chapter (although secular law may forbid this).
Rabbi Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg notes that it appears that there is no need for any judge of Noahide law (even those who judge cases that involve the death penalty) to be ordained from teacher to student in an unbroken chain back to Moses. [Such was the ordination, or semiĥa, of the Jewish Sages from the time that Moses received the Torah Law on Mount Sinai, through the time of the writing and finalization of the Talmud, and this is known as the classical semiĥa. Due to persecutions and hardships, the ability to continue this process stopped after the fourth or fifth century C.E.] Hence, any Jewish or Gentile judge can sentence a convicted Gentile to the death penalty if he is liable for this, even nowadays.
This footnote just emphasizes the truth that not only can Gentile court cases, even in courts made by Gentiles who uphold the seven laws, decide on transgressions of the seven laws without Sanhedrin santion or allowance or permission, but also those judgements can be done right now. Yes, I said right now!
Maybe a shiver ran up the spine of Gentiles, both for Torah and against, who hold ridiculous notions of the seven laws, that they are akin to the Muslim sharia law. Those people may realise that the only thing stopping Gentiles from taking control of the situation with regards to making the seven commandments international reality is not the Jews, but rather we ourselves hinder the progress, either through ignorance, fear or oppression of unrighteous governments, such as those of the UK and USA.
But I know, this current global “community” is not ready, nor would it be willing. Other agendas are given more importance than objective morality. That’s the way it is. But the fact is that maybe, just maybe, the law of Justice isn’t as purely theoretical as some would have us believe.
Maybe it’s closer to hand than we realise.
Now it’s been no secret on my blog that I reject the naturalistic story of universal and biological development fostered by the godless and godly alike. I’ve made it no secret to those who interact with me that I know the tool called science and the faculty called human perception and intelligence to have their uses as well as their limits.
What has discouraged me or disappointed me about those who call themselves my friends or even associates, many of whom foster those beliefs and stories that I reject is not simply that they hold those views, but rather that they ridicule my position amongst themselves, judging me as Luddite, christian, pre-scientific (nice ways of saying “stupid” and “backwards”), whilst saying to my face that such differences in perspective don’t really matter and are not important.
What disappoints me is, while I’m sure they have positive feelings towards me, not one of them has taken me aside to show me the facts, the concrete and certain facts, that totally undermine my rejection or my acceptance of a relatively young universe and earth, that makes their position about an ages old universe, its evolutionary history so true and trust in scientists and their theories to absolute that they can be used to interpret Torah. All this while making a mockery of my worldview.
So far there has only been one man who at least attempted to show me that the universe must be much older than 5778 years old. This was rabbi Moshe ben Chaim of mesora.org, and I hardly know the man. We’ve only communicated once and that was years ago. He only gave one piece of evidence to buttress his claim of mega-aged universe and I thought I’d share why I see it is fundamentally inadequate.
I do agree and see as proof for the 16 billion year age of the universe from stars: we see a star, and can measure its distance as X light years away. Seeing that star, means that the light emanating from it had many light years (millions of years) to reach us. Thus, we prove that the universe must be at least that old, since the light took that long to reach us. Another Rabbi explained this theory to me, which I see as irrefutable proof. (Gentiles, Jews & Creation, http://www.mesora.org/GerToshav.htm)
I will add that I wrote my email to him about 12-13 years ago so I’ve developed since then, no longer keeping any form of sabbath.
So rabbi ben Chaim’s “irrefutable proof” is that stars are measured to be many light years away, so far away that it would take millions of years to reach us. Therefore the universe must be that old for us to see the stars.
That’s the “irrefutable proof.”
Now before I go into my reasons why this proof is far from irrefutable, reasons that can be arrived at by anyone, let me give the rabbinic/traditional reason why this sort of reasoning fundamentally fails.
As we will detail below, our mesorah insists that the six days of Creation were six literal days.5 One cannot insert the allegedly natural evolutionary process into the p’sukim by claiming that the days were actually billions of years, and legitimately claim allegiance to the mesorah. The very idea that Creation was anything less than a totally miraculous process, not conducted through natural processes at all─accelerated” or otherwise─is rejected by the Maharal (Ba’er HaGolah, p. 83, Ba’er Four):
Know that He, May He be blessed, brought out these creations, all of them, to physical reality during the six days of Breishis by Himself, in His Own Glory─not by means of an agent, i.e. Nature. Creation was contrary to the way things are after the conclusion of the six days of Breishis, wherein Hashem Yisborach conducts His world by means of the agent, i.e. Nature.”
As the Rambam explains in Moreh Nevuchim,
We, the community following in the footsteps of Moses and Abraham, believe that the world came into being in such-and-such a form, and became such-and-such from such-and-such (haya kach mi-kach ), and such was created after such. Aristotle comes to uproot our words, bringing proofs against us based upon nature in its stabilized, perfected and active state. We ourselves admit to him [Pines translates: As for us, we declare against him] that this is legitimate after nature’s having settled down in its fully developed stage; but in no way does this correspond to something’s characteristics at its being brought into existence, and produced out of absolute non-existence (MN 2:17).
None of the things mentioned above [the creation of Eve from Adam, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge, the history of the serpent and the events connected therewith] is impossible, because the laws of Nature were then not yet permanently fixed (Ibid. 2:30). (How the Days of Creation were Understood by our Sages, by rabbi Zvi Lampel, http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/how-days-of-creation-were-understood-by.html or http://blog.dovidgottlieb.com/2012/10/how-days-of-creation-were-understood-by.html)
Hmmm … I was planning to just to quote Rambam. But I’m glad I quoted the whole section from the article.
Traditionally, the creation week were not bound by natural law because it was a supernatural event, natural routine only being set afterwards. It was during that week that the stars and light were created and they were made in such a way that the first man could see the stars. And the natural laws were not even fully settled while the first man and woman were in the garden of Eden.
And to reiterate, the creation of the universe and its initial formation was a supernatural, non-natural, event, an event outside of the current laws of nature.
This position is what separates me from those who call themselves “creation scientist”, those who try the figure out how the Transcendent created the whole of reality in six days rather than billions of years. In their attempts to develop white hole cosmologies and relativistic time dilations, amongst other notions, they try to apply natural law to a meta-natural event, much like the evolutionist, which is nonsensical. Both they and those who adopt the naturalistic fables of universal history while following the commands of Torah still give science and scientists way more credit than they could ever realistically deserve. Look at the mentality:
“All we have to do is use our limited knowledge and tentative explanations about the fully developed ‘universe’ and then we can rewind time and understand how the non-human mind and transcendent being built to reality without natural patterns.”
No I have put “around the word “universe.” Why? Because humans can’t study the universe. Not directly anyway.
What do I mean?￼
The universe is said to be vast and the Earth and its planetary system is a spec in comparison, infinitesimal. Humans have not explored the vast majority of it because we are stuck right here. Look at this quote from Arthur Eddington, a British astronomer from the early 20th century.
It is better to admit frankly that theory has, and is entitled to have, an important share in determining belief. For the reader resolved to eschew theory and admit only definite observational facts, all astronomical books are banned. There are no purely observational facts about the heavenly bodies. Astronomical measurements are, without exception, measurements of phenomena occurring in a terrestrial observatory or station; It is only by theory that they are translated into knowledge of the universe outside. (Sir Arthur Eddington, The Expanding Universe (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1958), 17)
Now, factually speaking, theory is the explanations humans construct to account for the things we observe or experience. It’s not fact, and experienced or observed aspect of reality. It’s a person or people using their imagination, creativity, previously held beliefs, assumptions, previous conclusions, through the lens of their own cultural and socio-historical paradigm (worldview, way of thinking) in order to make an attempt to tie together phenomena in a way that makes sense to them. So theory is not fact, but rather an interpretation and explanation. It gains credibility if it makes accurate predictions, but that only makes it useful, not true.
So although Eddington believes such theories, imaginative explanations, should shape what we believe, he admits astronomy is essentially based on stories, not the observed facts, which are very limited. Why? Because we can only see things from here, afar from everything else. Nobody gets even a sizeable, significant amount of facts by watching things from afar. And the worst, we experience things here on earth and then declare to the entire universe, of which we are left in this speck stuck in a speck-sized bottle, that it must be the same as here!
Am I the only one who sees a huge amount of arrogance in disbelief? Am I the only one who sees the worship of or excessive faith in human (speck) reasoning?￼
Hmmm … let me get back to the subject, not that I totally left it, but focusing on the main point is important.
People trying to grasp the universal history and creation, they play a nice game. They make the rules and get a lot out of the endeavour. But truth? Do they think they are giving scientific models of truth?
Add to that the words from tradition that I quoted earlier, with nature being created, the laws of nature being formed and not set during creation, it’s preposterous to imagine that humans can make any factual statement about the formation of the universe without revelation or an intelligent participant or witness relating the facts through intelligible language.
So bringing this back to starlight, if I take for granted that the stars are as far as people claim, then, since God’s supernatural process of universal creation is unknown, and since natural law was not set until after the days of creation, then to talk about the time needed for light to reach us is totally meaningless and without merit. How the universe and the light from stars were built is beyond humans.
OK, so that’s the traditional approach to the issue regarding light from stars. But wait! I can imagine a rebuttal.
￼”If the rules of nature weren’t set yet, then couldn’t that mean that the six days were much longer, maybe billions of years?”
The answer has to be no based on tradition and based on the Bible.￼
Commenting on Genesis 1 verse 3, Ramban says the following:
You should know that the days mentioned in the account of creation, concerning the creating of heaven and earth, where real days, made up of hours and minutes, and there were six of them, like the regular six days of the work week, in accordance with the simple understanding of the verse. (pg 31, The Graff-Rand Edition: Ramban, The Torah: with Ramban’s commentary translated, annotated and elucidated)
Biblically, God makes it clear in the Decalogue,
Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is sabbath to God your Authority, you shall not do any work … because God made the heavens and the Earth in six days and rested on the seventh day …” Exodus 20:9,10a,11a
People who advocate for only using the written scripture noticed patterns in the Jewish Bible. Outside of Genesis 1, when the Hebrew word for day is used with a number, for example, 2nd day, it always means an ordinary day. Outside of Genesis 1, when it is used with evening or morning, it refers to an ordinary date, outside of Genesis 1, when it is used with the word night, it means ordinary day. Genesis 1 has number, evening, morning and night. This makes it fairly conclusive that Genesis 1 is talking about ordinary days, just like Ramban said.
Okay, so that’s it when it comes to the traditional answer to the supposed problem regarding light from stars. Again, if I take for granted that the stars are as far as is claimed, millions or billions of light years away, then the current speed of light and the time they think it would take that light to reach earth naturalistically can’t be applied to the creation week. God built the universe in a supernatural manner and when it was finished the light from the stars were here. That’s all there is to it!
Now if I didn’t have tradition, there would still be no firm ground upon which to claim that the argument from light from stars was irrefutable proof of the universe much older than about 6000 years. Why?
Firstly, after Eddington admitted that there was very limited observational facts about astronomy. He said all astronomical books should be banned if a person just wanted observational fact. Looking at a star from Earth cannot tell you absolutely and verifiably its distance from the Earth. Using parallax and the associated trigonometry can only be used for the supposedly closest stars and requires numbers and angles so precise, I would question its validity. And using star luminosity relies on theory to get its supposed distances, so once again it is not observational fact, but rather is based on tentative explanations and assumptions about the nature of space and the way light travels through it, that the behaviour of light in our limited, local, speck-like area can be applied to the entire universe.
So for me, the distances are questionable.
Secondly, the argument is that the light of a star 16 million light years away would take 16 million years to get here. But that is based on an erroneous interpretation and a number of assumptions. A light year is a distance, not a time. It is a distance of about 6,000,000,000,000 miles. It is defined as the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year.
What are the assumptions? That the speed of light is a constant. That the speed of light in our part of the universe is the same as everywhere else.
Both of these assumptions are only that: assumptions. They are statements dictated to me but with no reason to believe they are true. I understand that it might be important for their explanations to work, but that doesn’t make it objective truth.
Added to that, it is relatively easy to find evidence that the speed of light is not constant from both secular and nonsecular sources.
The fact that humans experience such a minute portion of the universe makes decorations about the constancy of light throughout it worthless. The fact that humans experience such a minute portion of the universe makes decorations about the constancy of light throughout it worthless.
Thirdly, from analogy, I know that in general the processes at the birth and infancy of something is not the same as when it is much later in its existence, when it is more mature. Whether it is the baby in the fetus or when it’s just born compared to a grown adult, or the building of the house or computer compared to its final functional form, the processes change. It’s unwise to take the processes in the fully developed form and then try to guess the processes during its initial form or development.
In light of this, I have no reason to believe that the speed of light here and now is the speed it has always been. So the claim that certain stars are 16 million light years away meaning that light must have had to take 16 million years to get here, as so-called irrefutable proof, all of that statement has not one single factual element to it. The distance, the time, the speed, all of these are taken on faith, claims that can’t be verified! And in light of the supernatural creation of the universe, the claim has no validity whatsoever!
I sit and watch these people, the Torah adherents who put such faith in the ukases of man, as if the universe must obey them, and the secular cosmologists and physicists who make their formulas and attempted tentative exclamations/explanations, who see oddities in their maths and think this is the same as an oddity in reality, for example, dark matter … I sit and shake my head in disbelief.
I’m more in shock by the Torah observers, but essentially it doesn’t matter whether they observe Torah or not. Why on earth are people taking the tentative (to be held in doubt, not as truth) theories of scientists and their claims as such an absolute truth that not only do they reconstruct the Torah narrative and re-interpret it based on changeable guesses, they also ridicule and belittle the approach of those who take the tentative changeable guesses for what they are?
I am not antiscience. That is an accusation usually levelled against me and my approach to attempts to push stories about things we have never experienced nor can we ever experience. “You are against science!” And there is little point in trying to show a person that such a claim is not true. The word science is thrown around in such a vague sense, it’s hard to know what exactly I’m supposed to be against. Am I against investigating the naxal world we live in? No! Am I against the method of observing phenomena in the present (we can’t observe them any other time) and looking for patterns, repeatable ones? No! Am I even against people trying to form explanations for the phenomena and patterns? Nope! These are some of the tools we humans have to control and manipulate the world.
But am I for taking these attempted explanations and making them truth? No! Am I for taking universal extrapolations about what we have not experienced, such as the flawed big bang story, and trying to interpret the words of the God of truth, the all knowing, in the light of the pea-mind theories from beings so minute, so savagely limited in scope and knowledge in comparison (as if any comparison is possible)? Hell no! To me, that’s the epitome of stupid!
I enjoy science for what it’s worth! And I mean every word of that! “For what it’s worth.”When it comes to practical understandings, observation and repetition, it can be worth a lot! When it comes to trying to get the history of the universe, its nature and substance, especially when bent on the philosophy of naturalism or materialism or uniformitarianism, as many of these billion years old stories are, regardless of whether Torah adherents adopt them, then they are worth very little. It’s essentially a game of pretend.
Coming back to focus again, there is no factual reason, no reason based only on facts, to think that light from stars is any reason to think the universe must be millions or billions of years old.
If somebody has any facts that compellingly show my view to be wrong and can respectfully share them, then I’m all ears. If they believe they have the truth, then it should be okay for me to test the claims made to see if there are hidden assumptions. But if this is all science, then it can’t be truth, since science doesn’t create unchangeable cruise, only tentative theories.
So recently there was a school mass shooting in America. It was highlighted that there were Jews that had died there, 4 students and a teacher. That was amongst the 12 others who had died, and those who were injured. When I questioned the highlighting of the Jewish lives (because I tend to just see lives as generally equal), someone made a statement that make me think.
… any true lover of G´d KNOWS- – HaShem is One with His nation. So if you love G´d you must love His nation, any person who doesn’t does not follow the 7 Laws or honor His Torah. You can’t alter this!
My question is this: is this statement correct?
First, what is it saying? It makes a number of claims:
1) A person who truly loves God knows God is united with or inextricably tied to “His nation.” “His nation” refers to Israel.
2) If a person loves God, that person must love Israel.
3) If a Gentile doesn’t love Israel, he is not “following” (understood as “keeping properly”) the seven laws. This Gentile does not honour God’s Law or Revelation or Instructions because he doesn’t love Israel.
Now one of the things I need to define in this argument is the term “Israel.” What can Israel realistically apply to, especially in light of the fact we were talking about the death of individual Jews, people whose allegiance to or acknowledgement of the truth of God is unknown?
1) The modern state of Israel.
2) Any individual who is Jewish.
3) The historical/ideal nation of Israel who keeps the Torah law in covenant with God.
Must I love any of these entities to fulfil an obligation to the seven laws or to Torah? And if I don’t, have I rejected the seven laws?
Now just to clarify another thing, this is not an either-or issue. It’s not that I either love “Israel” or I hate it. There is also the sense of indifference. There is also the sense of feeling for Israel based on actions rather than label, i.e., I’m not loving Israel simply because it’s Israel, but rather because Israel actually upholds its divine obligations; or I’m not angry or disgusted with Israel simply because it’s Israel, but rather because it is embroiled with or has become guilty of immoralities listed in the Torah.
OK, so let me ponder this.
Let me put the seven laws first. Now the seven laws do not command a person to love anyone at all. So at least where our basic divine obligations are concerned, there is no command to love Israel in any sense, not the modern state, not the individual Jew, not even the ideal Torah keeping nation. So the person who gives the accusation that a Gentile who doesn’t love Israel also doesn’t follow the seven commandments … well the accuser is 100% wrong.
“But, David, don’t we learn the seven laws from Israel?” Ah, the fallacy of equivocation, bait and switch. I didn’t learn the seven laws from “the modern state of Israel.” The individual Jews that did teach them to me are not the same as the atheistic Jew who was quicker to denounce Torah and his heritage than uphold them, genetics isn’t enough of a reason to “spread the love.” And I’ve never experienced the ideal Torah-keeping nation of Israel.
So where the seven laws are concerned, a person can follow them, obey them, and not give a second thought to any version of Israel.
Now, I’ll analyse the claim further.
So a person who loves God is apparently supposed to know that God is “one” with “his nation.”
How is this statement reasonable? Surely there’s something missing from it. I say this because God, first of all, is the First Cause of the universe and its sustainer. If I only knew this and loved the First Cause for it, I would have no conception, no idea, that God has anything to do with a certain nation. So what is missing from the claim is knowledge of the nation or the history recorded in his Torah.
So the claim should be amended to this:
A person who loves God AND HAS LEARNED THE HISTORY RECORDED IN HIS TORAH should know that God is “one” with his nation.
Unfortunately the statement “one with his nation” is ambiguous. What it really means is lost and didn’t get clarified by the person making the claim. As a Gentile who has read and does respect the written Torah, the claim is rather meaningless. Nowhere does God claim to be “one with his nation.” The best possible meaning it can have is that Israel had a special marked relationship with him (they are called by his name) which is heavily linked with its fulfilment of and obedience to the law he gave them.
But then knowledge of this “oneness” would then, for me, be lacking. Hmmm … Maybe I don’t love God, I’d the claim is true. Or maybe the claim isn’t intrinsically true. If it’s not clear in the written Torah, then how can the claim be true? “if you don’t know what I know, you don’t love God.” A bit subjective. Too subjective.
Now it may be true that God’s name is linked to the ideal Torah-keeping nation of Israel (with no God-given obligation to love it), but is this true for the individual Jew, or the modern state of Israel?
In both cases, no, not necessarily. Who knows if the individual genetic Jew keeps the covenant that would link them to God? And the modern state of Israel is not the same as the Israel from the days of Joshua or the one that fell in the first centuries of the Common Era. It can hardly be said to be faithful to the Mosaic covenant either.
So there are questions about the modern condition of the Jew and the state that currently resides in the land of Israel, at least in my mind.
So with this in mind, to cut to the chase, must a Gentile love the Jew?
A principle comes to mind:
LORD, who may sojourn in your tabernacle? Who may reside in your holy hill? He who goes about with integrity, who did what is right, and speaks the truth in his heart, who doesn’t spread tales, and doesn’t do evil to his neighbour … For whom a contemptible man is abhorrent while honouring them that revere the LORD … (Tehillim [Psalm] 15)
Personally, I believe that this is true for any human being, Jew or Gentile. And if the person is a stranger, the safest thing is neither to call them evil or good just based on where they’re from.
Based on this principle, to love a Jew or even to love Israel simply because of the name, simply because of biological lineage is foolish. Of course, I’m not saying to hate them either, but for me, it’s not one or the other, either love or hate. If love and hate is an action, then a person can be simply inactive and indifferent. But to respect humans and love righteousness and the righteous is the main thing.
So hearing about a mass shooting in America and to hear that some Jewish kids died, to simply detest the loss of life without caring much about the genetics, or to not see the Jewish deaths as any different or somehow special shouldn’t be a sin or a crime against God.
It would be interesting to see if there is an argument against that position.
I may not have gone through every detail, through each in and out, about loving a Jew or Israel. But I just don’t want to stretch this any longer.
This is a very useful teaching from rabbi Tovia Singer.
it should be fairly obvious that the 7 laws are not part of the fabric of politics, society on a whole, or much of the world. Despite the claims of naysayers and fear-mongers, even Muslim countries are not enforcing the 7 laws. But bringing back the focus to my own part of the world, the morality in the 7 laws seems to be unknown and contradicting philosophies are accepted.
In such a world, what is my place? How do I, as someone committed to the truth of God’s basic blueprint of obligations, live acceptable to him? Day by day, I feel ever distant from those who accept the 7 laws, mostly identifying themselves as “noahide.” Without computers or smartphones, they would hardly exist to me. And my real life environment seems bereft of a Jewish presence … No, let me correct myself … Bereft of a Torah observant Jewish presence. That’s not to say there is any Jew around me. There isn’t. But biological or genetic Jews are not sufficient.
So how am I to live? Should I aim and strive to stay plugged into the social media “matrix” just to have some contact with strangers who happened to agree that injustice, cursing God’s name, idolatry, sexual immorality, eating meat taken from an animal while it’s alive, murder/abortion and theft, all of this is fundamentally wrong, even if many times there’s little more commonality or basis for amicability than that? Wow, that was a long question. Should I aim to promote the 7 laws in newspaper ads and TV spots? Should I just go for the quiet life just cutting off all that and all these people off and just living my private life until the Father of All calls me to rest permanently after all my living is done?
At the most basic level, I think Elisheva Barre said it best in response to a query she received on her website.
Lacking the legal application of the Bnei Noah Laws, they remain precepts which each one takes upon himself on an individual basis, and if you do not have Bnei Noah friends to share your beliefs with, there is no other “infrastructure” than between you and HaShem. None of the 7 laws clash with any culture or state laws. Six of these commandments are prohibitions and not committing a transgression is not doing anything, so there is no clash. On the other hand, refraining from a deed that would be permitted to a Ben Noah but is not obligatory avoids clashing with any ethnical or cultural environment that does not recognize such a deed as permissible. (pg 49, chapter 17, Mail We Received On Our Website, Torah for Gentiles, by Elisheva Barre)
when it comes to my obligation to God’s commands, all I need to do is avoid the forbidden acts and live. That’s it. It’s not about shouting from the rooftops, preaching a message to save souls, toppling government(s). It’s not even about finding a rabbi and learning at his feet or podcast. It’s just like the quiet verse of Micah 6 verse 8: Be kind, be fair and be decent.
With what seems to be my inner me, this seems to be the best thing to strive for. Or maybe even the last verses of Ecclesiastes: Fear God and keep His commands. I could be invisible to the world and his wife and just live in my corner. That wouldn’t be a bad or sad existence as long as I stay faithful to God’s truth. I’d be a good father to my wife, a good father to my children, hopefully a good man. I’d enjoy what I can in this life and that’s that.
So if I asked a more “religious” question, “How do I get close to God?”, would the existence I just described be too lowly? Too mundane? Too fleshy and temporal, lacking the “spiritual”?
Actually, No. When I referred to Micah 6 verse 8 – “be fair, be kind, be decent” – that was a direct answer to the question in verse 6, “How do I approach God, to bow to the High God?” Whether you want the so called “secular” life or the so called “spiritual” or “religious”, the core answer is the same. (For those who read the Jewish Bible, see how mundane the holy man of Psalm 15 is.)
I believe that the 7 laws for an individual in the real life. No! Let me rephrase that as I don’t want to impose on others. I believe that’s the 7 laws for me in real life. And not just the 7 laws, but the life of a human being, reflecting the image I was made in.
This article was going to be part of the “various thoughts” series. I was considering if I should even write it. In my mind, it was one of the easiest of the seven laws to transgress since it talks about speech, and I know from experience how easy it is to say bad things. I was also fearful that by going through it, I may actually be teaching people how to do it, therefore increasing the likelihood of it actually being done.
But every now and again, I like to go through one of the seven, just revise its details for myself, maybe share what I’ve learned with the one and a half people that read this blog. And every law is important to learn and understand, as it’s vital that I know what is prohibited and what is permitted for a Gentile.
Also it reinforces for me that things that the core seven laws permits doesn’t make those acts beneficial or good. The core laws are only a basis to learn more.
Now I was expecting what I get from most other laws of the seven. I was expecting some research, mainly one view will be dominant, and I’ll just share it and get along with life. But oddly enough, this law, a law I don’t encounter very often, has two strong views … well, more like one view that is supported by many because it is held by a popular and respected book, and another view that is held by the majority of other resources that I have.
Let me try and get his across.
Now with regards to the core command concerning “cursing God’s name”, I’d want to share my understanding of “curse” in English I can understand. Its opposite is the word “bless.” When someone blesses another person, they’re expressing a desire for good things to happen to that person by means of their god. So I’ll bless my friend, saying “May God grant you success.” Or, “I hope God gives you your heart’s good desire.”
But when you curse someone, you express a desire for harm or evil to befall a person. “May God strike you down.” “I pray God gives you such a traumatic and deep infestation that your insides rot from the inside.”
So when a person curses God, they are expressing a desire for harm or evil to befall God, but they are actually calling upon God to do it.
Now if you think that sounds weird or even preposterous, I believe a little thought will show that this is very possible, just like any other act prohibited by the other laws for humanity. To summarize an example really quickly, imagine who devoted themselves to God, but saw his whole family, his babies, suffering and dying. The impact of that on the mind and heart … I wrote an article recently called “God in the Silence” which expresses some of the struggles a person can go through where reality seems to be screaming against the goodness and truth of God.
And this can cause a build-up of emotion or just a moment of extreme anger where a person lashes out at God. Or it may be that the heart grows cold and vengeful. Either way, a person wanting to use words to lash out at God is more than possible. It no longer is a question of “Why God did this?” but more the retort of “God, you did this, and I hate you for it.”
So this prohibition concerns cursing God’s name. So, to use the helpful euphemism that the Talmud uses, where it uses another name to replace the special name, the person would say something akin to “May Jack strike down Jack”, where “Jack” replaces the special name of God. The special detail about the core law is that the transgressor must be using God’s name against God’s name. It’s not “may Jack hurt himself”. It’s actually referring to God by one name and then asking for harm on God referring to him again specifically by name or title. It is this act which is a capital offence in a righteous court. [Aside: it is the act that is protected by the nigh-universal principle of “freedom of speech” enacted by most secular governments.]
And this is where I meet the divide of views.
To prepare for this “revision” (like revising for an exam), I first looked at my Schottenstein edition of the Babylonian Talmud, specifically at tractate Sanhedrin 56a where this is discussed. It was there that I saw the two views, but not as a contrast but as a complement:
1) that the prohibited act for a Gentile is for that person to specifically curse the special four letter name of God, although that person can use certain other titles to curse the name. So for example, to use the euphemism, saying either “may Jack strike down Jack” or “may the King strike down Jack” is a capital offence. But the curse must be directed against the special name, or Jack. And,
2) the prohibited act for a Gentile is also to curse God using any of his special titles, this too is a capital offence. So euphemistically, a Gentile can be charged for saying “may the Ruler strike down the King” or “may Jack strike down the King”, as long as the intention is that the object of the curse is God.
To share a few quotes from the Schottenstein edition of the Talmud, to show I’m not making things up or misunderstanding:
[Please note, out of respect for God, many Jewish resources don’t refer to cursing God or cursing his name, but euphemistically referring to the act as “blessing God’s name”. Even the Hebrew version of the law “literally” means “Blessing the Name” or “blessing God”.]
According to the Rabbis, since the death penalty is learned from the second verse, which speaks of blaspheming the name of HaShem …, the penalty of death applies only to “blessing” [the special four letter name of God] … In their view, when the verse states that for “blessing” a subordinate Name the transgressor shall bear his sin, the reference is to kares (a Heavenly imposed death), not a court-imposed execution (Rashi).
[Rashi notes that the Gemara above used the verse [“You shall not curse God”] for the warning against “blessing” the [special four letter name of God]. However, since the term [Heb. elohim] in its literal sense means authority, the verse can be interpreted as prohibiting one to “bless” the Supreme Authority, no matter what Name is used. (See Binyan Shlomo.)] (footnote 37, tractate Sanhedrin, folio 56a)
Accordingly, though the Sages do not derive a gentile’s liability for a subordinate Name from the same verse as R’ Meir, they nevertheless agree with him that a gentile is liable to execution for blaspheming any of the subordinate Names (Rashi). (footnote 41, ibid)
So, to be clear, a Gentile is liable to execution, according to the Talmud, for cursing either the special name of God or other subordinate titles/names.
Now, I thought to myself, after reading the text, let me check the book, “The Divine Code”, as I’m using all my tools to get a good grasp of this subject. But what I found was not what I expected.
If one cursed against a holy Name (that is forbidden to be erased) other than [the special four letter name] or Ado-nai, with another holy Name (for example, by saying “Sha-dai should hit Tziva-ot”), he is not liable for punishment by a court. Even if one cursed against another of the holy Names by invoking the Explicit Name (for example, by saying, “[Ado-nai] strike E-lohim”) he is not liable. (page 265, The Divine Code, by Rabbi Moshe Weiner)
And he seems to have a good argument for it look at the relevant footnote.
Rambam, Laws of Kings 9:3, as explained in Minchat Chinuch Commandment 70, and in Or Same’ach Hilkhot Avodat Kokhavim ch. 2. Rambam’s wording clearly supports this as well, as he says, “A Gentile
who curses the Explicit Name with the Explicit Name or with an attributive name …,” and not merely “A Gentile who curses the Explicit Name or an attributive name.” This implies that a Gentile is liable for blasphemy only if he utters a two-part curse, with the Explicit Name as the object of the curse, and either with a holy Name or an attributive name being called upon to deliver the harm. (footnote 14, ibid)
I don’t need to mention the fact that the Divine Code does state that cursing the special name of God. That should be fairly obvious. But to be clear, of the two prohibitions that the Talmud gives, the Divine Code only agrees with the first being liable (cursing the special four letter name), but not the second (cursing a subordinate name). And he cites Rambam. So you can guess what I did next … well, partly anyway.
So the first thing I did was to re-read the Schottenstein, just to make sure I was reading it right. Based on the quotes, I believe I was. Then I read two other version of the Talmud, both available online and as apps for Android phones, the Soncino edition at http://www.halakhah.com and the William-Davidson edition at http://www.sefaria.org. There was no real disagreement with the Schottenstein. All contained both prohibitions for Gentiles, both regarding the special four letter name of God and the subordinate names.
Then, the expected thing, I looked at all the version of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah I could get my hands on: the Hebrew one at http://www.mechon-mamre.org, and the English translations, one at http://www.chabad.org and the one at http://www.sefaria.org. Shall I quote the English ones? [*sigh* This isn’t going to be a short one, is it David? Why do you do this to yourself? Why do you subject the one and a half people who read your articles to this? You’ve got a problem, don’t you, David? You really have a …] OK, let me get back on back on track. Quoting the two and referring to Hebrew! So there!
A gentile who curses God’s Name, whether he uses God’s unique name or one of His other names, in any language, is liable. This law does not apply with regard to Jews. (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188354/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-9.htm)
A non-Jew who “blesses” the Name, whether he “blesses” with one of the special Names, or with one of the sobriquets, in any language, is liable. This is not so with a Jew. (https://www.sefaria.org/Mishneh_Torah,_Kings_and_Wars.9.3?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en)
Now you’ll see a slight difference in translation, the chabad.org more amenable to both the prohibitions in the Talmud, and the one from sefaria.org looking a lot more like the Divine Code’s understanding. And yes, I can see the Hebrew, so I have at least a little understanding why either translation would work. From experience, I know that there is no perfect translations and that so-called “literal translations” can sometimes be inferior to looser translations that try to bring across the understanding of a text rather that just an attempted solid transfer of words from one langauge to another.
So are things any clearer to me? Can I search any more things?
Then I thought to myself, how do people who follow Rambam in a more focused way than rabbi Moshe Weiner interpret what Rambam said in the Mishneh Torah? I mean, I can see from the Divine Code that, although rabbi Weiner does based a lot of his view of Rambam, he refers to many other parts of Jewish historical traditional literature, showing that he has a wider knowledge of tradition. But what about a person, a rabbi, a knowledgeable Jew, who focuses more on Rambam than the wider tradition? How does such a person understand what Rambam is saying?
I know two such people: Elisheva Barre and rabbi Michael bar-Ron. They’ve both written books. What do they say, as they focus more on Rambam than Weiner?
A Ben Noah who blesses HaShem, either pronouncing the Special Name of God or any of the Attributes designating Him, in any language, is liable. This is not so for Israel (Laws of Kings and Wars IX 3).
A Jew will be condemned to death if he pronounces the Special Name of God (Laws of Idolatry II 7) but a Ben Noah is liable for using any of the Attributes or any word designating God in any language it is, being understood that the word he pronounced refers to the Almighty. (page 159, The Prohibition of Blasphemy, Torah for Gentiles, by Elisheva Barre)
Not to curse the Creator, the Sustainer of all existence, by any name referring to Him in any language. This need not be any of the sacred Hebrew names, but even cursing Him by the names “God” or “Allah.” (Law of Idolatry 9:5) (Cursing A Name of God, Part II, The Covenant of the Seven Commandments to the Children of Noah, Guide for the Noahide, by rabbi Michael Shelomo bar-Ron)
In the latter quote, pay attention to the title of the section, “Cursing A Name of God”, which shows that he understands this to be speaking of cursing different names of God, not just the special four letter one.
So both of them understand the prohibition in a way that encapsulates both of the Talmud’s prohibitions.
But then I said to myself, “David, you started, so you may has well throw everything you have as well as the kitchen sink at it.” I mean, what’s the point of having a kitchen sink if I can’t throw it.
Don’t answer that.
Anyway, so I took of the remaining books that I have to see what they say: The Rainbow Covenant, by Michael Dallen, The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism, by David Novak, The Seven Colours of the Rainbow, by rabbi Yirmiyahu Bindman (quite useless), and The Path of the Righteous Gentile, by rabbis Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky.
Out of the four, the three that actually specifically dealt with the prohibition sided with the Talmud. Shall I quote them? Of course!
Still within the realm of courts and crime, one who curses the Creator by any name or title other than the Name, clearly pointing to Him in both the speaker’s anda witness’s understanding, also deserves punishment. The Torah prescribes corporal, not capital, punishment, for a Jew who curses God, wishing Him harm, damning holy names other than the Name. But a Gentile who blasphemes God in this manner, using the only name or names for Him he knows, comes under a different rule. Under the Noahide Law, he may be punished capitally.
A Ben Noah who curses God’s Name, whether he uses God’s unique Name or one of his other names, in any language,is liable – Maimonides
(page 230, Sacrilege, The Rainbow Covenant, by Michael Dallen)
In essence, the prohibition of blasphemy is the same for non-Jews. The difference emerges in punishment. For non-Jews the same punishment applies no matter which name of God is used. For Jews, on the other hand, use of the Tetragrammaton results in a more serious punishment than the use of other designations of the deity. (page 54, The Law of Blasphemy, The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism, by David Novak)
The prohibition of blasphemy is transgressed even if one uses another term for God, for example, an attribute or epithet such as the Merciful One, the Father, or any other descriptive term. No matter how one curses God, and no matter in what language, the one who transgresses this commandment is subject to the death penalty by a court of law. (section 1, Transgressing the prohibition of blasphemy; peity, Blasphemy, Path of the Righteous Gentile, by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky)
So it’s fairly clear that, at least in my library, the Divine Code stands alone is clearly saying that cursing God, referring to the object of the curse with a subordinate name, does not make a person liable. All my other resources either clearly says the opposite, or can be interpreted that way. Wait, let me just check sefaria.org again …. errrr… yeah, even that can be interpreted in light of both the Talmudic prohibitions.
So what do I do with that?
Now some may say, “Hey, David, it’s because of this sort of disagreement that you should just go to one rabbi and rely on him. You’ll just get on straight teaching and you’ll just go with that.”
And believe me, I feel that, I can empathise with the sentiment. One word, one “authority”, one expert, life is simpler. But I don’t believe simpler means correct. Am I saying I’m more correct because I go of on my own and check out what all these resources are saying? No. Just like the person who goes to the one rabbi, I’m just trying to do the best I can to know and do the right thing. I pray God shows me mercy.
Now there are principles that can buttress each position. One principle is that, generally, the seven laws for Gentiles are not supposed to be more strict than the 613 system of law of the Jews. It seems more strict that a Gentile can be guilty with many more words than the special name(s) of God in Hebrew.
But there is an exception to this principle. When it comes to the law of eating meat taken from a living animal, there are times when a Jew can eat meat but a Gentile is still forbidden. Because Jews have a special slaughtering law that makes an animal acceptable to eat once it is completed, but an animal can still be convulsing after the slaughter law is performed, then that meat is ok for a Jew to eat, but forbidden for a Gentile who must wait until all automatic movement ceases before the meat is acceptable for him.
So it could be that, the law of blasphemy is another exception to the general principle.
But then there is the reasonable fact that Gentiles don’t speak Hebrew in general. With all the other laws, they prohibit acts within the reach of a Gentile, worshipping an idol, getting intimate with family members, murder and theft. But it would be rather ridiculous to prohibit a Gentile from doing something he is likely never to do, i.e., to speak Hebrew and say the special Hebrew name of God with the other Hebrew titles.
Now I can already see it happening: some “noahide” (I’m talking about the religious sort) saying that once a person knows the seven laws, then they are likely to learn Hebrew as well, and therefore the special Hebrew terms are within reach. That sort of reasoning is not compelling to me whatsoever. In the society I actually live in, looking at the media that is quite prevalent, and knowing the generalities of the seven laws, I see that people learn about the seven laws in their own language with no need to learn Hebrew whatsoever. Day to day life is almost void of a Hebrew word, much less the special names of God. So no, Hebrew doesn’t come into someone’s reach simply because they know the seven laws in their own language.
Added to that, it’s my personal belief that the general truths of the seven laws are accessible to any human being, without some rabbi coming to tell them about them. There is an innate foolishness to worshipping idols. There is some reasoning to actually letting an animal die before engulfing it. Theft and murder generally are widely prohibited. So the generalities of each law is accessible to the thinking Gentile, possibly of any age. I’m not saying it’s easy to see when everyone is telling you otherwise, but a heart dedicated to truth and consistency isn’t one of the commandments only specially revealed to the Jew alone, but is a character trait available to Gentiles without Sinai revelation or the Jew.
So a Gentile could logically or rationally come to acknowledge the truth of an ever-active and relational First Cause without Sinai or a Jew. But that Gentile could come to hate that First Cause. Now is it within the reach of that Gentile to curse that God in Hebrew with the special four letter name? I personally find that to be preposterous. What is within reach is for him to curse that God in the words he knows and understands.
Anyway, after all that, it may be obvious, but if I were to type down the law of blasphemy for Gentiles, I would do it according to the Talmud and the other resources and not the Divine Code. So …
The prohibition of blasphemy, the core law, would be that any Gentile who curses God in a way that points directly to him using the relevant names and titles in his language or any langauge is liable to execution if there was a righteous court. In the absence of such a court, it’s just a fairly disgusting and reprehensible thing to do.
Now just as a little aside, people say that this prohibition necessitates that a person know and acknowledge God in order to actually do it. I disagree. I believe this prohibition needs one of two things. One thing that is needed is the acceptance of God. The other thing that is needed is knowledge of the details of the law which doesn’t need acceptance of God.
How so, David?
Well if a person knows the truth of God, but gets sufficiently angry at him for some reason, and wishes to express his nigh-irrational anger, knowing the only thing that can hurt God is God (whilst, for some reason putting aside the knowledge that God can’t be hurt, maybe as a show of utter rebellion or just full of emotion), this person will wish harm upon God as the law details.
But if a person, maybe a person who used to observe the seven laws because God gave it as a religion, but then becomes as the modern atheist and militant anti-religionist, knows the details of the law and wants the most potent was to express his cutting himself off from his old “faith,” then that person, without believing in God anymore, can do this heinous act.
So people who say that this law means that people must faith in God or acknowledge him, I believe I may have made a case against that singular position.
It may be said that the second atheistic, anti-religionist Gentile actually accepts God by doing the curse. Look, if he says he doesn’t accept the truth of God but only wanted to show his rebellion to the whole concept by throwing out such a curse, then I’m not one to try to mind-read the guy. But that’s me.
Now, to end, you may realise that I said nothing about “taking God’s name in vain” or simply insulting God. My focus here was the core law. Although there are things that can be learned from it, maybe that’s for another time.
Hmmm … another one longer than expected. It was fun for me though.
Someone decided to respond to my previous post. There were a few comments, but at least one voice wasn’t trying so much to create a meeting of the minds but rather to state his opposition to my way of thinking. At least that’s how it started. How it continued turned into something quite beautiful. Hopefully the start of new friendship or positive relationship online.
The good thing about disagreement is that it can challenge one to think about one’s position. It’s important for me to do this or else I can just get comfortable, and just accept what I think because I’ve held that view for some time. And as this series is called “various thoughts”, it makes sense to try the rethink here.
Please note, I’m not doing this to continue the conversation with the person who disagreed with me, or to simply respond to him. This is me considering these things for myself.
So, what points should I think about?
“Your anti-statist views are largely based on emotion.”
Now first a little thing. The reason I prefer the term “antiestablishmentarian” rather than “anti-statist” is that “anti-statist” looks like I’m against statists whereas my views are actually “anti-state”, against that establishment, hence “antiestablishmentarian”. Just a little thing.
Now, how do I know if my view is mainly based on emotion? Not sure. If I take away my hostility to the government, would I love it, respect it, wish to support it while trying to alter it to my own morality, the seven laws?
I thought it over again and again. But I just don’t see to not to hold modern governments as opposers to God’s laws, to God and his laws. Is that emotion or principle? It seems like principle to me.
Also, personally, I can’t see how politicians get authority. They’re humans, like me. They don’t have a different nature. Individuals don’t have the power or “right” to tax others, to force them to pay them under threat of force for services unrequested, or demand obedience from others because one says so. So if individuals don’t have that “right”, there’s no way a bunch of them can give what they don’t have to a certain group. Is that emotion or principle? I don’t see the emotion, only the principle of “from nothing, nothing comes.”
That’s part of what makes atheism stupid.
Anyway, some say God gave the authority to rulers. But factually, that is untrue as can be seen in so-called “democratic elections”. That’s where a bunch of individuals who have no such authority delegate that non-existent authority to a certain person or group. That wasn’t God directly and explicitly giving authority; it was a bunch of people with no such authority.
Or maybe people, who generally reject the one true God, take this authority that he created, and give it to whomever they like however they like in different countries and eras. But then it would have to be clearly shown that God created such a thing as authority, something so amorphous and flexible that any manner of dictator and tyrant, good or evil, as long as something called “the people” accept it, could wield it and whatever they say goes.
The term, “the people”, does not have a clear meaning. It doesn’t mean all the individuals in a certain group. It doesn’t mean the majority as can be seen in how meaningless “we, the people” meant in the constitution of collectivist America when the vast majority of the place did not have a say in its formulation or initial imposition. Again, it’s another nebulous term used to justify what the individual using it wants to hold to.
Also, there’s the fundamental lie in the term “representative.”. What does it mean “to represent”? It means to act in my place, to be my delegate and spokesperson with my interests at the forefront. To be my delegate, that person can only use what I have and what I give them. How can a stranger to me represent me? How can someone who doesn’t know my interest be my spokesman? In fact, how can an individual truly represent a whole group of millions? Realistically, he cannot. I don’t have the ability to tax others, so where does this “representative” get the right to demand the fruits of another man’s labour, much less my own? If I’m against the government and political means, then how can an avowed servant to what I oppose represent me? How can a person who rejects the seven laws represent me?
The fact is that I have no political representative. There is no evidence that I personally have delegated anyone to be my political representative. The fact that I say “I have no political representative” means I have no such representative. And if someone else come along and forces such a thing upon me, it will only prove that he is not my representative because I have no voice or consent to such a thing.
Where’s the emotion? To me, apart from that which the Owner of the world has clearly delineated, as he has a claim to control what he made, there’s no real foundation to government. And when the institution opposes God’s law, it has no moral foundation to say God authorised me to do x.
Personally, I can’t see the emotion my stance is based on. My reasoning may be fallacious, but emotion-based? I don’t think so.
“I’m not forcing my views on someone by voting …”
This logic is the same as saying this: “I helped choose your assassin. But I’m not putting your life in danger. I’m not the one who killed you.”
Let me explain.
Government is a monopoly of legitimised aggression in a certain territory. To me, morally, the government is a criminal gang. It is nothing more and nothing less. It’s a mafia getting protection money from its victims (taxation), making threats that is backed up by the force of its goons (laws), and pushing out the competition through whatever means necessary (corporatism, cronyism, public services, etc). Its (visible) head honcho is the prime politician, whatever you choose to call that person, prime minister, president, chief parasite, whatever.
What then is the willing vote? What, in effect, does it mean to vote? It’s a person’s action to step out and say who they want to force their will on others or who will fill positions in the aggressive organisation. It’s a person’s action that supports the legitimacy of the aggression and the organisation, which, these days, is normally against parts of the seven laws and against parts of morality. It’s also support of a “might makes right” political system, which democracy is. The might of the numbers determines what view will be (en)forced on people as the right.
Think about the moral soul that just wants to make sure unborn babies are not killed, and so they vote for a political candidate or party. More often than not, if not every time, if by some miracle that this candidate doesn’t ultimately lie, that candidate will protect one or a few principles while despising the rest. For example, babies are saved from many abortions (not all, because, as the top down approach is being used and the grass-roots, educational approach is more or less impossible in this society, “black market” abortions will still continue), but that party will most likely ignore most of the laws about forbidden sexual partners, or, and especially, the prohibition against idolatry. In this political and multi-cultural and God-rejecting environment, part of the seven laws will inevitably be trashed. But the vote for one law, the abortion law, or even a good portion of the seven laws, is always a vote for the abolition and undermining of the others.
As I’ve said before, voting for the lesser of two evils tricks good people into choosing evil.
That’s the sort of irresponsible thinking, that a vote has nothing to do with imposition and aggression, that comes from an anonymous voting system. Voters are made to seem like they are not responsible for the crap their politician does. If a person who is supposed to uphold the seven laws supports a party that will reject some of the laws, as well as doing many other despicable things, then isn’t that person also complicit in the evil? I’m not talking about the person who is coerced into funding the state, as he is not responsible any more than a victim of a robbery is responsible for supporting the robber. But the one who willingly goes out and gives that voice of support … Although a vote in numerically insignificant, making no real numerical difference in the outcome of politics, since both the seven laws and human decency shouts out about the importance of personal and individual responsibility for one’s actions, the act itself, at least in my eyes, becomes very questionable.
Let me be blunt. A government is a monopoly on legitimised coercion and aggression in a certain territory. To support it is to support the coercion and aggression. As even a statist admitted, apparently George Washington,
“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force.”
[Aside: I will admit that he wrote it could be used responsibly. It’s my personal conclusion, and I believe there are facts to back this up, that its destruction and harm greatly outweighs its “responsible use.” As I’ve said before, voting is an irresponsible system where voters hide their identity, so the chance of responsible action when irresponsibility lies close to, if not at, its roots is frighteningly small.]
Government is force. Therefore, a vote is about forcing your view on others.
“[Some injustice] could be changed with political action.”
I wanted to bring up this point against my view even though I’ve partly dealt with it already. Political action in the form of voting, for an individual doing the voting, is numerically insignificant. It is practically worthless. And, because voting in this current system is always linked to the undermining of the seven laws, where it comes to personal responsibility, it is generally detrimental. So there is no significant benefit in doing it. Thoughts of shrinking the corruption, shrinking the system or tyranny, or turning the head of the beast in your favoured direction, even if it be towards the seven laws, is always laboured with that fact.
So what other political action is there? Well few people are in significant positions in wealthy corporations, so there’s little chance of bribing politicians to make laws in your favour. Writing to one of the lesser, more local members of the government mafia? Protesting? Civil disobedience? Each of these may plant seeds in the common man, but apart from education, and a change of heart in a significant portion of the “common man,” I personally see little benefit in pleading to the aggressive monopoly.
“By their nature, any court system will be coercive.”
“The anti-government position is intrinsically incompatible with the command to establish courts.”
Now this is the challenge I must face. I have to ask myself whether this is true.
Let me look at the latter argument first, that an anti-government stance, such as what I hold, is intrinsically compatible with the command to establish courts. Is this true?
Now if the core command was to obey and respect government, I would be in trouble. If the law was called “Government” as opposed to “Civil laws” or “Justice” or “Equity” or “Courts”, then I would be in trouble. But what is interesting is that the command is called a lot of other things, but not government. If the command was centred on respect for government, then yes, my anti-government stance would intrinsically be incompatible with the command.
The main thing is this: if there were a clear and explicit, majority position, detail in the laws to “establish courts” that a person must respect and support the government, then, and only then, would my anti-government stance be intrinsically incompatible with that law. There is no such detail. In the Talmud’s discussion on the law of Justice in tractate Sanhedrin, government isn’t even mentioned. Neither is it mentioned at all in Rambam’s summary of the law in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings. Let me just check Ramban as well … Nope, not there either.
BUT … But, let me ponder this further. What if a ruler creates the courts? What if, just as police are part of government, then so are courts part of the government? How are they part of the government? They are the enforcers of the dictates of the politicians, the ruling class. In fact, I’m sure that courts would be considered government buildings. I remember some issues I had with the local government, they would have me sent to either a court or some judging solicitor.
So for me to say I’m anti-government, that would seem to include courts.
Woah, that’s heavy. Am I anti-courts?
But then I started that by saying “What if a ruler creates the courts?” I’ve lived with the government system all my life. It’s what I was born into and it has had a stranglehold over me since birth, being educated in public school, only really thinking about these topics almost 4 decades after the government has entrenched itself in my life. But I don’t believe governments have always existed. The first unit of humanity was the individual and then it was the family. Before someone, a human being, said “I own you”there was the family. Maybe the family then became a tribe. But judgement and conflict resolution was still needed. And decisions had to be made by the person deemed to be the wise, with sufficient experience and integrity.
But I didn’t live in that land or time. I live in the time of the institutional overlord, where he’s/it’s made sure to indoctrinate the world into shoving law and government together until it can’t be seen any differently easily.
Anyway, since I don’t believe a court is necessarily a product of government, then I’m not anti-court or anti-justice.
Where was I? I think that’s enough waffling. Let me deal with the statements more directly.
So the claim that courts are, by definition or by necessity, coercive, I agree with. I don’t have a problem with that. A court is, by definition, supposed to be a place where justice is administered. So it would have to enforce those decisions using enforcement. As enforcement is a synonym of coercion, as it is forcing the decision of the judge into reality, then a court must, at times, be a place of coercion.
But to the claim that my anti-government stance is intrinsically incompatible with the “command to establish courts,” that requires a lot more thought. I know that “establishing courts” is actually just a part of the command of Justice. But a court is supposed to be a place where justice is dispensed. That, in and of itself, doesn’t need a government. But it all depends on the understanding of the command, and, unfortunately, the command of Justice seems to be vague in some parts. As I’ve said before, government or kingship or some tyrant or another, justice wouldn’t have been dispensed by a government.
But the question is not whether a court is coercive, because any means of punishment or enforcement, which is part of justice, is coercive. The coercion I despise from government isn’t about justice, arbitration between disputing parties, guarding divine law. A government is not a court; they are not equivalent things. A government is just a bunch of people that expect to be obeyed simply because they said something, and will use the intimidation and aggression of armed mercenaries or armed devotees to force compliance. They solved no dispute, they didn’t wisely decide a case. It’s just “we made a threat (law), now do it.” This is not the elders, the wise, a gathering of those respected people with integrity and virtue. It’s simply the (popular) dictator.
Maybe it’s the fact that the courts nowadays are so linked to government that makes its judges more tyrants than wise men and women.
Or maybe, just maybe, courts are government, or so intrinsically linked to government that for me to hate or oppose government is to hate and oppose courts too. Maybe. I’ve not reached that conclusion yet. I’m not saying I’ve learnt it all yet. If I’ve missed something, then I hope I learn it before it’s too late. Maybe this blogpost is part of my process or maybe it’ll be a help to someone else.
But let me be blunt. If a government or court does stuff against the seven laws, then I’ll oppose it. How can I be expected to do anything else?
“Your view that all governments are illegitimate is illusory and unjustified. You hold onto an idealism.”
What makes a government legitimate? Some say that as long as a people accept it, then it’s legitimate. If that’s the standard, then who am I to argue? But as I’ve said before “the people” is a vague term to the point of being meaningless to me. So let’s imagine that the vast majority of individuals in a place accept a government that rejects the seven laws in part … wait there, that’s the situation I’m in now. The government’s relation to the seven laws is totally irrelevant. It’s just about that portion of the people’s acceptance. So if that’s the litmus test of “legitimacy,” then I can’t dispute it.
But is there a law, a moral principle that says I must listen to or obey to it? I know of no such principle. Except for avoiding its aggression, to me personally, it has no legitimacy, no authority over me. I must obey it to sustain society? I’ve heard that argument, that my disobedience or lack of respect that destabilise things, cause things to go in the opposite direction to “settling the earth.”
Yeah, not impressed. Not a compelling or powerful argument. Considering how much the government has destroyed and killed and stolen and undermined the seven laws, to be concerned with the disrespect an individual has for the beast lacks firm principles. And those issues I have with government aren’t illusory or unjustified. Shrugging off any claim of government over me because of those issues is not illusory or unjustified. I won’t place my life in the paws of such an evil thing!
I’m not sure what is idealistic about such a position. It’s a highly personal view. I don’t like to push my view on others. I’m not saying I have a master plan for the world. I’m not saying the world should think like me. This is my personal position. If atheism was a person, I would shoot it in the head if I could. I’d do the same to government since it has done a lot more crimes than what atheism has. And it’s more of a physical and financial threat to me and my family than atheism. In fact, it has interfered in my life much more than atheism.
But if everyone did adopt my view of government, how would that be idealistic? It’s not utopian. I’m not expecting humanity’s usual behaviours to change. There’s still be injustice and pain and evil people. Maybe without government to strip the individual of the means to protect oneself, an aggressor may think twice before attacking, assaulting or robbing. Or maybe the rabbis fears will come true and men will eat each others, even though the government has done a great job of doing a similar thing of devouring and impoverishing lives.
Honestly, I don’t care. It’s all hypothetical. For now, it’s just a personal view.