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.
I encourage every Gentile reading this blog to study the arguments for Theism and the Kuzari Principle:
These are great philosophic positions to hold. You don’t need “faith.”
As far as I know, with regards to the conscious adherence to the laws God gave to humanity, in the town I live in, I’m on my own. It’s not like I can go down the road to a friend’s house, chill there whilst eating and drinking, and argue out our understanding of the seven laws, or study them. There is no one, no point of contact I can call upon to have a private discussion on my Torah.
But then again, for a good portion of my life, I’ve lived out a line of one of my songs, “Never stopped singing yet the stranger’s song, in the midst of many people, and yet alone.” It’s been that way before I had even had any clue about the seven Gentile laws. My siblings remind me that even when I was young, I used to ask if i was adopted because of this “outcast” or “odd one out” feeling I had. And then adopting the outlandish views I held then and now concretised that “odd one out” status.
While I was a Christian, I took the bible seriously which led me to question the bible study books the church would use. I began to wonder why all the songs in the hymnal were so focused on Jesus when he was supposed to point to “the Father.” I rejected the Christian holidays, the Trinity. In personal life, I didn’t have a typical social life. No nightclubs, no pubs, no hanging out with friends at a shopping centre, no youth clubs.
And then after leaving Christianity because Jesus failed the criteria to be Israel’s promised anointed king (and not because claims of similarity to the stories of idolators), I was set further adrift. Some of those who had left Christianity that I had met online left Torah and the Jewish Bible completely, but I couldn’t see any firm logic in their reasoning, only too much faith in people who had the title of scientist or archaeologist. I found myself amongst Karaites online, but I couldn’t agree with some of their stance, especially the idea that a non-Jew must convert to get close to God, which those I communicated with espoused. I saw in the Jewish Bible too much evidence of a way of righteousness for those not of Israel.
So eventually, thanks to the assistance and patience of Dr. Schulman from Asknoah Intl., I was shown the necessity of the oral Torah and through that I embraced the truth of the seven laws.
But that got me into the “noahide” crowd.
Now, from now on, when I use the word “noahide” in this article, I’m only referring to a religious group of Gentiles that link themselves with Judaism or claim to be part of Judaism, a group that distinguishes itself from other religions like Christianity or atheism or Hinduism, etc. Their group is limited to people who keep the seven commandments because the God of Israel, the First Cause of everything, commanded it to Moses.
So after a time of interacting with noahides and seeing some of them voice their grievances about the seven laws system, I heard, quite often, a desire for a noahide community, not just an online group, a virtual one, but a real one, almost like a lost Christian looking for a church (the group, not the building). It was a choice of loneliness, craving interaction and belonging with people who think similarly to oneself. I even made a few attempts to join a noahide group.
Through all my experiences with noahides and the Jews that teach them, good and bad experiences, especially with some recent ruckuses that I caused, I’ve come to a not-so-shocking conclusion: It’s best that I stay away from noahide groups! There’s not even a great need to become part of one.
For some who have either read this blog, or who have seen my experiences online, this conclusion is like me saying, “I’ve come to a conclusion: Living humans breathe.” Maybe I just need to write this to help me stop fooling myself. Maybe.
And for others, this is great news. I mean, who would want a rebellious person like me in a group?
Anyway, what are the reasons for my staying away from noahide groups?
Firstly, I’m not a nice guy. Yes, again, a “living humans breathe” reason. I prefer honesty and bluntness to politeness. And that bluntness can come across in such a way that people take personally. I’ve had multiple occasions where, because of the sheer bluntness of my words and the way I disagreed with their stance, someone took offence and quickly disassociated with me, a person that I had had contact with for some time. The amount of groups I’ve either been kicked out of or felt it best to leave, the amount of “friends” who have left me, and the amount of strangers who have blocked me, it becomes obvious that I’m not some innocent. I’m just not a nice guy, and I can be sharp in my disagreement to such an extent, people can take offence. This personal character trait is even hard to deal with one-on-one, much less a whole group. I’m sure people are surprised I’m married.
Although online shenanigans only capture a small fraction of my personality, since most noahide stuff I see is online, I don’t think my online persona is suited for groups and rabbis.
Secondly, the positions and beliefs of these noahide groups tend to conflict with my own.
The vast majority of them and the rabbis or people that teach them are statist, having some extent of respect for the state, some being patriotic/nationalistic, respecting voting and democracy, speaking respectfully of political parasites (I’m referring to every politician on all levels) and their thugs, defending cops and judges, seeing value in bodies of law and constitutions that oppose the principles of the 7 laws, all things which I deeply condemn and stand against.
Loads of noahides and some of their rabbis embrace forms of scientism and naturalism, accepting atheistic creation myths, believing science can tell the truth about things humans have never experienced, think that the theories of scientists are at such a level of Truth, Divine Truth, that such theories can be used to reinterpret the Jewish Bible. And some do this under the guise or banner of being “rational” or “rationalist” as if the other approach is not rational or less so … Or maybe the other approach doesn’t subscribe to the philosophy of rationalism, the notion that, in effect, even the miracles of God must be limited and comprehensible to reason and natural science, the humanly quantified “laws” of nature, the understood limits of matter and energy. Again, I find the expression of such devotion, such an nigh-idolatrous exaltation of man’s intellect (or nature), to be nauseating and repulsive.
The religious nature of this “noahidism”, a disappointing term, also is a point of contention for me. It gets to the point where, while the sanctity of the Jewish laws is respected amongst Jews and noahides, there are a good number of accepted reconstructions of the seven laws that aren’t even the seven laws. The prohibitions get inverted and erased and only positive suggestions are promoted. “Believe in the One God.” Not one of the seven laws. “Respect the sanctity of life.” Not one of the seven laws. “Respect God and Praise Him.” Not one of the seven laws. “Respect Others’ Rights and Property.” Not one of the seven laws. “Don’t Deny God.” Damn!
And I’ve already experienced what a good number of noahides will say to defend such listings. “Oh, but that’s what the seven laws, in effect, will lead to.” “Well, some people prefer a positive message to a list of ‘no-no’s’.” “That’s what the rabbis taught me so it’s got to be fine.” Sure, sure. The Jewish commands are somewhat respected, but the seven Gentile laws have to be refitted and remodeled for this, the modern age.
Give me a break!
And that’s not all. The religion based on the Torah, Judaism, there is an attraction to its rites and mysticism seems to be attractive. Kashrut, Shabbat, Jewish holy days, siddurs, things that have nothing to do with a Gentile’s obedience to God, too often find their way into the noahides to some extent, or just in the regular conversation. It’s hard to embrace being a Gentile when being taught Judaism (specifically referring to the religion of the Jews) by rabbis rather than just the seven laws and human decency.
Linked to that, my distaste for Hebraisms has reached new levels as well. You see, I realise that I’m English. I understand English. I’m not planning to become a Jew. And yeah, I appreciate that the seven laws are in the Jewish tradition. But whole swathes of Hebrew texts have been wholly translated into English, it’s very hard to find educated noahides who can converse about the seven laws in English. Gotta learn the “halacha”, improve the “middot”. Just can’t do it in a person’s native language if they aren’t Jewish. Is that a modern thing?
All this stuff is just off-putting.
That’s all the “secondly”.
Thirdly, there’s the lack of commonality. There are whole countries with laws, and people that know of or study those laws. But those citizens/serfs who have that law don’t, all of a sudden, because of a common law or ruler, become able to associate and learn with or even stand each other. Maybe I’m just an anti-social freak who’s just meant to enjoy his family, the few friends he has, and leave the noahides to do what they do. As I’ll still be learning about the seven laws, I’ll still write stuff and talk to the people who can tolerate me. I think we could all be happy with that, right?
Fourthly, I don’t follow modern rabbis. No, that’s not the only thing. I don’t see rabbis as having authority over Gentiles, whether they call themselves “noahide” or not. This makes it especially difficult when noahide groups tend to want rabbis to tell them what to do.
Take the Divine Code, for instance, where a rabbi not only communicates the teachings about the seven laws, but he also says things are “forbidden” and “allowed” that are not part of the seven laws. Yet, for many a noahide group, his word is the authority! His book is taught by other rabbis, I believe uncritically, to noahides. Many know the Divine Code much better than the words of Rambam on the Seven Laws, or tractate Sanhedrin 56a-60b. If the Talmud says that only prohibitions are counted as part of the seven laws, but rabbi Weiner states that the seven laws are made up of active commands as well as prohibitions, the Divine Code noahides will follow the authority of Weiner out of deference to his greater knowledge. That’s just an example of the authority noahides give to modern rabbis.
Now although some would say rabbis logically have the knowledge over any Gentile and therefore they would reasonably have authority to make “rulings” about what noahides can and can’t do. Regardless of the disagreement between me and them, that reliance on rabbis becomes another point of contention.
I could add a point about an experience I had that I would call, “The oddness of Noahide “worship”.” It would still be linked with my earlier points about their religiosity (desire for rites and ceremony) and the issue about Hebraisms. So there’s little point in labouring the point.
The fact is that, when it comes to interactions with noahide groups, it’s better that I let them do their thing. Amazingly, on an individual level, I could have these differences with an individual and get along fine with them. I have one-on-one friendships with people who disagree with me significantly on several of these issues, and we remain friends. Some of my friends think science has so many answers that I think are total fiction. Another friend of mine highly respects a rabbi. And by some miracle, … I have one friend where we’ve had several significant disagreements, and yet … I don’t know how … he’s there for me, and I hope he sees that I’m there for him too. I thank God for them. But on the group level, the level sometimes where a rabbinical ego leads the group, then it just doesn’t work out. It can’t work out.
Now there’s a very good chance that I’ve burnt some bridges with this post. Some (more) people may cut me loose and find offence in what I’ve said to such an extent that they will tolerate me no further. And you know what? There’s a very good chance that I’m gonna lose more friends along the way. But I’ve resigned myself to a few more conclusions:
1) I’m gonna die some time, I will fizzle out of existence alone, and all of my words, thoughts and opinions will wither into nothing. I expect little more than that.
2) The concrete people in my life, my wife and children and my family and those in my real reach, not just my computer virtual one, my main goal should be to take care of them as best I can.
God is my king. I’ve been alone with that for most of my life now. Passion for his truth has been with me for so much of my existence. I hope that he will see that and that it will be acceptable in his sight, even if I distance myself from the label of “noahide” and I keep some separation from the groups. It will be a terrible thing for no one if I don’t see a “noahide community” in my lifetime. I think, if one were ever created, they wouldn’t want to see me either. Personally, I would not want to see one. I’d be much happier just seeing non-Jews in general, Gentiles, get closer to God’s truth or his standard of behaviour.
But I have my doubts.
I think I always had a rebellious streak to me … Maybe not so much rebellious, but often needing to know the justification for things. If that idea or position could not be justified, I couldn’t respect it.
I remember how much trouble I gave my parents with my dad telling me I couldn’t do or have something, and the chaos I would create, the disrespect I would show him because … Well, those are just sad memories to me now. He grew to become one of the greatest men in my life, the one I respect the most. He could have thrown me out, and rightly so. The love he gave, the commitment he showed … Irreplaceable! Even though he remains a Christian, he never cast me away for rejecting his doctrine, his “Jesus.”
But he was, and he is, my dad.
I, myself, grew up. I started looking for justification for other ideas and positions, even my own. As I said, I left chri … No, I’ll be more blunt. I rejected the messiahship claims of Jesus and the holy book and worldview based on it. But even from that time, before that time, I did not look at government with any respect. I didn’t vote. I didn’t willingly have anything to do with it. My logic then was this: I was committed to God and the government made laws contrary with God’s law and did immoral acts, ergo I don’t respect it.
But even with that logic, I didn’t get as serious about it as when I learned about the seven laws. You see, to me, Christianity is not a religion of “secular” law, the erroneously called “law of the land.” It was just a belief, a passion, an individual lifestyle. I accept the dead Galilean as a personal saviour and that’s about it when it comes to government, except when it goes against that belief.
And after I had left that faith, before I really took on the seven laws, there was a growing antagonism between me and the politicians and their lackeys, be they the police or the army or whatever. Watching internet videos meant that I was seeing more of the government’s treatment of people, the police’s handling of the “citizen.” I was seeing people not only oppose the police but also the legitimacy of the government itself for various reasons. A slightly indifferent disregard to government became suspicious distaste of the system I lived under.
Then I met the seven laws!
The seven laws was not some pie-in-the-sky personal lifestyle. It was not simply an individual’s way to get “closer to God.” It was not about finding some group to worship with. The first law was not against idolatry. It was Justice! It was about how justice should be meted on this world in our courts. It was a statement about how society itself, the individuals within it, should look upon upholding correct laws, God-given laws. I was shown how each person in a community would be responsible for his neighbour, to be knowledgeable enough in God’s law to know when a crime took place and to act upon it for the sake of justice.
Mixed in with this, I had read a work of Lysander Spooner called “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority,” “The Most Dangerous Superstition” by Larken Rose, “Adventures in Legal Land” by Marc Stevens, “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat, “A Discourse on Voluntary Servitude” by Etienne de La Boetie, and “I Must Speak Out – The Voluntaryist” by Carl Watner. I listened to, with both laughter and shock, a playlist of Marc Stevens calling attorney after attorney, IRS agent after police officer, around America and then the rest of the world asking for evidence that the laws of the government applies to people with answers ranging from an irrational faith (“I don’t need evidence”) to arrogance (“it applies because I said so”), but nothing of any value (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9lOodIF5sI&list=PLl8VnlL8qxK4kUcIRR94J5uoL_43Lbyyf).
After embracing the seven laws and reading these texts, my view of government had settled on pure opposition. On the seven law side, the governments in all lands, including the State of Israel, had enacted laws that worked in complete opposition to humanity’s most basic divine mandates. Although some were teaching that the governments had partially fulfilled the law of Justice, it seemed to me that the governments had fundamentally betrayed our core laws.
On the “political”/moral/rational side … how can I put this? …
All governments were rackets, mafias or gangsters with no innate authority, with no legitimate source of authority. As one author put it, they are a bunch of murderers, liars, thieves and robbers; and what’s worse is that their agents and supporters will proclaim that their immorality and theft is a kindness.
What’s worse is that Torah-observant Jews, so called “noahides”, all sorts of otherwise good people defend such a abject monstrosity!
I think of certain people who claim to have embraced the seven laws, yet compare them to sharia law in comparison to the blessed constitution of the “the founding fathers.” The founding fathers? Just another set of humans, long dead, with no prophetic connection to the divine, who, despite the warning from others in their time, crafted a document of no innate worth but which enabled the creation and growth of a huge government which gave itself authority over so many aspects of a person’s life?
Again, the amount of people part of the religious group called “noahides” who still revere such a seven-laws-rejecting monster as their national government, it’s not just shocking; it’s appalling.
There are some that tell me I have an obligation from God to submit to government robbery (“pay taxes”) and an obligation to obey the ruling class. They try to tie this apparent obligation to our law of Justice. There is also a Jewish command not to curse the rulers (Exodus 22:27; Koheleth 10:20 – commentators like Sforno and Chizkuni say Exodus 22:27 refers to “legitimate rulers”) and a Jewish principle that “the law of the state is law” and some say this somehow applies to Gentiles too.
Firstly, I’m glad this is not one of the seven core laws for Gentiles, that there is no part of the seven laws that clearly states this as a law with a capital offence, therefore it’s not one of the core laws. The Jewish laws are for Jews not Gentiles. So on that level, I’m at ease. Seeing the amount of death, robbery, killing, injustice and corruption performed by government, it becomes unrealistic not to wish the total decimation of these “leaders.”
My current relationship with the dictators and their dictates is that of a robber and his victim: Any compliance is either a coincidence with my actual morality or under threat of harm or death. And outside of the robbers’ reach, I’ll do what I can to protect myself and my property from them. I have no moral or logical compulsion to obey their dictates out of some belief that they actually have authority over me.
I’ve heard it said that it’s important to comply with such people, with the state, for the sake of societal stability, that overt rebellion to the political parasite class could lead to anarchy … Wait, I don’t mean “anarchy,” as that just means “no rulers.” I mean chaos and unrestrained immorality.
I wonder, with such reasoning, whether “restrained” but guaranteed injustice, having one top dog that will be unjust and having armies to enforce and spread such injustice, is better than “unrestrained” uncertainty. Ah, it is said that without some government, even an evil one, people will tear each other apart. Well, I guess it’s better for one group to tear its victims apart (that’s what government is good at and generally tends to do) than for the individuals to tear each other apart … NOT!
The idea that the law of the state is law does not imply that the law of the state is the law of God, and that to disobey the law of a legislator is to disobey God.
In fact, that runs into a lie I came across.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (The Declaration of Independence)
I’m ignoring the first lie in this document that states that this is “the unanimous declaration of the 13 united states of America” (as if all the individuals in those states actually agreed to this, much less declared it).
It’s interesting how somehow the forgers of this document claims it self-evident that “the Creator”, who doesn’t appear to have spoken to those men, gave humans certain “rights”, yet people the world over seem to be puzzled over what these rights were. The concept of rights, a word for that thing, isn’t even in the Jewish Bible. There’s no explicit word of God talking about “rights.” And different nations, wait, no, wrong word. Different politicians make up different lists of what these “rights” are, many times assuming their existence.
The Jewish Bible speaks in terms of command, obligation, with rights being nowhere spoken of.
I can already see it in the minds of some, “oooh, but David, those obligations protect our rights.” Unfortunately such a soul has presumed the existence of rights. If they don’t exist in the first place, then what’s being protected? Nothing except the well-being of a person. The person who’ll bring up the idea of the Torah protecting rights normally has his or her nation’s version of rights in mind or some subjective notion of what they’re supposed to be, believing they have some divine source or objective truth, even though the people who created and made up these “rights” were not prophets, getting no word from God.
The fact is that I currently see no going back: I’ve rejected the idea of any government in this day and age having any authority. The idea of humans with no authority granting another set of humans “authority” that the first group of humans didn’t have is not just laughable, it’s totally ludicrous. And having learnt of its brutal history, and having been made aware of its roots in nothing but something worse than christian faith, I’m not sure I could ever grow to think much of that beast. Fictions, such as “the social contract”, “consent of the governed”, and “rule of law”, are fundamentally lies.
Now whether my conclusions are going to have irreconcilable differences with the core seven laws, especially Dinim or not is yet to be seen. I can only wait and see. Judging by the fact that some of my rejection comes from governments’ undermining of the seven laws, maybe there’s no conflict.
I don’t have fully cogent essay-writing thoughts at the moments. I have different things running around my head. My writing about them will help.
Trusting God in silence
I watched this harrowing video recently. I already despise police already due to principle and practicality, but to see the way how they destroyed these lives … once again I’m reminded of the dangers of putting any trust or respect in government.
But what really hit me in this video was the man pleading to his god (whoever it was, be it the true God or some cheap knockoff), begging “God, please help me! Please, God, give me wisdom” as the government thug hovered menacingly over him, waiting to pounce and slap on some chains on the poor victim of typical government abuse.
To be in such a horrific position, to cry out to God, begging for assistance, only to face apparent divine silence, and the tightening grip of the gangsters around your neck, your loved ones in peril, your child snatched away from its mother and taken into uncertain hands … The helplessness … The inevitable and impending darkness …
Trust in God’s plan seems to be drowned out by the shouts and screams of real life forcing the fact down your throat that, no matter what you’re in someone else’s power.
I resonate with that. There are times I feel helplessness in the face of what I see as my adversaries, enemies that impinge upon my life on various levels or even the natural forces of life, to which I’m just wet blood on hungry jaws.
But thinking about the foolishness of the God-rejector, I’m not compelled to throw out his Truth because of the inevitabilities of life. The fact is that the Creator of reality is more real, by definition, than this reality, this universe. He is the “dreamer,” causing this universe to exist every moment, and all of this is just the dream. It never needed to be, and it can dissolve in a blink. I’m only here because of him.
So yes, it’s heart-rending to see a cry for help seemingly go unanswered. But focusing on it makes it bigger than what it really is. And my God … my God is so so much more real!
God, help me to remember that! Help me to remember that even in the middle of life’s frustrations where I’m most likely to forget.
A bit of a basic question, who is a “child of Noah” or a “descendent of Noah”? This is the translation of a Hebrew term that sounds like “ben Noah.” As I’m not a Jew or even pretending to be one, I’ll just stick to the English, “child of Noah” or “descendent of Noah.”
Now to be extra clear, so that as many places of misunderstanding can be eradicated, I am not talking about the English term “noahide.” That’s a mess in and of itself. No, I’m only talking about the term “child of Noah.”
What I’ll do here is compile a number of quotes from Jewish sources that have shaped the way I understand the term. Some will be clear definitions. Some will just be implied. But I’ll give what I can.
The Schottenstein edition of the Babylonian Talmud translates the Hebrew term for “children of Noah” as “Noahites”. When it discusses the prohibition against cursing God’s name in tractate Sanhedrin 56a, it comments on the statement, “For any execution stated in connection with noahites is only by the sword …” its footnote on this statement informs me on its understanding of “noahite” or “child of Noah.”
The Gemara below will discuss the various laws that were given to Adam and his descendants. They are called “Noahide” laws because of all of humanity descended from Noah after the Flood. Indeed, many Scriptural references to these laws are found in God’s communication to Noah after the Flood … (footnote 31, Babylonian Talmuud, tractate Sanhedrin 56a, Schottenstein edition, digital edition)
It continues in footnote 33,
That is, a gentile is liable to execution under the Noahide laws for blasphemy … (footnote 33, ibid)
It becomes clear that the Schottenstein edition of the Talmud view “noahide” or “noahite” as a Gentile, just a non-Jew, not a special class of person who gets the status of “child of Noah” granted to him. As it states, the seven laws are called “noahide laws” because of “all of humanity descended from Noah.”
The Talmud itself, regardless of language, shows that the seven laws are obligated on all of non-Jewish humanity when it says states that the person from the nations (“goy”) or idolator (“akum”) is not guilty of breaking the seven laws for the children of Noah if that person makes an idol but doesn’t worship it. The Talmud bases this distinctly on the reasoning that a “child of Noah” is only guilty of breaking the law of idolatry if he does an idolatrous act that is a capital offence for a Jew (see Babylonian Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 56b, available in English at sefaria.org or halakhah.com). This means that the person from the nations and the idolator is included in the class “children of Noah!” I’ll repeat this point later in the article.
In another edition of the Talmud, it says the following.
The descendants of Noah, i.e., all of humanity, were commanded to observe seven mitzvot. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 56a, as translated in the William Davidson Talmud to be found at https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.56a?lang=bi)
When the Soncino edition of the Talmud commented on that statement in Sanhedrin 56a, it said:
These commandments may be regarded as the foundations of all human and moral progress. Judaism has both a national and a universal outlook in life. In the former sense it is particularistic, setting up a people distinct and separate from others by its peculiar religious law. But in the latter, it recognises that moral progress and its concomitant Divine love and approval are the privilege and obligation of all mankind. And hence the Talmud lays down the seven Noachian precepts, by the observance of which all mankind may attain spiritual perfection, and without which moral death must inevitably ensue. That perhaps is the idea underlying the assertion (passim) that a heathen is liable to death for the neglect of any of these. The last mentioned is particularly instructive as showing the great importance attached to the humane treatment of animals; so much so, that it is declared to be fundamental to human righteousness. (folio 56a, footnote 34, available at http://halakhah.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_56.html)
The 13th century book, Sefer haChinnuch, also shows that all of humanity is the children or descendants of Noah to whom the seven laws apply.
The far removal of robbery from among people is of benefit to all; and the human intelligence is a trustworthy witness to this. There is no great length of laws about it, as all its content is clarified in the Writ. It is in force everywhere, at every time, for both man and woman. All humankind too is duty-bound by it, since it is a branch of the precept about robbery, which is one of the seven precepts that all in the world were commanded to keep … now, make no mistake, my son, in this reckoning of the seven precepts for the descendants of Noah, which is known and is mentioned in the Talmud. For in truth, those seven are in the nature of main categories, and they contain many details.” (Sefer haChinuch, volume 4, 247-49, quoted on page 433 of Secular by Design, by Alan Cecil, and also available in audio at http://englishtorahtapes.com/sefer_hachinuch.htm)
To all the rest of the human race He also gave a pathway to separate them from the animal level. This way comprises the seven precepts which all the people in the world were together commanded.” (Séfer haHinnuch, Vol. I, 65, quoted on page 434, footnote 3, of Secular by Design, by Alan Cecil, and also available in audio at http://englishtorahtapes.com/sefer_hachinuch.htm
Rabbi Tobias Goodman from the 19th Century stated the following.
At this dispensation, the [bnei Noach] sons of Noah (a name including all nations) were, by the infinite wisdom of God, provided with [sheva mitzvot] seven precepts … (pg 116, The Faith of Israel, by rabbi Tobias Goodman, written in 1834, available at http://www.seforimonline.org/seforim-database/)
In the Graft-Rand edition of “Ramban – THE TORAH: with Ramban’s commentary translated, annotated and elucidated,” on many pages where the Hebrew phrase meaning “child(ren) of Noah” is used in Ramban’s Hebrew, it states, for example
“Children of Noah” (or “Noahides”) is a rabbinical term used to describe all of mankind (except Israel), who are not bound by the 613 commandments of the Torah, but by the “seven Noahide laws” … (footnote 37, page 223)
Or clearer still,
“Noahides” is a term for all mankind except Israel. Noahides are not bound by the laws of the Torah (“Halacha”), but by “the seven Noahide laws.” (footnote 18, page 231)
In the Mishneh Torah, Rambam shows that the seven laws applied throughout the world, not just for a select group.
Adam, the first, was commanded about six things … The prohibition against eating flesh from a living animal was added for Noah, as Genesis 9:4 states … These matters remained throughout the world until Abraham. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 9, Halacha 1, from http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188354/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-9.htm)
Not one word of Ramban clearly shows that after Moshe the term “child of Noah” was only limited to a certain group among the Gentiles, except in a rare occasion which the following quote will lead into.
Rabbi Michael Broyde seems to make the English word “Noahide” exactly equivalent to the term “child of Noah” in his work, where he states:
“The term “Noahide” is used in the rabbinic literature to denote anyone who is not Jewish. … More specifically, as noted by Ritva, Makkot 9a, “Noahide” denotes a gentile who keeps the Noahide commandments, “ger toshav” denotes a gentile who formally accepts the commandments, and “gentile” denotes one who has done neither.” (footnote 1, The Obligation of Jews to Seek Observance of Noachide Laws by Gentiles: A Theoretical Review, by Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, available at https://www.jlaw.com/Articles/noach2.html)
Before anything else is said, what should be observed first is that the main and general meaning of “child of Noah” is “anyone who is not Jewish.” Although rabbi Broyde does mention another idea, his first statement is that of non-Jewishness, not a select group.
But I believe it’s important to show transparency and let you know the term “son of Noah” does have a small variety of meanings in rabbinic literature. This may explain why in the writings of Rambam, when “son of Noah” is used generally, it just means “non-Jew” or “gentile” which is how it is commonly translated, and thus understood, by Jewish translators, but rarely it is used in a different sense when contrasted with the Hebrew term for “a person from non-Jewish nations,” like in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 10, halakhah 10, where it states,
A child of Noah … If he gives charity, we accept it from him and it appears to me that we give it to the poor of Israel … but one from the non-Jewish nations who gives charity, we accept it from him and we give it to the poor of the non-Jewish nations.
It is only with regards to charity in Rambam that there seems to be a clear difference between “a child of Noah” and “one from the nations.” In the two previous chapters, the term “child of Noah” is generally understood to simply mean or refer to the “non-Jew.” Just look at the translation of chapter 9 on sefaria.org (https://www.sefaria.org/Mishneh_Torah,_Kings_and_Wars.9?lang=bi) and chabad.org (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188354/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-9.htm) where the term is simply translated as “non-Jew” or “gentile.” In the Mishneh Torah, in this section, there is no written explanation of the exact difference. But rabbi Michael Broyde’s statement about the different uses of “Noahide” or “child of Noah” helps to inform of the subtle difference, even though both terms, “child of Noah” and “one from the nations” is used in other places and refer to the exact same person.
For example, in the Talmud, in the seven law section of Sanhedrin, the terms “child of Noah” and “one from the nations” (or the term used in censored versions “akum” which still refers to all Gentiles, see ) are used interchangeably; just as the “child of Noah” is commanded to the seven laws, the “person from the nations” (or the “akum”) is liable for breaking or praised as a high priest for studying HIS commandments, namely those same seven. There is no such thing as “the seven laws for children of Noah” referring to some group that has accepted those commandments, and a separate set of laws for the nations or “the people of the nations.” There is no such thing as the world in general having the entire obligation of the seven laws removed or abolished or released with the obligation, and thus the title “child of Noah”, only returning to those non-Jews who purposefully accept it again.
As I’m showing now, generally and mainly, the term “son of Noah” is just another term for Gentile. And I’m just showing the historical backing I have for sticking to that usage, rather than the lesser common meaning of “one who keeps the seven” or the modern version “the one who keeps the seven laws specifically because God commanded them to Moses at Sinai.”
But imagine this. If – and that’s if – “child of Noah” is, as my resources show and as one of the resources clearly states, a rabbinic term for all of mankind except Israel, why is the main modern way of using the word “noahide” limited to those who keep the seven? Why did the usage of the term that was less common become the popular way of understanding the term nowadays? Why are there people coming to my page talking about “noahism”? Or websites or information pages talking about “noahism” or “noahidism?” Why are people nowadays wanting to create “noahide communities” as if it is distinct from Gentile communities that exist worldwide, since the vast majority of the world is Gentile?
Anyway, again, my aim was just to show that “child of Noah” generally means a Gentile, that any Gentile is a child of Noah, and that my view doesn’t just originate in the mind of David but from historical Jewish precedent.
Thanks for reading.
Because this commandment that I’m commanding you today, it isn’t out of your reach or ability and it’s not far away. It’s not in the sky [for you] to say, “Who shall go up sky-ward for us and take it for us and we hear it and do it?” It’s not across the ocean [for you] to say, “Who will go across for us, across the sea, and take it for us, and we hear it and do it?” Because the word is near you, extremely so, in your mouths and in your hearts, to do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)
Learning about the Seven Laws (7M), would it surprise any reader of mine that I’ve had a good number of struggles with various Jews, including rabbis. No? No surprise? Yes, I guess I’m a contentious fellow. *disappointed sigh* I don’t aim to be. But when you don’t have a popular view and you speak out, what else can a person expect?
Any-who, I ask that you just read and absorb what God, through Moses, taught the Jews. He taught them how close God’s law is to them in order to perform it. There is something really comforting in those words: to keep and cherish God’s law through obedience isn’t beyond a Jew’s ability; but it’s right here, so close that (s)he can touch it, learn it and live it. Life’s fulfilment, God has placed it in the Jew’s grasp and the main thing he has to do is choose.
Isn’t that a wonderful blessing? … Isn’t that a wonderful blessing … for the Jew?
Now why did you do that, David? I see what you’re doing, David. Why are you trying to create a wedge between Jew and Gentile? Aren’t the Seven Laws just as accessible to the Gentile?
Right now, I’m gazing out the window, wondering how to share my thoughts, trying to gather the concepts and experience I’ve had in order to convey just what I’ve seen and been through. Let me attempt to get out what is in my heart.
Recently, I’ve had a number of interactions with Jews regarding the seven laws, more specifically our law of Justice. You see, from the Talmud and through the other writings I have read, I’ve seen a consistent theme that it is the responsibility of the Gentile to set up proper legal systems, courts and judges. To be more blunt, it is we Gentiles that should get these things in place, with Gentile judges, Gentile courts and a Gentile judiciary. Being an anti-establishmentarian, I don’t really give a damn about a government per se, but at the very least we Gentiles would be in charge of the arbitration of disputes and the establishment of fairness. Having begun reading about the dispute between rabbis Nachmanides and Maimonides, or, earlier, rabbis Yochanan and Yitzchaq, my conclusions would fall in line with Nachmanides and Yochanan.
But the Jews I’ve talked to seem to come from another side, a side that, I believe, seems to run counter to the themes I’ve seen, the wording I’ve seen. They would say that a Gentile can never/not know enough to make decisions or judgements regarding our own law, that if a Gentile needs advice or teaching about our seven, we should only rely on a Torah-educated Jew, that we Gentiles are restricted from judging and teaching about our own laws, the seven commandments, even if we learn them.
Now without going into the ins and outs of their claims, let me just put before you the relevant aspect of their claim. These Jews, to me, are making the essential claim that there is part of the Gentile law …
OK, before I continue, let me clarify something. I keep talking about “Gentile law,” and “our law,” and some may wonder what the hell I’m talking about. Why don’t I just talk about “the Noahide Commandments” or “the Noahide Laws?” Why am I saying “my law” when it’s in the Jewish tradition? Surely that makes it their law for us?
And I would say, absolutely not! The Seven Commandments are not the Jews’ laws that apply to Gentiles. They are not the formulations (meaning the devisings, or creations, or putting together) of the rabbis, by the rabbis, for Gentiles. That’s not what the ancient Jews claimed, especially Rambam. Even if you read the Jewish Bible, it should be as clear and manifest that the path of righteousness or good for a non-Jew was not a creation or abstraction or patchwork drawn out by rabbis. There were no rabbis for Hevel (Abel) or Adam or Noah or Avimelech or Malkitzedeq. Yet the moral standard was still there.
So, hell no! – the Seven Commandments are not Jewish laws that apply to Gentiles. They are God’s commandments … wait, let me quote the Talmud and Rambam so that I’m not accused of making stuff up.
Adam, the first, was commanded about six things … The prohibition against eating flesh from a living animal was added for Noah, as Genesis 9:4 states … (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 9, Halacha 1, from http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188354/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-9.htm)
The descendants of Noah, i.e., all of humanity, were commanded to observe seven mitzvot. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 56a, as translated in the William Davidson Talmud to be found at https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.56a?lang=bi)
Note carefully that the statement of Rambam is much stronger than that of the Talmud. And the source of these commands could only be God. Our laws are not derivations of the rabbis, but are divine injunctions upon us all.
See also how “descendants of Noah” is understood by not only this translation of the Talmud but by so many other translations and is echoed by other sources. It refers to all of humanity (later being limited to all non-Jews who continued to have these obligations after the descendants of Jacob/Israel received more laws and a special covenant). Compare this to how others have understood the term “bnei Noah” or “Noahide.”
Noahide means a non-Jew who has taken upon himself or herself to follow the 7 mitzvos specifically because of a belief in HaShem and Torah including the Rabbinic traditions. (“Introductoy Remarks – Noahide” by rabbi Moshe Shulman found at https://torasbn.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/introductory-remarks-noahide-ger-vs.html)
Noahide (ben Noahh) refers to a non-Jew who abides by the Seven Noahide Laws, especially one who does so because of the Torah give at Sinai. (Part II, Section A, Guide for the Noahide: A Complete Manual for Living by the Noahide Laws, by rabbi Michael Shelomoh bar-Ron)
Even in recent dialogues with one of my inspirations, Elisheva Barre, author of Torah for Gentiles, she states that there is a distinction between “bnei Noah,” who accept the seven laws, and Gentiles in general.
Therefore when each of these people refer to the “Seven Noahide Laws” or “the Laws for the BN,” based on their limiting definition of “Noahide” or “bnai Noah” or “BN,” they are not referring to the laws that are only for those people deemed to be Noahide, not Gentile.
Now since I take my base definitions from the usages in the Talmud (which I believe still mostly apply to later Jewish writers), for example,
At this dispensation, the [bnei Noach] sons of Noah (a name including all nations) were, by the infinite wisdom of God, provided with [sheva mitzvot] seven precepts … (pg 116, The Faith of Israel, by rabbi Tobias Goodman, written in 1834, available at http://www.seforimonline.org/seforim-database/)
then it’s clear that all Gentiles, not just a special group, were commanded to keep the seven laws. This obligation still remains despite the rejection of them by non-Jews on a whole.
So that’s why I don’t call them “the seven Noahide laws,” but rather “Gentile laws” or “Gentile Torah laws.” This is because they are laws for Gentiles, not a special group of “noahides.” This is also why I call them “my laws” or “our laws.” As they were commanded upon us Gentiles, even though they were preserved and discussed in Jewish tradition, they are still our laws, not theirs. It’s not part of the 613 laws, although the details of our laws do parallel many of theirs.
So that should explain why I say “Gentile laws” and “my laws.”
Wow, that was a long aside.
OK, where was I?
Oh yes. So I was saying that certain Jews vocal amongst Gentiles about the 7M (including rabbis) restrict certain knowledge and responsibilities from Gentiles that directly impact our 7M, such as teaching and judging according to them, saying that such things are withheld to Jews.
Now without going into the ins and outs of their claims, let me just put before you the relevant aspect of their claim. These Jews, to me, are making the essential claim that there is part of the Gentile Torah laws that are beyond us, things we just can’t do, at least not without Jewish supervision, at most not at all. Part of our law of Justice implies the spreading of our laws, therefore that we were teach each other our laws, that some of us would have sufficient knowledge to judge the guilt and innocence of people and give the appropriate restitution to the situation, that we would be able to implement our own system of laws to deal with matters linked to the seven but not overtly condemned, or financial matters.
But in a very popular book, the Divine Code, if a Gentile needs a question answered about the 7M, or needs a decision, he is to go to a Torah-educated Jew, no mention of a 7M-educated Gentile. Another rabbi, Moshe Shulman, teaches that Gentiles can’t even teach the 7M, only Torah-educated Jews can, and that currently the law of Justice is merely theoretical. Someone else, Elisheva Barre, suggested to me that if we have a situation where someone does something immoral but not overtly prohibited in the core seven laws, then the first thing a Gentile should do is to consult a Jew to see what their “halacha” tells them.
Now that word “halacha” was not clearly defined for me, so for now, I just have to set it aside as it is quite meaningless to me. I mean a good amount of Jews and “noahides” use that term “halacha” but I have little idea what they are talking about.
But overlooking that Hebrew word, here’s the situation I see. This kind of Jew, possibly the majority of those teaching Gentiles who call themselves “noahides,” are happy enough to teach the extras (the things not commanded), like prayer, faith in God, the weekly portion of the books of Moshe, and just enough of the seven laws that a “noahide” can be aware of keeping at least six of his laws, and aware that he shouldn’t add more. They teach enough so that the “noahide” will keep coming back for more, but not enough to actually be educated enough to at least have the ability to fulfil our law of Justice, knowing enough to judge and teach, believing – now get this – believing that the only way a Gentile can know enough to this is to learn the oral tradition like a Jew!!!
Yes, you “heard” me. Yes, you read correctly. The way to fulfil Gentile Torah law is to be like a Jew.
Am I the only one that sees something wrong with that picture?
Notice that such learning nowadays (or during most of history) is not really accessible for the typical non-Jew living in his own land.
So to even come close to fulfilling our seven laws to the max is out of reach and, according to what I believe to be a significant number of Jews most vocal amongst “noahides,” beyond the ability of the normal Gentile.
Personally, I don’t believe the depiction of our Gentile situation is as these portray. I pay more heed to the actual words of the older rabbis than what is said by the more modern ones. I pay attention to the fact that there is no command for a Gentile to listen to or obey the rabbis. I guess in terms of rabbis, I side with Nachmanides, rabbi Yochanan, and, in terms of the Divine Code, with rabbi Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg.
Rabbi Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg holds that Gentiles have basically no obligation to follow rulings of the Sages in any matter. The author disagrees … (pg 174, footnote 30, The Divine Code, by rabbi Moshe Weiner)
It is our responsibility and our obligation to keep our laws as much as possible. It’s our obligation as Gentiles. And when such an obligation is restricted by the people who are supposed to be teaching us our laws, then something is terribly wrong. If the position is that we must learn like Jews in order to keep the Gentile law, then once again there is an incongruity in this position.
In the same article that rabbi Moshe Shulman gave his limited definition of the word “noahide,” he said the following:
As time went on more and more non-Jews were attracted to the 7 laws, whether from Chabad; their leaving Christianity or the internet. This led to a serious problem: How do we deal with something that is not meant to be a ‘movement’ or organized group when it is becoming one?
I put it to you that this problem may not have been adequately solved. For the past 50 years, it seems that the rabbis involved crafted a religious club. The term “noahide” became a religious identity with its members adopting some of the religious practices of Judaism. One group of “noahides” made a prayer book, retaining the Hebrew name “siddur” even though they were native English speakers from America. They did this with rabbinical help. One rabbi set out how “noahides” can “remember” the seventh day. There was a video series that included kashrut for “noahides” and why a person should have a rabbi. There were online meetings with lots of Hebrew songs and prayers (that was an odd experience). The ideas given for “noahide” occasions, like weddings and funerals, look very similar to Jewish practices. There are kabbalistic interpretations of the seven laws. After 50 years of this “movement”, I can still approach a “noahide” and be met with shock and resistance when I mention there is no Gentile command to acknowledge God, that the core laws concerning blasphemy don’t condemn an atheist, that the seven laws are only prohibitions except the law of Justice, that based on the seven laws, the rabbis cannot be in charge of us, having no jurisdiction. There are still lists claiming to be the seven laws that either replace the prohibitions with “positive” commands (that actually were never commanded), or that replace the prohibition of idolatry with one that says “don’t deny God.” And this is done with no complaint from “noahides”. After 50 years of this “movement”, where are the Gentile sages, the ones with at least the ability to judge according to the seven laws, our experts on our law?
But of course, why would there be Gentile experts on the seven laws if the law of Justice, the imperative to be such experts, is taught to be just theoretical?
Look, back then it was a new thing, all those Gentiles eager to learn. But what happened? In the process of bringing our laws closer, a barrier was set. The question is how to have a Gentile remain a Gentile and learn all his law?
I don’t think the rabbis currently have the answer. I don’t even think they are the answer.
But that’s just my view.
Insights from a man I respect. Please take a look.
Before I get started, this blog is my opinion in what I see, I am not an expert. It is intended for those that are not of the Jewish faith.
I had to take a step back and re-look and question some things, I began to see things in the modern Noahide movement that bothered me.
One of the trends of many and that sparked this blog is the adoption of many Jewish practices into the non-Jewish peoples.
One fellow non-Jew put it better as the non-Jewish laws of the quote the Noahides/children of Noah is more of law than one of belief.
Most reading this blog knows a little of my history. For those who don’t, here is a quick catch you up.
I am what I call a God fearer, I try to mainly hold by the 7 commandments given to all mankind. From Adam to Noah there…
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Just so you know, throughout this article, I’ll be referring to the seven commandments as “7M.”
If it’s not been stressed to you, then let me share with you a point of view. Remember, this is just my point of view. I’m not an authority or an expert. Again, I am not an authority or an expert. I’m a Gentile getting his own messages from what he learned. I may make mistakes. Yes, as I’m not an expert, you’re free to just close this article now. But at least here I’m sharing a point of view.
I believe the seven commandments are both for the community and for the individual, that each commandment has an individual or personal element and a collective element. Each command needs a community to implement it for it to have its full effect. And each command needs the individual to have an effect.
Now it’s particularly easy for me to see the individual aspect of the law prohibiting the worship of idols. I just personally have to avoid the act of accepting an idol as a god and worshipping it as such. The collective side is about the enforcement of the law (liability) and the shared responsibility of Gentile communities to keep this law. That shared responsibility would lead to the eradication of such idols.
But when I get to the law of Dinim and its consistent depiction as “courts [of judgment/justice],” it’s so natural or a common tendency for people to only interpret that as being out of the reach of the individual and only for a community which can establish such a court and install the judge(s), officer(s), and witness(es) (no jury, thank God!) and properly handle the case.
All manner of people seem to only understand it as this and therefore there’s the nagging, insistent claim that we Gentiles can’t keep this command at all because it needs a significant group of Gentiles who actually upholds the commands to be able to implement.
I want to share with you what I see as obligations that are still and always upon the individual.
I’ll quote Rambam first.
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. A non-Jew who violates one of the seven commandments is executed by means of the sword. How is this so? Anyone who worships idols or blasphemed or murdered or had sexual relations with one of those forbidden to him or stole even less than the value of a small coin or ate any amount from a limb or the flesh of a live animal or saw someone else violate one of these and failed to judge and execute him, is himself executed by means of the sword. It was for this reason all residents of the City of Shechem deserved to be executed. For Shechem kidnapped Dinah, and they saw and knew and failed to judge him.
A non-Jew is executed by the testimony of one, and with one judge, without forewarning, and by the testimony of relatives, but not by the testimony of a woman. A woman may not judge for them.
A non-Jew who accidentally violates one of his (Seven) Commandments is exempt from punishment, except for an accidental murderer. For if a Blood Avenger kills him, he is not killed. He [The accidental murderer] has no City of Refuge and their courts do not execute him.
To what do we refer? To someone who accidentally and without intention violates one of the commandments as, for example, if he had sexual intercourse with his friend’s wife and thought that she was his wife or that she was single.
However, if he knew that she was his friend’s wife, but did not know that she was forbidden to him and thought this was permitted for him, or if he killed someone and he did not know that it is forbidden to kill, this is considered to be “close” to having committed the act “on purpose”, and he is executed. This is not considered as an accidental sin for them since he should have learned what the Law is, and didn’t. (Mishneh Torah, Law of Kings and their Wars, chapter 9 halakhah 14 to chapter 10 halakhah 1, as translated at sefaria.org)
So we see Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice. I’m not saying his view is universally accepted, but it is something to learn from.
For some time, I looked at this law and thought it was just about making courts and appointing judges to judge according to God’s Law for the nations, something a 7M-observant Gentile is unable to do for various apparently insurmountable reasons. Focusing only on that made this law somewhat redundant in this day and age.
But, because of the guidance of my teachers, it was shown to me that each command has much more to it than the simple wording. The law against adultery needs a proper definition of marriage. The prohibition against theft presupposes and necessitates the concept of property. So the 7M don’t just exist in a vacuum within which are seven simple statements. No, there is a necessary framework within which the laws are grounded and provide foundation for othe rulings.
So look at the statements about witnessing a 7M infraction and then judging it, and the statement about inadvertent offenses, something should be clear.
This is not considered as an accidental sin for them since he should have learned what the Law is, and didn’t. (ibid.)
This statement, compounded with the fact that a child of Noah should be able to see an act and know if it can be brought before a 7M-abiding court, shows that all Gentiles, especially those who claim to keep the 7M, should learn the details of our laws. This would be considered an obligation.
So, I believe a personal, individual, aspect of the 7M is to learn the Torah Law for Gentiles. This is true regardless of whether there is a court or not because the obligation to keep these laws remain with or without a court and it is possible to be done.
The first part of Rambam’s depiction of the law concerning justice said the following.
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. A non-Jew who violates one of the seven commandments … (ibid.)
So non-Jews should set up judges to judge people according to …
Now, don’t shoot me here, but I kinda take issue with Rambam’s wording here. I’m sure people will give reasons for Rambam’s statement so I’ll wait to hear those reasons. But Rambam first states that the judges must judge six laws and teach the people about them, referring to the six. But there are seven laws! Even the next sentence, which I included, states “a non-Jew violating one of the seven laws …” And the text continues about people witnessing the crime and judging it. Therefore a Gentile must know and judge all seven laws, not just six.
Anyway, why did I bring up the first part of that law again?
OH! Oh yeah. So it’s a divine obligation for Gentiles to not only set up the proper structure for courts, but to set up righteous courts that judge according to divine, secular law.
Did I contradict myself? “divine, secular law?”
I mentioned in another article that the division between “church and state,” between a person’s “faith” and their so-called “worldly affairs” is an unrealistic and artificial one, especially in the Torah worldview, especially for the Gentile. The same law that prohibits cursing God using his name also prohibits theft and murder. In light of that, maybe my mistake was typing “divine, secular” rather than “divine-secular.” [If you’re listening to this with a read aloud app, then I initially used a comma to separate the terms rather than a hyphen to join them.]
And no, a person doesn’t have to accept the existence of God to be keeping divine-secular law because being innocent (being law-abiding) is about action, not belief.
I got off-track again, didn’t I?
Or did I?
Anyway, it’s a positive obligation for Gentiles to set up righteous courts. This calls for a community to get this job done since an individual can’t do the whole job.
But what does a child of Noah, a member of non-Jewish humanity, do when the vast majority of those around him are either ignorant of the 7M or just want to set up courts that ignore or go against the seven, either by ignoring divine dictate or protecting those who break the laws? Does such a scenario mean that an individual Gentile no longer has to keep this law?
For me personally, I look at it this way. I believe that when God commanded the children of Noah the 7M, he commanded both the group and the individual. A group is made up of individuals anyway. So when he commanded upon us “Justice,” it’s still incumbent on the individual to uphold this law as well.
So the positive aspect of the law according to Rambam is that Gentiles should set up courts that uphold 7M-justice as a minimum. I believe the individual Gentile should do what he can to support this endeavour. But breaking this law, or at least going against it, would be to do the opposite of it or what is contrary to it. What would that be?
If the law is to set up courts that uphold the 7M and warn people concerning them, then what is contrary to that law is to set up courts that do not uphold the 7M, or worse, to set up courts that oppose the 7M.
And if the individual should do what he can to support the setting up and maintenance of courts of righteousness, then what is contrary to that? To support the establishment and maintenance of courts that either don’t uphold the 7M or oppose the 7M.
So I would avoid supporting, as much as I can without risking the safety of my family, legal causes that don’t uphold or oppose the 7M. For me, that includes political parties and governments. So yes, I live that out by not vocally supporting the British govt or its political parties or its legal system. I don’t vote because by doing that I’m, with my free choice, actively supporting a legal system, a government system and a judicial system contrary to the 7M.
It should be fairly obvious that when it comes to the 7M, I’m more into principle than I am into pragmatism. That means that I hold the principles of the 7M to a much higher priority, where I’ll do my best not to aid that which contradicts the principles, the laws, rather than support a system that appears to work on some level while sacrificing the upholding of the seven laws.
To give a concrete example, the British legal system promotes freedom of religion and that women are allowed to kill unborn children after the 40-day mark after conception (amongst other things). But it is the current legal system at work in this country and most political parties in the UK will maintain these freedoms. But the seven laws says that these freedoms are illegal. So the British legal system not only doesn’t uphold the seven laws, it opposes them in one form or another. I, based on principle, will reject the British legal system. I make do with the anti-7M legal system simply and only by doing what I’m forced to under threat of “legal” action, and avoiding any willing aid to the system.
If I preferred the pragmatic approach, I would willingly and actively keep the current anti-7M system going (whether I try to change it or not), and support it because that’s what we have now, trying to appreciate the good bits, the bits that agree with the seven, but actively giving aid to those parts that undermine the seven as well. The pragmatist will do his part to do that which is contrary to Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice: willingly doing his part in maintaining a system which does not uphold the 7M and actually opposes and undermine them.
To quote some support for this idea, let me quote from footnote 2 from Sanhedrin 59a in the Schottenstein edition of the Babylonian Talmud:
The Noahide commandment of civil law includes a prohibition against performing any act to pervert justice. Thus, if for some reason a Noahite is not in th process of administering justice but is sitting idle, he is still prohibited to do anything that perverts justice. This negative aspect of the commandment then does not require the Noahite to take any action to administer justice. Rather, it obligates him to refrain from taking any action that perverts justice.
If justice is the upholding of the seven, then doing things like maintaining a system that undermines the seven laws is a perversion of justice. It’s similar to democratically appointing a judge who is ignorant (of the 7M) or who refuses to judge according to them. To me, it wouldn’t matter if the community knew and accepted God’s law or they didn’t know. For me, the principle still holds that I’m not supposed to support injustice, voting for a person, party or system which opposes the 7M. To me, that’s an act that perverts justice, that goes against the implementation of the basic laws of humanity.
So that’s two individual aspects to the law of Justice so far: 1) learning the 7M; and 2) a teaching against setting up legal systems that oppose the 7M.
Now there’s another part of Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice states the following.
… and [the judges] must issue warnings (about them) to the people.
The judges’ implementation of the seven law would warn the people of the land about the bedrock laws.
So, I can guess what part of me is thinking.
Hmmm … that … that sounded weird.
Anyway, so that other dude is thinking, “that’s for judges, David, not the individual Gentile.” And I wouldn’t disagree that the wording applies to the judges who would send out this message.
But when I think about this deeper, I get the impression that the judges wouldn’t just have a nationwide or community-wide loudspeaker, but the warnings or teachings of the judges would filter through the means of media and education throughout the community. This is necessarily true because, as I said before, this law does need community, not just some authoritative dictators to force the Seven Laws on the people.
But what does this imply? To me, this law teaches the importance of spreading the seven laws. Yes, a judge is principally mentioned, but he is no good without a community of individuals to also spread the judgements and the laws. Therefore, there is at least a responsibility for Gentiles who embrace the seven laws to spread them. Is this what is reflected in the Divine Code when it says the following?
Parents are obligated to provide education to their children, and specifically in the fulfillment of the Noahide Code. This education for the children is an obligation within the commandment of dinim, to strengthen the observance of the Noahide precepts in the world. (pg 83, The Divine Code, by rabbi Moshe Weiner)
The highlighted text would seem to agree with my thoughts on the topic.
But I’m gonna take this a step further.
Although there are rabbis and Jews that teach against this, I would say that if a Gentile is supposed to their children about the 7M, then it is also permissible, allowed and encouraged that if a Gentile is able to teach the 7M to others, then he or she should do so.
Now some may accept this but include the idea of the Gentile teacher needing approval or approbation from a rabbi. And this may be a good thing, in order to show other Gentiles that this teacher has taken the time to learn the laws systematically, with effort and diligence. It’s ok in this time where we don’t have the 7M incorporated into our society and education system when we Gentiles will take the reins when it comes to both judging and teaching the 7M formally. But is such approbation necessary? Like any approval, it is definitely a positive sign, but it’s not a necessary one. In places where such approval may not be granted but knowledgeable Gentiles are more accessible than rabbis, then that knowledgeable Gentile, one knowledgeable in the 7M, can teach and give advice.
Think about it. There are Gentiles, “noahides,” who will build a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, or go to hotels and conferences during the Jewish festival period of Sukkot because there is a prophecy that in the future Gentiles will celebrate that festival. So if it going to be that, in the future, Gentile nations will embrace the universal laws and take more seriously the implementation of them into our education system, where Gentile teachers will teach students about the divine international law, then should Gentiles also prepare for that now, trying to gain the expertise on the 7M to teach them?
Just a thought.
So how many individual teachings or responsibilities have I seen so far in Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice?
1) Gentiles who learn the seven laws.
2) Gentiles should not support political parties or systems that oppose or neglect the seven laws (even if they promise to treat the state of Israel nicely).
3) Gentiles should spread the teachings of the 7M, and, if possible, teach them to others.
These teachings aren’t just for a community in the ideal time when the 7M are part of society. They are teachings that are possible for individuals right now.
So, yes, according to Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice, there is an individual aspect to the law.
I’m currently learning about RambaN’s approach to this law of Justice to see whether it too has implications for the individual. But this is just a start of my thinking about the law of Justice, to promote it, to show to anyone who reads this that, unlike what some teach, this law isn’t just theoretical and it’s not just obsolete or irrelevant to our times. In fact, in a time when communities reject the 7M, it becomes all the more important for the individual to take grasp of all the seven laws, including the law of Dinim, of Justice, and live them and share them.