Should I long for a noahide community?
Heard it again today. Heard it before. It’s sincere! It’s earnest! It’s honest!
“I just want a community, a noahide community, like the Jews have a community.”
But what is it that we are really asking for? And do we have the right idea?
No, I don’t think this article will answer the question. But it’s just my thoughts on my own path.
A place called home …
Years ago, after I left christianity and before I got to know more about the noahide commandments, the obligations God gave to all gentiles, I wrote a song called “Stranger’s song.” It’s not easy feeling out of place, even though I’ve had that feeling for a long time in my life, even when I was christian. It only got worse after I left it. At that time, I wanted a place I could call home.
Now “home” for me isn’t a place. It’s never been a place. When I was younger, “home” was my iimmediate family, the five of us. It didn’t matter where I was, if my family was there, I belonged somewhere. “Belonging” – that’s the word. Not just being in a place where you’re useful and people commend you for your work. No, I mean a place of settling, not comfort, where I could be different and yet be accepted for who I was and that I accepted for what it was and both elements fit in a weird oneness. A common foundation that allowed for differences. That’s not the society I live in.
What I wanted was a place of belonging that held the same core values as me. A community.
What does “community” mean as a religious “Noahide”?
I still dislike that word. “Noahide.” To those that don’t know it, it’s just a weird sound. To those that do, it’s been made into some religious entity. Like one person would say, “I’m a christian,” and another would say “I’m a muslim” and one would say “I’m an atheist” and finally someone would say “I’m a noahide”, as if it’s just another religion. I don’t like what that word has become or what it is. But for now, I’ll treat it in its more distateful religious form.
What does it mean to be home as this modern entity: “Noahide?” The stranger reading this could ask what a Noahide is. To summarize, it’s a gentile who accepts the truth of God as He revealed Himself to Israel as brought to us by the Orthodox Jews. As part of this worldview, the gentile knows that God gave 7 commands to all gentiles and this individual strives to keep these seven commandments because God commanded them to Moses at Sinai, although they were previously given to Adam and Noah. They may purposely seek to pray to and worship God in a religious way as well as study the seven commandments and their details as well as some additional Jewish teachings.
So in this light, this religious light, finding a place called home, what would be ideal, would be for such a person to find people of the same worldview. It’s almost like a christian finding other christians of the same denomination, or a rabid militant atheist finding others who chant his sort of vitriol, or a bunch of moderate liberals who think they are understanding and unbiased finding people of the same way of thinking. Essentially, it’s just finding a religious commonality, a bunch of people worshipping the same God, holding onto the same foundations.
Even though this view of Noahide is a bit bitter for me, it is something that I’ve wanted. To be amongst those who are singing from the same song sheet. We can talk about the seven laws, their source (God), and maybe even the Jewish Bible and the rabbinical ideas about the Noahide commandments. It’s like the air has a certain sort of sweet synchronicity. We’re learning with as little interference as possible. Beautiful.
What does “community” mean as a gentile “Noahide”?
The ancient idea given in the Jewish tradition which I find a lot more … realistic, something historical rather than just based on belief, is as follows:
Our Rabbis taught: the descendants of Noah were commanded seven commandments: social laws; to refrain from blasphemy, idolatry; adultery; bloodshed; robbery; and eating flesh cut from a living animal. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 56a)
Here and in other ancient Jewish literature, “the descendants of Noah” simply means gentiles, those not under covenant of Israel (Israel was separated from the descendants of Noah due to their special pact/covenant with God). It has less to do with belief, and more to do with actions that make one disobedient to God’s principles. So basically, this means there are really only two main groups in the world: Jews and Gentiles. That’s it! Amongst these groups, there are righteous Jews and unrighteous Jews, Jews who take their covenantal responsibilities seriously and those that don’t; and there are righteous Gentiles and unrighteous ones, Gentiles who take their commanded obligations seriously and those that don’t. Since, for us Gentiles, our laws are more basic and closer to proper sense, it can simply refer to someone who respects the body/life and property of their neighbour and takes that respect seriously, who respects an animal enough not to eat it or part of it while its alive, understands their own mortality and the limits of the universe enough to know that no human or part of the universe (which is always limited) deserves our worship as if it were a god, and respects the true Creator enough to not become frustrated with one’s lack of understanding of the way the world works to curse that Creator verbally for the bad things that happen in that person’s life. That person also has a sense of justice, where they will avoid acts that distort justice: they hate the idea of judges or government officials getting bribes, or feels the need for the proper authorities to know when crimes against another person’s body or property take place, etc.
Now such a person may not be “religious”. They may not pray or worship or sing to God. But they are decent individuals. They may have the label of christian, muslim, atheist, even hindu. But when you interact with them, you may notice a reluctance to bow the knee literally or not to physical, non-physical, or ideological idols (whether statues, notions of god-man, or swallow notions like universal/philosophical naturalism, the idea that nature is all there is). You may notice that they have, in a general way, an understanding that murder and theft is wrong, and that there is more to justice that what our courts of commerce and revenue … oh sorry, I mean our courts of “law” dish out.
But you should notice a difference between both views of “Noahide”, the religious view and the gentile view.
The difference and the implications
The main difference to notice is that, in the “gentile” Noahide view, we are not just dealing with what is in a person’s head and their beliefs. It doesn’t just deal with religious groups. This “secular” (thanks, Alan Cecil) view of “Noahide” (descendant of Noah) incorporates every single Gentile. And in hard-and-dirty reality, this is the one that impacts us the most. Why? Because, in this day and age, where the knowledge of God is so rare amongst gentiles, we have to deal with gentile Noahides day-in-and-day-out. In reality, that is our community! The people who are currently messing up our countries and mismanaging them are Noahides. The person who you pass on the street is a Noahide. Your work colleagues are very likely to be Noahides. Most of the world is Noahide. Those people who you interact with are more likely to be Noahides.
So if you are looking for a community, guess what! You’re already in it. And that shouldn’t make you feel sad or bad, because it’s your job to do what Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught. Did I lose you with that? “Rabbi Nachman of Breslov”? Don’t worry too much about the name. Just focus on the words I say that you do understand, unless you want to search out more of his wise teachings. A guy called Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum did this great video that I can’t find about focusing on the good points of a person. Instead of focusing on the differences and the bad that you may see, focus on the good points, the good character traits, the places in a person that are good and honourable, and work with that. Through focusing on this good, you can improve yourself and this person and your relationships and the world around you, your present Noahide community.
Aside: Always remember, that I’m talking to myself as well as anyone may be reading this, so I’m primarily “preaching” to myself. There’s no guarantee anyone will read this, and I don’t mind reading my own stuff as it’s like someone else talking to and encouraging me with my own thoughts and experiences.
I know there are people out there that would like the religious Noahide form of community to take place somewhere. Who knows? Maybe it will. As I can’t make this article much longer, I’m not going to go into why I don’t like the idea of this sort of community in this day and age. If someone reminds me, or I remind myself, maybe I’ll go into it at another time. But there are religious Noahides around the world. If you have the money and the motivation, maybe you can go and move to where they are. But I don’t. And online groups can only go so far. Maybe you can find a class that is near you. If you want that, maybe you can try contacting asknoah.com or 1stcovenant.com who have international links and may know of teaching groups who try to learn more about the Noahide Commandments. [There may be others, but this isn’t a resources article.] But this notion of a religious Noahide community is way too scattered and, in terms of progress, immature. As long as we are not in the Messianic Age, we are far from that time and far from having more possibilities and opportunities of having such a group of like-minded people to discuss Torah Law for Gentiles and the deeper concepts and the wonderful things involved (but I hope that Golden Age comes soon).
In the meantime, here’s my little suggestion. Know that there is more to the Noahide Commandments than just the religious side of it. Most of the world is Noahide, in the gentile sense. And your community and therefore your responsibility is very close to you. Maybe it’s time to focus on the “secular” and practical side of the seven commandments and their offshoots, and begin to make a difference with what you have now. Develop yourself and integrate the divine laws into your lifestyle and use it as a lens to view the world, and then be an upstanding person, and build the community around you or just the people that you can influence.
That’s the way to build the Noahide community that you are already in.
What the heck! It’s just a different point of view.