By Mattityahu Kranendonk (written originally in Dutch)
Translated roughly (oh so roughly) by Google Translate; adapted by David Dryden
In retrospect, I am very glad I never called this group ‘Noachide’ or something similar. Why? The current global Noachide movement is moving, in my opinion, in the wrong direction. It threatens to become a new religious movement, just as christianity began.
It is known that most people in the movement used to be christian and for various reasons they have walked away. This also explains the rather especially strongly represented anti-Christian and anti-Muslim presence in the wake of this movement. In addition, there’s the excessive attention to religious rituals, constantly questions like how to pray, what to pray, whether they can do this or that i.e., typically Jewish commandments and practices.
All this is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of our calling as the people of Israel and of the contents of the Torah. I believe that the wrong direction of the Noachide movement is partly caused by various rabbis, experts in halacha and religion in the narrow sense. Our rabbis used to be ordinary workers/labourers; nowadays they spend much of their time with their noses in the books, almost detached from society, only involved in it at a distance. They serve the religious (or less religious) Jewish community and it is doubtful how much real experiential knowledge they have of the society around them. As a result, this narrows their role to religion in the narrow sense.
It is the task of our people Israel to protect the Torah against evil influences and our Jewish life according halacha has an insulating function. We have a lot of boundaries that limit and restrict our interaction with other peoples. The obligation of Shabbat, with a total prohibition on work [specifically “melakhah” which has a special legal meaning], has no flexibility. Pre-eminently we isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and world events. Working for a boss or for ourselves on Shabbat is impossible. (Hence non-Jews are so important, because they have no prohibition with regards to work). As a result, it also makes it difficult to vacation, to find a hotel where I can keep Shabbat (electric doors, automated light in corridors and stairwells, and often in the hotel room itself, cooking and keeping food warm is forbidden). There is the obligation of kashrut, the dietary laws. They make it impossible to eat with non-Jews (and indeed with every Jew who doesn’t keep kashrut), to eat at a restaurant even for an afternoon on the road, to eat ice cream or fries on the side of the road at some snack bar or trolley (not that it isn’t tasty or that it’s supposed to be an unhealthy example, because that’s not the point).
I could give many more examples, but I do not think that is necessary. But this is the consequence of our mission that God has given us in this world. It is only due to all the society-insulating, interaction-limiting obligations that we have survived as a people, without thereby assimilating and disappearing among the nations. The Torah has enabled us to be preserved up until now, yes, the Torah and its details and explanations, handed down from generation to generation.
I don’t think that after the printing of the Bible (and many other Jewish sources, even the Talmud) this task had come to an end. On the contrary, much had therefore become accessible to many nations, but therein lies the danger at the same time. Through the centuries it was firstly held within our own people, and later non-Jewish peoples attempted to take the Torah on board. Thus arose Christianity (their own private interpretations of Torah – see Paul – with no interaction with our leaders or the humility to be corrected by them), and then see Islam (who have committed themselves to their own private interpretations in the Quran, as Christians in their New Testament). The ever-emerging innovators with their own interpretations of the Torah and Tanakh thus more or less stormed and assaulted our Jewish people. [Supposedly they have some direct line with the Eternal and God had waited with his truth that would only be made known when certain religious people came into the world.]
But now let’s briefly a cursory glance at the Torah:
1. Did the righteous Avraham arrange prayer meetings? Or religious rallies?
2. Do we not read that God, at times in our own Jewish history, heavily criticized us and even said that He was disgusted with our meetings, our fasting, our prayers, our korbanot (mistranslated as “sacrifices”)? And you know why? It was because we had “blood on our hands’, ‘because we oppressed the orphan and the poor’.
God is interested in our actions, namely doing justice and righteousness. That’s what Abraham taught his children: he taught them ‘justice and righteousness’.
The current Noachide movement splits apart religiosity and social action. But they are not two different areas. Also synagogues can become ‘places of idolatry’ if we believe that God is only accessible there, can be only be found there and will only speak with us there. But religiosity should find its way into the social action, involvement within society, building a just world, e.g. setting up voluntary organizations for the sick, seeking out the lonely, supporting the poor, helping people who to conservation work or protecting our environment: this can and should be where his profound religious progress is found. True religion is to care for widows, orphans and strangers, poor and disabled.
The current trend or tendency is again to narrow down the Torah into being a religious ritual book, which appeals only to the narrowed-down religionist. Thus, once again, the Torah gets cut off and isolated from society, universities and other educational institutions.
In addition to this there is one last warning. Serious problems are created by the excessive, undue imitation of typical Jewish practices (meaning those intended to isolate and insulate due to the specifically mentioned mission of the Jews as a people):
a. Continued need to interact with Jews caused by this adulteration that will ultimately, as it did in earlier times, have a potentially assimilative influence for our people who are preserving Torah-loyalty.
b. Mixed marriages in the future created by the many interactive contacts. These are prohibited by Torah and threaten the survival of our people. (72% of non-Orthodox Jews in America are already in mixed marriages and much is lost to our people as a result).
c. Society on a whole is given the totally wrong signal. Non-Jew start acting Jewish to various extents, sometimes more so, sometimes less, having a freedom allowing them to be flexible in their interaction with others. They have no obligation regarding Shabbat or for the other Jewish festivals. They have no kashrut restrictions. In many cases they will drop a Jewish practice, if necessary. Because of this, they can give the signal that the Torah commands are just ‘SELF IMPOSED’ rules (and not from Hashem), making them negotiable that at any time (even if only for a moment) can be released. This is in direct contradiction to Torah. If then a born or naturalised Jew who has accepted the Mosaic covenant who actually does observe and keep Torah and halacha does invoke this provision and says he cannot work on Shabbat/festivals or cannot make an particular business trip, then he will be confronted with the argument that all those people who behaved like Jews when it was possible, yet dropped those so-called commandments when it wasn’t, seemingly for the sake of convenience. Employers see that as evidence that the religious Jew is just cocky, a religionist (obsessed with religion) and in a perfect position to start seeing a psychiatrist, and that all those rules originated from humans and are just based on human desires.
In other words, this Facebook group is called “Israel and the nations”and that distinction we should hold to just on biblical grounds and continue in that fashion. Amongst the typical Jewish rituals and obligations, non-Jews will hopefully be inspired by the universal concepts in the Torah (and Talmud), but without going further into imitation of those same Jewish practices. My real home is Israel; for the non-Jew, it is Netherlands or Belgium or the UK or USA or wherever. It is their job as citizens of their Gentile countries to make of that country a just Gentile society. Nowhere in the Tanakh is it said that all people should be Jewish (which is impossible because all people do not fit into the land of Israel!).