A righteous gentile in my mind

This is my concept of a righteous gentile. No, it is not backed the wealth of a life lived studying Torah. It is probably not the conception of Rambam or Ramban. It is not focused on a place in the world to come or the heights of holy living. It is just how I view the sort of person included in the ancient phrase of the Tosefos, “the righteous of the nations of the world shall have a place in the world to come.”

So this righteous man may have no clue about rabbis, Torah, and Jews. He would not be able to tell the difference between Tractate Sanhedrin and Sefer haChinnuch. The dude would not use or know of some label to attach to himself like some neon sign to say he’s special. He may not even care for such an ego stroke. No, this man (or woman, could be either, but I leave it as “a man”) just gets his head down and gets on with whatever he’s been given. A good worker who actually thinks about his day-to-day interactions. He is actually thoughtful and aware about the world around enough to make some conclusions about it. For example, it’s silly to give worship to anything created thing or concept or spirit, as these things are as much a slave to limits as he is. He guards his speech and is careful in his interactions. He respects the property rights of others and does his best not to harm other humans. He sees purpose in sexuality, that it has to be complementary and compatible, seeing futility in putting his sexual organ in the place of excrement, or simply using whatever opportunity just to arouse himself, and reserves his sexuality for another responsible human, one of a different gender physically (i.e., complementary), who is not a member of his family, respecting the family unit. He actually is at least aware of the suffering of animals, so, at least as far as he is control of it, he avoids eating meat taken from the torture of animals while they are alive. And he is aware of how justice is important to a society, and would do his best not to be complicit in wrong doing or a perverting of justice as best as he knows it.

There’s something about this guy that reminds me about Abraham who pulled himself out of idolatry just by thinking clearly about the issues and acting on his convictions in a proper manner.

Now I can hear the thoughts that should be arising: What about Israel? What about Torah? What about God? What about prayer? What about worship? What about this? What about that? I told you it was my conception, didn’t I? I never told you to jump on my bandwagon.

You see, too much of my time is wasted debating with people who can come across like addicts of religiosity. Sounds harsh, huh? Why do I call them addicts of religiosity? Because I look at what they share and the teachings that they share that excites them that makes them want to look into it again and again. But hearing even a few minutes of what they share, a lyric from Johnny Cash comes to mind (I’m taking it out of context): “you’re so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good”. I’ve never heard the song, but the words “of no earthly good” comes to mind.

I get to hear about Shem and how he is supposed to have influenced Abraham and his children. I get to hear about post-Sinai and pre-Sinai “noahides” and about some entity called a “ger” (I ain’t getting into it), and being linked to Israel and Torah. I hear how the 7 laws are infinite and got split into different lights. And then I look around me. All the things that the seven laws prohibit are still rife across the planet. The people of the world still lack moral education and the awareness to stop their own governments from sucking the life and joy out of everything. In fact, many will do all they can to protect this wasteland of an economy and cultural lifestyle. In fact, the evils of government just reflect the lack in the core of its subjects and serfs, its “citizens”. And yet, I get to hear some irrelevant stories about lights and dead men. And life today gets no better.

You know what is lacking in this world is not stories of the dead. This world isn’t in need of prayer because why ask God to do what he has already told us to do? This world isn’t lacking kabbalah or even sabbath. What this world is lacking is good, conscious, aware, and active people. They may know absolutely nothing about Rabbi Nachman of Breslov or the Rebbe. But at least their eyes are open and they’re willing to see the corruption for what it is and see what they can do about it. But unfortunately, there are more mentally apathetic people, more brain-numbed, or too many addicts to religiosity, and too few with the heart and determination to get the job done here in this world.

Now was all this written just to have a go at religious people? Or at the world at large? Nope. In fact, in some ways, each person in their individual way, even the so-called “religiosity addicts” I mentioned, even me myself, we are all just a choice away from starting to make a difference in our world. Even it’s a simple “no I won’t steal that” or “I think, rather than praying for change, I’m going to try to be the change”, it just takes one step to start a journey (was that corny?). What is needed is not extravagance or mysticism or the extras on top, although they can help. What is needed is simple obedience. That at least can build a foundation. “Obedience to what?” The seven commandments! “But what if these dude doesn’t believe in God?” Good point! But does that person want to do good? “But what is good without God?” Better than evil with or without Him! We don’t need perfection, we just need a start! “Do you really think we can change the world?” I don’t think that really matters. The question is this: can you do your best at doing what you’re supposed to do? Let the whole world take care of its responsibility, but we all as individuals, as gentiles, have our responsibility regardless of what others do.

You see, that’s the power of a simple good man. He may not have a grasp on the whole grand scheme of things. Believe it or not, he may not have the perfect conception of God in his head, although that’s something to aim for. But he is conscious enough to know that whatever is in his hands, he has to do his best with it, whether it is employment, his family, his children, his circle of influence, his friends, his community, the imposition of a unjust system and society. Whatever is his lot, it’s just about getting his head down, taking his responsibility seriously and getting this job called “life” completed to the best of his ability.

I ask whoever reads this, even if it’s me, to consider this.

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Jim

    Yes, this is so right. I was at a conference of Noahides a few years back. I was very excited to go, because I’d met few other Noahides. Also, I thought it would be a great opportunity to study the sheva mitzot.

    I was terribly disappointed, however. We didn’t study the Noahide laws. No. We mostly heard from rabbis who were teaching kabbalistic ideas. There was a Noahide Sabbath candle lighting (where they lit one candle for each of the sheva mitzvot, reciting it over the candle). I don’t know how that isn’t a violation of the prohibition to create religious observances for oneself. We heard all sorts of messages about joy and love, all sort of “religious” speak, but what we did study was the proper upholding of halacha regarding the sheva mitzvot. Only one speaker talked about how the ben Noach grows closer to God by fulfilling the sheva mitzvot, specifically because it was commanded to him by his Maker. (I found myself reflecting upon that point for weeks.)

    Not only were the speakers not teaching Torah for gentiles. The gentiles appeared largely disinterested in learning halacha, on reflecting on proper behavior. The few people I talked to were interested in having some way to “grow closer to Hashem” in the way the Jews have. They wanted their own version of tefillin or shabbos or whatever. When I told one that we have halacha to guide us, and how that came from Hashem, she told me that that wasn’t enough. I suspect she hardly studied the matter. She wanted the kinds of experience she used to have in church. Others wanted to learn Kabbalah. They want to know secrets and mysteries. They did not want to study on how to live a practical life in obedience to their Creator.

    Obviously, this wasn’t true of everybody. And I only spoke to a few people I didn’t know. I am not outgoing by nature, and I quickly became nervous when we started “studying” “joy”, reincarnation, and other similar topics. I thought I must be in the wrong place when everyone seemed to think that Noahide Shabbos candles should be a thing, as if they would draw us closer to Hashem by inspiring an emotion in us. It seemed clear to me that such a gesture was about us, not about Him. And after that, I was rather gunshy. Would no one protest?

    (By the way, I didn’t say anything, except to a couple friends at the conference. I didn’t know anybody, and I am quite new in my understanding. I did not want to make waves. Later, in an e-mail, I did question a Noahide naming one can pay a hundred dollars for, where a rabbi consults the stars through “Jewish astrology” and learns a persons Hebrew name. I was rebuffed. Still, if it were to happen today, I would definitely have said something, and let the chips fall where they may.)

    Anyhow, this is the long way of saying that I agree with you. I am distressed by the amount of interest in kabbalah and secrets about God as well as “religious observances” the Noahide community is interested in, rather than studying the Torah that applies directly to them. For too many of us, this is about fulfilling an emotional desire, a fantasy, and not about pleasing god or fulfilling our obligations as human beings.

    Jim

    • I’m sad that you and I have to agree on this and I appreciate you sharing your experience. I’ve known too many who get sucked into the way of thinking that belittles our responsibility and over-emphasizes the Jewish commandments as if it’s not enough being a conscious, aware individual. Our culture hooked some of us on religion and Jew-emulation and the denigration of simple obedience for what others deem to be “worship”.

      But I do encourage you to be the best person you can, even as a Gentile. That will make the difference. Not when we try to be something else, but when we take what God has given, accept it humbly, and then use it to the max.

      Thanx again for sharing, whether you grace me with your presence again or not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: