It’s silly to be a “noahide” because …. – the weak excuses

I hear of people converting and becoming Jewish, something which can be a very positive thing. The Jewish Torah way of life has immense responsibility, trials and rewards. For a person who has that inner craving, that insatiable longing to be a Jew and to connect to God as a Jew, the path and destination of naturalization to the Torah nation of Israel is fulfilment in its fullest. If all of those people simply looked forward to being a Jew and living as one, then this article wouldn’t exist.

But some don’t. Some find it within themselves to then cast insult upon the situation of a person who is not a Jew. Unfortunately some of it comes from the innovative “religious” definition of the word “noahide”. You can see this when they make statements like this: “I was a non-Jew. I chose not to become a noahide because of such and such, so I became a Jew.” Obviously they weren’t basing their understanding on the original term “bnei Noah” in the ancient Jewish tradition that simply means non-Jew. They are using the newer understanding of “noahide” where it’s like becoming part of a religious group. So this individual, this non-Jew, saw a choice between joining two religious groups: the “noahides” or the Jews, and they became Jews. Unfortunately such a viewpoint isn’t correct.

The main point is that there are many silly, ill-thought-out, and sometimes ridiculous reasons that Jews cast insult on not being a Jew, especially when it comes to the Seven Commands. In this article, I’ll go through some of them and hopefully show why these insults are generally impotent and silly.

Now the reason why I call these examples “weak” is because those who have used them and publicized it should have known better. The ignorance of these particular people makes it important to give an answer. There may be Gentiles out there that may have these genuine concerns because they just don’t know. I can respect where they come from, so I’ll try to keep my answers just as that “answers”. Not rebuttals. Not refutations. Just answers.

Jews keep Torah while non-Jews keep the seven laws (implying that the seven laws are not Torah). The Torah is God’s law. I wanna keep Torah.

The Seven Laws were given by God. They are part of Torah. Just so that you know the Torah consists of a written tradition and a non-written or oral tradition. The written tradition is the five books of Moses, known as the Pentateuch or Chumash. Added to that, there are the rest of the books that make up the Jewish Bible. To describe it simplistically, the oral tradition contains explanations and details of the commandments in that law and the text. Both have God as the ultimate source, although there are further explanations to that: now’s not the time for that.

The written tradition, known as the written Torah, has clear evidences of God holding people accountable for their actions before Israel even existed and also those not part of Israel. The Jewish Bible contains further evidence of that. So it is clear that there is a divine standard for Gentiles, for the world in general. It is the oral tradition that specifies those divine laws for Gentiles and some of the details and makes it clear that the source of these obligations is God.

Since both the oral and written tradition are what make up Torah, then both make it obvious that God requires obedience from all his creation, not just the Jews. And the Seven Commandments are part of the Torah tradition, and are commanded by God himself.

There is a difference between what the Jews are commanded and what the Gentiles are commanded. Both are Torah, God’s commandments upon his creation.

Now I know that there are some Jews and some sites that innocently and honestly claim that the Seven Commandments are not Torah. Know that this is ok, because it all has to do with how they are defining the word “Torah”. Also it must be stated that authoritative texts call the Seven Commandments “Torah”. In the Talmud itself, Rabbi Meir, with discussing a Gentile studying Torah, he says that a Gentile is like a high priest with he studies Torah, by which he means the Seven Commandments. Rambam, Rabbi Moses Maimonides, in his work “Mishneh Torah” when he differentiates between the laws a Gentile keeps and the Jewish laws he shouldn’t add to them, he clearly states that such a Gentile should study and keep “his own Torah,” by which he means the Seven Commandments.

Those who try to say “the Seven Commandments are not Torah” are just using a different criteria for the word, sometimes blindly, sometimes innocently. As I’ve said above, both the Jewish commandments and the Gentile ones were commanded from God.

The Torah makes a person holy as it explicitly claims. No such claim is made for the Seven Laws.

Israel was set apart for a particular purpose. They were given laws in order to make them distinct from the nations, in some ways to isolate them from the influence of the nations around them. Holy just means that, “set apart for a divine purpose”. The part of the role of the Jewish laws is to separate them from everyone else.

The role of the commandments of the nations, the Seven Laws, is not to split them apart from one another. It is to ensure that they attain at least a basic level of morality. That is at least with regards to the bare bones of the Seven Laws. It is at least to give a foundation of right-living. When the Seven Commandments are studied in-depth a lot more morality is revealed to help a person become better without even becoming a Jew, but at the very least the Seven Commandments are a firm line of “Don’t cross this”. The focus of the Gentile Torah, the Seven Commandments, is justice and a basic level of uprightness, a basis for true civilisation.

So being holy isn’t necessarily about being better. The focus of a person should be the best they can be, to be a good person, not just to be isolated or segregated. If a person says “I wanna be holy”, they may not understand what they are saying. They may be using “holy” in the place of “good”. Gentiles have plenty of room to become good people based on the Seven Commandments, God’s standards. If they really mean “I want to be holy” as in “I want to be set apart do to a particular service for God”, the question has to be what service that person wants to fulfil. If the only answer is “I wanna be a Jew”, then a Gentile is free to do so. If the answer is rather “I want to be a good person”, then a Gentile has no reason to become a Jew as there is more than enough within and connected to the Seven Commandments to become not just good, but great.

Just to show the benefit of studying and delving into just the Seven Commandments, I’ll just share this quote.

R. Meir used to say, From where do we know that even a gentile who studies the Torah is as a High Priest? From the verse, “[You shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments] which, if man do, he shall live in them.” Priests, Levites, and Israelites are not mentioned, but men: from here you can learn that even a gentile who studies the Torah is as a High Priest! — That refers to their own seven laws.

So if being equivalent to a high priest is holy enough for you, you don’t have to become a Jew.

There are only seven laws. The Jews get to keep 613 laws. Surely that means something. Surely having more commandments mean more benefit or reward.

The Seven Commandments have many details and sub-categories. The Seven Laws also do not include the obligation of each human being to be decent people to reflect the fact that we are made in the image of God. This is something that again has many more details. So there is much for a Gentile to be busy with, not just seven simple sentences. For example, the prohibition against idolatry involves investigation into what exactly idol-worship is and what part of it is forbidden. The prohibition against sexual crimes has more details than just the 5 categories mentioned. For example, what exactly is marriage? What is divorce? What exactly is the sexual act? And each commandment leads to extensions of principles and logical obligations that flow from them. So there is much more to the Seven Commandments than an oversimplified misrepresentation of “only seven laws”. This also doesn’t include the fact that if a Gentile sees good practices amongst the Jewish commandments, he is free to take them up, as long as he doesn’t lie to himself and say they are divine obligations upon him, and provided that he still focuses on making sure he keeps his seven commandments.

It also must be made clear that no Jew keeps all 613 laws. There are laws that are only meant for priests, laws that are only meant for men, laws that are meant for women, laws that only apply to kings or to judges or to prophets, laws that only apply if the Temple is standing, laws that only apply if you own certain property. So the number 613 is quickly reduced because most laws are based on your particular situation. To quote a book called “The Path of the Righteous Gentile”,

It is incorrect to think that since the Children of Israel have 613 Commandments and the Children of Noah have seven commandments, the ratio of spiritual worth is proportionally 613 to seven. The truth is that the Seven Universal Laws are general commandments, each containing many parts and details, whereas the 613 Commandments of the Torah are specific, each relating to one basic detail of the Divine Law. Therefore, the numerical disparity in no way reflects the relative spiritual worth of the two systems of commandments.

The book, Sefer HaChinnuch, section 4:416, states the following about how the Seven Commandments are general, broad laws having numerous details:

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. Thus you will find that the ban on consanguineous, forbidden conjugal relations is reckoned in a general way as one precept; yet there are quite many details in it: for instance, the ban on a mother, the ban on a sister from the same mother, and the ban on a married woman and a father’s wife, and on a male and an animal. So too, the entire matter of idol-worship is reckoned as one precept for them, yet there are many, many details in it—since they are equal to the Israelites about it, in regard to the fact that they are punishable for anything over which an Israelite beth din (court) would sentence to death. Then we likewise say that since they were abjured about robbery, they were equally adjured about all decrees to keep a person far away from it.

It is not my intention, though, to say that like us, they are adjured about this by a negative precept. For they were not cautioned about details of injunctions like the Israelites, but were rather adjured in a general way about those seven—as you might say by way of illustration, that Scripture cautioned them, No man shall come intimately close to anyone near of kin to him (Leviticus 18:6), to a mother, sister, and all the rest; and so likewise about idol-worship, equally in a general way. Then so too about robbery: it is as though they were told, “Do not commit robbery—but get utterly far away from it”; and included in getting far from it is the rule not to act covetously.

For Israelites, though, the matter is not so; the omnipresent God wished to make them meritorious, and He increased the precepts for them far beyond the number for them [the other nations], and even with those that [both] we and they were commanded, we merited that our orders about them are [often] through separate positive and negative commandments.

This was cited from the book “Secular by Design” by Alan W. Cecil where he then proceeds to go through the 613 laws of the Jews and collate how many may fall under the categories of the seven laws. He came to a number of 209 of the 613 laws that can fall under the seven laws. He may be including the ancillaries (supplements) of the seven laws which are also important for a Gentile to keep, but that is still a sizable amount of commandments.

These statements should make it quite clear that Gentiles are not just dealing with seven simple statements or sentences.

If God’s commandments are good – and He is good – then wouldn’t it be better to have more commandments and guidance from Him?

No.

That’s the blunt answer. The more correct answer would be this:

No, it’s not better to have more commandments. It’s better to keep the commandments that you’re given. Our nations haven’t even got that far yet. When you obey God and what he says, then that is a great place to be. You can then develop yourself in other areas. Gentiles, once we fully deal with our seven commands, and we fulfil the responsibility of living according to God’s image, as decent people, then we can develop further with the Jewish commandments that are available, keeping them as non-obligatory commands.

Again, more commandments doesn’t mean more goodness in and off itself. Commandments from God are specified according to role. A normal Israelite doesn’t have to look at a Jewish priest and think “oh well, he has more commandments so he has more good from God.” No, the priest has a different responsibility. So a Gentile doesn’t have to look at a Jew and think anything. They have their responsibility and we have ours. We just have to learn the fulness of our responsibility and, again, we haven’t done that yet.

Let’s be blunt here. If a person says “I want to be Jewish because I want more commandments” I think that is a wrong reason to become a Jew. There is a lot more to Jewish life and culture and divine obligation than just the keeping score of the amount of commandments one keeps. If a Gentile wants to do good, then that is more than possible with all the responsibility that is part of being a Gentile made in God’s image.

The Seven Commandments don’t legislate for cheating on a wife, lying, and many other acts forbidden to Jews or that are considered immoral by our modern society. Surely we should aim for better. (because they aren’t legislated, that makes them ok and fine)

A little education is needed on this point.

The basic Seven Commandments are not the ideal of human existence but the basic level of morality. Basically, they are God’s basic standard for life. So you can’t expect higher morality from the basics.

That being said, it is by studying the Seven Commandments, not just the basics, but the depths of each Command, and then living them that more can be gained. And then it is by learning the root principles and thus the wider implications about these laws for even better living that even more can be gained. When you then recognize the place of humanity made in God’s image and the responsibility of that, you can make more difference in your own life and community.

Another thing that is important to state is that the Seven Laws are ideally for a community rather than an individual. That’s why punishments such as the death penalty is spoken of, punishments that cannot be administered by individuals in a proper court. The Seven Commandments are meant to raise communities, societies and nations, not only individuals. Of course the Noahide Law includes precepts for individuals. But communities need basic standards of morality and justice as well.

Since the Seven Laws cover the basics, being the fundamental level of righteousness, that doesn’t say that everything else is fine and beneficial. Such a conclusion would be dead wrong. As the important saying goes, not everything that is permissible is beneficial. So just because the Seven Laws doesn’t give the death penalty to cheating husbands (NB, Jewish Law doesn’t do this either), it doesn’t give it approval that it’s ok. There are Jews and Gentiles that will misrepresent the Seven Laws by ridiculing it and claiming it’s ok to promote acts that are outside the scope of the very basic laws. Such viewpoints are wrong. It just means that it is in the hands of a community or society to decide how best to deal with such actions, and whether it is really for the sake of justice that such actions should be pursued legally. The law of Dinim includes the clause that Gentiles are supposed to establish righteous laws to govern their communities and establish appropriate punishments for each law. It can decide how to deal with liars and cheaters. There is leniency for the society that is not as developed morally as others, but at least there is that base international Gentile Torah law that no Gentile community or individual should cross.

It must be pointed out that these Gentile laws are in the Jewish tradition. The Jewish Torah tradition is not there to judge Gentile matters. It focuses more on Jewish affairs. We Gentiles are meant to handle our own affairs with the Seven Laws giving an objective divine framework to our behaviours. This point will come into play again later on.

An individual can learn God’s law for Gentiles and grow to understand that other actions are not beneficial and thus avoid them. The same is true for a community. But the Seven Law provides the basis from which to grow. And it’s not necessarily to grow into a Jew, although some Gentiles do. It is to grow into something better from the right foundations.

The Seven Commandments are less ethical than other religions.

The Seven Commandments aren’t about religion. They are about law and justice and fundamental standards. Again the Seven Commandments are also about the basics. So if a religion or worldview says “the death penalty is wrong” and yet is fine with kidnapping and abusing people, or tolerating all sort of sexual acts and injustices, then they may be ethical in one way and totally criminal in another. That charge can be leveled against many religions and governments.

The fact of the matter is this: we need an objective standard. So the question is what is the objective standard being used to judge one worldview more ethical than another? What is the basis of ethics?

Anyone who believes in the God of Israel should know that he is the foundation of morality and says what is right or wrong, and thus to claim that religions that God did not set up are more “ethical” is a betrayal against God’s morality. The Seven Laws are the foundation for ethics amongst the Gentiles, a divine foundation that can be built upon or at least settled with when there is a lot of diversity in the world.

Also, whereas religion does a better job of dividing people up, one person is in or out, the Seven Laws is just meant for all Gentiles, an international standard. Nations may different on other things, such as national moral education or outlook, but at least there is a unity for everyone. It’s not about trying to proselytise and convert people. We are all Gentiles regardless of what names and labels we give ourselves. It’s about finding justice and making sure it’s the right standard and applies, at least basically, for all people.

More Torah, more instruction means more life, more meaning.

Actually, this should be corrected. Obedience to God gives more life and more meaning. Focusing on being decent human beings, that gives more life and more meaning. Ensuring justice and a basis for a civilized, secure, habitable and flourishing world gives more life and more meaning. If a person thinks that more life and more meaning can only come from becoming a Jew, they are sadly mistaken, and they are sadly deluded about the role of a Gentile in the world.

For any infraction of the Seven Laws, there is a death penalty. Even theft, adultery and other such acts. Even our modern society wouldn’t do such a thing. And the Jews don’t have the death penalty for such acts.

Again, the question must be asked: what is the foundation of ethics? Man’s opinion? Or God’s Torah? What is a person gonna judge our modern society based on? Personal whims? On being a Jew? Or on what God actually states about our society?

Our Seven Commandments are not about “what’s ok and what is not ok”. Fundamentally it’s about what gives us permission to have a continued existence.

The Jews have a different role in life which is why different acts warrant the death penalty or a cutting off from their community. For example, if a Gentile works on a Saturday morning, writes a story, drives to the shops, lights a log fire, cuts his harvest in his field, he is totally fine. Not so for a Jew. He could be subject to the death penalty.

Now certain acts are seen as basically and fundamentally wrong. And if a person does such a wrong act? Well, if there is a proper court in operation, then a number of things are needed for the death penalty to come into play. Firstly, the Gentile must be in a society or community that generally knows that it is wrong to commit that act. Secondly, an eye witness is needed seeing the Gentile doing the wrong. Thirdly, the act must be done knowingly and purposefully. It can’t be accidentally or without choice or without knowledge. Once those basic requirements are fulfilled and the proper court is in place, then at least the death penalty can come into play.

Then the question must be asked whether it is agreed by all Jewish authorities that this means that the person must be given the death penalty. Yes, it says that they are liable for the death penalty, but is the court obligated to give it for every infraction? Too many just lean on understanding Rambam as saying that breaking one of the laws means the death penalty. I question this interpretation. Rambam first says that breaking any of the seven laws makes one liable for death (this doesn’t mean that a person must be killed in a court, but the liability for death exists). Then he says later on how Gentile should be tried if the death penalty is applied: “A Gentile is killed based on the mouth of one witness, etc”. I don’t see a statement saying “A Gentile must be killed for any infraction.” Also when seen in light of what others say about this, it is overhasty and rash to simply say “breaking a law means death”. See the following:

Even though the Talmud and Maimonides stipulate that a non-Jew who violated the Noachide laws was liable to capital punishment, contemporary authorities have expressed the view that this is only the maximal punishment. According to this view, there is a difference between Noachide law and halakhah. According to halakhah, when a Jew was liable for capital punishment it was a mandatory punishment, provided that all conditions had been met, whereas in Noachide law death is the maximal punishment, to be enforced only in exceptional cases. (Jewish Concepts: The Seven Noachide Laws, Jewish Virtual Library – http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/The_Seven_Noahide_Laws.html)

This article does not address one very significant issue — the scope of a Gentile’s obligation (both as an individual and as a society) to enforce Noachide law. As is clear from Maimonides’ formulation (cited in text accompanying note 46), Gentiles are obligated not only in formulating a legal system, but also in actually enforcing it; after all the inhabitant od Shechem were punished because they declined to enforce the law. On the other hand, as noted by many authorities (see sources cited in notes 90 and 158 and more generally the sources cited in notes 90 to 99) it is clear that Noachides need not punish all violations with death. Indeed, a claim can be made that a Noachide system of law fulfills it’s mandate as a system of justice (dinim) even if it were to occasionally decline to criminally punish a clear violation of Noachide law (such as theft of a nickel). So too, it is reasonable to suppose that Maimonides’s formulation of the difference between the obligations of an individual to enforce law and the obligation of society to enforce law (see Rotzeach 1:5) has some place in the Noachide system also. This is even more so apparent according to the approach of Nachmanides that incorporates vast amounts of general law into Noachide law. Clearly not every violation of this general law requires death or even criminal punishment. On the other hand, it is reasonable to assert that the Noachide obligation is not fulfill merely by legislative action without any enforcement activity. What is missing from this discussion is the halachic parameters of the discretion, and that task shall be left to another time. (footnote 63 of the article “The Obligation of Jews to Seek Observance of Noachide Laws by Gentiles: A Theoretical Review,” by Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/noach2.html)

So the fact is that it is not the case that every infraction of the Seven Commandments demands the death sentence. Normally this sort of argumentation is more of a scare tactic. Thankfully education wins out.

A gentile can be given the death penalty for breaking the laws of Noah by one judge with only one witness and no jury with no advance warning necessary. Jews can’t give the death penalty without the Temple standing and a functional supreme court called the Sanhedrin, at least two witnesses are needed who must fulfil a long list of criteria to be valid witnesses who must see the act being done and have twice warned the person doing the crime that it’s wrong, and there are at least 23 judges, and once they fulfil the criteria for being a valid witness, only then will the judges hear the case (yeah, that’s right, not give a decision, but at least hear the case).

Now, having seen that a person doesn’t necessarily get death for every infraction of the Seven Commandments, and gone through a few of the stipulations needed for the death penalty to be an option, this question is of little importance. But I’ll answer it anyway.

This point ignores the criteria for a judge in the Noahide laws. Think about it. If the Noahide law emphasizes justice, then it would be obvious that the judge has to be competent and knowledgeable about the law, and that the witness has to be tested. And the law on how many judges can judge a case is only dealing with the minimum. There is nothing to prevent a Gentile court from having more than one judge. That is in the hands of the community. But at the very least there must be one judge. That means that there can’t be mob rule or lynching. There needs to be due process. If a community wishes to elect more, they are more than able to do so. There needs to be at least one witness if the death penalty is in place. There can be more, but that is the minimum. Imagine if there didn’t need to be any witnesses needed for capital crimes. How could there be justice then?

The fact is that the Seven Laws at least give foundational criteria for a capital case.

The desire to sell the Jewish side of the issue as if that somehow helps the situation is unnecessary and does more to make it seem as if the Jews do not want to see justice done at all, setting as many roadblocks as possible before a trial to make sure murderers can run free. I’m not saying that this is what Jewish trial procedure does, i.e., protect criminals. But I am saying that such a zealous attempt to portray the Seven Laws as backwards and barbaric and the Jewish Laws as enlightened and better makes a parody and caricature out of both. Both sets of laws play their part in setting the standard for justice, whether in the land of Israel or in the lands of the nations.

Some may question the idea that there is no jury stipulated in the Noahide laws. The basic standard for justice is that a qualified judge, a judge knowledgeable in law and understanding with regards to human affairs, be the one to render the judgement regarding such serious occasions. Personally, I don’t know how much justice is served by having judgement placed in the hands of those who may not or do not understand the law or morality, such as a jury of random people. If the judgement is in a delicate or serious matter, I have a choice, just like a special medical surgery to fix a wound or injury. Either I’ll have 12 random people from my peers handling the delicate procedure, 12 strangers with little to no education on the relevant parts of my case. Or I have a trained specialist. I know which one I would choose.

It should be noted that there is no jury in the Jewish Torah either. A person is put in trial before 23 judges, not 23 people from his own peers.

It must be a cruel God to give such inadequate and harsh laws.

It would be a cruel God to give no basic standards whatsoever, leaving the Gentiles nothing at all except whim and subjective opinion to determine right from wrong, justice from injustice. We live in countries where “everyone does what is right in their own eyes”. Corruption and intrigue is rife, where governments are no better than thieves, bullies, murderers and robbers. The absence of standards makes things no better.

If a person is willing, they can learn that the Seven Commandments do what they are supposed to do. That is not to be harsh. That is not to be inadequate. It is to provide a basis, a foundation. Charges of inadequacy and harshness comes from wrong and poorly educated expectations.

Kabbalah, the Tanya, teaches that non-Jews are intrinsically evil. So it is better to gain more connection to God by getting a Jewish soul and converting.

Actually, it doesn’t say this. This is a myth carried around by the innocently ignorant or purposefully ignorant ones across the internet. The fact is that the Tanya and Kabbalah were not meant to be read by the typical common Joe down the road, people with no proper grasp of Torah. Such books were written in highly metaphorical language, to be read with a firm background in the Jewish written and oral tradition. Unfortunately, innocents and idiots get their hands on a few quotes and think they can now teach that it condemns Gentiles as essentially evil. Such a claim is not true when such passages are understood in the full context of Jewish tradition.

A fantastic website and article that answers the issue is http://www.judaismsanswer.org/The%20Soul.htm. That article gives some keys to understanding what the Tanya means.

But I personally would advise Gentiles to stay away from Kabbalah. It is too prone to misunderstanding because of the expertise needed to properly understand the subject matter, expertise that Gentiles on a whole lack. There is enough to focus on just getting our own obligations done properly and understanding them properly in order to live properly and spread decent living.

So just to reiterate, those who say that the Gentile soul is intrinsically evil based on Kabbalah or the Tanya don’t have a clue what they are talking about, using words that are used in a highly specific way as if it can be understood based in terms of their normal usage which causes deception and lies to spread.

The main problem is that almost no rabbis have sat down and figured out what being a Noachide actually requires in real life situations.

This is one of those instances where the word “noachide” is used in its ambiguous religious sense. Since I prefer to avoid ambiguity, I’m going to kick that term “noachide” to the kerb and use words that most people can grasp the meaning of with less ambiguity. I’m going to use the word “Gentile” as I have done previously, simply meaning a non-Jew, and that’s it.

So, replace the word “noachide” with “gentile” in the above point and we’ll move forward.

It is not up to a rabbi to sit down and figure out what being a gentile requires. I guess a rabbi can think about it as much as a gentile is part of his Jewish community. But all a rabbi can really do is teach what the Torah teaches about what Gentiles should do, the obligations we should keep, and leave it to the Gentile to figure out what that means for the Gentile practically. The rabbi is, at best, a guide or a teacher, but not a judge or leader. He can state what the Torah states but is in no place to dictate.

What does that mean practically? With or without a rabbi, a Gentile must live responsibly and conscientiously, with due thought and judgement with regards to the world around and within him. A Gentile doesn’t need a rabbi to do that.

A rabbi can tell a Gentile about what the Seven Commandments state and the general details. He can tell him the views that ancient rabbis had on certain issues or if they were silent. He can give his own opinion. But when it comes to actually living the life, only the Gentile can take the principles and learn how to apply them in real life, not a rabbi. A rabbi is bound to his own Jewish commandments that forbid him and isolate him from a Gentile life, even the life of a righteous Gentile. He can give advice, but that’s about it. It’s up to the Gentile to take responsibility for himself or herself, a heavy responsibility, and judge that advice based on the basic principles of the Seven Commandments, and make the ultimate decision about what he will or won’t do within the framework of the Seven Commandments.

So, to summarize, it is not for rabbis to sit down and figure out the requirements for Gentiles. They can share what tradition teaches, written or oral, impart some advice if needs be, and then leave the Gentile to grow and apply in a Gentile context. Remember the important aspects of our law of Dinim, Justice: it is for Gentiles to judge Gentile cases based on the Seven Commandments. It’s the Gentile responsibility.

The Noachide faith is the only “religion” that requires another “religion” to tell them what to do and how to do it. Except Judaism isn’t doing that.

Unfortunately, the artificial structures of “religion” can cause some imaginary and fictional issues to present themselves in the minds of those who know no better. Let’s try this.

As long as we are on the ground of Torah, the realm of Torah, let’s address things accurately. There is no “noachide faith” or “noachide religion”, just as there is no Jewish religion or faith. What there is is Torah! In Torah there are Jews and Gentiles. Each have been given a responsibility. The Jews have been made priests, ministers, teachers to the whole world and have in their possession God’s revelation which includes the stipulations for the teachers, and the general summary of the curriculum for the rest of the world.

The role of the rest of the world is not to become teachers but to become educated and to apply that education to real life. As we all know from real life, some people get educated without school, i.e., the other school, the university of hard knocks. Such rough knowledge still helps a person to gain an earthy and resilient wisdom. Generally it’s rough knowledge, but can still be powerful. Others are taught in the more structured class environment, going to teachers when needed, some staying with the teachers longer than others. But always the proof of the pudding, what really demonstrates who is better of, is in the content of the life led away from the teachers, in real life. And a “student” is responsible for his own life outside of the reach of the teacher.

And as with any school, there are good teachers, great teachers, and downright rubbish ones. Someone learning still has to test what is taught. So again, what demonstrates a person’s worth is not whether they are classed as a teacher or a student, but how they live according to the principles for each one.

Anyway, enough with analogy. When someone applies foreign and inadequate terms to what Torah teaches, mistakes and deceptions will tend to occur. Making it seem as if it is “Noahide religion” vs “Jewish religion” and one has to learn from the other is an unfortunate and mutilated viewpoint. We are one human race. One set possesses God’s revelations with implications for everyone. If people want clarity on the implications and obligations, then logically we go to the set of people that are custodians of such a revelation. It’s not about one religion versus another. It’s not about one set of people subservient to another because God gave the Jews no authority over Gentiles. As simple as it sounds, we live and we learn. And then we Gentiles get on with our business living and apply what we’ve learnt; and the Jews get on with their business living what they have to learn. And that’s about it.

There is a lack of religious leadership. Most rabbis clueless about the Seven Commandments.

Then thank God that there are now Jews and Gentiles that are not clueless about the Seven Commandments!

The Gentiles don’t need religious leadership. Gentiles need education and then the balls (yeah, I’m including the ladies in that) to get on with our business of getting justice (not religion) spread about in our Gentile communities. This really isn’t about some “noahide movement” as beneficial as it is/was. It’s time for a justice movement.

The Seven Commandments are not about creating a new religion called “Noahidism” or a special religious group called “the noahides”. It is about creating and establishing a civilised and hospitable Gentile society. For such an endeavour, we don’t need religious leadership. We need community workers. We need voices in the councils that speak in a Gentile voice saying that there must be a standard of morality in the decisions made. We need family leaders who will forge their family unit into community changers. We need conscious and aware people who can speak to the youth of our countries and encourage them to stop self-abuse, community-abuse. We don’t need Kabbalist-Jewlite Gentiles who are happy talking about unrelated topics with their rabbi, feel like they know the essence of God, Torah and Shem a bit better after a session, and then actively support injustice in the voting booth. We don’t need a stripped down version of Judaism, the religion of the Jews.

It is not the rabbis who need to be responsible for learning the Seven Laws, although their people have the specifics and codification as part of their traditional heritage. It is the responsibility of us Gentiles to be all that we can be and use the resources at hand, including the Jews and their literature and traditional history, to educate ourselves and those around us about our core responsibilities.

There is no noachide community.

The question is what sort of community you are looking for. Are you looking for a religious congregation, like a noahide church or a noahide synagogue? Yeah, you should know I’m using that word, “noahide” in its religious connotations again. You want a little community like the Jews have their community in their diaspora and continued exile across the globe?

Once again, if we strip out the alien religious connotation, you are already in a Gentile community. So if you’re a Gentile you already have a community all around you.

https://hesedyahu.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/should-i-long-for-a-noahide-community/

Unfortunately religion and the horrific individualism that is across so much of our society cuts us off one from another, to the point where a lot of us, me included, don’t even know the people on our own street, road, village or apartment building. It’s hard to trust strangers. I can understand why it may feel safe in a community of like-minded people.

To the people like me who are more insular, introvert, and anti-social, I would advice that you take full advantage of the internet while we still have it. There are “noahide” groups around. I don’t condemn the need to find someone like-minded. But also make roads in your personal life too. Talk to people around you, who you work with. Live your life upright and make friends. Remember, decent people aren’t just those who claim to know the Seven Commandments specifically in codified form. Too much reliance on the internet will bite you in the backside when you can’t access it or it shuts down. Knowing a few people around you in real life can be a great advantage.

For the extroverts and outgoing, as well as what I’ve suggested for introverts, the world’s your oyster. Newspaper adverts spelling out the seven commands in plain speech; socials, making friends, etc, etc. What need do you have to stick with the so-called “noahide crowd” when there is a world of Gentiles out there? It’s not about proselytizing. There’s nothing for them to convert to. It’s about spreading your circle of influence so that your example can make a difference to those around you.

In the end, community is about your state of mind. Realistically speaking, you always have a Gentile community around you whether you like it or not.

There are no houses of worship.

The Seven Commandments are not about religion, so houses of worship are not needed or stipulated. It’s about encouraging people to be better by having a good moral foundation. Houses of worship are inadequate for the job, when the focus should be more on education. It’s not about creating a brand new church or synagogue. Gentiles have a different God-given role in life to Jews, and the problems come when we either try to emulate Jews in those ways or try to emulate the idolatrous practices around us just to sustain an artificial need.

In this western culture, we’ve been taught that worship is singing, raising hands, having prayer meetings and such like. But what did God require throughout all that time? Just for us to do what he said. Once again, that sounds a lot like Isaiah 1 where the message is something like this: forget what you think worship is; forget the fulfilling of your own fantasies on what God requires; instead spread the cause of justice.

In other places in the Jewish Bible, it says that justice and judgement are desired more than slaughterings, and that judgement, justice and kindness are what God “delights” in. I think, as Gentiles, where our laws are based on justice, we need to get a better definition of “worship”. If the main emphasis is glorifying God, and God delights in true justice, then maybe by helping to clean up our justice system, even starting with our homes, implementing and teaching justice there and how to make right decisions, then we can really have houses of “worship”, places where we are taught justice, and where true justice is meted out.

What do you say in your prayers? The Jews have a siddur, a prayer book. Noachides don’t.

Gentiles have freedom when it comes to prayer. In fact, Gentiles are so free, that we don’t even need to pray. Gentiles can pray whenever we like with whatever words we want that are respectful and truthful and free from idolatry. There have been some attempts at creating “noahide” siddurs based on what the Jews pray, and Gentiles are free to use them. And we are free not to.

Again, the role of Gentiles in the world is different to Jews. Although prayer is very useful on a human level, for any human – it can be very enriching – there is simply no need for a prayer book. A person can express himself or herself to God from the heart with personal words whenever they feel the need or have the desire.

Who would a Noahide marry? And if you could marry, how would you educate your children?

The simple answer is that a Gentile can marry a Gentile. There are no legal limits as such, but of course it’s preferable and beneficial that you marry a decent human being (remembering that “decent” isn’t necessarily the same as a person who claims to be a “noahide”). In this day and age, where knowledge of the Seven Commandments is poor, we can’t expect perfect observance from people, so a person who knows the laws can only do the best they can. For example, if someone who knows the Seven Commandments falls in love with someone who unknowingly or ardently supports injustice through the political parties, yet is otherwise decent, there is no crime with marrying that person.

https://hesedyahu.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/who-can-a-noahide-marry-personal-opinion/

How would the children be educated? The best that a person can, at least ensuring the basics are taught. It could be done with private time with the child, which any parent should have anyway.

The fact is that we can only do the best we can and nothing more.

When has there ever been a civil court who rules in accordance with the Noahide Laws – differentiating between Jew and non-Jew and how Torah applies to each? Yet this is the meaning of the mitzvah to establish courts of Justice. This is another reason I didn’t want to be a Noahide. I don’t see any way in the pre-messianic age to observe this one positive commandment of the Sheva Mitzvos.

You have to think about how strange this sort of thinking is, especially as a reason to become a Jew. A person doesn’t want to remain a gentile because that person doesn’t think they can keep one of the Seven Laws. So the next choice is to become a Jew where they can’t keep many of the Torah laws because the Temple isn’t standing. That makes no sense. If this person were thinking consistently, they would reject becoming a Jew because significant portions of their law can’t be kept nowadays and haven’t been kept for the majority of their history. I personally don’t see any way in the pre-messianic age for them to observe those commandments, especially when the Jewish Bible itself prophesies that the next Temple won’t be built until the promised anointed Davidic King comes. So this sort of thinking is inconsistent and unrealistic.

The fact is that the laws of “courts of justice” or Dinim or justice isn’t just a positive commandment. According to the Talmud it is both positive and negative, both an active command and a prohibition. If a person were to study this command fully, it would be discovered that there are aspects of it that need to be kept by a community, but also aspects of it that can be kept by the individual.

But let’s imagine that we couldn’t keep this command at all because in our current situation, there is no way to practice it fully. Is that a reason to stop being a Gentile if for similar reasons you can’t keep a significant portion of Jewish commands as a Jew either? Hell no! In the same way that the Jews make sure that they keep the commands that they are able to, and are not culpable or liable for things that they are unable to do, Gentiles can make sure to keep the commands that we are able to keep and not be liable for the things we can’t keep.

The person who chooses to leave Gentile responsibility for this reason did not have the right reasons at all.

Not over …

I’m sure there are plenty more reasons people can come up with. You know people are like: if they don’t want something then they’ll find a reason against it. But then there are some people with just genuine questions and are looking for answers.

I hope that this article goes some way to give some answers.

I don’t know if there is more to add.

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3 Comments

  1. Andy

    A much need article. Well written sir.

    You brought up 19 arguments for conversion. I assume these are statements you have heard converts make, or have heard in passing conversation about the subject, or in Torah literature. I had to revise my stances on a few points after rereading your explanations. On those points specifically, it is a matter of the convert’s intention, but I will get to that later.

    I summarized each refutation, as they appeared to me. The way I am seeing this, the arguments and refutations come under these issues:

    1) Misunderstanding of Torah, Torah law, principles, and/or hashqaphah
    2) Conflating and/or confusing holiness and righteousness
    3) “Counting mitzvahs” vs. looking to serve HaShem
    4) “Maximalist” outlook (i.e. “we’re not Bronze Age people; we need more mitzvahs.”)
    5) Fear of isolation and Torah legacy dying out

    The first four issues can be dealt with relatively easily. And really, they are subsets of the first issue of misunderstanding Torah. And these all come from the Western/Christian way of seeing reality and Torah. Blessings on you for taking these on.

    The fifth is the biggest challenge. I don’t fault anyone for seeking the conversion route, if community and legacy are major reasons, provided the convert already has an inclination and willingness to serve HaShem already; and is not confused on these other issues. No, I don’t fault him. That having been said, Noahides are in a unique position, in which most Jews do not find themselves; living without a community. I would like to think that HaShem grants an extra measure of reward to one who chooses to remain Noahide, stick it out, and work to build a family, with the hope of passing on Torah to his children and grandchildren. I don’t mean a greater reward than Yisrael, but an extra measure for the courage to live as true, outspoken monotheist in the wilderness. But it is not for me to say. HaShem judges fairly.

    • Great points, Andy. I hope people see your response. Well put!

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