I’m not a ger

OK, so there’s been some teaching going about, made even more popular by a show on Israel National Radio, about “noahides” being equivalent to some entity known as a “ger”. This article is not about naming names. It ain’t about anything personal. It’s just about the issues as I see it and my stance. It’s best for me to speak for myself and not for anyone else, and not have anyone else speak for me.

Ger

So my article is titled “I’m not a ger“. For most people in the world, the next question that would pop in the head after “who gives a damn?” is “what is a ger“? In light of the rank of a person that could oppose my definition, I had better give the words of more educated men before I put forward how I define the word. So here are a number of quotes, available online and offline, that speaks of what a ger is and especially the way it is used in Torah.

“[Ger Toshab:] A Gentile who settled in Palestine and, to obtain the privileges of citizenship, abjured idolatry. He is distinguished from the Ger Tzedek who was a full convert to Judaism. (Everyman’s Talmud, by Abraham Cohen. pg 316, footnote 4.)

“Ger” – proselyte. This is one of the many passages in which the Torah requires that proselytes be treated as equals with all other Jews. Even though their ancestors did not emerge from Egypt, they have become fully fledged Jews and, provided they circumcise themselves and their children, they bring the offering along with all other Jews. (Artscroll Chumash, commentary on Shemos (Exodus) 12:48)

“Ger” – a proselyte. It is forbidden to taunt a proselyte by reminding him of his non-Jewish past and suggesting that this makes him unfit to study God’s Torah (Rashi, Sifra)? (ibid, commentary on Vayikra 19:33)

“laGer” – to the stranger, i.e., a gentile who resides in the Land as has agreed to observe the Noahide laws, but is permitted to eat non-kosher meat (Rashi). Obviously, the word “ger” in this context cannot be rendered “proselyte”, since carcass is no less forbidden to a proselyte than to any other Jew. (ibid, commentary on Devarim 14:21)

“the stranger” – According to Lev. XVII, 15, touching or eating the flesh of a nevelah is defiling both to the Israelite and the ‘stranger’. In Lev. the ‘stranger’ meant the non-Israelite how had become a proselyte in the full sense of the word, a ger tzedek. Here the ‘stranger that is within thy gates’ refers to the time when Israel would be settled in their Land and would have in their midst not only proselytes, but also men who while they had abandoned idolatry, did not completely take upon themselves the life and religious practices of the Israelites. The Rabbis called this class of resident aliens ger toshav; and this v. refers to that class, who were neither Israelite by birth or conversion, nor ‘foreigners’. See p.256. (The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, edited by Dr J. H. Hertz, C.H. Late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, commentary of Deuteronomy 14:21)

“sojourner” Heb. ger. The resident alien. ‘He was not directed or compelled to assume a religious duty of Israel, but he was prevented from interfering with the religious practices of Israel’ (Sulzberger). In later Hebrew law, the resident alien is either a ger tzedek, a righteous proselyte, who has been received into the covenant of Abraham, and thereby enjoys the same privileges and obligations as the born Israelite; or ger toshab or sha’ar, ‘the stranger of the gate,’ the alien squatter who remains outside the religious life of Israel, but who has undertaken to adhere to the seven Noachic laws that are binding upon all men who desire to live in human society; see pg 33 (ibid, commentary of Exodus 12:19)

One who is born a Jew forfeits his title if he becomes a ben nekhar [“son of alien values”], if he becomes a pagan, estranged from Judaism. Conversely, one who was born a pagan can attain full equality with native members of the Jewish nation as soon as he enrolls himself and his family into the Jewish covenant of God. The Jewish state grants citizenship with all the pertinent civil rights … even to an individual who does not become a Jew as long as he subscribes to the obligations emanating from his vocation as a human being and thus becomes a ger toshav [lit., “a sojourning stranger”].
A ger tzedek [lit., “righteous stranger”], an individual who has actually become a Jew, may make the Passover offering …. (Terumas Tzvi, a translation of texts from the commentaries of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, commentary on Exodus 12:48.)

Jastrow’s dictionary of the Talmud in its definition of “ger” calls ger tzedek a full proselyte, and a ger toshav as one who renounces idolatry to get limited citizenship in Israel. (I see proselyte and convert as synonymous, i.e., full converts to Judaism, for all intents and purposes a Jew.)

Also Soncino’s translation of the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin folio 96b, translates ger toshav as “resident alien” and ger tzedek as “righteous proselyte”. In the relevant footnotes, it defines ger toshav the same as Jastrow, and ger tzedek as one who accepts all the laws of Judaism for no ulterior motive.

Be aware that there are two types of gerim.

1) The ger toshav “the stranger-sojourner.” He lives in the Land of Israel, but isn’t Jewish. He observes the Seven Noachide laws, as any non-Jew is obligated to do.

2) The ger tzedek “The righteous convert.” He is a convert to Judaism and is a full-fledged Jew. (http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/bonchek/archives/mishpatim59.htm)

OK. After all of those quotes, that last one speaks best for how I view things when it comes to the “ger” issue. But I’m going to use modern english to describe my point of view, a point of view which I believe to be firmly established in tradition, as was confirmed by the evidence above and a post in the AskNoah forum. Before I do, let me just tell you about some dictionary entries and rabbinical definition.

I’ll share Rashi’s definition of ger as seen in his commentary of Exodus 22:20.

Every expression of a stranger ([Heb. ger]) means a person who was not born in that country but has come from another country to sojourn there. (quoted from Rashi’s commentary on chabad.org http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9883#showrashi=true)

I have a Hebrew dictionary at home which states the following:

ger is a man who, either alone or with his family, leaves his village and tribe, because of war (2nd Samuel 4:3), famine (Ruth 1:1), pestilence, blood-guilt, etc, & seeks shelter and sojourn elsewhere, where his right to own land, to marry, & to participate in the administration of justice, in the cult, & in war is curtailed: sojourner, alien Genesis 15:13; ….

Here are a few words from Rambam, oft quoted by others from the opposite point of view.

Halacha 7

What is meant by a resident alien [Heb. ger toshav]? A gentile [Heb. goy] who makes a commitment not to worship false deities and to observe the other [six] universal laws commanded to Noah’s descendants. He does not circumcise himself or immerse. We accept this commitment and he is considered one of the pious gentiles.

Why is he called a resident [Heb. toshav? Because we are permitted to allow him to dwell among us in [the land of Israel], as explained in Hilchot Avodah Zarah.

Halacha 8

We accept resident aliens only during the era when the Jubilee year is observed. In the present era, even if a gentile makes a commitment to observe the entire Torah with the exception of one minor point, he is not accepted.
(quoted from Issurei Biah Chapter 14 from http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/960662/jewish/Issurei-Biah-Chapter-Fourteen.htm, with further changes by me as informed by the Hebrew version of Mishneh Torah at http://www.mechon-mamre.org)

A person who formally accepts these [seven] commands is called a resident alien [Heb. ger toshav]. This applies in any place. This acceptance must be made in the presence of three Torah scholars. (quoted from Laws of Kings and Wars, Chapter 8, Halacha 10, http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188353/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-8.htm- important note: this passage says that the acceptance of a ger toshav is accepted in any place, not any time. This, based on Rambam, it still has no legal force in our days.)

My words

So my understanding of ger is almost like one that I mentioned before. He is a person who is not a native Jew that has left his own community to dwell or reside amongst the Jews. There are two legal statuses of a ger: 1) ger toshav – a non-Jew who resides amongst Israel (or a Jewish community) and officially and formally vows to keep the Seven Commandments of the descendants of Noah (called by people these days, “the Noahide laws”) in front of certain Jews; 2) ger tzedeq – a former non-Jew who now has been naturalised by the proper traditional methods and is now a Jew.

As has been shown before in the quotes of Rambam, this legal status, that of ger toshav, no longer exists for as long as there is no Jubilee (yovel), something that has many other things needed that are not around today without Temple or Sanhedrin.

Now one thing that should be clear by most, if not all the quotes that I’ve mentioned, even by the previous paragraph. A ger in the Torah sense is a non-Jew who is dwelling amongst a Jewish community in one of two senses, but it is always someone who has a formal relationship and legal (or halakhic) status in Israel.

This inevitably leads to another conclusion. Not every Gentile is a ger. Why? Because the vast majority of Gentiles just live and are officially linked to their own lands, not Israel. So a German who lives in Germany may just have links to his own country. A Englishman who relocated to Canada and naturalised there would just be a Canadian. These people may have no links to a Jewish community and may not even live amongst one. So these people are not classed as gerim (plural of ger).

This leads to another conclusion. Even Gentiles considered righteous for knowingly or unknowingly keeping the seven commandments are not gerim. We don’t need to worry about the ger tzedeq because according to what was said above, this is just a former Gentile turned Jew. But with regard to a ger toshav it involves a couple of things. Firstly there needs to be the proper legal (or halachic) structure available to formally establish an individual as a ger toshav. The lack of a temple, Jubilee and Sanhedrin and maybe other factors, makes the formal status of ger toshav defective or invalid for now. Secondly, many of the Gentiles who accept the seven laws still have no strong links to a Jewish community. I’m not just talking about people that claim to love Israel or its Torah. There is nowhere that states that this love makes a person a ger. Sometimes all a Gentile will have is some regular or irregular dealings with a rabbi or knowledgeable Jew who is willing to teach them or answer their questions.

Now as I write this last part, I think of the word ger and how it is used in the Jewish Bible. For example, when Abraham said that he was a ger (sojourner from another place) and a toshav (dweller) in the land to those that were permanently residing there, I can’t imagine him meaning the following: “I actually live somewhere else – I don’t live or reside here – and I intermingle with a totally different country, but because I happen to know a Canaanite or two that instruct me on Canaanite life, I can now be classed as having a legal status there.” Do not misunderstand me! I’m not belittling the devotion of those Gentiles that choose to learn from a rabbi with any regularity. There is so much good that can come from such a devotion. This article has nothing to do with such devotion, if it is devotion to God’s Torah and to God himself. But the word ger or ger toshav has a lot more meaning than a righteous gentile, even a righteous gentile taught by a rabbi. It is a legal (or halachic) status that involves living or sojourning in the land of Israel, amongst the covenant people, the Jews (without repeating myself before about the legal structure needed).

Looking at the uses of the word ger [toshav] in the Jewish Bible, there seems to be a difference between this non-Jew and the Gentile that has no residence status in Israel. It’s like in Deuteronomy 14:21 where meat from an animal that died of natural causes can be given to a ger, i.e., a ger toshav, that non-Jew that actually lives in Israel, or sold to a total foreigner. There is a difference.

This sort of difference, but more significantly between a ger toshav, a righteous gentile who is not a ger toshav and other gentiles, can be seen in Rambam’s words from his Mishneh Torah, Law of Kings and Wars, Chapter 8, halacha 11.

However, if he [a gentile] fulfills [the seven commandments] out of intellectual conviction, he is not a resident alien, nor of ‘the pious among the gentiles,’ nor of their wise men. (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188353/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-8.htm)

As can be seen there, Rambam separates the ger toshav from the “pious among the gentiles”.

All of this is to say that many Gentiles who accept the Seven Laws may be righteous Gentiles, and some of them may get to learn from a rabbi by asking the odd question or visting him often. But I believe there is more to being a ger toshav than just that. I believe that the evidences that I’ve given above confirms that.

I’m not a ger

I’m a Gentile that doesn’t live in a Jewish community and I don’t live in Israel. I keep the seven commandments because they were commanded by God to Adam and Noah and then to Moses in the Torah and I try to be an all-round decent person. I learn from rabbis and Jews when I get the chance.

Now that summary means that I’m not a ger in any way, whether a fully naturalised one, or the one that just sojourns formally in the midst of the Jews.

Equating the ger toshav with a “noahide”

I’ve seen it happen enough times by rabbis and those who may not know better. They will equate the terms ger toshav and “Noahide”. And I’m of two minds regarding such a situation.

You see, although there is plenty of evidence for what ger toshav means, the word “noahide” is …. well, it’s just messy. In the same sentence, it can be used so ambiguously that you can’t tell if the speaker is talking about the bog standard Gentile or the religious devoted follower of the God of Israel who is Gentile. For example, you’ll often hear of the Seven Commandments referred to as “The Noahide Code”. What should “noahide” mean there? Is the laws that are obligatory upon all Gentiles? Or the laws that religious individuals who call themselves “Noahides” keep in order not just to keep the basic seven but additional moral principles, rites and practices seen in the Jewish 613 commandments? When people talk about building “noahide communities”, it doesn’t appear that this is talking about any and every Gentile, but rather Gentiles who hold to a certain set of beliefs.

Speaking bluntly, “noahide” is a newly created non-Hebrew word that is derived from the Hebrew name “Noah”. Being non-Hebrew word, an innovative one, people can reinterpret it as they want. Works like that of Rabbi Broyde and the commentator of the Artscroll Talmud collection use the words “noachide” and “noahite” to refer to Gentiles in general, being a true expression of the original legal meaning of the hebrew term which means “descendants of Noah”, those that aren’t Jews. There are people like Rabbi Elijah Benamozegh who spoke of a Noachide religion and equated his “Noachide” with “the proselyte [ger] of the gate” spoke of in the Jewish Bible. So if some rabbi or some gentile wants to come along and define the English word one way or another, what can we do?

It is this ambiguity which is another reason why I distance myself from that word, “noahide” and its different versions.

Some may then ask, “David, are you a noahide?” The best response I can give is “I don’t know what you mean.”

What’s the attraction?

I wonder to myself, what is the attraction? Why do Gentiles want to be seen as this ger identity? Why have certain rabbis attracted a following by making it seem like righteous Gentiles, regardless of whatever link to Israel, are automatically the ger, sometimes making it seem like this ger character is all over the written and oral Torah?

It would be unfair for me to try to read the minds or express the inner desires of Gentiles who are strangers to me. So in this passage I will only speak for myself. If it’s irrelevant to you, then this section just doesn’t apply to you and that’s fine.

There is a mistaken mindset that may have caused certain Gentiles to become Jews. It was that God only had a special love for the Jews, and to the rest of the world He was either mildly indifferent or just didn’t love us Gentiles as much as Jews. And some Gentiles may have become Jews in order to be closer to God. Being a Gentile, a bog standard Gentile, was simply not enough, so the best way to ascend up the spiritual scale was to become a Jew.

A similar mindset is that proximity to Israel, the Torah observant Jews, God’s holy and chosen people, can also put a person in a better situation. Sometimes it feels like being close to such a holy people and a powerful, spiritual heritage uplifts a Gentile. Being a bog standard non-Jew, a common Joe Bloggs non-Jew, just isn’t enough in one way or another. But then I hear this teaching about the ger, a status – a special status – of a non-Jew that is in one way or another close to Israel, affiliated. And wanting more “spirituality” and “closeness to God”, I would hear certain rabbis teach that gerim have extra laws to keep, extra responsibilities, more than the keeping of the seven laws, or just plain old human decency; there’s talk of a sabbath that a ger/”noahide” is allowed to keep (that, in and of itself could attract me with me christian background, but it would attract anyone keen on “spirituality”). There are some who may say that a bog-standard Gentile can only keep the basic seven, but a “ben noah” (understood as the modern “noahide” or this ger) is allowed to keep additional laws from the Jewish 613 commandments, according to the way how some people interpret a statement of Rambam’s.

Now all of this would attract me on many different levels, on the level of ego – wanting to be better than others – and/or the thought that having a title or status somehow makes me better, and/or an honest desire to draw close to a God I may really really love, thinking that being a ger somehow accomplishes something in that direction.

Now I don’t need to go into the second possibility much – the belief that a title or status means something – because it’s a fact of life. We are not all the selfless, perfectly-minded individuals. Some people think that because they have a label they are automatically better before man and God. The last possibility (a yearning for God) is a powerful one though. The earnest desire to be right in God’s eyes can cause a person to refine himself to be a great human being. But that desire can be twisted to the point where people will push God himself aside to do what they think he wants, to the point where Gentiles almost cast aside being a Gentile to look more and more like Jews rather than just settling on being one or the other.

With these forces in play with me (remember, I’m speaking for no one other than myself – if you can’t relate, don’t worry about it), I can see why I’d be interested in this ger stuff. Linking hands with Israel in a quasi/pseudo-formal way or a “spiritual” way, I would feel elevated already.

And the fact that teaching can come from the mouth of an enthusiastic rabbi, that seals the deal! You’ve got such teaching coming from a person who seems authoritative and maybe is authoritative, at least amongst his own community of Jews.

In light of all this, why am I not sold to this ger idea?

Apart from the evidences I gave above for the fact that my circumstances make it that I’m not a ger in a real literal sense, there is more. And here again, I can only give my personal opinion. If you think the content of my words coincide with Torah messages, then good! If not, then ooops! The reason I’m not sold on the ger idea is this: Righteousness is not dependant on proximity to Israel. That’s not to say proximity to the righteousness of the good Jews won’t help; good example can really help a person to flourish in terms of their own lifestyle. But righteousness in and of itself has nothing to do with proximity to Israel. Good deeds, righteousness, is seen in the contents of a person’s acts and lifestyle. A Gentile can be close to Israel and be a wicked person. A Gentile can be far from Israel and be the most honest, giving and sincere person you’ll ever meet. They may not even have heard of Israel. But, like Abraham, they look out to help the poor and the stranger, or they fight against injustice. A Gentile, from the outside, can look like any other Gentile when in a crowd, but when the crowd starts moving in a wicked direction, you’ll notice these individuals going against the trend, maybe in their own quiet or loud way.

I can guess what some are thinking already. “David, to be a pious one from among the nations a Gentile needs to accept God’s revelation of the Seven Laws to Noah or to Moses according to Minhat Eliezer or Rambam. No one in Jewish tradition contradicted these statement.” Yeah, the titles and the belief again. Maybe there is a difference between making the world a better place by doing good deeds, avoiding wrong deeds, and being a “pious one of the nations”. With one, just doing good deeds, belief isn’t necessary. With the other, being a pious one of the nations, belief is necessary. Maybe. It seems that way to me anyway.

Are you finished yet?

OK! OK! I’ll finish this off. It’s been a long one, huh?

I’ve given my evidences about my viewpoint about ger toshav, ger tzedek, and why I am neither. According to one rabbi I spoke to, this sets me in the category called “idolator” or akum (a Hebrew term meaning one who serves stars and constellations, i.e., an idolator). This is even though I don’t actually worship idols. Maybe another title, huh? But I really couldn’t care less.

Do you want to know what I’m interested in? Maybe not. OK, I’ll tell you anyway. I’m interested in knowing God’s law for Gentiles and keeping it, knowing the basics and building from there, just being a decent bloke to my neighbours, a decent person in general. Yes, for me personally, I love God and his truth so much, so deeply. But my expression of it is different to others. I try to set a clear dividing line between what is commanded and what is beneficial but not commanded, and what is necessary for other reasons (I’m not saying I’m anywhere close to getting it totally right). I am not a teacher. I can only speak for myself, right?

So this ger business may be fine for others. But I believe there’s been some wrong teaching about the subject, to be blunt. I’m happy that I’m not alone in that conclusion, but what would I do if I were? Still stand up for what I think is right, I hope.

I’m not a ger in the ways set forth by classic Jewish law as far as it has been shown to me, and as far as I have read it myself. And it doesn’t matter much to me that I’m not. I’m a Gentile, a non-Jew; no clear, strong, or formal link to the community of covenant Israel or the Torah observant Jews. And I still have a purpose, a God-given one. And you know what? With or without a title or status, I’m gonna fulfil it to the best of my ability, so help me God.

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33 Comments

  1. searchinmyroots

    I didn’t read your article in its entirety yet, so please excuse me if this has already been stated.
    I was on another forum and the word “Ger” came up there. Here is what was written in reference to it. I took some “pieces” of a couple different posts and put them together so it might not “flow” smoothly. Thought you might find it of interest.

    ” I never said that the word “ger” in isolation always refers to a convert. In fact, I answered that translation of the word is context dependent. However, “ger” does appear in contexts where the word is clearly distinguished from a foreigner (neichar) and a resident (toshav). Moreover, we have the concept of the ger toshav which is distinguished from the convert. So, the use of “ger” in a legal context is really jargon which is dependent on context; but, usually means convert except in those instances where such definition would not make sense.”

    “Ger” cannot mean foreigner in any context. “Neichar” means foreigner. “Toshav” means resident. “Ger” is a word that is distinguished from and cannot have the same meaning as those words. Lacking a perfect English translation, I would say that the word “immigrant” is closer. Some immigrants like the “ger toshav” are not naturalized citizens. Some, like the “ger tzedek,” become citizens and, yet, are still called immigrants.

    The context specific meaning of “ger” is hardly unique, especially in the language of law. Many words that have varied meanings in ordinary use mean something very specific in legal jargon. In fact, the primary context where “ger” is used to mean “convert” is the legal context. It differentiates those born as citizens from those who became citizens through the process of naturalization. This is important in Torah Law for the simple reason that those born into the 12 Tribes had an ancestral heritage of land, which was not available to recent immigrants. So, special privileges and protections were built into the law for the protection of those immigrants who became naturalized citizens.

    • If I understand this correctly, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between what is stated here and what’s in my article. Read it all and let me know what you think

      • searchinmyroots

        Okay, I had a few hours, I mean minutes, to read your article (only kidding, it is very interesting and although it may be long, it details a lot of things).
        So yes, I see the similarities to what you wrote and to what I pasted above.

        I’m just stuck on the part about being close to Israel and how that could make one righteous. Could it be that at the time most of the Jewish people “were” in proximity to Israel and being closer to them was the way to learn about what G-d desires of us?

        I’m not saying you have to be in Israel to be righteous, I agree with you on that. But maybe, just maybe, by somehow being closer to the land and the people there is more of a “sense” of sort of wanting to improve ourselves. I’ll give you an example – You can read about something or see it on TV and have certain feelings towards it, say G-d forbid a tragedy where people are suffering. But if you actually go there and “experience” the tragedy, your feelings can be much deeper. You are sort of “in the thick of it” and in a way it brings you closer to the situation. Or when you hear G-d forbid someone is sick in the hospital. You feel for the person. But if you actually go to visit them, you become part of the atmosphere and get a better sense of what is going on and what they are really going through. So in both cases you are saddened by what you heard or saw on TV, but when you actually go there, it somehow deepens your emotions as it is now more of a reality.

        Or maybe it had/has to do with the Holy Temple and it’s location. Sort of how King Solomon tells us when we are foreigners in another land we should face the Temple when we pray. It sort of brings us “closer” if you know what I mean. At least in our hearts and minds it can.

        Those are just a couple of things that come to mind, for whatever they are worth.

        Any way you look at it though, it certainly isn’t straightforward and clear, so we’ll have to do the best we can until Moshiach comes and straightens it all out for us!

        Very thought provoking article David!

        Maybe I’ll ask my Rabbi what he thinks.

      • I think what you say is in line with what I said. I mean that I said in my article:

        Righteousness is not dependant on proximity to Israel. That’s not to say proximity to the righteousness of the good Jews won’t help; good example can really help a person to flourish in terms of their own lifestyle.

        I think you highlighted another way that proximity to Israel can help a person. Being surrounded by righteousness, by good example, can help you to grow immensely. So I think we can agree, that righteousness is not totally dependent on proximity to Israel (that is to say that if I’m not close to Israel, I can’t be righteous). But also that being near a righteous Jewish community can help one to grow and develop more. It’s a bit like saying that in flowers can grow in the wild, but being around cultivated flowers and the environment of cultivation can help a flower to grow much better (but there’s still no guarantee).

        So your input, your conscientious response, does add something to my article and your ideas are a great addition to what I’ve written. So I thank you for taking the time to think deep, and share your thoughts on this page. I hope people can grow from your words.

  2. Dave

    First timer reader and an interesting article..Like you I am perhaps struggling to find an identity as I have been drawn to a Jewish life for the last 4 years (I have some Jewish heritage I think but its unclear) I considered online conversion and even undertook an ‘adoption / conversion’ with the US Society of Humanistic Judaism. The Noahide path seems not to be very satisfying, and I am thinking that I just need to find my own path. I think the guideline may be Ruth the Moabite, who just decided to follow HaShem. Also remember the words of the prophet
    “And the foreigners who join themselves to God to serve Him and to love the Name of God to become servants unto Him, all who guard the Sabbath against desecration, grasp My covenant tightly— I will bring them to My holy mountain, and I will gladden them in My house of prayer; their elevation offerings and their feast offerings will find favour on My Altar, for My House will be called the house of prayer for all peoples.”
    Isaiah. 56:3-7.
    I think (and most Jews will shout me down, I am unconcerned) that from the Torah all it seemed to require was to follow HaShem and keep His commandments, plus circumcision.
    Yet now many Jewish movements do not require circumcision, or sometimes a ritual ‘remembering’ the Brit Milah. So perhaps all I need is to keep his Holy Days, keep the ‘Noahide Laws’ and study Torah and that will have to do, Labels are best left to the back of my shirt anyway!

    • Thanks for taking the time to read my words and contemplate them for yourself, wherever you are in life.

      Right now, I’m not struggling for identity in some ways. This article is my statement of knowing what I am not, i.e., this “ger”, and accepting what I am, i.e., a Gentile with no formal ties to Israel or the Jewish community, although I learn from them whenever I can. I don’t know what you call “the Noahide path”, and I don’t know what you see lacking in it. I know that in my article that I admitted my confusion about that word “Noahide” and that everyone defines however they will.

      According to Jewish tradition, Ruth became a Jewess. And according to the Jews (and I agree with their understanding), Isaiah 56:3 also refers to Gentiles who joined the Mosaic covenant to become Jews. I’ve read Torah myself, and I see nothing that says God requires circumcision of all nations. I see God gave Israel certain commandments for them. That’s what keeps them isolated from the world in general. But that doesn’t mean that he’s left the world on a whole with nothing, no purpose.

      The reason why I respect the sort of “Judaism” that is non-compromising when it comes to God’s commandments is just that: they stay faithful to God’s commandments rather than the modern movements that have compromised to make things easier and to be more acceptable to the world. The Torah true Judaism says essentially “let the world do what it wants to, we’ll stay faithful to what is commanded”. And that’s what I’m on fire for, God’s commandments. But I know that there are commandments for the world and there are commandments for the Jews, each for their purpose.

      Being a Gentile has a lot of freedom. It is what you make it. And there is a lot of powerful responsibility becoming a Jew. Each path has its pros and cons, but God gave each for a reason, each with its purpose. And it’s the very fact that I’m keeping God’s commandments as they apply to me as a Gentile, whilst learning the positive behaviours that are befitting a human being made in his image, that I am most fulfilled, trying not so much to do what I want, but what he wants.

      I wish you success on your journey.

      • Dave

        Thank you, I fully support all our rights to disagree, thank G-d we live in a free country, relatively speaking, religiously. What I mean is that the Noahide path is mainly a set of laws that states you ‘shall’ or ‘shall not’, and that is important but doesn’t give much else to hold onto if you seek such things as liturgy or ritual or something more than this. I guess that I am trying to say that from what I read in the Torah, there was little more to becoming a Jew than the simple ‘peshat’ meaning of Isaiah’s words, to follow HaShem and his ways and commandments, plus circumcision. Not circumcision for all peoples just for those who wish to join themselves to the covenant of Israel. Yet now, as I say,, some branches of Judaism (especially parts of Reform) do not always require a Brit. I do not need to accept Orthodox views that build on Talmud and the so-called Oral Law. I accept that Talmud has value as commentary, but, as a Gentile, do not really accept the existence of an Oral Law. Probably a Karaite view, except I also understand that Torah has multiple levels of understanding.

        If I was to state my point of view (if you will kindly permit me to) I would say that although I am on a spiritual journey, a Jewish journey of sorts, I think my current view, that will probably change, is that I think that there is somewhere to be had a ‘purer’ more basic form of Judaism that is closer to that of the Torah, where there may be no need for the complications of the restrictions of the huge amount of Rabbinic regulations and laws and which it is possible to join as a Jew without the need for the complication of conversion that the rabbis have created.

        I know from many things I have read and heard that many Jews hardly ever read Tanakh, just Torah and Talmud. This would be based on Torah, and need be no less of a commitment. It is my point of view alone but there must be others who share this view, if anyone knows of a ‘label; for this view I would be glad to hear of it. I am thinking of a Judaism that is G-d focused, with a pure heart and a religion of compassion and service to God and the world. By common consent Judaism has been through many paradigms, and Orthodox Jews today do not practice the Judaism of Avraham, of Moshe, nor of the Davidic pardigms, and many other ‘stages’
        I will continue searching
        Thank you for your time

      • Thanks for your response. I don’t know about “rights to disagree” and I always shy away from the notion of “free countries”. I try to stay away from concepts that are contradictory or illusory.

        My aim is not liturgy nor is it ritual. It’s to obey God’s law and do what is commanded. I understand that people want more than what God commanded and that is fine for them. But for me there is plenty of fulfilment by just delving into what God said rather than what I want. The world doesn’t need more liturgy or ritual. It needs justice and more good people. The good thing about the path of a Gentile who wants to do good (as opposed to some “noahide path”) is that it has a place for the selfless and the selfish. By that I mean there is a place for just obeying God’s commandments and it is ok to use some of the rituals that the Jews have for selfish reasons like a desire to satisfy one’s own cravings for ritual. As long it is clear to that person that they keep these rituals not because God commanded them, but rather because they want to and it is of personal benefit. But there is also freedom in a Gentile becoming a Jew-proper.

        There are Jews and there are Gentiles. Each has their great responsibility. If I want to join Israel as a Gentile, then I am still a Gentile. If I want to become a Jew, then there are steps to that.

        I used to accept Karaite philosophy until I actually thought about what they actually teach. When I accepted the so-called “sola-scriptura” approach, I wrote an 120+ page essay on why I didn’t accept the oral law. Then someone asked me to rethink the issue. When I thought about what Torah was meant to be, I understood that there is no such thing as “sola-scriptura”. The Orthodox Jews make a more consistent argument that God taught the Law and the meaning and the ways to understand it. The Karaite or sola scriptura philosophy teachings that all we have are words on a page and only personal subjective logic to interpret it as we will. In real life experience, the worldview of the sola-scriptura viewpoint isn’t about law, but subjectivity with no anchor. I walked away from such unrealism and in a few pages showed why I did. And I walked away from it as a Gentile.

        When you say you want a purer basic path closer to that of Torah, it all depends on your definition of Torah. If you just mean “a set of books”, then you should fear what you yourself will create more than you should fear what you think the rabbis created. Too many think themselves more noble and believe that they will live a life closer to Torah, especially those who accept some “sola-scriptura” philosophy. That is until you start to ask them questions about how they interpreted the books. Then it’s all down to something a lot more subjective. “What day is Sabbath?” Well we know what day Jews keep it now, but what was it in Moses’ day? Text doesn’t tell you. “What is the punishment for someone who hires an assassin who kills the planned victim?” Text doesn’t tell you. “Which parts of the Torah do I interpret figuratively?” Text doesn’t tell you. “What does it mean to take God’s name in vain?” Text doesn’t tell you. In fact the original text doesn’t even say that. It says some Hebrew words that need to be interpreted. “What do I use to intepret those Hebrew words?” Text doesn’t tell you. “Am I allowed to use a Hebrew dictionary to understand the Hebrew words?” Text doesn’t tell you. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on how baseless a sola-scriptura approach is with respects to actually obeying not only God’s words but his intentions as well. What is adultery, murder or theft according to the Hebrew words’ definitions, and not only its definition but its legal application? What gives any person the right to point to a passage in one place and then say that another passage in another place explains in when then text of that other passage says nothing about the previous? If it’s all down to personal logic, then what is divine never left the pages of the book and all the “karaite” person can do is do what they think, not even knowing how Moses and the people of his day actually kept the law. All they have is a book and their ideas.

        But I appreciate the fact that people see the rabbis as an immoral force that imposed additions onto Torah, created a new religion. I used to think like that. I’m just not at that place any more. But to think that they are less God-focused is an unfortunate mistake. I would not make the claim that a sola-scriptura is less God-focused because all they are really living is their own opinion. That wouldn’t be fair to the devotion of that person. So to insult the devotion of the “orthodox Jew” or their worldview as less God-focused is uncalled for.

        The last thing you said is that orthodox Jews today don’t keep the practices of the “Judaism” of Abraham, of Moshe, or the Davidic paradigms.” Well the fact that there was no “Judaism” in those day and the naming of some “Davidic paradigm” shows the anachronistic nature of your words, the fact that your interpretation of their lives has nothing to do with their time but of a more recent and novel creation. It’s sad when the lives of these ancient men are reduced to a religion. It’s sad that Abraham, who wasn’t a Jew, is said to have followed some religion called Judaism. It’s said that when Moses gave Divine national law, people today reduce it to a religion. Again, the brainwashing that our society has undergone is terrible. It’s sad that a person who think Torah is simply text would imagine that he would have knowledge of how these men practiced law on a day-to-day basis without a traditional link between himself that those men, that by just reading a book (and interpreting it through his or her modern biases) he or she can authoritatively claim what was or was not the understanding of those ancient days.

        As I said, I still wish you success on your journey. And although we disagree, I hope that we both can be lead close to God’s truth.

      • Dave

        Yes, thank you, your ideas have great strength and your depth of study is evident. However I did say that I had “Probably a Karaite view, except I also understand that Torah has multiple levels of understanding” which automatically precludes a PURELY Karaite view.

        Similarly, my reference to various ‘paradigms’ within Judaism or, put more correctly, within the history of the Patriarchs, of Israel’ s history is not mine, but is commonly referenced amongst liberal branches of Judaism. I cannot cite you sources but I can assure you that I have seen and heard these terms many times, from people whose knowledge is far greater than mine,
        I understand that ‘Judaism’ was not practiced in those days nor was the term even in existence until late, but for the sake of space and lucidity of argument I used an (extremely) broad-brush application of the term, taking it to mean the religious / Torah practice experience of the Hebrews.

        It is an area on which agreement is almost impossible, indeed even within Orthodoxy there is a wide range of views and from what I have seen within Judaism generally PRACTICE (religious observation plus compassionate living, tikkun olam, tzedakah, etc) is more important than BELIEF,

        It is true that the majority of my Jewish friends and associates and people who I regard as my teachers hail from Reform, Liberal and Renewal Judaism. We all have a place,
        I hope also that much will become clear to us on our respective spiritual journeys

      • I understand and appreciate what you say about the preclusion of a purely karaite view. And your views about paradigms are part of a “Judaism” that I don’t deal with. So that is your experience and I’ll say nothing more of it than that. Thanks for clarify some things for me.

        My experience of “orthodoxy” is different from yours. There is more unity between practice and belief and the emphasis in such a way where devotion is evident, even in the seemingly strained debates about God’s law. There has been an unnatural split set between “practice” and “belief” even though the Tanakh itself says that the commandments are emunah. Again, that’s an unfortunate side effect of our modern society. Although a person may not be christian, the effects that christianity had on the mindset and language of our culture were horrendous. It’s the old “faith” vs “works” language of Paul. To unbalance things either way is a problem. Life is about find the right balance or dealing with things holistically.

        We’ve walked in different paths. One thing I’ve found that I’m not is “liberal”. But such is life, and then we die.

        All the best.

    • אליהו קאן

      “I think (and most Jews will shout me down, I am unconcerned) that from the Torah all it seemed to require was to follow HaShem and keep His commandments, plus circumcision.”

      Very well put. Don’t stop trying to keep all the mitzwot that you are able. The mitzwot should be logical and within the constraints of context and history.

      • I think there is a good reason why “most Jews” would disagree with your statement (i.e., there is nothing that commands this upon Gentiles living outside of Israel that have no relationship with Jews). But then again it all depends on what you mean by “Torah”. Do you mean only the written text, the books of Moses, as “Torah”?

      • אליהו קאן

        What did Mosheh or the ones that wrote what has been copied in Torah scrolls for thousands of years? That’s what I mean. Of course you probably mean the oral (it is also written) torah (sic).

      • We’re using two different standards for what is Torah. It’s not a gap that can or will be bridged in this discussion.

      • אליהו קאן

        So your standard is one of many that was known during the beginning of the common era. And your standard says, without proving, that the other interpretations of Torah she bictav, are wrong. Yep, you got an airtight case for religion sans history, science, mathematical logic, just about anything that people with brains are interested in.

      • Oh, so you decide what my standard is, huh? Well, if you know so much then what is there to discuss? You know me oh so well. According to you, I don’t use my brain and eschew the methodologies of those who do use their brain, in your estimation. So there’s nothing to discuss since you deem me irrational. Ok. Bye!

  3. אליהו קאן

    In Israel a גר, is one that live in a certain place. When we ask where you live we say to a man, איפה אתה גר? Where do you live? In Torah, in context, גר was/is meant in the context of Israel the covenant/geographical people. But of course the Torah has gone out to the whole world so one might try one’s best to keep the commandments that he is able outside of Israel. Shabbat and kashrut is simpler here at this point in time.

    There are three words to define people in the borders of Israel, אזרח, גר, and זר.

    You will notice that אזרח and ger, גר, have the same Torah stated for both in many places Shemot 12:49, Vayikra 24:22, Bemidbar 15:14 and 15:29, but the zar, זר, is excluded.

    If the commandments/mitzwote are important to you, at least according to Torah, you will be in the אזרח or גר classification.

    Bnei Noach is conspicuously missing. Careful study may find one having good reason to equate Bnei Noach and the זר.

    • Again, all this opinion that you type is meaningless until you stipulate clearly what you mean by Torah. Do you mean the written and oral Torah? Or do you mean just the written Torah comprising of the Chumash, the five books of Moses? Because if you’re trying to respond to my article as if just the written text of the Chumash is the Torah, then I don’t write based on that standard (if you call it a standard). So first define your standard. Because right now, all you’ve done is stated your opinions as if they are fact, and I have no reason yet to think a single word you’ve said has any truth or validity because you have not made plain what your standard is. So is the Torah you speak of the written text of the five books of Moses, or is the Torah you speak of both the written and oral Torah of traditional (“orthodox”) Judaism?

      • אליהו קאן

        Why is it you leave out the Neviim and Ketuviim? How can you jump from Torah she bictav to writings of less value than the Neviim and Ketuviim?

      • You answered none of my questions. I’m not going to debate the reasons why I didn’t write down the prophets or the writings.

      • אליהו קאן

        Because they are a better indication of the meaning of the Torah scroll and how to keep it. There is no debate.

      • Ah, of course. Well, since there’s no debate, … bye!

  4. Dave

    I have entered back into this discussion, and I may say that I genuinely defer to scholarship of the other contributors here. However, I may make a couple of points;

    Torah: the belief in the Oral Law is not universal, even amongst Jews, (and not just Karaite, many Reform and other Jews regard the Talmud as useful commentary only) and yet the Noahide Laws are not explicitly mentioned in the written Torah. Why would the supposed standard of HaShem for the Gentiles not be clear in the Chumash, but only ‘available’ through the “mirror” of Orthodoxy (who number only around 12-17% of Jews according to which estimates you believe)

    Shabbat: in my opinion this was established at the foundation of the world (Beresheit), long before the Jews, and established for all of nature , the land and domesticated animals. So there is some reason for Gentiles keeping Shabbat to some extent.

    Finally I agree with your views that ‘The mitzwot should be logical and within the constraints of context and history.’ PRINCIPLES of Torah are what we may apply to our lives

    anyway, we agree to disagree, in mutual respect
    Blessings

    • I did not ask you about the percentage of Jews that believe this or that. If we were to look at numbers for evidence that any Torah is God’s revelation, then you may as well join the majority of Jews who are now indifferent to any Torah or don’t see it as God’s revelation. So you use an irrelevant criteria to try give your viewpoint validity.

      You then ask a remarkably short-sighted question. You ask why the standard for Gentiles wouldn’t be explicit in the Chumash. I’ll rephrase that question to show its baseless nature. “why is the standard for GENTILES not explicitly in a book written in the Hebrew language given by God to Israel?” The real question is why would it be there at all. Because we live in a world where Gentiles have essentially stolen God’s revelation to Israel and it is now commonplace to have (mis)translations all over the place, it is easy to lose sight of the origins and have some idea that God gave the written Torah to everyone when the Torah itself says that God did not do this.

      You have an opinion about sabbath being from the beginning. Unfortunately the text (and its unwritten meaning, oral I guess) doesn’t agree with you. Nowhere in Genesis 2 is there a command from God to keep the seventh day holy. There is no entity called Sabbath in Genesis 2. The noun “sabbath” is not there. So basically, when you feel like it, you advocate a sola-scriptura approach. And then when you feel like it, you leave the text and make up stories about “sabbaths since creation”. Your position is being shown as less and less consistent and more and more arbitrary and inconsistent.

      You say that you agree with “my” view on something and then you quote someone else’s words. Again, that doesn’t help your case.

      Yes, we disagree. I’m not sure if I should respond to your last statement about “mutual respect” with brutal honesty or with kindness. There are pros and cons to either side. The best thing I can say is this: may we both be led to God’s truth.

      • Dave

        I would have thought that common courtesy would direct that if people genuinely seeking God’s truth are discussing Torah, however you define the term, mutual respect would be a given, Perhaps you do not have the same view, that is your affair. In the yeshivas of the Orthodoxy which you consistently defend, there is much disagreement when studying Torah, yet I am assured that this is all in good heart and personal acrimony is not involved. I do not note the same sensibility from the tone of your replies, not that it concerns me really, it is just that I have found most gain from study and discussion that is held in a reasonable manner,
        Firstly, the numbers of Orthodox Jews IS relevant. Since they are always referred to as the yardstick by which all else is measured, then if only a small minority of Jews actually subscribe to those views, perhaps they are not right all the time, There is much evidence from modern biblical scholarship and archaeology that the Torah had multiple authors and has been redacted several times. Does this invalidate it? Far from it, it becomes an organic document, and its editors, if doing good work in the right spirit, are still transmitting the ‘word’ of the Creator.

        Your comment on my question as to why the standard for Gentiles not appearing in the Chumash is far from short-sighted. If God is creator and above space and time then he knew / knows (tense is meaningless and only a limitation of our language) that Torah would be communicated to the world, So the fact that the Chumash was written in Hebrew for Israel is not really relevant in the long term,

        Lastly I know that the commandment to keep Shabbat is found in D’varim 5:12
        However the PRINCIPLE of it is laid down at the beginning of Bereishit with God resting on the seventh day

      • You speak of writing with the same sensibilities as you and a mutual respect. I’ll share with you my view on these things. I don’t know you. You are a stranger to me and you’re on my blog stating your opinion as truth. Now although I give people leeway to speak their opinion and I accept people for being in God’s image, that doesn’t mean that I automatically respect what they say. A certain respect is earned. And I don’t know what mutual respect between strangers is when the first thing one stranger does is go to another strangers territory and begin “teaching”, as it were, his opinion, stating that this Hebrew word actually means that and this idea means that, especially when my knowledge of Hebrew and what I’ve been taught by others contradicts it and you show questionable standards (i.e., something akin to a sola-scriptura philosophy). But it is my acknowledging that you too are a human made in God’s image means that at least I can wish something good for you (and me too}.That’s why I can at least hope that we both get to God’s truth. So I won’t use the word “respect” yet because I don’t know you and you haven’t earned any yet. But I want what is good for you regardless if we agree or not.

        And when it comes to sensibilities, I could have been a lot more coarse and rude in my language and written an essay on my conclusions about what I believed your approach was. Instead, I, in an fairly direct manner, showed you my concerns and asked you to tell my where you’re coming from rather than write that presumptuous essay. Plus my points were directed at your points and were not directed to you personally. So considering we are strangers to one another, I don’t know what you’re expecting. But what you wrote on my blog was nothing that demanded “sensibility”. And it is fair of me to challenge you when you push opinions around, especially if they seem inconsistent.

        I also don’t know what you mean by “defending orthodoxy”. If you mean that I am convinced that the Torah has two components, a written and oral component, and that faithfulness to both is championed by what is called “orthodox Judaism”, and that I too uphold the validity of the oral tradition as well as the written, then you are right.

        You again refer to numbers as a relevant criteria for …. something. But your words simply provide no justification for it. All you’ve said is this: “if the numbers are small then they may not be right”. You’ve given no compelling reason as to why this belief is true. If the Torah itself says, “don’t go after the majority to do evil” then that lends doubt to the notion that numbers determine what is right. If in times past, the majority of the world embraced idolatry whilst the little nation of Jews upheld monotheism, then that too gives even more doubt to the notion that numbers is a valid criteria for what you’re pushing.

        And then you give a statement that basically undermines any comment you’ve stated about the written tradition. You put forward to notion of modern biblical criticism. Now, I see you believe that your belief that unknown hands changed the text of Torah doesn’t invalidate Torah. But please excuse me if my conclusions lead me to view such a belief as untenable, as fundamentally inconsistent. I believe that I won’t convince you by increasing the number of my words against such a belief as yours. I know of the redaction theories that are around. I know of the “evidences” put forward. But rather than critique the evidences, I’ll just cut to the chase! For me, once a person holds that view and comes to me claiming what the Torah states and means as if it is what God states and means, their opinion is worth very little. That is not because I am bigoted or I have something personal against that person. But, even if they believe they have not invalidated Torah, for me, logically and fundamentally, they have undermined and undercut the divine element of Torah and made it nothing more than a plaything for the philosophies of men with no objective worth whatsoever.

        Look, feel free to believe the redaction theories. Feel free to believe that in one way or another it doesn’t invalidate the divine element of Torah. It’s just that when you give an opinion about what the text states and means, I have no reason to give any weight to your words.

        The fact that the written text (and its non textual meanings and explanations, namely, oral traditions) were originally given to the Jews in their language is very relevant regardless of future spread of its knowledge. And because of that original state, the question still stands as to why you would expect the commands for Gentiles to be found there. The book doesn’t even contain the definitions of its own Hebrew words and your expecting it to have a section meant for Gentiles too? Again, you’ve given no compelling reason why firstly the Torah is only what is written in the Chumash and secondly why a book that was given to the Jews in their language must necessarily contain all the commandments for Gentiles. If you’re gonna come here making claims, then back them up with something logically compelling or substantial, even from the the text itself. Because so far, you say a lot but you don’t have any backing.

        Actually the first occurrence of a command regarding the sabbath, at least within the text, is much earlier in Shemot 16, but that still doesn’t help any case that states that sabbath should be kept by Gentiles at all. And all you’ve stated in your latest comment is that the principle of a command only given to Israel is laid down in Bereshit. That says absolutely nothing about Gentiles having anything to do with that day. And the main reason we know for certain that the principle for the Jewish commandment was laid in Bereshit is because God (or at least the redacted text, if you hold to that belief) stated so in Shemot 20 when he was giving the sabbath in the Decalogue to Israel and in Shemot 31 where he stated the creation link whilst he was saying that the keeping of the sabbath was a special sign between him and Israel to set them apart. Or at least all this is true if we accept the non-textual definitions of words and the non-textual rules of interpretation needed to understand them and their context.

  5. Dave

    I will not try t convince you, we clearly come from very different theological / philosophical backgrounds (I am not interested in debating semantics and I am sure neither are you so insert whatever term you want for the subject area). But I think that you will note that I do not claim that my opinions are truth, but they are in fact just my opinion. So I do not come here trying to teach, if you don’t want comments that are at variance to what you teach, I respectfully suggest that you either turn off the comments facility, or formulate and advise people of a comments policy that requests that no comments of this nature are left. Or moderate the comments before allowing their publication, then you can delete them,

    The respect of which I speak is not respect for any truth of what I say, rather respect for each other as a person, Surely a principle in harmony with most religions.

    My reasoning for saying that if the so-called Noahide Laws are supposedly the standard for Gentiles is not facile: if God is above space and time, then the fact that the Torah (in the form of the Chumash) has gone out to the world would be a fact known by HaShem. Therefore as Gentiles would read the Torah, those Seven laws would, in my opinion, be explicitly outlined in the written Torah, just as the 613 mitzvot are.

    This is very clumsy terminology but what I mean is that although the Torah was a Hebrew document it did not stay a Hebrew document, with many translations, both in antiquity and later via its inclusion in the Christian canon, later still as a text respected in Islam, and into the modern era. So, again ( in my opinion, if you prefer the fact emphasised) it would be perfectly logical to have these Laws outlined in the Chumash, knowing that eventually it would be transmitted to the wider world. (In actuality, I heard a Rabbi teach this very recently)

    As to my general views, opinions and standpoint, I have heard many Liberal and Reform Jews hold views like mine. So I guess a wide part of Judaism would not meet with your approval.
    You are perfectly entitled to your views, as am I.
    Wherever your spiritual path may lead I wish you well, but I only advise that I have found that a little humility and willingness to consider others’ views has helped me generally.

    • Yes, we come from different backgrounds. Your first comments on my blog were quite absolute in their tone. There was no “this is just my opinion”. It was just “this IS that” and “these words are used like this”. You try to advise me regarding comments that are of a different opinion to mine. I’m fine with comments from different opinions. A commentor on any webpage should be prepared for whatever response comes. A saying about “heat”, “frying pan” and “kitchen” come to mind. You may not have heard it.

      You try to explain your understanding of respect. Thanks for trying to explain. I’ve had trouble with the word “respect” when it comes to people as well as opinions and statements. But that’s just me. I don’t respect a willing fool although I want for him that which is good. You may call that “respect”. I don’t. And no, I’m not calling you a willing fool. It was just an example.

      You give your reasoning for why you think the Seven Laws would be in the written Torah. I’ll just say that again so that you can see how I understand your paragraph. “You give YOUR reasoning for why YOU think the Seven Laws would be in the written Torah.” So you may guess my response. But I’ll say it anyway. It matters little what you think or what you expect. If the Torah was given by God, an entity that is totally not human, then I wouldn’t make too many assumptions about what he would do or that it would agree with your logic. As I’ve said before, because I’m not a sola-scriptura person, I wouldn’t see any grounding to your logic anyway. You said it would be perfectly logical for these laws to be outlined in the Chumash, but this logic must be based on presuppositions and guesses and biases. That’s why two people can see the same thing and come to two plausible conclusions. If someone doesn’t have your presuppositions, doesn’t use your guesses and doesn’t have your biases, then they aren’t likely to come to your conclusion, much less God Himself.

      I’m not a Jew, so I don’t care too much about Judaism. Torah is what I care about and the faithfulness to it. I’ve seen what Liberal and Reform Jews do to Torah for the sake of modern social norms. I don’t call that faithfulness to Torah as opposed to faithfulness to modern social norms. But that’s just me and my opinion. We all have them and we have to live with them until we change. Thankfully I’ve got enough concerns focusing on my Gentile responsibilities, namely, the Seven Commandments.

      Thanks for your words about humility and willingness. I put wisdom above both, wisdom to know when to apply humility and when to apply willingness. I had a willingness to consider what you said or else I wouldn’t have even thought about it before I responded. Humility has a place, but in your previous responses, it wasn’t needed too much, but rather directness and straight-to-the-pointedness (that’s not even a word, I know).

      I said it once, I’ll say it again. May God lead us both to his truth. All the best.

  6. Gem

    I am definitely pondering some of these subjects discussed above.

    I am also pondering Shemot 20.

    I also can’t see any explicit mention of laws given to Noah or such like in scripture, although I tend to trust the oral interpretation.

    I am wondering why the ger toshav, who as I understand it, was only required to keep the seven laws, is mentioned in this passage in regards to the sabbath. Also they are required to eat ritually slaughtered meat, but can eat things that die of natural causes.

    I know today the recommendation for Noahides today from Orthodox Judaism is not to toil rather than not to do melachah on Shabbat. I wonder if they believe the gerim toshav kept the sabbath to the same extent or not…

    Do you know any info on this?

    חזָכוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ:
    Six days may you work and perform all your labor,
    טשֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲבֹד וְעָשִׂיתָ כָל מְלַאכְתֶּךָ:
    but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your beast, nor your stranger who is in your cities. (ger toshav)
    יוְיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבָּת | לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה כָל מְלָאכָה אַתָּה | וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ עַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתְךָ וּבְהֶמְתֶּךָ וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ:
    For [in] six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.

    PS: I agree, Judaism does not make you better or more loved, just set apart for a particular purpose. I see this in similar light to the cohanim.

    • Hi there.

      You state that the written Torah contains no explicit statement about Noah receiving laws although you tend to trust the oral tradition. Actually, the oral tradition states that Noah didn’t receive all seven laws. They were, for the most part, commanded to Adam. Noah, as the written Torah states, was only given some refinements to the law regarding eating meat taken from an animal which was still alive. And yes, the written Torah doesn’t record Adam receiving the seven commandments. But the written Torah doesn’t record every important thing. It doesn’t even record what Hebrew words mean as it is not its own dictionary and it doesn’t record the legal meaning of many commandments. Where it regards the seven laws, it records the fact that humanity was judged for breaking a code of morality in the millennium before Sinai, such as the flood, the act of Cain etc., but it doesn’t record exactly what that code was. That’s where the oral Torah clarifies the issue.

      You said that the ger toshav was required to eat ritually slaughtered meat. Could you please provide evidence of this? Thank you.

      Ok, where it regards the ger toshav and the Sabbath, I believe that there are factors at play when it comes to his relationship to it. But just to add a simple observation, do you notice that the command in Exodus 20, it says “you shall not do any melakhah, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor the sojourner who is in your gates.” The recitation of this in Deuteronomy 5 includes “nor any of your oxen, nor any of your asses.” I know of no knowledgeable Jew who states that because cattle, oxen and donkeys are mentioned in this command they are therefore commanded to keep Sabbath in any way. So the inclusion of the sojourner may not necessarily imply they are commanded to keep Sabbath in the same way as the Jew/Israelite.

      In light of some facts and insights, I’ll share my view. Firstly, the ger toshav is a non-Jew, a Gentile. Secondly, the non-Jew has no commandment from God to keep the Sabbath in any way. Thirdly, the biblical ger toshav is not simply a non-Jew living in his foreign land who just has certain beliefs or who keeps the seven laws. It is a non-Jew formally (as opposed to informally) residing amongst a community of Jews or the Torah keeping nation of Israel. This he is in a much closer relationship with those who are held to a higher standard where it comes to Sabbath. In this light, I believe it is logically to understand that a Jew wouldn’t be able to get his ger toshav to do work for him, and in that way a ger toshav doesn’t do melakhah, i.e. for a Jew. Personally he may be permitted to do such work. There is even a chance that he may have to avoid melakhah whilst in the midst of Jews as he is still a resident in their midst so as not to upset the sanctity of the day. What is clear to me is that being a resident in their land or Torah keeping nation means he should be more aware of the Jews around him.

      It should be noted that no such nation of Israel exists today,

      Anyway, it is discussed in the PDF in this link. http://traditionarchive.org/news/article.cfm?id=104943.

      I hope this makes sense.

      All of this has nothing to do with the non-Jew who still lives in a non-Jewish country on a lasting basis, even if he knowingly keeps the seven laws. He is in no such position so the issues regarding Sabbath doesn’t apply to that person.

Trackbacks

  1. Revisiting the “ger” | Seven Laws Blog UK
  2. The Unbiblical Gentile | Seven Laws Blog UK
  3. Non-Jewish Judaism: Judaism without the Jew | Seven Laws Blog UK

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