Walking Alone – Choices
I was listening to another teaching about the Seven Commandments by rabbi Israel Chait. I’ve learnt a lot by listening to his portrayal of the divine laws for Gentiles.
At one time he was teaching about following one rabbi’s opinion with regards to how to live. I’m not going to go into the details here. But it showed me how I, for the most, walk alone when it comes to how I live and think about the seven laws.
Now that statement alone can cause others to look down on my opinions about the Gentile path (like that matters). For some, if you are not being taught one-on-one with a rabbi and you are essentially on your own where you live, what you have to say is worth that bit less. But why should that matter to a Gentile for whom a rabbi is not an integral part of his community or every day life? Sure, they are a place to go to for some difficult questions, but nowadays there are ways to find out the fundamentals of the seven laws, what activities are permitted and forbidden, and also to judge on when you are being told a fundamental principle or an additional teaching, at least with regards to generalities (general areas of life and the seven commandments).
Anyway, let’s get back to the point.
I’m aware that I’m conscious of something that most of the people around me are not conscious of. If I were to talk about the concept that there are seven laws that humanity for the most is obligated to keep, they would either be confused or think I’m talking about some dietary plan to help a person lose weigh, or seven ways to win friends and influence people. And since I’m the one who wants to live his life based on the seven commandments, I end up having the make decisions for myself on the best course of action for certain things.
For example, my wife’s a christian. How much do I struggle with her over going to church? How will this impact the way I raise my children? Knowing about my views on theft, how do I view the current “government” (which breaks the seven laws) taking my money? How do I interact with the government when it tries to impose itself upon me? How fussy should I be about meat I eat? Should I do a full investigation on the butchering industry? Or slaughter my own meat? Or eat kosher? Or turn vegetarian? How do I interact with rabbis? What are they to me? With so many opinions who do I listen to? What books should I study?
These are just some of the questions that come into my mind, and I realise one important thing: for any decision I may, I must be responsible for it. I don’t have a rabbi to hold my hand and make my decisions for me, neither would I want that.
But this is a difficult stance to take. Think about it. I’m essentially taking my life in my own hands. If I go right or wrong, I face the consequences. And they are supposed to be the experts, right? Who am I to have the final decision on what I should do regarding the Seven Commandments if I’m not one of these experts? Maybe that last question is the point of it all. Regardless of expertise, I have to live with my choices. And whatever choice I make, to God, I will be accountable. In my mind, it is irresponsible to live by someone else’s decisions. It would be inadequate for me to say, when questioned on why I did or didn’t do certain things, “a rabbi told me to do it!” I personally need more foundation to my actions than that. If I’m going to consent to living by advice, it must be an informed consent, not one solely based on authority or trust in someone else’s expertise. By “informed”, I mean I should have at least a basic understanding of the foundations and reasoning of the rabbis advice so that I can understand it. And then, if it’s informed, then it’s not me simply taking someone’s advice, but me choosing that course of action for myself.
But once again, I don’t have a rabbi in my circle, and as a Gentile, strangely enough, I don’t think I need one in most cases. It would seem rather ridiculous for God to give Gentiles commandments that are outside of their reach to keep. That sounds like christian doctrine. Imagine it! God give Gentiles seven commandments but makes it so that they cannot keep those seven laws without information from a rabbi or a Jew. Essentially, He would have doomed most of the world and its history because so much of the history of the world includes many people who have had no interaction with Jews.
It is more than understandable for Jews having the revelation of Torah at Sinai and the heritage and ancestry of its application, having both the oral and written tradition, to be in the place to need such guidance. They are in the community that makes such resources available. But Gentiles? Without such a heritage and community? And yet still being obligated by the Seven Commandments? There must or should be enough within a human to grasp the generalities of the seven and not to need a rabbi for many of the circumstances we face. Added to that the fact that there are now resources available for a Gentile to learn more about the seven, this should be more than true. [Hmmm … “more than true”. I’m guessing that is just a statement of emphasis because it sounds too much like that phrase “forever and a day” which is essentially meaningless, but is only used for sentimental emphasis.]
Anyway, back on track again.
I don’t feel it is a negative being the only one aware of the seven commandments that I know of in the community I live in. Once again, as I said before in another article, they are Gentiles and I’m a Gentile. I don’t need a different community because I live in one. They are human beings like me doing the best they can based on what they know. So I’m not isolating myself any more than I have in the past before I knew about the seven. And some of the evils I see around me seem more or less worldwide, even within the group that call themselves “Noahides” (to distinguish themselves from other Gentiles) who know about the seven. So there’s only limited “escape” there.
So essentially, I live like this: I do what I can based on the information I have and I’m still learning and studying. When I need advice about some aspect of the seven and the information isn’t in the books I have, then I’ll ask the rabbis I know of. And that asking is not so that I can told what to do without understand, but so that I can understand more about my responsibilities and live my life in an informed and responsible manner.
In the end, I choose to take full responsibilities for my actions as best as I can.