Getting Acquainted 2: Interview with a conscious Gentile
What follows is an interview with author, Alan W. Cecil, about his interaction with the Seven Commandments and related issues.
When did you first learn about the Seven Laws? Where did you learn them from?
I first heard about the Noahide Law on August 24, 1985 from Larry Johnson, a photographer from Rome, Georgia. He was a friend of Vendyl Jones, and had been on one of Vendyl’s archeological digs.
How long have you been learning about the Seven Laws?
Since August 24, 1985. That will make it thirty years this August.
What got you into the Seven Commandments?
I turned left at Albuquerque.
Actually, the first time I heard them, I was struck by the logic and reasonableness of these laws. Here was a way to look at the Bible that didn’t involve “religion” or a “belief system.” It was a moral and legal code, not a religion.
Do you believe there is a difference between Judaism and the Seven Commandments? If so, what is the nature of that difference?
First of all, I dislike the term “Judaism” about as much as I dislike the term “Noahide” although I use both terms out of necessity. The term “Judaism” was given to the Torah-observant Jews by the Enlightenment Goyim in order to classify it as a religion. The Torah is not a “religion.” The very concept of “religion” is alien to Jewish thinking; there is no word in classic Hebrew analogous to “religion.” You either have observant Jews or non-observant Jews. The observant Jews follow the commandments in the Torah that are not specifically land-related (Eretz Yisrael); in other words, the mitzvot Jews can observe during the Galus. There are, I believe, about one hundred of these.
For the Noahide, NONE of the Seven Mitzvot are land-related. They apply to all non-Jews everywhere for all time. This fact alone makes the Noahide Code different from “Judaism.” There are many other differences, too many to list here. One of the most glaring differences, however, is that there is no commandment for the non-Jew to believe in Hashem. A non-Jew is prohibited from worshiping any other god but Hashem, but, unlike the Jews, Noahides (non-Jews) are not commanded to “believe” in Him. None of the concepts that most people think of as “religious” apply to the Noahide Code.
Since you’ve been learning about the Seven Laws, what changes have you seen amongst the “Noahide Movement?” Has it improved? Has it gone downhill?
To follow the same allegory, it’s stuck in the mud. After 30+ years, the Noahide movement should be a lot farther along than it is now. Compare what the Lubovitch movement in the early 1950s was to what it became in the mid-1980s. There is a reason the Noahide movement has not grown, and that is because the rabbis do not WANT it to grow. Not in the way it is supposed to.
What is the role of a rabbi for a non-Jew?
Ideally, the role of the rabbi is to teach the non-Jew (Noahide) the basic Seven Laws, to answer questions about the Torah, and to be a good role model.
Sadly, the current role of (most) rabbis is to confuse the Noahide, to make them think that the Noahide Law is some sort of sect of “Judaism,” and to focus on the parts of the Torah that do not apply to the Noahide Law such as prayer, worship, kabbalah, Yom Tov, etc.
You’ve taken the unpopular point of view that a rabbi has no authority over non-Jews (unless an individual non-Jew volitionally gives them that authority)? How did you come to this conclusion? And have there been any consequences to you holding this view amongst Jews or non-Jews?
The majority of the world’s Jews (unobservant) do not think the rabbis have any authority, either. Both Ravad and Ramban were of the opinion that Israel cannot enforce the Noahide Law upon neighboring nations that Israel conquers militarily, let alone Gentile nations over which it has no control (cf. Ravad on Malachim 6:1 and Issura Beah 12:7–8; Ramban’s commentary on Bereishis 26:5, Devirim 20:1, 11; Tosafot Avoda Zara 26b). There is also the issue of the halakha of Dina DeMalchuta Dina (the law of the land is the law). Outside of Eretz Yisrael, the rabbis do not even have authority over non-Jewish law in sovereign Noahide lands, even for observant Jews. This is only logical to understand that the rabbis, knowledgeable about the Torah as they are, have limits as to how they can tell Noahides what to do. They can suggest things, but they cannot tell you what to do. The Seven Laws are, at their most basic level, prohibitions, and to tell Noahides they must perform positive commandments is to add to the Torah.
There is also the matter of Bava Metzia 90b where it teaches that a Jew who interferes with a Noahide’s observance of the Seven is a violation of halakha (Do not put a stumbling block before the blind, Vayikra 19:14). A rabbi who teaches Noahides things such as “Jews do not attack other religions (such as Christianity), therefore you Noahides should not either” is a violation of the Noahide Law of the prohibition of idolatry since we are commanded to rid ourselves of idolatry in our culture and society. Or the rabbi who teaches the Noahide to study kabbalah and prayer (instead of halakha) and turns his Noahide students into sponges or strainers instead of sieves [Pirkei Avot, 5:18], making the Noahide waste their time with things that do not apply to the Noahide Law.
As far as the consequences, I’ve been called everything from being anti-rabbi to anti-semitic, allegations which are both baseless and illogical. What I have taught is that the Noahide Code is not “Judaism Lite,” but a Torah-based legal system that is different in many aspects from the Jewish Torah-based law.
To quote Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch:
“In the same manner God also needs in His kingdom of humanity both Jews and non-Jews. Jew and non-Jew each has been assigned his own calling and his own law, and God’s sublime purpose will be attained only if each one, Jew and non-Jew, will gladly and faithfully carry out that calling and obey that law which God has set for him, and in so doing will make his own contribution to the common good as God expects him to do.”
What books have you written?
To date, I have written three books. My first book was “The Noahide Code: A Guide to the Perplexed Christian.” My second book is “The Noahide Guide to Matthew.” Both of these are anti-missionary field guides. My third book, “Secular by Design,” is targeted more towards the liberal/atheist/intellectual, probably the most difficult target audience for the Noahide Law.
Do the current legal systems in the world or in America accord to the Seven Commandments? In what way does it matter if they do or don’t? What should be the relationship be between the Seven Commandments and the legal systems of the world?
There are currently no governments based on Torah. That includes the modern state of Israel and their Western-European style secular social democracy. The legal systems of the nations should be based on Torah. According to Ramban (Nachmonides), the Noahide legal system should be:
“Concerning the laws of theft, overcharging, withholding wages, the laws of bailees and of the rapist or the seducer of minors, the various categories of damages, personal injury, the laws of creditors and debtors, the laws of buying and selling, etc., comparable to the civil laws about which Israel was commanded.”
In other words, our “secular” law should conform to the Torah. The legal systems do not have to be as strict as Jewish law, but they should be as close as possible while conforming to the customs of every society. The object for the Noahide movement is not to have a “One World Order” or any such nonsense—far from it. In fact, as long as each nation’s legal system is based on the Torah, they type of government really doesn’t matter.
Who would you say have been your major influences when it comes to your view of the Seven Commandments? And how did they help shape your point of view?
Well, I have been influenced by just about everything I’ve read or studied. I spent three years in a Kollel back in the late 1980s, and that certainly got me Torah-oriented. My major influence however is Rav. S. R. Hirsch, the 19th century German rabbi who wrote extensively about Noahides and their responsibilities.
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