It’s not a Jewish path!

At times, when I attempt to tackle certain issues and claims, I do my best to leave personalities out of it, to simply focus on the point at hand. But when those personalities reach a certain popularity, there is little point in me hiding who said what was said, and also exactly what was said. So let me just quote the person and refer to the exact article right now.

We’re not another religion, but actually part of Judaism,” says Mr Bryant, director of education and counseling at Netiv, a “centre for Torah studies” in Humble, just outside Houston. “We’re a community of people on a Jewish path who want to lead fulfilling Jewish lives.” Netiv’s devotees include fallen-by-the-wayside Jews who have made Noahidism their means of spiritual re-engagement, Mr Bryant says. (“They’re not Jewish, but they Noah lot about Torah” by Michael Kaminer, http://www.thejc.com/news/world-news/153369/theyre-not-jewish-they-noah-lot-about-torah, emphasis mine)

If you read the article, you’ll find that this is a guy currently residing in Texas called Rod Reuven David Bryant, a guy called a “noahide leader,” who is describing what the article describes as “non-Jews who embrace the Torah through Jewish principles known as the Seven Noahide Laws.”

Unfortunately it is another case of misrepresentation found in the mouth of this “noahide leader” and in an article that uses his group as a template to understand Gentiles around the world who embrace the seven laws.

“What is your beef this time, David?”

I’m glad you asked, David.

The Seven Laws spoken of in the Torah tradition is not a Jewish path and it is not for those who want to live a Jewish life. Let me give you a simple proof of this.

Seven commandments were enjoined upon the descendants of Noah … (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56a)

Who were the seven laws enjoined upon? The descendants of Noah, otherwise known as humanity as a whole. When the Jews got their covenant of Moses with additional stipulations, the term “descendants of Noah” applied to the non-Jews, the Gentiles, the nations of the world. So whose path is described by the Seven Commandments? The NON-Jew! This is not a Jewish path to live Jewish lives. No, that would refer to the Mosaic covenant and the 613 commandments stated therein. The Seven Laws describe a Torah path for non-Jews!

So this shows the inaccuracy in the description given by the writer, Michael Kaminer. He said “the Seven Noahide Laws” were “Jewish principles.” They are not. They are Torah principles. Think about it, will you? What’s the difference between “Jewish” and “Torah?” Think about it in terms of people. If someone said, “I’m Jewish,” that means that they belong to a certain nation, a certain people group, a certain covenant. There are commandments that are only Jewish, i.e., for that people group, not for others. There is a Jewish homeland that is only for that people group, not for others.. But when someone says something is Torah, that revelation can apply universally or even just to non-Jews. Although the Jews are the custodians of Torah, because Torah is the teaching, the revelation, from the God of the universe and also the God of the non-Jews, then there can be content in there that is not Jewish, but is non-Jewish, international, universal.

It should also be added that the fact that I keep the seven laws doesn’t make me a part of Judaism. I have to speak personally here because I don’t want to make Rod Bryant’s mistake and attempt to speak for strangers. I don’t want to impose myself and my views on people that may feel differently. I will speak for myself. Again, my adherence to the Seven Commandments doesn’t make me part of “Judaism.” That’s an artificial term for “the religion of the Jews,” hence “Juda(h)ism.” Torah has always been bigger and different than these constraining and distorting terms. The Jews have their Torah defined path. The non-Jews have our Torah defined path, the seven laws and the obligations that come with being made in God’s image. The focus of these things have nothing to do with becoming part of or being accepted by the Jewish community, but can help uplift a community of non-Jews anywhere. It’s to make the world on a whole a better place, to lift us above just being animals with human faces to the place where we, as people of the world, embrace our full humanity.

In that article, there is a picture of that man, Rod Bryant, dressed in black, similar to what some rabbis wear, blowing a shofar, a special horn used in Jewish rituals linked to holy days. Just imagine: what does blowing this Jewish ritual instrument have to do with a seven-laws keeping non-Jew, especially in light of the fact that the Torah defined path for non-Jews, the Seven Laws, is bereft of ritual? The obvious answer is nothing. The article describes him as a “noahide leader,” and yet it portrays him – and he portrays himself – as someone walking Jewish paths to live a Jewish life. If that is what being a noahide is, then it is indeed wise of me to stay an outsider where it comes to noahides. I’m ok just focusing on the seven laws and being just a decent human being. Having the label “noahide” is just too … fluid. (It’s ok; as Alan Cecil showed in a previous article posted on this blog, “noahide” can be understood as just “non-Jew” so I’m ok with that understanding.)

And that is why there is a justifiable fear and reluctance among some, myself included, regarding building something called “a noahide community.” We non-Jews are not supposed to be creating new religions, even one based on the seven laws. Yet there is this thing called “noahidism.” What else can it be but “the religion of the noahides?” And here we have non-Jews who seem to crave the ritual of Judaism without converting and end up creating what looks like a religion. If similar minded people, people who use “noahide” to refer to an adherent to a religious group distinct from or in addition to being a normal Gentile (like a person would use the word “christian”), get together to create such a “noahide community,” then it would end up looking like a small religious Jew-lite commune, or the new Amish. It won’t be just about being a group of decent human beings, it’ll be … hell, I can only imagine a mini, watered down Israel. It won’t be a righteous community of Gentiles because it would still be addicted to ritual, to actually segregating non-Jews by adding a new religious group to the numerous others around.

A respected friend of mine said this (I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him): “We don’t need leaders; we need teachers who know what being a Noahide entails …” In my own words, we need teachers who know what being a decent non-Jew, a good human being entails. To be that, we don’t need shofars or Jewish paths. We need a foundation in the objective morality encapsulated in the Seven Laws and a curriculum in the principles of good human behaviour. No holydays are required. No detailed dietary laws are required. No kabbalah required. No Hebrew required. Just good people.

The fact is that the Jews were set apart, made holy, segregated from the rest of the nations. As God set boundaries throughout all creation, he set boundaries between Jew and Gentile. I believe that their covenant as well as the stipulations in that covenant set them apart. When those lines are blurred, then confusion and disharmony sets in. When non-Jews start making claims on what belongs to the Jews, roles become unbalanced and unrealistic. Again, the message of the classic Torah teachers stands firm, whether it be Rabbi Hirsch or Rambam: when a Jew fulfills his role and when a non-Jew fulfills his role, then the world will reflect the kingdom God means to establish. Calling the non-Jewish path “a Jewish one” is not the way to get this done.

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17 Comments

  1. This may interest you. He discusses Noahidism too.
    [The commenter, Meir, refers to a youtube video called “Why a Minister Chose Judaism – A “Born Again” Christian Born Again As a Jew – Yehuda Tebbitt” – DD]

    • I’ve watched it before. And no, it doesn’t interest me. I’m not interested in some religion called “Noahidism”. I’m happy for the dude that he is happy in becoming a Jew. But that video is simply about conversion, not about life as a non-Jew. So no, it’s kinda useless to me. The parts where he does mention the seven laws, he portrays the negative views of the seven laws that I oppose.

      So to summarize, good for him, useless to me.

      • Towards the end I recall he spoke much about Bnei Noah.

      • Nothing that positive

  2. Keith

    Hello David, I asked another rabbi who is in New York and runs a Noahide website, his advice about prayer. He tells me to go to a local shul and pray there under the guidance of the rabbi. Well there are no Shuls near me and the reality is I don’t understand Hebrew and can’t see what the poor rabbi could do to help.
    . However being human means needing some kind of ritual however simple. Humans have performed rituals from the beginning …and not having them makes for a very dry and isolated life. That’s just my gut feeling. Do you have any routine for your prayers ? Or is it so that following 7 laws does not require it ? Thanks again. Keith

    • Thanx for the comment, Keith. Another challenging question or point of view. As a fellow student, I can only share how I feel. Some people may want ritual, and some may not. It all depends on the way the word “ritual” is being used. If it just means people want a proper way to express themselves to their Creator, then you may be right. But it is my conclusion that it is not the lack of ritual that makes a life dry and unfulfilling. Even those words, “dry,” “unfulfilling,” have a subjective quality and it depends on what the tastes of an individual is that determines what makes that life fulfilling.

      For example, personally, I don’t think giving food to the homeless is a ritual in the proper sense of the word. I don’t think having a nice conversation with a work colleague is a ritual, or that family life is a ritual. But people find fulfillment doing those things, and many others. A person who knows God may find fulfillment in trying to link his actions with obedience to God, not simply habit. As a person not looking for another “church” to join, not even a church of “noahides,” I find fulfillment in a surprising amount of things in day-to-day life. It’s also those things that also present a challenge as well.

      Anyway, to your question, I have no routine to my prayer. Not currently anyway. According to Rabbi Samson Hirsch, knowing God is simply a human thing to do, not exclusively a Jewish thing. So prayer can be a natural outgrowth of the knowledge of God and his expectations (not simply and only the seven laws).

      • A Noahide, by definition, must first believe in God and the Torah-Giving-Event at Mount Sinai, acknowledging Moses as the purveyor of God’s Word to the Jewish people. This premise qualifies him or her for then assuming the rest of the relevant laws. Then, and only then, after he accepts this first of the 7 “Noahide Laws”, can he, together with the practice of the other 6, be considered a Noahide. In other words, Torah must be viewed as the ultimate source for proper code of behavior for both Jews and Gentiles.

        I say this because in your remarks, such as, “… natural outgrowth of the knowledge of God …”, the outgrowth you speak of cannot be some fine intellectual process – unless the basis for it conforms with the above-stated premise. Someone with a good mind who could come to the same conclusions but denies the Torah/Moses axiom – even if all his behavior conforms with the 7 laws – disqualifies him or her of that special status nonetheless!

      • Again, I don’t care about that new fangled English word, “noahide”. It means nothing to me. The Hebrew term “bnei Noach” as is shown by the Talmud and the commentary of Ramban’s commentary of Bereshis means the rest of humanity other than Israel. Belief in God is not necessary for a non-Jew to be a non-Jew. A non-Jew, any member of humanity, can do whatever good deed for their own reason, and it’s still a good thing to do. Being part of bnei Noach, a member of the nations other than Israel, is not this special status you speak of.

        If your focus is about a non-Jew being the status of hasid umos olam, then yes, accepting that God have the Torah at Sinai including the seven laws is a prerequisite. But be specific with your words rather than relying on ambiguous English word like “noahide.”

        My article was not focused on the status of hasidei umos olam. So your comments are irrelevant

  3. Big mistake you make, saying:
    “The Hebrew term “bnei Noach” as is shown by the Talmud and the commentary of Ramban’s commentary of Bereshis means the rest of humanity other than Israel”.

    There are 3 groups – not two! Ideally, when Moshiach comes, it will transform into two.
    The Jews are one. Bnei Noach – i.e., those who accept the 7 Laws of a Ben-Noach as Maimonides points out, is the 2nd group. The 3rd group, the largest for now, consists of guys like you who are Gentile but do not accept the 7 Noahide Laws – the very first of which, the key law, is to acknowledge the legitimacy of God, His Torah and Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses).

    • “guys like you who do not accept the seven noahide laws …” Prove that I don’t accept the seven laws. You can claim it, but it’s another thing to prove it.

      Three groups? Another baseless claim.

      The first law for Gentiles is “to acknowledge God, His Torah and Moshe.” Prove it. Give the reference that states overtly that Gentiles are commanded by God to acknowledge God, Torah, and Moshe. Rambam doesn’t say it’s a command only that people must accept those things as part of a prerequisite to get a place in the world to come. He never says it’s the first law. So please, prove your claim.

      • Three groups? Another baseless claim.
        – why? there’s the Jew the Gentile and the Gentile who follows the 7 Laws of Noah
        – or, Ger, Ger Toshav and Jew

        The first law for Gentiles is “to acknowledge God, His Torah and Moshe.” Prove it.
        – It’s in the Rambam, as I said to you. That to me is proof.

        Give the reference that states overtly that Gentiles are commanded by God to acknowledge God, Torah, and Moshe. Rambam doesn’t say it’s a command only that people must accept those things as part of a prerequisite to get a place in the world to come. He never says it’s the first law. So please, prove your claim.
        – Laws of Kings: Chapter 8; Law #11

        Care to read that Law (a short paragraph, and to the point!)?

      • Nope. There’s just Jew and Gentile. Then in each there are the ones who obey their laws. It’s that simple. Rambam never states that acceptance of God, Torah and Moses as a law. I’ve read that paragraph. It’s not a law

  4. I am wrong about the Ger, Ger Toshav and Jew.
    Ger Toshav is that BenNoah within the confines of Eretz Yisrael.
    But the 3 categories parallels the 3 groups I alluded to. I don’t see why you can’t see that 3 groups (of self-commitment) exist.

    • I see what you see: two groups. And when the time comes in the proper Torah setting that is yet to exist, there will be some Gentiles who will be ger toshavim. That doesn’t make a brand new group but rather a subset of one

      • Hate to belabor the point.
        A faithful or unfaithful Jew both belong to one group – Jew.
        The consequences of a Jew’s misguided behavior becomes a matter of
        extra sacrifices to bring to the Temple.

        But the Gentile who lives in Israel, were he to behave misguidedly, invites upon himself the death sentence. Unlike the Gentile who behaves similarly outside of Israel.

        This Gentile “subgroup”, living in Israel proper under proper behavior, is the 3rd group.
        This is the liable for the death sentence.

        EVENTUALLY, when Moshiach reigns, indeed there will be only the two groups. Because then everyone will behave properly.

      • What you say essentially makes no sense. So there’s the faithful and unfaithful Jew who are both part of the group called Jew. And then there is the faithful and unfaithful Gentile and, in your world, somehow the subgroup living in Israel is no longer part of the Gentiles? No, that makes no sense whatsoever. A Gentile is a Gentile and a Jew is a Jew. There is no third group. A difference in the application of law due to location (I don’t agree with what you said about that) does not make a whole new group.

  5. “A faithful or unfaithful Jew both belong to one group – Jew.”
    Ditto for the Noahide. A Ger Toshav is nothing more than a legal status, a Noahide who is allowed to live in Eretz Yisrael. A non-Jewish citizen, more or less.
    Meir, aren’t there any non-observant Jews out there for you to get all teshuvany on?

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