Merit not command
I was talking to a colleague of mine.
We’ve got this game that I enjoy. Although he’s speaks Spanish fluently, he writes to me in English and when I respond, I respond to him in Spanish. I don’t know enough Spanish to hold a conversation but I use Google Translate or Bing Translate. I try to keep my sentences simple to avoid confusion. Amazingly enough, we’ve had a smooth conversation for over a year. I’m enjoying it.
Sorry, where was I?
Oh yeah! I was talking to an associate about the prohibition against idolatry. We were discussing whether it was prohibited, according to the seven commandments, to be present at an idolatrous event without participating in it.
During the process of our discourse, we hit upon the fundamental difference I have with the author of the book called “The Divine Code.”
It is plain in Rambam’s Mishneh Torah and the Talmud that the main prohibition is against actively worshipping an idol according to its customary rites or using specific acts of worship used in temple worship, including slaughtering/offering sacrifices, bowing and pouring libations. Essentially actively accepting something or someone else as a god other than the one true God is idolatry.
That is the law of idolatry for non-Jews.
But rabbi Weiner puts in his book that, for example, it is part of the prohibition of idolatry to believe in God, it is commanded. He says Gentiles are commanded to fear and honour God. In another place, he says on a rational level, it is forbidden to enter a house of idol worship, listen to idolatrous songs.
The difference between the approach of the Divine Code and that of the sources I’ve learnt from was succinctly stated by my colleague.
It’s merit, not precept.
I don’t think I need to add any more to that.
Instead of a Jew trying to legislate for Gentiles, to attempt to make authoritative rulings on non-Jews for matters outside of the seven, to make commands where there was none, an approach encouraging and detailing meritorious acts would seem to be more accurate and potent than “laying down the law,” especially when so much of the “law” in The Divine Code isn’t law.
At least that’s my point of view.