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.

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15 Comments

  1. Hrvatski Noahid

    You seem to contradict yourself. I remember you agreed with me that the only reason murder is wrong is because HaShem said so. If HaShem did not command something, why is it meritorious? Is it meritorious objectively or subjectively?

    I see that you have 100 followers. Congratulations! I will follow you to 1000 and beyond!

    • God bless you. It’s good to have a friend who can challenge me and disagree with me in a constructive way.

      There is precedent in the oral tradition for something being meritorious even if it is not commanded. Firstly, in the Talmud it is taught that if someone does something good when they are not commanded to, then they get a reward but not as much as the person to whom it was commanded.

      We both know that God is just and that he gives reward and punishment in a righteous way. If a person does what is not commanded, but it is good, then the fact that the just Judge gives reward means that the act is “meritorious.”

      There would be a measurable way to see if it is objectively good based on the rational Torah commands and the proximity the non-commanded act has to the seven commands.

      Also there is a time in the Talmud when a Gentile honoured his father when he was not commanded to, and that Gentile was honoured for that act. It was a meritorious act and recorded in the Torah which shows that acts can be meritorious even when not commanded.

      It is true that I said that the only reason murder is evil is that God commanded against it. But let’s look at the example of Sedom (Sodom) which was given the sentence of eradication not simply because it had broken the seven but because it had done something bad that was not prohibited by the seven (creating a law prohibiting charity which had a punishment in their “courts”). So based on Torah, I may be wrong to say the only reason something is wrong is that God prohibited it explicitly since the Torah shows that its teachings reveal other acts to be wrong (or right) without being commanded explicitly.

  2. Hrvatski Noahid

    Thanks for your reply. You know that I will have to disagree. I do not accept that something is meritorious without being commanded. One of the articles spoke of schizophrenic attitudes.
    I fear that I would become schizophrenic if I accept that. I admit that others might understand such contradictions. But this is where I draw the line.

    • Ok, help me understand your point of view. There is no commandment upon Gentiles to honour their parents. In your worldview and even with the guidance of the Divine Code, how do you deal with that? If it is not commanded, is it therefore not meritorious? Help me understand.

  3. Hrvatski Noahid

    My father is an extremely evil man. I have no contact with him. He is one of the main reasons I distrust others. So I do not have to deal with honoring my parents. Gentiles have 7 Commandments. Not one more and not one less. They are the totality of our Torah Law obligations. They are the objective Divine standard for Gentiles. If you say there is something meritorious in addition to them, you are no longer discussing Torah Law. Do I think some acts are meritorious subjectively in the eyes of man? Yes. Do I think something that is not commanded is meritorious objectively in the eyes of God? No. I do not appreciate what I see as attempts to rationalize our Torah Law obligations by going beyond the 7. I doubt that anyone follows the 7 perfectly anyway.

    • I respect your honesty. And tell me your view of charity.

  4. Hrvatski Noahid

    Charity is a positive aspect of the Noahide prohibition of murder. It is the positive part of the commandment. So it has the status of a commandment.

    • Ok. I see. Does it matter that the Divine Code seems to disagree?

  5. Hrvatski Noahid

    I have sources from the Divine Code to back what I am saying.

    • I have the book. Give the references and I’ll happily look.

  6. Hrvatski Noahid

    My old comment includes the source:

    “You write that kindness and charity are not commanded. It is not that simple. The Noahide prohibition of murder and injury includes the positive aspect to save a person’s life (p 449, topic 3). If you feed a starving man, you saved his life.

    “The Prohibition of Murder: This command is not limited to murder; rather any harm caused to another person or to his honor is a branch of this prohibition. From this we learn the value of a person’s life and his honor. A person must endeavor to help and save every person to the best of his capability. From this follows the obligation to give charity and help others.”
    https://asknoah.org/faq/learn-from-noahide-laws#more-4842

    So charity is a positive aspect of the Noahide prohibition of murder. Similar derivations exist for other “logical” obligations.”

    • There are two types of commands mentioned in the Divine Code: commandments that are actually part of the seven; and what are called “logical commandments” or “logical obligations.” Do you agree with the Divine Code and its classification of charity (and honouring parents) under the latter group?

  7. Hrvatski Noahid

    I do not agree with that part of the Divine Code which classifies charity and honoring parents as logical obligations. I think that introducing the category of logical obligations was a mistake. I can only do my best. My best is to follow the 7 Commandments with their negative and positive aspects. If that is not enough, I have a ticket to hell…

    • Bro, this ain’t xtianity. There’s no hell to worry about, especially with a guy like yourself who I see as good. We can only do our best.

  8. This was a good one!

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