A 7-Law-Keeping Gentile Still Doesn’t Keep The Holy Days
As we’re in the midst of the Jewish holy day season, a time when certain Gentiles feel inner stirrings about whether to keep the festivals commanded upon the Jews, I feel it’s fitting to publicize a comment I received in response to an old article I wrote about the subject. The original article was called “A Noahide not keeping the Jewish Holy Days.”
Some person unknown to me (I’ll leave her name out article, out of respect) thought she would share with me her thoughts. Since she made a public comment on a public blog, and it seems like an excellent opportunity for me to share both sides of the discussion, I’ll share her side unedited, and then my side with some minor corrections.
Just so that you know, I don’t mince my words, so I’ll seem curt to gentler folk.
So she said:
So studying under our local Orthodox rabbi (and writing in to others), and meeting with local Orthodox Jews in their homes, I’ve understood that the prohibition against observing Shabbos is a moot point anyway. I’ve fulfilled my obligation to break Shabbos jist by flipping on a light, or putting on lipstick, or driving to synagogue. Breaking it on purpose one time is all it takes; other than that, one can be as observant as they want – as long as they acknowledge that it isnt required, and dont treat it as an obligation bit rather something they do out of love for HaShem and Judaism (I say Judaism since the Noahide IS practicing the Jewish faith, just applying halacha as it applies to him as a non-Jew). So I can be observant along the lines of an Orthodox Jew, as long as I dont freak out if I break tradition now and then, or push other people to observe as strict as me, or keep the Shabbos completely.
A rabbi with Netiv commented in a lecture once that maybe Shabbos is so strict and complicated for the purpose of protecting non-Jews. Since it takes so much effort and knowledge to keep Shabbos properly (and family participation), it would be nearly impossible for a Noahide to casually obseeve Shabbos in a way that would warrant death. Besides, the process for the death penalty is so hard to carry out that it’s practically unheard of – even back when Israel had a functioning religious court.
Also, rabbis dont all agree about banning non-Jews from studying Torah, since the Talmud clearly speaks about the ban being against idolaters. It also applies to those non-Jews who only study for the purpose of twisting the meaning of the text to hurt Jews, or for those who interpret Torah however they want and dont take the traditional Jewish interpretation into account.
Judaism teaches that even non-Jews are judged during the High Holy Days, so it’s wise and righteous to observe them; even most parts of the prayers. It just isnt required. But the prophets state clearly that all flesh will be judged by HaShem together, and that all the earth will bring sacrifices to the Temple (as they also did in the past), and that non-Jews in the world to come will celebrate Succot.
A person couldnt study the Noahide laws without studying Torah, since it’s Torah (and the rabbinic texts) that explain how the Noahide laws are applied in practical life. The seven “laws” are really 7 full *categories* of law that the Torah and Talmud expand upon. Even if you only want to study the parts of Torah that apply to the 7 laws, everyone knows that the Torah isnt written by category. Many of the laws overlap, and they’re all mixed together. Theyhave an organization, but not one that is easy to single out for strictly Noahide study. Also, I heard a rabbi say once in his lecture that it’s wise to know some basic customs and Torah law outside the Noahide laws, so that you know what doesnt apply to you as a non-Jew and how to support the observance of Jews you worship with. Also, if we will be bringing sacrifices to the third Tenple, then we need to have a basic understanding of those laws as well, since we will be coming into contact with priests and need to know how those things apply to Noahides in the Messianic age. So, even though the rabbis mentioned above are famous and well-respected, their views arent always upheld by the other sages or today’s rabbis. I think participation in the community and its celebrations of HaShem build relationship and unity – between the people and with HaShem. We just do it in a way that allows for some freedom, to renind the Jewish people to keep a free heart and a flowing relationship with HaShem instead of getting stuck in the rut of legalism like some people do. Jews teach us discipline and focused spirituality, while we teach them spontaneity and creative relationship with HaShem – law balanced with spirituality. But if we arent there participating and active, that dance comes to a stop and the purpose of the Noahide’s existence is partially lost. Blessings and Shalom.
Here’s my response:
“… the prohibition against observing shabbos is a moot point.”
I’ve learned it quite differently. The fact that you talk about people observing it as much as they want as long as they “break a detail” shows it’s not a moot point at all.
I’m reminded strongly of rabbi Israel Chait’s article, “Bnai Noah – the religion, the danger,” which can be found at beingnoahide.com/bnai-noah-the-religion-the-danger/ as well as other places, how a Gentile who knows the seven has to curb his religious urges to do new things. I also remember the words of the prohibition in the Talmud and the Rambam, about the prohibition about keeping a sabbath on any day of the week. You see, that’s breaking part of the law, i.e., keeping it on a different day. Yet it’s still forbidden to do. Yet here you are, talking about Gentiles keeping shabbos as much as they want, they just have to break a rule.
And that’s another thing. You talk about being “observant” (your words) of the sabbath yet breaking a rule. Therefore you’re not observing any sabbath because you’re breaking its rules. Any Jew who broke a sabbath-day rule would know he hasn’t kept the sabbath (i.e., he’s broken it), yet you amazingly think the opposite applies to you, that by breaking a rule, you’ve done something positive, you’ve been “observant” of the sabbath!?!
And I can’t pretend that this makes sense. I can’t even say you’re honouring God because God commanded that special day on the Jewish people and nation, a sign between him and them. It links them to him BECAUSE he commanded it to them. Yet I look at your body of law, our body of law, the seven laws for the descendants of Noah, and there is no such link/command from God between the sabbath and yourself. So you’re essentially doing it, adding a faux-shabbos (a pseudo-sabbath) to your routine or occasional “toe-dip” all for your self-satisfaction. It’s about your cravings, not God’s command. Now, that’s all well and good; do what you want for your own cravings or self-serving agenda. It may fill a religious hole you have. But there’s little praise-worthy in what you’re doing that I can see. But I’m sure the rabbis you’ve learned from can justify what you’re doing, keep you going. I’m just a lone Gentile, more concerned with my obligations than trying to innovate new practices or modifying what God gave to the Jews (such as doing it all except breaking a law).
But to repeat, your very testimony on my blog, for me, is ample evidence that the prohibition from the Talmud is far from being a moot point and is VERY relevant in our days and times.
I know you said you do such things out of love for God. You express that love by looking elsewhere, the ritual laws of the Jews, and trying to see how you can use their stuff. I express it differently. I’m zealous for my God where I take what he’s given me, the seven laws and being made in his image as a NON-Jew, and make the most of that without taking and using what he gave to someone else.
“I say Judaism since the Noahide IS practicing the Jewish faith, just applying halacha as it applies to him as a non-Jew”
Again we disagree. I see two bodies of law: the 7 and the 613. The 613 is supposed to be what Judaism centred on, it’s the “Jewish faith.” The seven laws is not the Jewish faith at all. It’s not even a faith/religion. It’s meant to be the foundation of our Gentile legal system and moral system. So we’re not applying Jewish halacha. The seven laws is the non-Jewish code. See The Living Law: The Seven Noachide Laws which clearly shows the seven laws is not “the application of the Jewish faith by non-Jews.”
“the Talmud clearly speaks about the ban being against idolaters.”
It’s sad that you’ve been taught this. The ban was against “non-Jews” on a whole, not just “idolators.” I know the word used in sanhedrin 59a and in mishneh torah, laws of kings, 10:9. It is either a gloss, a cover word, for the christian censors but was originally just the neutral word “goy” meaning all non-Jews; or if the “gloss” term is the original used then it still can be used for any Gentile. And the reasoning the Talmud gives for the ban applies to ALL non-Jews, not just idolators. I’m happy to provide evidence. But the notion that the ban was only for idolators is incomplete and inaccurate.
“Judaism teaches that even non-Jews are judged during the High Holy Days, so it’s wise and righteous to observe them; even most parts of the prayers.”
A non-sequitur is a mistake in reasoning where a person makes a conclusion that doesn’t follow on from the premises. In your case, it is this statement: God judges non-Jews on holy days so it’s wise to observe them. That makes no sense. The only way that would make sense is if God judged/condemned Gentiles for not keeping the holy days. You’ve not shown that. I don’t see where a Gentile is required to keep the holy days or their prayers.
Actually, if God judges Gentiles on holy days, then he would be judging them because of their conduct throughout the year. Therefore it would make sense that the Gentile keeping a holy day or saying a prayer is wholly irrelevant as opposed to changing his lifestyle to obey the commandment meant for that Gentile (i.e., not the Jewish ones) and to fulfil what it means to be made in God’s image. It’s through actual teshuvah (returning to God’s ordained ways) on any day of the year that a Gentile can affect his judgment, not by keeping days or saying prayers that are irrelevant to him.
So, to say again, your reasoning doesn’t follow. It’s following God’s law for Gentiles and living up to his “image” that helps a Gentile, not seeking Jewish laws.
Tell me when you start actually slaughtering ritual sacrifices for non-Jews, and then I’ll pay attention to what you said about bringing sacrifices in a future temple. Until then, … well there’s just nothing to respond to.
Oh, and Gentiles keeping succot in the third temple times … again, irrelevant to how I should live now.
You talked about us Gentiles teaching the Jews about “spontaneity and creative worship,” and that if we don’t participate part of the “noahide” purpose is lost. If you think part of our purpose is to do that, as if the Jews couldn’t figure it out themselves, I think you’ve been misinformed or reached wrong conclusions. The Jews are not so robotic that they need Gentiles to show them what to do. And, looking at the state of Gentile countries and the way our laws oppose the seven laws, I’d say our purpose is VERY different. In fact, I’d say this:
1) looking at the state of Gentile countries and how they oppose the seven laws for Gentiles and their other immoralities, it’s obvious the Gentile hasn’t done his/her job correctly; and
2) looking at the state of Israel and how its legal system opposes the Torah laws for Jews and their other immoralities, it’s obvious the Jew hasn’t done his/her job correctly.
Instead of trying to build this Jews/Gentiles commune where everything and everyone is mixed (up), I believe we should each take the time to focus on our own separate responsibilities. Let the set-apart people actually be set-apart. Let them correct themselves, and let’s work on correcting our mess. As rabbi Hirsch taught, the kingdom of God will flourish when we each do our SEPARATE jobs, keeping our DIFFERENT laws. I’m not saying let’s be isolated from one another, but on the other hand, let’s not blur the divide God created for GOOD reason.
I don’t believe that we have to have a filtered teaching where we’re only taught Gentile-relevant stuff. It may all be as mixed up with the Jewish stuff as you claim (and it may not be). But as long as what a Gentile learns helps him/her to know one’s own obligations and keep it without blurring the lines between Jew and non-Jew (as a sabbath-“observant” Gentile would do) then it’s all good.