Various thoughts; Part 3 – Alone
As far as I know, with regards to the conscious adherence to the laws God gave to humanity, in the town I live in, I’m on my own. It’s not like I can go down the road to a friend’s house, chill there whilst eating and drinking, and argue out our understanding of the seven laws, or study them. There is no one, no point of contact I can call upon to have a private discussion on my Torah.
But then again, for a good portion of my life, I’ve lived out a line of one of my songs, “Never stopped singing yet the stranger’s song, in the midst of many people, and yet alone.” It’s been that way before I had even had any clue about the seven Gentile laws. My siblings remind me that even when I was young, I used to ask if i was adopted because of this “outcast” or “odd one out” feeling I had. And then adopting the outlandish views I held then and now concretised that “odd one out” status.
While I was a Christian, I took the bible seriously which led me to question the bible study books the church would use. I began to wonder why all the songs in the hymnal were so focused on Jesus when he was supposed to point to “the Father.” I rejected the Christian holidays, the Trinity. In personal life, I didn’t have a typical social life. No nightclubs, no pubs, no hanging out with friends at a shopping centre, no youth clubs.
And then after leaving Christianity because Jesus failed the criteria to be Israel’s promised anointed king (and not because claims of similarity to the stories of idolators), I was set further adrift. Some of those who had left Christianity that I had met online left Torah and the Jewish Bible completely, but I couldn’t see any firm logic in their reasoning, only too much faith in people who had the title of scientist or archaeologist. I found myself amongst Karaites online, but I couldn’t agree with some of their stance, especially the idea that a non-Jew must convert to get close to God, which those I communicated with espoused. I saw in the Jewish Bible too much evidence of a way of righteousness for those not of Israel.
So eventually, thanks to the assistance and patience of Dr. Schulman from Asknoah Intl., I was shown the necessity of the oral Torah and through that I embraced the truth of the seven laws.
But that got me into the “noahide” crowd.
Now, from now on, when I use the word “noahide” in this article, I’m only referring to a religious group of Gentiles that link themselves with Judaism or claim to be part of Judaism, a group that distinguishes itself from other religions like Christianity or atheism or Hinduism, etc. Their group is limited to people who keep the seven commandments because the God of Israel, the First Cause of everything, commanded it to Moses.
So after a time of interacting with noahides and seeing some of them voice their grievances about the seven laws system, I heard, quite often, a desire for a noahide community, not just an online group, a virtual one, but a real one, almost like a lost Christian looking for a church (the group, not the building). It was a choice of loneliness, craving interaction and belonging with people who think similarly to oneself. I even made a few attempts to join a noahide group.
Through all my experiences with noahides and the Jews that teach them, good and bad experiences, especially with some recent ruckuses that I caused, I’ve come to a not-so-shocking conclusion: It’s best that I stay away from noahide groups! There’s not even a great need to become part of one.
For some who have either read this blog, or who have seen my experiences online, this conclusion is like me saying, “I’ve come to a conclusion: Living humans breathe.” Maybe I just need to write this to help me stop fooling myself. Maybe.
And for others, this is great news. I mean, who would want a rebellious person like me in a group?
Anyway, what are the reasons for my staying away from noahide groups?
Firstly, I’m not a nice guy. Yes, again, a “living humans breathe” reason. I prefer honesty and bluntness to politeness. And that bluntness can come across in such a way that people take personally. I’ve had multiple occasions where, because of the sheer bluntness of my words and the way I disagreed with their stance, someone took offence and quickly disassociated with me, a person that I had had contact with for some time. The amount of groups I’ve either been kicked out of or felt it best to leave, the amount of “friends” who have left me, and the amount of strangers who have blocked me, it becomes obvious that I’m not some innocent. I’m just not a nice guy, and I can be sharp in my disagreement to such an extent, people can take offence. This personal character trait is even hard to deal with one-on-one, much less a whole group. I’m sure people are surprised I’m married.
Although online shenanigans only capture a small fraction of my personality, since most noahide stuff I see is online, I don’t think my online persona is suited for groups and rabbis.
Secondly, the positions and beliefs of these noahide groups tend to conflict with my own.
The vast majority of them and the rabbis or people that teach them are statist, having some extent of respect for the state, some being patriotic/nationalistic, respecting voting and democracy, speaking respectfully of political parasites (I’m referring to every politician on all levels) and their thugs, defending cops and judges, seeing value in bodies of law and constitutions that oppose the principles of the 7 laws, all things which I deeply condemn and stand against.
Loads of noahides and some of their rabbis embrace forms of scientism and naturalism, accepting atheistic creation myths, believing science can tell the truth about things humans have never experienced, think that the theories of scientists are at such a level of Truth, Divine Truth, that such theories can be used to reinterpret the Jewish Bible. And some do this under the guise or banner of being “rational” or “rationalist” as if the other approach is not rational or less so … Or maybe the other approach doesn’t subscribe to the philosophy of rationalism, the notion that, in effect, even the miracles of God must be limited and comprehensible to reason and natural science, the humanly quantified “laws” of nature, the understood limits of matter and energy. Again, I find the expression of such devotion, such an nigh-idolatrous exaltation of man’s intellect (or nature), to be nauseating and repulsive.
The religious nature of this “noahidism”, a disappointing term, also is a point of contention for me. It gets to the point where, while the sanctity of the Jewish laws is respected amongst Jews and noahides, there are a good number of accepted reconstructions of the seven laws that aren’t even the seven laws. The prohibitions get inverted and erased and only positive suggestions are promoted. “Believe in the One God.” Not one of the seven laws. “Respect the sanctity of life.” Not one of the seven laws. “Respect God and Praise Him.” Not one of the seven laws. “Respect Others’ Rights and Property.” Not one of the seven laws. “Don’t Deny God.” Damn!
And I’ve already experienced what a good number of noahides will say to defend such listings. “Oh, but that’s what the seven laws, in effect, will lead to.” “Well, some people prefer a positive message to a list of ‘no-no’s’.” “That’s what the rabbis taught me so it’s got to be fine.” Sure, sure. The Jewish commands are somewhat respected, but the seven Gentile laws have to be refitted and remodeled for this, the modern age.
Give me a break!
And that’s not all. The religion based on the Torah, Judaism, there is an attraction to its rites and mysticism seems to be attractive. Kashrut, Shabbat, Jewish holy days, siddurs, things that have nothing to do with a Gentile’s obedience to God, too often find their way into the noahides to some extent, or just in the regular conversation. It’s hard to embrace being a Gentile when being taught Judaism (specifically referring to the religion of the Jews) by rabbis rather than just the seven laws and human decency.
Linked to that, my distaste for Hebraisms has reached new levels as well. You see, I realise that I’m English. I understand English. I’m not planning to become a Jew. And yeah, I appreciate that the seven laws are in the Jewish tradition. But whole swathes of Hebrew texts have been wholly translated into English, it’s very hard to find educated noahides who can converse about the seven laws in English. Gotta learn the “halacha”, improve the “middot”. Just can’t do it in a person’s native language if they aren’t Jewish. Is that a modern thing?
All this stuff is just off-putting.
That’s all the “secondly”.
Thirdly, there’s the lack of commonality. There are whole countries with laws, and people that know of or study those laws. But those citizens/serfs who have that law don’t, all of a sudden, because of a common law or ruler, become able to associate and learn with or even stand each other. Maybe I’m just an anti-social freak who’s just meant to enjoy his family, the few friends he has, and leave the noahides to do what they do. As I’ll still be learning about the seven laws, I’ll still write stuff and talk to the people who can tolerate me. I think we could all be happy with that, right?
Fourthly, I don’t follow modern rabbis. No, that’s not the only thing. I don’t see rabbis as having authority over Gentiles, whether they call themselves “noahide” or not. This makes it especially difficult when noahide groups tend to want rabbis to tell them what to do.
Take the Divine Code, for instance, where a rabbi not only communicates the teachings about the seven laws, but he also says things are “forbidden” and “allowed” that are not part of the seven laws. Yet, for many a noahide group, his word is the authority! His book is taught by other rabbis, I believe uncritically, to noahides. Many know the Divine Code much better than the words of Rambam on the Seven Laws, or tractate Sanhedrin 56a-60b. If the Talmud says that only prohibitions are counted as part of the seven laws, but rabbi Weiner states that the seven laws are made up of active commands as well as prohibitions, the Divine Code noahides will follow the authority of Weiner out of deference to his greater knowledge. That’s just an example of the authority noahides give to modern rabbis.
Now although some would say rabbis logically have the knowledge over any Gentile and therefore they would reasonably have authority to make “rulings” about what noahides can and can’t do, there is no inevitable or necessary link between expertise and authority (the ability to rule or making rulings upon another person). Added to that, Torah doesn’t give the judges of Israel, the rabbis, any authority over Gentiles, peoples of other lands. Regardless of the disagreement between me and them, that reliance on rabbis becomes another point of contention.
I could add a point about an experience I had that I would call, “The oddness of Noahide “worship”.” It would still be linked with my earlier points about their religiosity (desire for rites and ceremony) and the issue about Hebraisms. So there’s little point in labouring the point.
The fact is that, when it comes to interactions with noahide groups, it’s better that I let them do their thing. Amazingly, on an individual level, I could have these differences with an individual and get along fine with them. I have one-on-one friendships with people who disagree with me significantly on several of these issues, and we remain friends. Some of my friends think science has so many answers that I think are total fiction. Another friend of mine highly respects a rabbi. And by some miracle, … I have one friend where we’ve had several significant disagreements, and yet … I don’t know how … he’s there for me, and I hope he sees that I’m there for him too. I thank God for them. But on the group level, the level sometimes where a rabbinical ego leads the group, then it just doesn’t work out. It can’t work out.
Now there’s a very good chance that I’ve burnt some bridges with this post. Some (more) people may cut me loose and find offence in what I’ve said to such an extent that they will tolerate me no further. And you know what? There’s a very good chance that I’m gonna lose more friends along the way. But I’ve resigned myself to a few more conclusions:
1) I’m gonna die some time, I will fizzle out of existence alone, and all of my words, thoughts and opinions will wither into nothing. I expect little more than that.
2) The concrete people in my life, my wife and children and my family and those in my real reach, not just my computer virtual one, my main goal should be to take care of them as best I can.
God is my king. I’ve been alone with that for most of my life now. Passion for his truth has been with me for so much of my existence. I hope that he will see that and that it will be acceptable in his sight, even if I distance myself from the label of “noahide” and I keep some separation from the groups. It will be a terrible thing for no one if I don’t see a “noahide community” in my lifetime. I think, if one were ever created, they wouldn’t want to see me either. Personally, I would not want to see one. I’d be much happier just seeing non-Jews in general, Gentiles, get closer to God’s truth or his standard of behaviour.
But I have my doubts.