I think I always had a rebellious streak to me … Maybe not so much rebellious, but often needing to know the justification for things. If that idea or position could not be justified, I couldn’t respect it.
I remember how much trouble I gave my parents with my dad telling me I couldn’t do or have something, and the chaos I would create, the disrespect I would show him because … Well, those are just sad memories to me now. He grew to become one of the greatest men in my life, the one I respect the most. He could have thrown me out, and rightly so. The love he gave, the commitment he showed … Irreplaceable! Even though he remains a Christian, he never cast me away for rejecting his doctrine, his “Jesus.”
But he was, and he is, my dad.
I, myself, grew up. I started looking for justification for other ideas and positions, even my own. As I said, I left chri … No, I’ll be more blunt. I rejected the messiahship claims of Jesus and the holy book and worldview based on it. But even from that time, before that time, I did not look at government with any respect. I didn’t vote. I didn’t willingly have anything to do with it. My logic then was this: I was committed to God and the government made laws contrary with God’s law and did immoral acts, ergo I don’t respect it.
But even with that logic, I didn’t get as serious about it as when I learned about the seven laws. You see, to me, Christianity is not a religion of “secular” law, the erroneously called “law of the land.” It was just a belief, a passion, an individual lifestyle. I accept the dead Galilean as a personal saviour and that’s about it when it comes to government, except when it goes against that belief.
And after I had left that faith, before I really took on the seven laws, there was a growing antagonism between me and the politicians and their lackeys, be they the police or the army or whatever. Watching internet videos meant that I was seeing more of the government’s treatment of people, the police’s handling of the “citizen.” I was seeing people not only oppose the police but also the legitimacy of the government itself for various reasons. A slightly indifferent disregard to government became suspicious distaste of the system I lived under.
Then I met the seven laws!
The seven laws was not some pie-in-the-sky personal lifestyle. It was not simply an individual’s way to get “closer to God.” It was not about finding some group to worship with. The first law was not against idolatry. It was Justice! It was about how justice should be meted on this world in our courts. It was a statement about how society itself, the individuals within it, should look upon upholding correct laws, God-given laws. I was shown how each person in a community would be responsible for his neighbour, to be knowledgeable enough in God’s law to know when a crime took place and to act upon it for the sake of justice.
Mixed in with this, I had read a work of Lysander Spooner called “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority,” “The Most Dangerous Superstition” by Larken Rose, “Adventures in Legal Land” by Marc Stevens, “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat, “A Discourse on Voluntary Servitude” by Etienne de La Boetie, and “I Must Speak Out – The Voluntaryist” by Carl Watner. I listened to, with both laughter and shock, a playlist of Marc Stevens calling attorney after attorney, IRS agent after police officer, around America and then the rest of the world asking for evidence that the laws of the government applies to people with answers ranging from an irrational faith (“I don’t need evidence”) to arrogance (“it applies because I said so”), but nothing of any value (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9lOodIF5sI&list=PLl8VnlL8qxK4kUcIRR94J5uoL_43Lbyyf).
After embracing the seven laws and reading these texts, my view of government had settled on pure opposition. On the seven law side, the governments in all lands, including the State of Israel, had enacted laws that worked in complete opposition to humanity’s most basic divine mandates. Although some were teaching that the governments had partially fulfilled the law of Justice, it seemed to me that the governments had fundamentally betrayed our core laws.
On the “political”/moral/rational side … how can I put this? …
All governments were rackets, mafias or gangsters with no innate authority, with no legitimate source of authority. As one author put it, they are a bunch of murderers, liars, thieves and robbers; and what’s worse is that their agents and supporters will proclaim that their immorality and theft is a kindness.
What’s worse is that Torah-observant Jews, so called “noahides”, all sorts of otherwise good people defend such a abject monstrosity!
I think of certain people who claim to have embraced the seven laws, yet compare them to sharia law in comparison to the blessed constitution of the “the founding fathers.” The founding fathers? Just another set of humans, long dead, with no prophetic connection to the divine, who, despite the warning from others in their time, crafted a document of no innate worth but which enabled the creation and growth of a huge government which gave itself authority over so many aspects of a person’s life?
Again, the amount of people part of the religious group called “noahides” who still revere such a seven-laws-rejecting monster as their national government, it’s not just shocking; it’s appalling.
There are some that tell me I have an obligation from God to submit to government robbery (“pay taxes”) and an obligation to obey the ruling class. They try to tie this apparent obligation to our law of Justice. There is also a Jewish command not to curse the rulers (Exodus 22:27; Koheleth 10:20 – commentators like Sforno and Chizkuni say Exodus 22:27 refers to “legitimate rulers”) and a Jewish principle that “the law of the state is law” and some say this somehow applies to Gentiles too.
Firstly, I’m glad this is not one of the seven core laws for Gentiles, that there is no part of the seven laws that clearly states this as a law with a capital offence, therefore it’s not one of the core laws. The Jewish laws are for Jews not Gentiles. So on that level, I’m at ease. Seeing the amount of death, robbery, killing, injustice and corruption performed by government, it becomes unrealistic not to wish the total decimation of these “leaders.”
My current relationship with the dictators and their dictates is that of a robber and his victim: Any compliance is either a coincidence with my actual morality or under threat of harm or death. And outside of the robbers’ reach, I’ll do what I can to protect myself and my property from them. I have no moral or logical compulsion to obey their dictates out of some belief that they actually have authority over me.
I’ve heard it said that it’s important to comply with such people, with the state, for the sake of societal stability, that overt rebellion to the political parasite class could lead to anarchy … Wait, I don’t mean “anarchy,” as that just means “no rulers.” I mean chaos and unrestrained immorality.
I wonder, with such reasoning, whether “restrained” but guaranteed injustice, having one top dog that will be unjust and having armies to enforce and spread such injustice, is better than “unrestrained” uncertainty. Ah, it is said that without some government, even an evil one, people will tear each other apart. Well, I guess it’s better for one group to tear its victims apart (that’s what government is good at and generally tends to do) than for the individuals to tear each other apart … NOT!
The idea that the law of the state is law does not imply that the law of the state is the law of God, and that to disobey the law of a legislator is to disobey God.
In fact, that runs into a lie I came across.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (The Declaration of Independence)
I’m ignoring the first lie in this document that states that this is “the unanimous declaration of the 13 united states of America” (as if all the individuals in those states actually agreed to this, much less declared it).
It’s interesting how somehow the forgers of this document claims it self-evident that “the Creator”, who doesn’t appear to have spoken to those men, gave humans certain “rights”, yet people the world over seem to be puzzled over what these rights were. The concept of rights, a word for that thing, isn’t even in the Jewish Bible. There’s no explicit word of God talking about “rights.” And different nations, wait, no, wrong word. Different politicians make up different lists of what these “rights” are, many times assuming their existence.
The Jewish Bible speaks in terms of command, obligation, with rights being nowhere spoken of.
I can already see it in the minds of some, “oooh, but David, those obligations protect our rights.” Unfortunately such a soul has presumed the existence of rights. If they don’t exist in the first place, then what’s being protected? Nothing except the well-being of a person. The person who’ll bring up the idea of the Torah protecting rights normally has his or her nation’s version of rights in mind or some subjective notion of what they’re supposed to be, believing they have some divine source or objective truth, even though the people who created and made up these “rights” were not prophets, getting no word from God.
The fact is that I currently see no going back: I’ve rejected the idea of any government in this day and age having any authority. The idea of humans with no authority granting another set of humans “authority” that the first group of humans didn’t have is not just laughable, it’s totally ludicrous. And having learnt of its brutal history, and having been made aware of its roots in nothing but something worse than christian faith, I’m not sure I could ever grow to think much of that beast. Fictions, such as “the social contract”, “consent of the governed”, and “rule of law”, are fundamentally lies.
Now whether my conclusions are going to have irreconcilable differences with the core seven laws, especially Dinim or not is yet to be seen. I can only wait and see. Judging by the fact that some of my rejection comes from governments’ undermining of the seven laws, maybe there’s no conflict.
I don’t have fully cogent essay-writing thoughts at the moments. I have different things running around my head. My writing about them will help.
Trusting God in silence
I watched this harrowing video recently. I already despise police already due to principle and practicality, but to see the way how they destroyed these lives … once again I’m reminded of the dangers of putting any trust or respect in government.
But what really hit me in this video was the man pleading to his god (whoever it was, be it the true God or some cheap knockoff), begging “God, please help me! Please, God, give me wisdom” as the government thug hovered menacingly over him, waiting to pounce and slap on some chains on the poor victim of typical government abuse.
To be in such a horrific position, to cry out to God, begging for assistance, only to face apparent divine silence, and the tightening grip of the gangsters around your neck, your loved ones in peril, your child snatched away from its mother and taken into uncertain hands … The helplessness … The inevitable and impending darkness …
Trust in God’s plan seems to be drowned out by the shouts and screams of real life forcing the fact down your throat that, no matter what you’re in someone else’s power.
I resonate with that. There are times I feel helplessness in the face of what I see as my adversaries, enemies that impinge upon my life on various levels or even the natural forces of life, to which I’m just wet blood on hungry jaws.
But thinking about the foolishness of the God-rejector, I’m not compelled to throw out his Truth because of the inevitabilities of life. The fact is that the Creator of reality is more real, by definition, than this reality, this universe. He is the “dreamer,” causing this universe to exist every moment, and all of this is just the dream. It never needed to be, and it can dissolve in a blink. I’m only here because of him.
So yes, it’s heart-rending to see a cry for help seemingly go unanswered. But focusing on it makes it bigger than what it really is. And my God … my God is so so much more real!
God, help me to remember that! Help me to remember that even in the middle of life’s frustrations where I’m most likely to forget.
A bit of a basic question, who is a “child of Noah” or a “descendent of Noah”? This is the translation of a Hebrew term that sounds like “ben Noah.” As I’m not a Jew or even pretending to be one, I’ll just stick to the English, “child of Noah” or “descendent of Noah.”
Now to be extra clear, so that as many places of misunderstanding can be eradicated, I am not talking about the English term “noahide.” That’s a mess in and of itself. No, I’m only talking about the term “child of Noah.”
What I’ll do here is compile a number of quotes from Jewish sources that have shaped the way I understand the term. Some will be clear definitions. Some will just be implied. But I’ll give what I can.
The Schottenstein edition of the Babylonian Talmud translates the Hebrew term for “children of Noah” as “Noahites”. When it discusses the prohibition against cursing God’s name in tractate Sanhedrin 56a, it comments on the statement, “For any execution stated in connection with noahites is only by the sword …” its footnote on this statement informs me on its understanding of “noahite” or “child of Noah.”
The Gemara below will discuss the various laws that were given to Adam and his descendants. They are called “Noahide” laws because of all of humanity descended from Noah after the Flood. Indeed, many Scriptural references to these laws are found in God’s communication to Noah after the Flood … (footnote 31, Babylonian Talmuud, tractate Sanhedrin 56a, Schottenstein edition, digital edition)
It continues in footnote 33,
That is, a gentile is liable to execution under the Noahide laws for blasphemy … (footnote 33, ibid)
It becomes clear that the Schottenstein edition of the Talmud view “noahide” or “noahite” as a Gentile, just a non-Jew, not a special class of person who gets the status of “child of Noah” granted to him. As it states, the seven laws are called “noahide laws” because of “all of humanity descended from Noah.”
The Talmud itself, regardless of language, shows that the seven laws are obligated on all of non-Jewish humanity when it says states that the person from the nations (“goy”) or idolator (“akum”) is not guilty of breaking the seven laws for the children of Noah if that person makes an idol but doesn’t worship it. The Talmud bases this distinctly on the reasoning that a “child of Noah” is only guilty of breaking the law of idolatry if he does an idolatrous act that is a capital offence for a Jew (see Babylonian Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 56b, available in English at sefaria.org or halakhah.com). This means that the person from the nations and the idolator is included in the class “children of Noah!” I’ll repeat this point later in the article.
In another edition of the Talmud, it says the following.
The descendants of Noah, i.e., all of humanity, were commanded to observe seven mitzvot. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 56a, as translated in the William Davidson Talmud to be found at https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.56a?lang=bi)
When the Soncino edition of the Talmud commented on that statement in Sanhedrin 56a, it said:
These commandments may be regarded as the foundations of all human and moral progress. Judaism has both a national and a universal outlook in life. In the former sense it is particularistic, setting up a people distinct and separate from others by its peculiar religious law. But in the latter, it recognises that moral progress and its concomitant Divine love and approval are the privilege and obligation of all mankind. And hence the Talmud lays down the seven Noachian precepts, by the observance of which all mankind may attain spiritual perfection, and without which moral death must inevitably ensue. That perhaps is the idea underlying the assertion (passim) that a heathen is liable to death for the neglect of any of these. The last mentioned is particularly instructive as showing the great importance attached to the humane treatment of animals; so much so, that it is declared to be fundamental to human righteousness. (folio 56a, footnote 34, available at http://halakhah.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_56.html)
The 13th century book, Sefer haChinnuch, also shows that all of humanity is the children or descendants of Noah to whom the seven laws apply.
The far removal of robbery from among people is of benefit to all; and the human intelligence is a trustworthy witness to this. There is no great length of laws about it, as all its content is clarified in the Writ. It is in force everywhere, at every time, for both man and woman. All humankind too is duty-bound by it, since it is a branch of the precept about robbery, which is one of the seven precepts that all in the world were commanded to keep … now, make no mistake, my son, in this reckoning of the seven precepts for the descendants of Noah, which is known and is mentioned in the Talmud. For in truth, those seven are in the nature of main categories, and they contain many details.” (Sefer haChinuch, volume 4, 247-49, quoted on page 433 of Secular by Design, by Alan Cecil, and also available in audio at http://englishtorahtapes.com/sefer_hachinuch.htm)
To all the rest of the human race He also gave a pathway to separate them from the animal level. This way comprises the seven precepts which all the people in the world were together commanded.” (Séfer haHinnuch, Vol. I, 65, quoted on page 434, footnote 3, of Secular by Design, by Alan Cecil, and also available in audio at http://englishtorahtapes.com/sefer_hachinuch.htm
Rabbi Tobias Goodman from the 19th Century stated the following.
At this dispensation, the [bnei Noach] sons of Noah (a name including all nations) were, by the infinite wisdom of God, provided with [sheva mitzvot] seven precepts … (pg 116, The Faith of Israel, by rabbi Tobias Goodman, written in 1834, available at http://www.seforimonline.org/seforim-database/)
In the Graft-Rand edition of “Ramban – THE TORAH: with Ramban’s commentary translated, annotated and elucidated,” on many pages where the Hebrew phrase meaning “child(ren) of Noah” is used in Ramban’s Hebrew, it states, for example
“Children of Noah” (or “Noahides”) is a rabbinical term used to describe all of mankind (except Israel), who are not bound by the 613 commandments of the Torah, but by the “seven Noahide laws” … (footnote 37, page 223)
Or clearer still,
“Noahides” is a term for all mankind except Israel. Noahides are not bound by the laws of the Torah (“Halacha”), but by “the seven Noahide laws.” (footnote 18, page 231)
In the Mishneh Torah, Rambam shows that the seven laws applied throughout the world, not just for a select group.
Adam, the first, was commanded about six things … The prohibition against eating flesh from a living animal was added for Noah, as Genesis 9:4 states … These matters remained throughout the world until Abraham. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 9, Halacha 1, from http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188354/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-9.htm)
Not one word of Ramban clearly shows that after Moshe the term “child of Noah” was only limited to a certain group among the Gentiles, except in a rare occasion which the following quote will lead into.
Rabbi Michael Broyde seems to make the English word “Noahide” exactly equivalent to the term “child of Noah” in his work, where he states:
“The term “Noahide” is used in the rabbinic literature to denote anyone who is not Jewish. … More specifically, as noted by Ritva, Makkot 9a, “Noahide” denotes a gentile who keeps the Noahide commandments, “ger toshav” denotes a gentile who formally accepts the commandments, and “gentile” denotes one who has done neither.” (footnote 1, The Obligation of Jews to Seek Observance of Noachide Laws by Gentiles: A Theoretical Review, by Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, available at https://www.jlaw.com/Articles/noach2.html)
Before anything else is said, what should be observed first is that the main and general meaning of “child of Noah” is “anyone who is not Jewish.” Although rabbi Broyde does mention another idea, his first statement is that of non-Jewishness, not a select group.
But I believe it’s important to show transparency and let you know the term “son of Noah” does have a small variety of meanings in rabbinic literature. This may explain why in the writings of Rambam, when “son of Noah” is used generally, it just means “non-Jew” or “gentile” which is how it is commonly translated, and thus understood, by Jewish translators, but rarely it is used in a different sense when contrasted with the Hebrew term for “a person from non-Jewish nations,” like in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 10, halakhah 10, where it states,
A child of Noah … If he gives charity, we accept it from him and it appears to me that we give it to the poor of Israel … but one from the non-Jewish nations who gives charity, we accept it from him and we give it to the poor of the non-Jewish nations.
It is only with regards to charity in Rambam that there seems to be a clear difference between “a child of Noah” and “one from the nations.” In the two previous chapters, the term “child of Noah” is generally understood to simply mean or refer to the “non-Jew.” Just look at the translation of chapter 9 on sefaria.org (https://www.sefaria.org/Mishneh_Torah,_Kings_and_Wars.9?lang=bi) and chabad.org (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188354/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-9.htm) where the term is simply translated as “non-Jew” or “gentile.” In the Mishneh Torah, in this section, there is no written explanation of the exact difference. But rabbi Michael Broyde’s statement about the different uses of “Noahide” or “child of Noah” helps to inform of the subtle difference, even though both terms, “child of Noah” and “one from the nations” is used in other places and refer to the exact same person.
For example, in the Talmud, in the seven law section of Sanhedrin, the terms “child of Noah” and “one from the nations” (or the term used in censored versions “akum” which still refers to all Gentiles, see ) are used interchangeably; just as the “child of Noah” is commanded to the seven laws, the “person from the nations” (or the “akum”) is liable for breaking or praised as a high priest for studying HIS commandments, namely those same seven. There is no such thing as “the seven laws for children of Noah” referring to some group that has accepted those commandments, and a separate set of laws for the nations or “the people of the nations.” There is no such thing as the world in general having the entire obligation of the seven laws removed or abolished or released with the obligation, and thus the title “child of Noah”, only returning to those non-Jews who purposefully accept it again.
As I’m showing now, generally and mainly, the term “son of Noah” is just another term for Gentile. And I’m just showing the historical backing I have for sticking to that usage, rather than the lesser common meaning of “one who keeps the seven” or the modern version “the one who keeps the seven laws specifically because God commanded them to Moses at Sinai.”
But imagine this. If – and that’s if – “child of Noah” is, as my resources show and as one of the resources clearly states, a rabbinic term for all of mankind except Israel, why is the main modern way of using the word “noahide” limited to those who keep the seven? Why did the usage of the term that was less common become the popular way of understanding the term nowadays? Why are there people coming to my page talking about “noahism”? Or websites or information pages talking about “noahism” or “noahidism?” Why are people nowadays wanting to create “noahide communities” as if it is distinct from Gentile communities that exist worldwide, since the vast majority of the world is Gentile?
Anyway, again, my aim was just to show that “child of Noah” generally means a Gentile, that any Gentile is a child of Noah, and that my view doesn’t just originate in the mind of David but from historical Jewish precedent.
Thanks for reading.
Because this commandment that I’m commanding you today, it isn’t out of your reach or ability and it’s not far away. It’s not in the sky [for you] to say, “Who shall go up sky-ward for us and take it for us and we hear it and do it?” It’s not across the ocean [for you] to say, “Who will go across for us, across the sea, and take it for us, and we hear it and do it?” Because the word is near you, extremely so, in your mouths and in your hearts, to do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)
Learning about the Seven Laws (7M), would it surprise any reader of mine that I’ve had a good number of struggles with various Jews, including rabbis. No? No surprise? Yes, I guess I’m a contentious fellow. *disappointed sigh* I don’t aim to be. But when you don’t have a popular view and you speak out, what else can a person expect?
Any-who, I ask that you just read and absorb what God, through Moses, taught the Jews. He taught them how close God’s law is to them in order to perform it. There is something really comforting in those words: to keep and cherish God’s law through obedience isn’t beyond a Jew’s ability; but it’s right here, so close that (s)he can touch it, learn it and live it. Life’s fulfilment, God has placed it in the Jew’s grasp and the main thing he has to do is choose.
Isn’t that a wonderful blessing? … Isn’t that a wonderful blessing … for the Jew?
Now why did you do that, David? I see what you’re doing, David. Why are you trying to create a wedge between Jew and Gentile? Aren’t the Seven Laws just as accessible to the Gentile?
Right now, I’m gazing out the window, wondering how to share my thoughts, trying to gather the concepts and experience I’ve had in order to convey just what I’ve seen and been through. Let me attempt to get out what is in my heart.
Recently, I’ve had a number of interactions with Jews regarding the seven laws, more specifically our law of Justice. You see, from the Talmud and through the other writings I have read, I’ve seen a consistent theme that it is the responsibility of the Gentile to set up proper legal systems, courts and judges. To be more blunt, it is we Gentiles that should get these things in place, with Gentile judges, Gentile courts and a Gentile judiciary. Being an anti-establishmentarian, I don’t really give a damn about a government per se, but at the very least we Gentiles would be in charge of the arbitration of disputes and the establishment of fairness. Having begun reading about the dispute between rabbis Nachmanides and Maimonides, or, earlier, rabbis Yochanan and Yitzchaq, my conclusions would fall in line with Nachmanides and Yochanan.
But the Jews I’ve talked to seem to come from another side, a side that, I believe, seems to run counter to the themes I’ve seen, the wording I’ve seen. They would say that a Gentile can never/not know enough to make decisions or judgements regarding our own law, that if a Gentile needs advice or teaching about our seven, we should only rely on a Torah-educated Jew, that we Gentiles are restricted from judging and teaching about our own laws, the seven commandments, even if we learn them.
Now without going into the ins and outs of their claims, let me just put before you the relevant aspect of their claim. These Jews, to me, are making the essential claim that there is part of the Gentile law …
OK, before I continue, let me clarify something. I keep talking about “Gentile law,” and “our law,” and some may wonder what the hell I’m talking about. Why don’t I just talk about “the Noahide Commandments” or “the Noahide Laws?” Why am I saying “my law” when it’s in the Jewish tradition? Surely that makes it their law for us?
And I would say, absolutely not! The Seven Commandments are not the Jews’ laws that apply to Gentiles. They are not the formulations (meaning the devisings, or creations, or putting together) of the rabbis, by the rabbis, for Gentiles. That’s not what the ancient Jews claimed, especially Rambam. Even if you read the Jewish Bible, it should be as clear and manifest that the path of righteousness or good for a non-Jew was not a creation or abstraction or patchwork drawn out by rabbis. There were no rabbis for Hevel (Abel) or Adam or Noah or Avimelech or Malkitzedeq. Yet the moral standard was still there.
So, hell no! – the Seven Commandments are not Jewish laws that apply to Gentiles. They are God’s commandments … wait, let me quote the Talmud and Rambam so that I’m not accused of making stuff up.
Adam, the first, was commanded about six things … The prohibition against eating flesh from a living animal was added for Noah, as Genesis 9:4 states … (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 9, Halacha 1, from http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188354/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-9.htm)
The descendants of Noah, i.e., all of humanity, were commanded to observe seven mitzvot. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 56a, as translated in the William Davidson Talmud to be found at https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.56a?lang=bi)
Note carefully that the statement of Rambam is much stronger than that of the Talmud. And the source of these commands could only be God. Our laws are not derivations of the rabbis, but are divine injunctions upon us all.
See also how “descendants of Noah” is understood by not only this translation of the Talmud but by so many other translations and is echoed by other sources. It refers to all of humanity (later being limited to all non-Jews who continued to have these obligations after the descendants of Jacob/Israel received more laws and a special covenant). Compare this to how others have understood the term “bnei Noah” or “Noahide.”
Noahide means a non-Jew who has taken upon himself or herself to follow the 7 mitzvos specifically because of a belief in HaShem and Torah including the Rabbinic traditions. (“Introductoy Remarks – Noahide” by rabbi Moshe Shulman found at https://torasbn.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/introductory-remarks-noahide-ger-vs.html)
Noahide (ben Noahh) refers to a non-Jew who abides by the Seven Noahide Laws, especially one who does so because of the Torah give at Sinai. (Part II, Section A, Guide for the Noahide: A Complete Manual for Living by the Noahide Laws, by rabbi Michael Shelomoh bar-Ron)
Even in recent dialogues with one of my inspirations, Elisheva Barre, author of Torah for Gentiles, she states that there is a distinction between “bnei Noah,” who accept the seven laws, and Gentiles in general.
Therefore when each of these people refer to the “Seven Noahide Laws” or “the Laws for the BN,” based on their limiting definition of “Noahide” or “bnai Noah” or “BN,” they are not referring to the laws that are only for those people deemed to be Noahide, not Gentile.
Now since I take my base definitions from the usages in the Talmud (which I believe still mostly apply to later Jewish writers), for example,
At this dispensation, the [bnei Noach] sons of Noah (a name including all nations) were, by the infinite wisdom of God, provided with [sheva mitzvot] seven precepts … (pg 116, The Faith of Israel, by rabbi Tobias Goodman, written in 1834, available at http://www.seforimonline.org/seforim-database/)
then it’s clear that all Gentiles, not just a special group, were commanded to keep the seven laws. This obligation still remains despite the rejection of them by non-Jews on a whole.
So that’s why I don’t call them “the seven Noahide laws,” but rather “Gentile laws” or “Gentile Torah laws.” This is because they are laws for Gentiles, not a special group of “noahides.” This is also why I call them “my laws” or “our laws.” As they were commanded upon us Gentiles, even though they were preserved and discussed in Jewish tradition, they are still our laws, not theirs. It’s not part of the 613 laws, although the details of our laws do parallel many of theirs.
So that should explain why I say “Gentile laws” and “my laws.”
Wow, that was a long aside.
OK, where was I?
Oh yes. So I was saying that certain Jews vocal amongst Gentiles about the 7M (including rabbis) restrict certain knowledge and responsibilities from Gentiles that directly impact our 7M, such as teaching and judging according to them, saying that such things are withheld to Jews.
Now without going into the ins and outs of their claims, let me just put before you the relevant aspect of their claim. These Jews, to me, are making the essential claim that there is part of the Gentile Torah laws that are beyond us, things we just can’t do, at least not without Jewish supervision, at most not at all. Part of our law of Justice implies the spreading of our laws, therefore that we were teach each other our laws, that some of us would have sufficient knowledge to judge the guilt and innocence of people and give the appropriate restitution to the situation, that we would be able to implement our own system of laws to deal with matters linked to the seven but not overtly condemned, or financial matters.
But in a very popular book, the Divine Code, if a Gentile needs a question answered about the 7M, or needs a decision, he is to go to a Torah-educated Jew, no mention of a 7M-educated Gentile. Another rabbi, Moshe Shulman, teaches that Gentiles can’t even teach the 7M, only Torah-educated Jews can, and that currently the law of Justice is merely theoretical. Someone else, Elisheva Barre, suggested to me that if we have a situation where someone does something immoral but not overtly prohibited in the core seven laws, then the first thing a Gentile should do is to consult a Jew to see what their “halacha” tells them.
Now that word “halacha” was not clearly defined for me, so for now, I just have to set it aside as it is quite meaningless to me. I mean a good amount of Jews and “noahides” use that term “halacha” but I have little idea what they are talking about.
But overlooking that Hebrew word, here’s the situation I see. This kind of Jew, possibly the majority of those teaching Gentiles who call themselves “noahides,” are happy enough to teach the extras (the things not commanded), like prayer, faith in God, the weekly portion of the books of Moshe, and just enough of the seven laws that a “noahide” can be aware of keeping at least six of his laws, and aware that he shouldn’t add more. They teach enough so that the “noahide” will keep coming back for more, but not enough to actually be educated enough to at least have the ability to fulfil our law of Justice, knowing enough to judge and teach, believing – now get this – believing that the only way a Gentile can know enough to this is to learn the oral tradition like a Jew!!!
Yes, you “heard” me. Yes, you read correctly. The way to fulfil Gentile Torah law is to be like a Jew.
Am I the only one that sees something wrong with that picture?
Notice that such learning nowadays (or during most of history) is not really accessible for the typical non-Jew living in his own land.
So to even come close to fulfilling our seven laws to the max is out of reach and, according to what I believe to be a significant number of Jews most vocal amongst “noahides,” beyond the ability of the normal Gentile.
Personally, I don’t believe the depiction of our Gentile situation is as these portray. I pay more heed to the actual words of the older rabbis than what is said by the more modern ones. I pay attention to the fact that there is no command for a Gentile to listen to or obey the rabbis. I guess in terms of rabbis, I side with Nachmanides, rabbi Yochanan, and, in terms of the Divine Code, with rabbi Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg.
Rabbi Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg holds that Gentiles have basically no obligation to follow rulings of the Sages in any matter. The author disagrees … (pg 174, footnote 30, The Divine Code, by rabbi Moshe Weiner)
It is our responsibility and our obligation to keep our laws as much as possible. It’s our obligation as Gentiles. And when such an obligation is restricted by the people who are supposed to be teaching us our laws, then something is terribly wrong. If the position is that we must learn like Jews in order to keep the Gentile law, then once again there is an incongruity in this position.
In the same article that rabbi Moshe Shulman gave his limited definition of the word “noahide,” he said the following:
As time went on more and more non-Jews were attracted to the 7 laws, whether from Chabad; their leaving Christianity or the internet. This led to a serious problem: How do we deal with something that is not meant to be a ‘movement’ or organized group when it is becoming one?
I put it to you that this problem may not have been adequately solved. For the past 50 years, it seems that the rabbis involved crafted a religious club. The term “noahide” became a religious identity with its members adopting some of the religious practices of Judaism. One group of “noahides” made a prayer book, retaining the Hebrew name “siddur” even though they were native English speakers from America. They did this with rabbinical help. One rabbi set out how “noahides” can “remember” the seventh day. There was a video series that included kashrut for “noahides” and why a person should have a rabbi. There were online meetings with lots of Hebrew songs and prayers (that was an odd experience). The ideas given for “noahide” occasions, like weddings and funerals, look very similar to Jewish practices. There are kabbalistic interpretations of the seven laws. After 50 years of this “movement”, I can still approach a “noahide” and be met with shock and resistance when I mention there is no Gentile command to acknowledge God, that the core laws concerning blasphemy don’t condemn an atheist, that the seven laws are only prohibitions except the law of Justice, that based on the seven laws, the rabbis cannot be in charge of us, having no jurisdiction. There are still lists claiming to be the seven laws that either replace the prohibitions with “positive” commands (that actually were never commanded), or that replace the prohibition of idolatry with one that says “don’t deny God.” And this is done with no complaint from “noahides”. After 50 years of this “movement”, where are the Gentile sages, the ones with at least the ability to judge according to the seven laws, our experts on our law?
But of course, why would there be Gentile experts on the seven laws if the law of Justice, the imperative to be such experts, is taught to be just theoretical?
Look, back then it was a new thing, all those Gentiles eager to learn. But what happened? In the process of bringing our laws closer, a barrier was set. The question is how to have a Gentile remain a Gentile and learn all his law?
I don’t think the rabbis currently have the answer. I don’t even think they are the answer.
But that’s just my view.
Insights from a man I respect. Please take a look.
Before I get started, this blog is my opinion in what I see, I am not an expert. It is intended for those that are not of the Jewish faith.
I had to take a step back and re-look and question some things, I began to see things in the modern Noahide movement that bothered me.
One of the trends of many and that sparked this blog is the adoption of many Jewish practices into the non-Jewish peoples.
One fellow non-Jew put it better as the non-Jewish laws of the quote the Noahides/children of Noah is more of law than one of belief.
Most reading this blog knows a little of my history. For those who don’t, here is a quick catch you up.
I am what I call a God fearer, I try to mainly hold by the 7 commandments given to all mankind. From Adam to Noah there…
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Just so you know, throughout this article, I’ll be referring to the seven commandments as “7M.”
If it’s not been stressed to you, then let me share with you a point of view. Remember, this is just my point of view. I’m not an authority or an expert. Again, I am not an authority or an expert. I’m a Gentile getting his own messages from what he learned. I may make mistakes. Yes, as I’m not an expert, you’re free to just close this article now. But at least here I’m sharing a point of view.
I believe the seven commandments are both for the community and for the individual, that each commandment has an individual or personal element and a collective element. Each command needs a community to implement it for it to have its full effect. And each command needs the individual to have an effect.
Now it’s particularly easy for me to see the individual aspect of the law prohibiting the worship of idols. I just personally have to avoid the act of accepting an idol as a god and worshipping it as such. The collective side is about the enforcement of the law (liability) and the shared responsibility of Gentile communities to keep this law. That shared responsibility would lead to the eradication of such idols.
But when I get to the law of Dinim and its consistent depiction as “courts [of judgment/justice],” it’s so natural or a common tendency for people to only interpret that as being out of the reach of the individual and only for a community which can establish such a court and install the judge(s), officer(s), and witness(es) (no jury, thank God!) and properly handle the case.
All manner of people seem to only understand it as this and therefore there’s the nagging, insistent claim that we Gentiles can’t keep this command at all because it needs a significant group of Gentiles who actually upholds the commands to be able to implement.
I want to share with you what I see as obligations that are still and always upon the individual.
I’ll quote Rambam first.
What must they do to fulfill their requirement regarding the Law of Justice? They have to set up magistrates and judges in each district to judge the people with regard to these six commandments; and they must issue warnings (about them) to the people. A non-Jew who violates one of the seven commandments is executed by means of the sword. How is this so? Anyone who worships idols or blasphemed or murdered or had sexual relations with one of those forbidden to him or stole even less than the value of a small coin or ate any amount from a limb or the flesh of a live animal or saw someone else violate one of these and failed to judge and execute him, is himself executed by means of the sword. It was for this reason all residents of the City of Shechem deserved to be executed. For Shechem kidnapped Dinah, and they saw and knew and failed to judge him.
A non-Jew is executed by the testimony of one, and with one judge, without forewarning, and by the testimony of relatives, but not by the testimony of a woman. A woman may not judge for them.
A non-Jew who accidentally violates one of his (Seven) Commandments is exempt from punishment, except for an accidental murderer. For if a Blood Avenger kills him, he is not killed. He [The accidental murderer] has no City of Refuge and their courts do not execute him.
To what do we refer? To someone who accidentally and without intention violates one of the commandments as, for example, if he had sexual intercourse with his friend’s wife and thought that she was his wife or that she was single.
However, if he knew that she was his friend’s wife, but did not know that she was forbidden to him and thought this was permitted for him, or if he killed someone and he did not know that it is forbidden to kill, this is considered to be “close” to having committed the act “on purpose”, and he is executed. This is not considered as an accidental sin for them since he should have learned what the Law is, and didn’t. (Mishneh Torah, Law of Kings and their Wars, chapter 9 halakhah 14 to chapter 10 halakhah 1, as translated at sefaria.org)
So we see Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice. I’m not saying his view is universally accepted, but it is something to learn from.
For some time, I looked at this law and thought it was just about making courts and appointing judges to judge according to God’s Law for the nations, something a 7M-observant Gentile is unable to do for various apparently insurmountable reasons. Focusing only on that made this law somewhat redundant in this day and age.
But, because of the guidance of my teachers, it was shown to me that each command has much more to it than the simple wording. The law against adultery needs a proper definition of marriage. The prohibition against theft presupposes and necessitates the concept of property. So the 7M don’t just exist in a vacuum within which are seven simple statements. No, there is a necessary framework within which the laws are grounded and provide foundation for othe rulings.
So look at the statements about witnessing a 7M infraction and then judging it, and the statement about inadvertent offenses, something should be clear.
This is not considered as an accidental sin for them since he should have learned what the Law is, and didn’t. (ibid.)
This statement, compounded with the fact that a child of Noah should be able to see an act and know if it can be brought before a 7M-abiding court, shows that all Gentiles, especially those who claim to keep the 7M, should learn the details of our laws. This would be considered an obligation.
So, I believe a personal, individual, aspect of the 7M is to learn the Torah Law for Gentiles. This is true regardless of whether there is a court or not because the obligation to keep these laws remain with or without a court and it is possible to be done.
The first part of Rambam’s depiction of the law concerning justice said the following.
What must they do to fulfill their requirement regarding the Law of Justice? They have to set up magistrates and judges in each district to judge the people with regard to these six commandments; and they must issue warnings (about them) to the people. A non-Jew who violates one of the seven commandments … (ibid.)
So non-Jews should set up judges to judge people according to …
Now, don’t shoot me here, but I kinda take issue with Rambam’s wording here. I’m sure people will give reasons for Rambam’s statement so I’ll wait to hear those reasons. But Rambam first states that the judges must judge six laws and teach the people about them, referring to the six. But there are seven laws! Even the next sentence, which I included, states “a non-Jew violating one of the seven laws …” And the text continues about people witnessing the crime and judging it. Therefore a Gentile must know and judge all seven laws, not just six.
Anyway, why did I bring up the first part of that law again?
OH! Oh yeah. So it’s a divine obligation for Gentiles to not only set up the proper structure for courts, but to set up righteous courts that judge according to divine, secular law.
Did I contradict myself? “divine, secular law?”
I mentioned in another article that the division between “church and state,” between a person’s “faith” and their so-called “worldly affairs” is an unrealistic and artificial one, especially in the Torah worldview, especially for the Gentile. The same law that prohibits cursing God using his name also prohibits theft and murder. In light of that, maybe my mistake was typing “divine, secular” rather than “divine-secular.” [If you’re listening to this with a read aloud app, then I initially used a comma to separate the terms rather than a hyphen to join them.]
And no, a person doesn’t have to accept the existence of God to be keeping divine-secular law because being innocent (being law-abiding) is about action, not belief.
I got off-track again, didn’t I?
Or did I?
Anyway, it’s a positive obligation for Gentiles to set up righteous courts. This calls for a community to get this job done since an individual can’t do the whole job.
But what does a child of Noah, a member of non-Jewish humanity, do when the vast majority of those around him are either ignorant of the 7M or just want to set up courts that ignore or go against the seven, either by ignoring divine dictate or protecting those who break the laws? Does such a scenario mean that an individual Gentile no longer has to keep this law?
For me personally, I look at it this way. I believe that when God commanded the children of Noah the 7M, he commanded both the group and the individual. A group is made up of individuals anyway. So when he commanded upon us “Justice,” it’s still incumbent on the individual to uphold this law as well.
So the positive aspect of the law according to Rambam is that Gentiles should set up courts that uphold 7M-justice as a minimum. I believe the individual Gentile should do what he can to support this endeavour. But breaking this law, or at least going against it, would be to do the opposite of it or what is contrary to it. What would that be?
If the law is to set up courts that uphold the 7M and warn people concerning them, then what is contrary to that law is to set up courts that do not uphold the 7M, or worse, to set up courts that oppose the 7M.
And if the individual should do what he can to support the setting up and maintenance of courts of righteousness, then what is contrary to that? To support the establishment and maintenance of courts that either don’t uphold the 7M or oppose the 7M.
So I would avoid supporting, as much as I can without risking the safety of my family, legal causes that don’t uphold or oppose the 7M. For me, that includes political parties and governments. So yes, I live that out by not vocally supporting the British govt or its political parties or its legal system. I don’t vote because by doing that I’m, with my free choice, actively supporting a legal system, a government system and a judicial system contrary to the 7M.
It should be fairly obvious that when it comes to the 7M, I’m more into principle than I am into pragmatism. That means that I hold the principles of the 7M to a much higher priority, where I’ll do my best not to aid that which contradicts the principles, the laws, rather than support a system that appears to work on some level while sacrificing the upholding of the seven laws.
To give a concrete example, the British legal system promotes freedom of religion and that women are allowed to kill unborn children after the 40-day mark after conception (amongst other things). But it is the current legal system at work in this country and most political parties in the UK will maintain these freedoms. But the seven laws says that these freedoms are illegal. So the British legal system not only doesn’t uphold the seven laws, it opposes them in one form or another. I, based on principle, will reject the British legal system. I make do with the anti-7M legal system simply and only by doing what I’m forced to under threat of “legal” action, and avoiding any willing aid to the system.
If I preferred the pragmatic approach, I would willingly and actively keep the current anti-7M system going (whether I try to change it or not), and support it because that’s what we have now, trying to appreciate the good bits, the bits that agree with the seven, but actively giving aid to those parts that undermine the seven as well. The pragmatist will do his part to do that which is contrary to Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice: willingly doing his part in maintaining a system which does not uphold the 7M and actually opposes and undermine them.
To quote some support for this idea, let me quote from footnote 2 from Sanhedrin 59a in the Schottenstein edition of the Babylonian Talmud:
The Noahide commandment of civil law includes a prohibition against performing any act to pervert justice. Thus, if for some reason a Noahite is not in th process of administering justice but is sitting idle, he is still prohibited to do anything that perverts justice. This negative aspect of the commandment then does not require the Noahite to take any action to administer justice. Rather, it obligates him to refrain from taking any action that perverts justice.
If justice is the upholding of the seven, then doing things like maintaining a system that undermines the seven laws is a perversion of justice. It’s similar to democratically appointing a judge who is ignorant (of the 7M) or who refuses to judge according to them. To me, it wouldn’t matter if the community knew and accepted God’s law or they didn’t know. For me, the principle still holds that I’m not supposed to support injustice, voting for a person, party or system which opposes the 7M. To me, that’s an act that perverts justice, that goes against the implementation of the basic laws of humanity.
So that’s two individual aspects to the law of Justice so far: 1) learning the 7M; and 2) a teaching against setting up legal systems that oppose the 7M.
Now there’s another part of Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice states the following.
… and [the judges] must issue warnings (about them) to the people.
The judges’ implementation of the seven law would warn the people of the land about the bedrock laws.
So, I can guess what part of me is thinking.
Hmmm … that … that sounded weird.
Anyway, so that other dude is thinking, “that’s for judges, David, not the individual Gentile.” And I wouldn’t disagree that the wording applies to the judges who would send out this message.
But when I think about this deeper, I get the impression that the judges wouldn’t just have a nationwide or community-wide loudspeaker, but the warnings or teachings of the judges would filter through the means of media and education throughout the community. This is necessarily true because, as I said before, this law does need community, not just some authoritative dictators to force the Seven Laws on the people.
But what does this imply? To me, this law teaches the importance of spreading the seven laws. Yes, a judge is principally mentioned, but he is no good without a community of individuals to also spread the judgements and the laws. Therefore, there is at least a responsibility for Gentiles who embrace the seven laws to spread them. Is this what is reflected in the Divine Code when it says the following?
Parents are obligated to provide education to their children, and specifically in the fulfillment of the Noahide Code. This education for the children is an obligation within the commandment of dinim, to strengthen the observance of the Noahide precepts in the world. (pg 83, The Divine Code, by rabbi Moshe Weiner)
The highlighted text would seem to agree with my thoughts on the topic.
But I’m gonna take this a step further.
Although there are rabbis and Jews that teach against this, I would say that if a Gentile is supposed to their children about the 7M, then it is also permissible, allowed and encouraged that if a Gentile is able to teach the 7M to others, then he or she should do so.
Now some may accept this but include the idea of the Gentile teacher needing approval or approbation from a rabbi. And this may be a good thing, in order to show other Gentiles that this teacher has taken the time to learn the laws systematically, with effort and diligence. It’s ok in this time where we don’t have the 7M incorporated into our society and education system when we Gentiles will take the reins when it comes to both judging and teaching the 7M formally. But is such approbation necessary? Like any approval, it is definitely a positive sign, but it’s not a necessary one. In places where such approval may not be granted but knowledgeable Gentiles are more accessible than rabbis, then that knowledgeable Gentile, one knowledgeable in the 7M, can teach and give advice.
Think about it. There are Gentiles, “noahides,” who will build a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, or go to hotels and conferences during the Jewish festival period of Sukkot because there is a prophecy that in the future Gentiles will celebrate that festival. So if it going to be that, in the future, Gentile nations will embrace the universal laws and take more seriously the implementation of them into our education system, where Gentile teachers will teach students about the divine international law, then should Gentiles also prepare for that now, trying to gain the expertise on the 7M to teach them?
Just a thought.
So how many individual teachings or responsibilities have I seen so far in Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice?
1) Gentiles who learn the seven laws.
2) Gentiles should not support political parties or systems that oppose or neglect the seven laws (even if they promise to treat the state of Israel nicely).
3) Gentiles should spread the teachings of the 7M, and, if possible, teach them to others.
These teachings aren’t just for a community in the ideal time when the 7M are part of society. They are teachings that are possible for individuals right now.
So, yes, according to Rambam’s depiction of the law of Justice, there is an individual aspect to the law.
I’m currently learning about RambaN’s approach to this law of Justice to see whether it too has implications for the individual. But this is just a start of my thinking about the law of Justice, to promote it, to show to anyone who reads this that, unlike what some teach, this law isn’t just theoretical and it’s not just obsolete or irrelevant to our times. In fact, in a time when communities reject the 7M, it becomes all the more important for the individual to take grasp of all the seven laws, including the law of Dinim, of Justice, and live them and share them.
So Elisheva Barre, one of the voices who had a strong formative role in my learning of the Seven Commandments, chose to shove her head into my cogitations … And I’m glad she did.
Now, have no doubt: just because I respect the woman quite highly, her work being very influential in my development in the 7M (shorthand for “seven commandments”), doesn’t mean I accept everything she says. But the insight she did give made it so that there’s a second part to this monologue.
So my initial written internal monologue asked the question: “are the seven commandments religious or secular?” And I attempted to answer that question on that basis. But there were some things that I wrote in that article and previously on this blog that should have raised some red flags.
I told the rabbi I was speaking to that there was no word in biblical Hebrew for “religion.” The concept doesn’t come from the Torah but from, I believe, Gentile thought trying to come to grips with what Torah and Israel was. So it forced a circle peg into the square hole of “religion” and made up the concept of “Judaism,” which many Jews up until now have absorbed and assimilated. So considering this is my view of how Torah interacts with the concept of religion, I should have noticed that this should have undermined the idea of “secular” being in the Torah as well.
I won’t conclude that thought just yet. Let me bring up another fact.
I wrote an article in the past about “The [Myth of the] Separation of Church and State.” In it, I said the following:
Although the sloppy statement “separation between church and state” has an American taint to it, the concept of separating “religion” or faith from the secular or worldly has much longer history and is accepted over much of the world. In fact, the concept may even have been influenced by christian thinking, oddly enough, with its statements about the spiritual and the carnal, the fleshy, giving to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
But despite its possible history and influences, there is something much more telling, more suspicious about this concept of “the separation between ‘religion’ and government/secular.” It is absent from the laws of the Torah, the Law of God. Its absence from Torah is both apparent with regards to the laws that apply to Jews, but also the laws that are directed towards the rest of humanity.
The absence of this artificial separation of life (God and the government) is fairly obvious in the Torah.
So putting both of these thoughts together, I have to wonder, does the question “Are the Seven Commandments Religious or Secular?” have any bearing in a Torah worldview?
In my previous article, when I asked that question, what did I mean? What was the fundamental question I was asking? It was this: Using English words and concepts, do the Seven Laws necessitate or overtly command belief in, worship of or devotion to God or not? That’s the question I was answering in the previous article since “religion” in my language (English) means “belief in some ultimate reality,” “religious” means “pertaining to such a belief,” and “secular” means “not pertaining to such a belief.” To me it is clear that the law concerning idolatry was originally not a positive command to belief in, acknowledge or worship God. The Talmud says this, that all the seven are simply prohibitions with only the law of Justice having a positive or active aspect (Sanhedrin 58b-59a). So the law of idolatry was only a prohibition against a certain action, namely idol worship. And the law of cursing God was only a prohibition against a certain action, namely cursing God’s name using his name. Therefore, taking the other laws into account, the laws do not command acceptance of or devotion to God. Therefore the laws themselves would fit the definition of “secular,” not pertaining to a belief in an ultimate cause.
But that’s in my current context, that’s the society I live in where they carve God away from day-to-day life. To quote again from “separation of church and state” article again:
“It is no longer fashionable to avow a belief in Satan or his entourage of evil archons, but the fact is, nonetheless, that we are dualists. We have divided the world between God and ourselves. Part of what we consider our own, we are willing to turn over to Caesar, but—believing in civil liberties—part we retain as our private domain. Some are willing to share part of this domain with God, but some are very jealous of their privacy and exclude Him from it; they divide the world only between themselves and Caesar. The dualist is either a total or partial atheist. If he totally excludes God, then obviously he is an atheist. If he excludes God from a substantial part of the world, then to that degree he is an atheist.” Konvitz, Torah & Constitution, 57. (quoted on pg 139, footnote 16 [in Secular by Design by Alan Cecil].)
What about based on the Torah worldview where such a distinction is meaningless? Where objective reality is that God is the source of the laws for Jews and Gentiles and we are simply to live by it?
That’s where I hit upon a problem. The written and oral Torah is in Hebrew where certain concepts don’t exist. And I’m English where the concepts do exist. But this part of the written and oral tradition, the seven laws, is meant for me, is an obligation for in my land, not as a Hebrew state but as a possibly English one. What happens then? Is there a problem in translation?
I guess that’s something I can ponder for part 3.
Someone asked me whether the seven commandments were religious or secular. I was in a group so more than one person could respond. I chose to go with the dictionary definitions of “religious” and “secular” and drew the conclusion, again, that the seven commandments, the seven basic laws, were secular.
Let me just show the dictionary definitions just so that I’m as clear as possible.
religious: pertaining to religion.
religion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
secular: not pertaining to or connected with religion.
Now it’s important that I highlight the section I did, because I know it is instinctual for some to take that highlighted section out of context and say “wait, the seven laws are a moral code.” But the word “religion” starts with and is focused on the belief, the faith, not simply a moral code. A moral code without the belief is not religious.
Anyway, as you can imagine, that wasn’t a popular view. One person decided to ask me whether commandments imply a commander, to which I answered “yes.” The point was pressed and the questioner asked “who is the commander of the seven laws?” to which I freely answered, “God.” So the questioner asked the main question: how then could the seven laws be secular [if the source of the command is God]?
Now that actually set me thinking. How do I answer that question? My answers before that question had be easy, free-flowing. But that question made me think “how do I answer?” While I was pondering, I asked myself “am I wrong? Are seven laws actually religious?” But I challenged myself to think about each law and attach it to the definitions, the proper or accepted definitions of the words. Although I was open to being wrong, the more I thought about each law, the more I realised that the seven laws themselves had to be non-religious and therefore secular.
I wrote a response to that question that I put way too much effort into, so I’m just putting that answer here. A few things to mention is that the questioner was a rabbi, therefore a Jew. So this was my response.
Religion has to do with belief in God (or gods or an ultimate cause, like nature, or human reasoning, as atheists do, but that’s irrelevant to this discussion), with laws that specifically have to do with the worship of or devotion to God.
What is not religious can be known as secular, since non-religious is a synonym of secular.
The difference between Jewish law and Gentile law … is that there are laws in the Jewish law is specifically about devotion to or worship of God. “You shall love God with everything.” “You shall appear before God three times a year.” There are laws of sacrifice, or ritual, what would be called outward or overt signs of religion and therefore are religious. The sanctuary, the shabbat, over and over against, the Jewish law is about devotion to God mixed in with what can be secular (worldly, non-religious) laws like don’t steal, don’t murder.
The seven laws don’t have that at all. There is no love of God or devotion to God commanded or preached in the law at all, even in the prohibition against cursing God’s name, amazingly enough. There is no ritual. A person doesn’t even have to accept God’s existence to keep these laws. As Rambam overtly stated, people can do or perform these laws for a variety of non-religious reasons.
There is something fallacious in claiming that because God commands something, that law becomes religious. I thought it was the genetic fallacy, but that doesn’t seem to fit. The command to love God needs acknowledgement of God. But the command to not worship idols doesn’t need the acknowledgement of God. Imagine this, God placed limits on many things, splitting day and night, making it so that the land isn’t overwhelmed by the sea. Nobody in their right minds would call those religious laws. No, they are called “natural laws.” That is despite their source. So, no, just because God is the source, it doesn’t make the law religious.
What’s odd about this argument is that there’s no hebrew word for “religion” (at least in biblical Hebrew). I don’t even know if the religion is even a Hebrew concept, or a Torah concept. But here you are arguing for it to be attached to my laws. But then again, you do want the oral and written law system to be called Torah “Judaism.” Strangely enough “Judaism” is an artificial term in and of itself, even though you Jews have taken it on board. But I digress.
The fact is that the seven laws is about law, not faith, not religion. The question is whether society is compliant with those laws. It should be obvious that it is not, not because it doesn’t adhere to some religion people wish to create, but it’s because Gentiles, all of us, have obligations and we’re not living by them. None of those obligations are belief in or worship of or devotion to God. It doesn’t help that rabbis are saying that things not commanded are so important and what is actually commanded is only theoretical. but again, I digress.
Now, before anyone says anything, I know that rabbi Moshe Weiner, in his ground-breaking work, “The Divine Code,” said that belief in God is commanded upon Gentiles. I’ve written about that before and it should be fairly obvious that I disagree with him. But here I hit upon this thing that seems to be a repeating occurrence: the person I disagree with is a rabbi, someone expected to know the ins and outs of Torah, and I’m just a Gentile, who doesn’t have access to all the information that the rabbis have, I don’t speak or know Hebrew and Aramaic as fluently as they do, who would appear to know a half of a corner of everything that they know. Why don’t I just bow to their superior knowledge? Why don’t I just accept my ignorance and rely on their expertise? I’ve been accused of being a know-it-all because I tend to either stand my ground against what some of them say or question it and not rely on it because of my doubt.
If my arguments were just from myself, just me making them up, or trying to rationalize things for myself, then there could be some validity to that argument (yes, only some). But throughout my blog, I hope those who read it can see that I base my stance on what other rabbis have said, what the earlier Jewish texts have said, what Jewish commentators of those Jewish texts have said. My view is not just my view.
Also, imagine I didn’t have the knowledge I did have. People would still tell me to just accept what I’m told. But I’ve seen too many occurrences of the experts getting it wrong, of experts leading people astray, of people being led to foolishness or death because they just relied on the experts. I’m not in the position of a totally ignorant patient being told by someone claiming to be a doctor that I should take drug X to help with an ailment, or take some medical procedure. I have the ability to question and test what I’m told. And if it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, then I’m not accepting it.
Some will say, “but David, it’s a rabbi, you can trust him.” But just recently there were six rabbis who wrote a letter against two rabbis condemning what those two rabbis said. Those six rabbis don’t even agree amongst themselves the details of what they believe in or teach. They even admitted they would hardly sit at the same table, but the two rabbis had become a single enough negative element that needed their comment. Yet they’re all rabbis. Just recently I was critiquing the articles of one of those two rabbis where he condemned so many other rabbis. I’ve had to deal with rabbis that exhibited such horrible character traits (no, I’m not saying I’m perfect). Being a rabbi doesn’t guarantee that he is even a good man, much less one knowledgeable enough to be trusted to give answers I should just follow.
Added to that, rabbis tend to know much more about Jewish obligations and put those obligations authoritatively upon Gentiles even though our law doesn’t contain such obligations. They can’t even see or deal with the culture bleed that occurs so often.
Anyway, enough of my doubts.
The fact is that I see the seven laws themselves as secular even though God was the one who gave it. The people who keep or perform the laws may be religious, having the belief. And the people who keep or perform the laws may not have the belief. The laws themselves don’t command such a belief, love or devotion.
Hey, I hope the acceptance of God’s rulership (and therefore his existence) grows throughout the world, and living good, decent lives that help that. But that doesn’t mean the seven laws are religious.
Anyway, let me get on with the cooking I need to do.
Just to let you know that my book “The Apostle Paul – Saul of Tarsus: The Bitter Root” is now available for the Amazon Kindle. It can be found at:
Check it out and share it with others who are interested in how Paul routinely misuses the Jewish Bible.
Also if you want it, the book “The Apostle Paul – Saul of Tarsus: The Bitter Root” is also available in paperback, in case you actually prefer to hold a real book. That’s available in the following place.
And in addition, the ebook is available at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, Apple iBooks, maybe some other places too.
Did you know that also in the back of the book, there is a listing of most, if not all, of Paul’s overt quotes of the Jewish Bible throughout the epistles? Knowing the places Paul quotes and their various contexts can help you better defend yourself against the claims christians make about God demanding perfect obedience, or blood being needed forgiveness, that there is a dichotomy between law and faith, etc.
So feel free to take a look or even to share on whatever relevant forums you may be a part of.
At long last, I take great pleasure in announcing the publishing of my first ebook. It’s called “The Apostle Paul – Saul of Tarsus: The Bitter Root.” It can be found on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/756981.
The book description is as follows:
“Going through the vast majority, if not all, of the apostle Paul’s usages of verses from the Jewish Bible (the “old testament”), the author, David Dryden, uncovers much more to Paul’s methodology than he ever expected. As well as examining Paul’s usage of the Jewish Bible, David picks apart Paul’s doctrines which have formed and shaped the Christian Church and how it relates to and interprets the books of Moses, the prophets and the other scriptures that make up the Jewish Bible. He doesn’t claim to be an expert or a scholar, but, just as everyone who has read the Christian Bible should think about it says and test it, he uses his “everyman” abilities to find the truth to the best of his ability.
For the author, this journey forever changed his view of Paul from mild suspicion to fundamental condemnation. But how will his journey impact you, the reader?
The primary aim is to share ideas for the sake of truth whether you agree with the ideas proposed or not. If this book can help a person get any closer to truth and to the Creator of the Universe, then it would have fulfilled its purpose.”
I hope you’ll consider getting a copy if you’re interested in the topic.
I’m working on an edition for Amazon Kindle. I’ll let you know when that’s done.