This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Seven Noahide Laws
SEVEN NOAHIDE COMMANDMENTS
Judaism's message to mankind.
According to the Jewish prophets there will come a day when the entire world will worship only one god; the G-d of Israel.
(we write the word 'God' with a dash so it won't be desecrated if this paper is thrown away)
Indeed, this is the very motto and mission statement of Judaism; the "Shema Yisroel' prayer. It is repeated twice daily by every Jew and should be the last words one says in one's life before dying;
"Hear Israel, G-d is our G-d, G-d is one" (Deut.6:4)
"Hear and Understand, Jews. Presently G-d is 'ours'; believed in only by us and not by the other religions….. But in the future He will be 'ONE' and worshiped by all mankind. As it says (Zephaniah 3) "Then I will transform all mankind to a clear language that all will call in the name of G-d, and serve Him with one shoulder." and (Zechariah 14) ' "On that day G-d will be one and His name one". (Rash'i, the foremost explainer of the Torah. On Deut. 6:4)
In other words; Judaism believes that inevitably each and every human on in this planet will be religious and will worship only 'our' G-d.
It is impossible to conceive of such a thing? Is one god better than another? Isn't this coercion; the Jewish counterpart of the inquisiton?
Certainly not! In fact, the opposite is true.
The Torah and prophets refer to an era when all mankind will recognize the unity of all creation and realize that there is a Creator who has endowed us with ultimately positive, potentials and will help us to realize them.
Then the world will begin to become perfected:
When the Good, Love, Gratitude and power to build will be revealed in each of us G-d will react to our efforts and such evils as war, famine, tragedy, want, disease and even death will cease to exist.
This will all be accomplished when all mankind begins to believe in the G-d of Israel (the first and basis of the Seven Noahide Commandments) and follow His Torah.
As Maimonides, (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon 13th century spiritual giant and foremost codifier of Judaism) writes in his book 'Mishneh Torah' in explaining the Seven Noahide Commandments:
"From the word of G-d, Moses commanded the Jews to convince and bring the entire world to the observance of the commandments that were given to 'Bnei Noach' (all the gentiles)" (Laws of Kings 8:4)… "And that they should fulfill them because they were commanded through Moses on Mount Sinai (ibid 8:11)"
"At that time there will be no hunger, war, no jealousy or competition because all physical things will be in abundance (ibid 12:5)
Let us First understand more about the G-d of Israel:
The Jews worship a completely different G-d than all the other religions, and it is this G-d that all mankind eventually will be worshiping.
All other religions worship a spiritual power or powers; gods, personages, spirits, forces etc. that are separate and distant entities from the world and the people in it. They separate reality into what Judaism calls 'Shtay R'shuyout' lit. Two Domains: Spiritual and Physical.
But the Jews worship the Creator.
Not just a creator who made the world long ago and is now distant, viewing creation from high up, but One Creator who creates all being; all atoms, all spirit, all consciousness even each of us humans, anew ….. every instant!
As the Torah begins: In the beginning G-d created the Heavens and the Earth. 'Heavens' means everything spiritual and 'Earth' refers to the physical. In other words the G-d of the Torah is not spiritual… rather He CREATES the spiritual. And He creates the physical as well.
And because He creates time as well.
In other words the Jews want to bring all mankind to worship the Creator: The One G-d who is creating each and every person every instant.
This is the most simple yet most difficult concept possible: G-d is infinitely close and infinitely far at the same time.
Close because G-d creates us and nothing is closer to us than our own existence. (and we must admit that we are not creating ourselves).
But difficult and far because G-d creates even the spiritual. He is 'above' the spiritual 'gods' of the other religions. His existence is more real and intensely present than ours and more infinite than even the spirtual.
In other words, He is the only REAL existence. While we are mere creations.
This is the basis of the Noahide commandments; worshiping the G-d who creates us. Who is infinitely close and real and yet incomprehensibly far and 'unreal'. Who Personally creates all reality.
G-d is the source of life, of all consciousness, all matter and all spirit.
It is even possible to feel this; Look around you. The air, the trees, the sky, the ground, the people yourself ….. all is being created constantly by G-d. He is the source of all existence and He alone creates all being constantly FROM NOTHING!
This is the G-d of Israel.
Or, In the language of the Torah: "Ain Od Milvado" (Deut. 4:35). There is nothing but Him.
But G-d is also intimate and….. He CARES;
He gives us eyes to see, ears to hear, all our senses, talents and abilities as well as the urge to develop and use them to improve the world.
He alone is the source of all good.
He alone provides our needs, gives us life, livelihood, joy, meaning, love and all we have. And He alone actually hears and answers all prayers. (Psalms 145: 9,18)
He saved Noah, the only righteous man in a totally evil generation, from the flood (All gentiles are called 'Bnei Noach' because, as Noah's direct descendents they have inherited his integrity and G-d given potential for truth and good.) and began through him a brave, new world.
G-d took the Jews from Egypt, gave them the Torah, fed them Manna and water and protected them in the desert for 40 years. And He has been and still is, protecting them ever since till this very day!!
That is what it means; He is a "living G-d". (Jeremiah 10:10) and that G-d has an 'image' (Gen. 1:27) Namely that, although in fact He is the Creator and we are His creations, He reacts to us as though we are somehow His equals. (as is explained in length and depth in Kabalistic and Chassidic texts.) He hears our prayers, rewards and punishes our deeds and helps us when we are in need. From Him alone comes all we have and all we are, indeed our very being every instant.
He is the Creator of the Universe and to Him alone we owe an infinite debt of gratitude..
But in order to really express our gratitude properly it must be according to what He wants; the rules that He, THE CREATOR HIMSELF, established. That is why He gave the Torah.
The Torah is the ONLY direction manual, written and given personally by G-d ........ for all creation.
Of course there are Bibles and various 'holy' books of other religions but all of them claim to be, at best, spiritual revelations given privately to either one (most often miraculously born) individual or to a select few.
But the Torah was given to millions of people by the Creator Himself.
Fifty days after G-d personally took the entire Jewish nation from Egypt with great miracles and signs (itself an unequalled event in history) He brought them to Mount Sinai and amidst fire and thunder personally appeared (Deut. 5:4) and spoke to them (Exodus 20:2,3) saying:
"I am your G-d who took you out of Egypt. Worship no other gods.
With these words G-d made many things clear; First; that the Jews are His people. Second; He is active in this world; He took the Jews from Egypt. Third; He wants us to worship only Him (the G-d who took the Jews from Egypt) and finally; we must do it even in our most mundane matters (Don't kill, steal etc)
This, the giving of the Torah, was the most eye-witnessed and verified event in the history of the world. Millions of Jews saw, heard and afterward told their children that G-d spoke to them all. …. And it has been passed down from generation to generation without interruption since then.
Yes, for over three thousand three hundred years, despite persecutions, inquisitions, holocausts, expulsions, pogroms and unspeakable hardships Jewish parents have been telling their children that G-d took their forefathers from Egypt and gave them His Torah.
The other religions, even those that believe that G-d chose the Jews and gave them His Torah, never even so much as tried to invent such a tale regarding the origin of their various Bibles.
As the Torah itself says……."Has there ever been such a great thing or have you ever heard the likes of it" etc. (Deut 4:32)
it would simply be impossible to support.
And even more amazing; the Torah of the Jews today is exactly the same one that was given to Moses.
For over 3,300 years, since Mt. Sinai, The Torah has been read publicly four times a week to insure that it will not be forgotten or altered (as many religions say it has been) and it's proper interpretation, the Talmud, has been handed down, discussed and learned intensively in tens of thousands of schools called Yeshivot to this very day; insure the proper interpretation of the Torah for all time.
(Anyone who has heard a public Torah reading in a Synagogue or learned Talmud in a Yeshiva knows that mistakes neither go unnoticed nor are they tolerated.)
So it is not enough just to believe only in the Creator.
All mankind must also serve Him according to His Torah. And in the Torah are the Noahide commandments for all the non-Jews.
Each person has an obligation and a chance to be in tune with the exact directions of the Creator that creates us.
And there is a goal; the arrival of Moshiach and the Raising of the Dead.
All mankind must believe and do everything possible to hasten the arrival of the Moshiach who will actualize all the above and even will raise the dead to finalize it all.
This is best summarized in Maimonides' thirteen principles of faith: (introduction to Mishna Sanhedrin Chapt 10).
We must believe with a complete faith that:
1) G-d exists; He creates all being but He is not created. All creation, spiritual and physical, comes from Him but His existence is absolute and depends on nothing else… for there is nothing else.
2) G-d is alone: There is no other creator or existence except Him. All else is brought constantly into being by Him from nothing.
3) G-d has no body or even spiritual form. All the anthropomorphisms in the Bible are only metaphors to understand the revelations of His infiniteness as He interacts with His creation. But in fact He has no form or definition.
4) G-d is not limited to time. He always existed and will always exist. He has no beginning and there was no existence preceding His. Rather 'time' is one of His creations.
5) G-d wants us to serve and pray to Him and only Him. It is He alone that provides all our needs and only to Him should we direct our prayers, praises, service and good deeds. Not to any of His creations, formations or manifestations …. no matter how spiritual, powerful or helpful they may seem to be. G-d wants us to change and improve the world through our sevice of Him. Although we are mere creations, made from 'nothing' our service is important to G-d.
6) G-d instructs us through His prophets. There are very strict qualifications for prophesy listed elsewhere. Among them: all prophets must be Jewish, know and observe all the Torah. All prophesy must be ONLY to strengthen Torah observance. Those other religions who claim that a prophet came to negate or reinterpret the Torah are mistaken.
7) Moses is the greatest and the 'father' of all the prophets, He brought us the Torah and every word in the Torah, both written and oral, is precisely the word of the Creator.
8) The Torah of Moses is unchanging. The Torah that we have today, including the Oral Torah i.e. Talmud etc., are precisely the same that G-d gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. There has been no alteration, addition or subtraction.
9) G-d does not want us to alter, add or subtract anything from the written or the oral Torah. The rabbinical edicts are not an alteration but rather a fulfillment of the Torah commandment 'Don't stray from what they tell you etc (Deut. 17:11) (Needless to say. There are strict qualifications as to who can be a Rabbi and what are their powers and restrictions; reform and conservative do not qualify.)
10) G-d knows and Cares about our actions, speech and thought. He is infinitely close and nothing is outside of His awareness. In fact He directs, causes and creates every action and interaction in creation from the smallest atoms to the greatest galaxies from the lowliest rocks to the highest spiritual worlds.
11) G-d rewards and punishes. He reacts to our deeds, speech, thoughts, and prayers either in this world (when and how He desires and/or after death; in heaven or even in the raising of the dead.
12) G-d will bring Moshiach Immediately. And if, G-d forbid, Moshiach delays we must await him constantly. Moshiach will be a Jewish King who will totally strengthen Torah observance and Jewish identity. He will eventually build the Third Temple, gather all the Jews to Israel and eliminate all enemies of Judaism. Anyone who doesn't believe in him and await his arrival every instant denies the entire Torah. It is he and he only that will bring all mankind to observance of the Noahide commandments.
13) G-d will raise the dead. The souls will return to the earth, dead bodies will be reformed and will again return to life. Indicating that this physical world is really 'higher' and infinitely more G-dly than spiritual heaven.
If you are missing one of the details then your faith in G-d is not complete.
This is the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. The G-d that creates the world and took the Jews from Egypt. This is the G-d that gave the Torah and in it the Noahide Commandments to change the world.
So we see that G-d wants us to believe in Him and use the Torah to transform His creation into a 'dwelling for Him as it was when it was created… and even better ….. and that depends on all mankind including the gentiles.
Therefore Noahidism is NOT a religion; it is much more than that.
The Noahide tradition is the only way to directly and through no intermediates, connect to G-d and reveal the full positive potential of each individual to make Heaven here on Earth.
As grandiose as this may sound, it is the ability of each of us to make it happen. This power is given in the Torah.
The Torah in addition to being an instruction book is also the living will and wisdom of the Living G-d. It gives those who learn and follow it, Jew and gentile alike, the power to change the entire world for the good.
The Torah was given by the CREATOR HIMSELF and is imbued with HIS power bring blessing and meaning though those who follow it with joy, love, courage and gratitude as Noah did thousands of years ago.
And, as we wrote earlier, all gentiles are called 'Bnei Noach' because, as Noah's direct descendents they have inherited his integrity and G-d given potential to change and perfect the world.
THE SEVEN NOAHIDE COMMANDMENTS
When G-d gave the Torah He included in it all the laws relevant to all mankind. There are really many of them but the basic framework are called 'Seven Noahide Commandments'.
Six were given to Adam and not eating from a live animal was given to Noah (as listed below):
1) Don't worship other gods (Know and Worship only the Creator)
2) Don't kill people (Value life)
3) Don't steal (Value property)
4) Don't blaspheme (Honor the Creator)
5) Don't do sexual offences (Honor the family)
6) Don't eat meat taken from a living animal (Be kind)
7) Make courts of Justice to enforce the above commandments. (Be just). (ibid chapter 9)
But there is much more to the Noahide tradition than just these seven bare laws.
These seven are a basic framework containing many more commandments, details and instructions which altogether form a truly complete, meaningful, and valid way to express love and gratitude to the Creator with every aspect of one's being to perfect the world we live in.
First of all, each of these seven commandments has many implications; here are some according to the Encyclopedia Talmudit of Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin:
2) Don't pray to anything other than the Creator
3) Don't pray to G-d through or together with anything else
4) Don't make an oath to any other power or figure (Encyclopedia Talmudit pg 350 column b)
6) Not to curse one of the Hebrew names of G-d
7) Not to curse even a nickname of G-d in any language (ibid 351a)
9) Killing unnecessarily even in self-defense
12) Euthanasia or mercy killing
13) Purposely spilling semen (Sdai Chemed Maarchet Zian Klall 20)
14) SEXUAL SINS:
it is forbidden for a man to have relations with:
15) His Mother
16) His maternal sister
17) His daughter
18) His Aunt (mother's sister; some say father's sister)
19) Some say his father's wife even after his father's death.
20) Someone else's wife
22) Another male (En.Tal. 352)
23) Some say even the relations one has with one's wife must be in the way that is possible to have children. (ibid 353b)
Therefore: 24) prostitution and 25) casual sex are forbidden
26) THIEVERY :
28) Taking spoils of war
30) Some say even seduction i.e. not for the purpose of marriage. (ibid 354a)
31) withholding worker's pay
32) Some say even to desire other's possessions is forbidden (ibid 354b)
33) Some say taking interest on loans
34) Some say being dishonest in business.
35) Stealing from a thief
36) Stealing even the smallest amount or value.
37) Damaging others
38) EATING A LIMB TAKEN FROM A LIVING ANIMAL:
It is forbidden to eat:
39) Meat taken from a living animal
40) Some say blood from a living animal
41) Some say anything from an animal that died on it's own and was not killed by man.
42) One must not cause unnecessary pain to animals.
43) MAKING A LEGAL SYSTEM:
44) To educate the people not to transgress the commandments
45) To judge every injustice or transgression of the previous six commandments (some say the same monetary damage laws as the Torah)
46) Not to take bribes
47) Not to Judge in a biased way
48) To set up judges in every city or area
49) Some say it is forbidden for gentile litigants to make judgments outside of court without judges. (ibid. 355)
Also, mankind has the obligation of "L'shevet Y'tzara'; literally 'To Improve the world' and to have "Midot Tovot" (good character traits) as the Talmud says, without the Torah we could learn modesty from a cat etc. ( Aruvin 90b).
In fact, the Talmud (Chulin 92a) states that there are Thirty Noahide Commandments. Although the Talmud does not enumerate them there are great rabbis who have (see the appendix of Encyclopedia Talmudit Vol 3 pg 391 for the opinions of Rabbi Menachem Azaria of Pano and Rabbi Shmuel ben Hofni). Many of these thirty are listed above, here some more.
1) Unifying G-d,
2) Praying to G-d,
3) To know G-d
4) To serve G-d,
5) Sacrificing animals
6) Honoring the Torah,
7) Learning the Torah relevant to Bne Noach. (This would include anything pertinent to all the things listed here, i.e. monetary etc. laws, knowing G-d, improving one's character etc. This is what the Talmud means when it says that a Gentile Torah scholar equal to the High Priest. (Baba Kama 38a and more).
8) To give portions of produce to the Temple,
9) To follow G-d's commandments,
10) Not to keep the Sabbath,
11) Not to learn irrelevant Torah,
Rebbe) Not to serve G-d together with or through a creation (Kol Bo'ay Olom pg. 87),
12) To give charity
13) Honoring one's mother and father,
14) To make laws,
15) Mourn for the dead (Kol Bo'ay Olom pg 89),
16) Not to lie or cheat (K.B.O. 93),
17) Providing for one's children and
18) Educating one's children (K.B.O. 95),
19) To make marriage ceremonies,
18) Having at least two children,
19) To marry the widow of one's childless brother (Yibum)
,20) Not making false oaths,
21) Not to castrate animals,
22) Not to cross-breed animals,
23-31) Not to do the 9 types witchcraft enumerated in the Torah: Maavir Aish, Kosem, M'onen, Mnachesh. Mchashem, Chover-Chever, ov, Y'doni, Doresh HaMatim. i.e. necromancy, soothsaying, witchcraft etc. )
32) Not to cross-breed trees,
33) Not to strike a Jew,
34) Keep vows and promises
35) Not to cause pain unnecessarily even to animals.
36) To empathize with the suffering of the Jews.
Fixing the world with good character traits: 37) Honesty, 38) kindness, 39) politeness, modesty, loyalty, integrity, industrious, joyous, understanding, optimism, brotherhood, love, gratitude and the list goes on and on.
#1) I was once approached by three Missionaries in Manhattan who decided to show me the 'real' meaning of the Torah.
They went on and on and I couldn't stop them until suddenly I announced that had a question; They fell silent and I asked:
"Are you familiar with the Old Testament?" They smiled knowingly and almost snickering said, 'Of course, (heh heh) we know ALL the Bible'.
"Good" I continued, "Then I'll ask the question: Do you think that G-d is spiritual?"
They hesitated for a few seconds… looked at one another unbelievingly as to say 'what type of stupid question is this?!' and one of them answered as their spokesman.
"Certainly G-d is spiritual. What could G-d be if not spiritual??
I looked them in the eyes and said "I'm surprised that you don't even know the first sentence in the Bible!"
They were dumbfounded. They looked at one another shrugged their shoulders, and then at me, smiles gone, and one of them slowly said:
"The first sentence in the Bible is, 'In the beginning G-d created the Heavens and the Earth'".
"There you are!!" I replied matter of factly; "'The 'heavens' mean the spiritual worlds and 'the earth' means the physical….. In other words G-d isn't spiritual….. He CREATES the spiritual!! Or, in simple language…
"OUR G-d creates your god."
They turned and walked away.
Story #2) Years afterward I stuck up a conversation with a gentile I met on a flight from Amsterdam to Israel who told me his name was Hans. He told me that he had seen Jews putting on Tefillin (Phylacteries) and wondered if I could explain what exactly they were.
I told him that they were commandments of G-d to show that G-d is not just in the heavens but also in the earth and He cares what we do.
But he was still interested.
So I explained that they were made of leather and contained parchments upon which were the four Torah paragraphs that mention this commandment.
But he still wasn't satisfied. So I told him that the main paragraph says: "Listen Jews, G-d is our G-d, G-d is ONE" and that 'One' means that He is the ONLY existence and He alone creates the entire universe constantly. Then I ended off with. "Do you know what that means, Hans? It means that G-d is creating YOU every instant! For free! " His mouth opened in amazement.
"And do you know why He is doing this?" I continued,
Hans shook his head no.
"He's doing it because He loves you! He's creating you for free because He loves you!
Hans was really deeply in thought and was staring at me to see if I was really serious.
"So" I continued "If he is creating you for free, then do something for him for free…. Be a good person. Pray only to Him, give charity etc. seven Noahide commandments etc. "
Hans stood up (he was seated for the entire conversation) straightened his tie, raised one finger in the air and said at the top of his lungs.
"This Rabbi is right!! And I want to apologize to him for what my people have done to his people. We have taken a man and claimed he is G-d… and tried to negate the HOLY COMMANDMENTS!!!!"
He shook my hand heartily, straightened his tie again and sat back down to his newspaper.
These two stories happened years ago…. But they really changed my life. I began to realize that what I read in the books of Chassidut is really right.
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.