Covenant Connection

Volume 16.2
June 2023/Sivan 5783

Eternal: the Seven Noachide Commandments

As ancient as they are, extending back beyond the dim beginning of everything, the Seven Commandments aren’t going anywhere: they are permanent; they are eternal. Of course Israel eventually received the Ten Commandments at Sinai, but the Seven Commandments still apply, to Israel as to everybody.

The "Justice" Commandment, Dinim

The [eternal] Noachide Law of dinim, "laws," is actually a prohibition - like all the rest of the Noachide Seven Commandments system, it's negative legislation. It bans - it forbids - oppressive injustice. I defined it in our book, Rainbow Covenant, as "laws against lawlessness."

It is, basically, a perpetual ruling divine commandment against anarchy - anarchy being a lawless state where might, or the power to do something, blitzes what's right, the “”right’ thing being the thing or things that ought to be done, in all justice.

This anti-anarchy Commandment should also be regarded as a pro-government Commandment. To keep the Divine Law, every human society must establish a system of government, of police and laws and courts - and frequently, an army -  to protect its subjects and citizens from oppressive injustice.

We've heard a lot from different sects of Gentiles, and also Jews, about "getting saved" with Messiah (in Hebrew, moshiach) - about the future blessings coming in the future Messianic Age. But let's get at least this one point straight: no moshiach, no Messiah, no "redemption" is going to wipe out the perpetual obligation of every national and tribal subset of the human race to establish, defend, maintain and perfect good government.

Of all the different forms of government, none - it seems to me - is holier and more reflective of the Divine Truth that every human being is made in the Image of God than republican democracy; "one man, one vote"; "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

Obviously, some nations have never managed to succeed to that level. They have chiefs and kings and dictators, bosses, warlords and despots. The ancient truism, "people always tend to get the kind of government they deserve," is as perennial as the ancient Commandment to keep working on improving government.

Good government never comes easily but to peoples with low levels of literacy, low levels of civic engagement, and crude, animalistic, superstitious habits generally, we can only hope, at most, for progress towards democracy.

People look forward to lots of benefits from the Messianic Age. Besides life-spans expanding and greater material wealth, we expect, eventually, correct attitudes towards the God of Israel and the People of Israel to prevail. But don't expect the abolition of politics.

By the way, while we're on the subject of what will be with us forever, don't expect the abolition of work.

Work is what people do. It defines us. We've been working since the beginning - look at how humanity hit the ground running, as it were, after the birth of the first true men, building cities, shaping metal, making music, forging empires (Genesis 4:21-22, 10). Even with the building the Tower of Babel, God looked upon the people working together - getting along, cooperating for a common purpose, suppressing their individual egos for the sake of a promised paycheck (or whatever) - with love (Genesis 11:5).

Politics is how people manage their obligations under Dinim, the anti-anarchy Commandment: how we allocate benefits among each other and settle public questions.

We can probably expect politics to be conducted on a somewhat higher plain, in the Messianic Age - when "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of HaShem as the waters cover the sea" (Habbakuk 2:14) - but any idea that human selfishness, deluded self-interest, and vying policy ideals will disappear at any point in history is simply childish.

One more point. The obligation of dinim is universal.

Some writers have advanced the concept that the world's Noachides should simply hand-over their obligations under this Commandment to the Jews, to have the Jews determine the details of their laws for them.

This is such a stupid idea that you wouldn't think it would ever come up, but I've seen it stated too many times - usually by disgusting anti-Semites but occasionally by genuinely sincere religious Jews - to ignore it.

It's true that, in the Divine scheme, non-Jews are supposed to interact with Jewish people and (occasionally; at least occasionally) learn from them, but the relationship between the world's Noachides and the Noachide tribe known as the People of Israel is one of equality: the Jews are not the Father of the human race - God forbid! - but only the eldest son of the human family; the big brother, the first-born, the sibling with the longest acquaintance with the Parent.

This being said... what kind of fraternal relationship would it be if the latter-born never had any time, respect or sympathy for the eldest?

As a matter of historical fact, the Jews traditionally have had a good strong voice - an influencing voice, influencing through the power of persuasion and good examples, rather than compulsion - in the continuing human saga. This will undoubtedly continue.

This doesn't take away at all from the God-given right (which is also, obviously, a God-given obligation) of all peoples everywhere to determine their own path, including the details of their own laws, for themselves.

By Michael Dallen


"Existential Physics"

Our colleague Robert E. Buxbaum is a practicing scientist and engineer, with a doctorate in nuclear engineering from Princeton University. He frequently reads books that most of us wouldn't. He kindly submitted this short review of "Existential Physics; a scientist's guide to life's biggest questions" (Viking, 2022, 272 pp).

We found its approach to our principal subjects - the glory of God, His wisdom as evidenced by His dual-covenant system with all its intricacies, the brilliance of Creation, and His Torah, etc. - illustrative of what might be described as the negative dogmatism of the modern academy and the remarkable dishonesty implicit in its continuing campaign against the religion and world-view of Sinai.

The author, Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder, born in Germany in 1976, is a fellow at the Frankfurt Institute of Advanced Studies. She describes herself as "an agnostic heathen." Kirkus Reviews says this book is "full of highly opinionated and convincing arguments." World Literature Today says it's "a beacon of clarity and sanity." Booklist calls it "spectacular" and "a must-read for all who ponder the purpose of existence." The publisher classifies it under "physics, existentialism, philosophy" and "body, mind and spirit, philosophy and religion, and science and technology."

I began this book under a misapprehension that Dr. Hossenfelder would explain some of her views on quantum gravity, Casmir effect, and dark matter. Instead, it turns out she is a debater against religion, and this, for the most part, is her side of the debate.

Apparently the first question she always asks is "are you religious?" It turns out she holds that religious education is mostly child abuse, "except for Islam, because they've suffered so much."

She holds that there is no free will, since everything is pre-determined, except for quantum fluctuations, and these are small and unpredictable.

(I - on the other hand - hold that these quantum values ARE your free will, by the way). She also holds that the Big Bang Theory of Creation doesn't suggest a Creator because the universe was formed by "an inflateon." That is, by a completely hypothetical particle that does not conserve mass or energy, and expands space and time. Apparently, you need a seed of mass and energy too.

"In the beginning an inflateon created the heavens and the earth, with the help of some mass and energy." OK.

In her understanding as she explains it here there is no entropy, since that's "an emergent property of quantum mechanics" (I - on the other hand - think otherwise: that entropy is real, and fundamental). She says the universe does not think, nor does it possess spooky action at a distance (a phrase from Einstein describing some remarkably peculiar-seeming aspects of quantum mechanics).

One notes that, strangely, Dr. H.'s dark matter model (super-fluid inside galaxies) is based on extremely spooky action at a distance.
On top of this, there are some vague politics of the sort you get from scientists, and some vague philosophy -- "if that makes you feel good, you can believe it, though it's not science." On AI, artificial intelligence, she says it's sort of dangerous, "but don't worry."

The book was not a total waste of time, but a classic it isn’t.

By REB with MD

Michael Dallen notes, finally editing this issue (after Rabbi Michael Katz finished reviewing the preliminary work), that the world just lost a distinguished thinker who, contrary to Dr. Hossenfelder, believed very strongly in the Deity.

Professor Owen Gingerich, 1930 – 2023, taught astronomy at Harvard University. In two books,  God’s Universe (2006) and God’s Planet (2014), he insisted that science and religion need not be at odds. He was personally persuaded, he wrote (in God’s Universe), “that a super-intelligent Creator exists beyond and within the cosmos.”

He also explained that he had specialized in astronomy in the first place upon the advice of one of his college professors, who urged him “not to leave the field entirely to atheists.”

(Thanks to The New York Times for this reporting.)



Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy upon us, instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah’s teachings with love.” - Hebrew Prayerbook, morning prayer.

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