Translation of “B'nei Noach” article:
By Yigal Levin
General comments: the article is from a weekend supplement an Israeli religious news magazine with which I’m unfamiliar. The issue is dated “Parashat Matot” (usually in July) but with no year either on the cover or inside. From the content, I’d guess it is from the early 1990’s.
While my translation, is not word-for-word, I’ve tried to make it as literal as possible and as faithful as possible to the style, grammar and punctuation of the original (which is somewhat unrefined). I’ve used square brackets [ ] when explaining a term or concept. The term “children of Noah” is used for the general concept. “Bnai Noach” is used for the organized movement. In Hebrew, of course, both are the same.
I could only guess at the spelling of some of the names.
The cover says:
B’nai Noach: Leadership Mission in Israel.
‘We, the children of Noah [or the Bnai Noach], recognize the significant difference between the people of Israel and us the nations of the world. And since the Holy-One Blessed-He bestowed His holy word to the people of Israel — we accept your leadership and urge you to accept the responsibility to educate us so that we will be able to do Hashem’s will in our lifetimes’ (from the declaration of intent that was published at the end of the Bnai Noach convention in the U.S.).
Descendants of Noah— in the United States
Many Christians in the US are turning their backs on Christianity. They reject anything that has to do with “that man” [a euphemism for Jesus] and are searching for the sources and roots of religion. Thus they arrived at the seven commandments of the Sons of Noah, rabbis in Israel and the understanding that the People of Israel are the chosen from among the nations by Hashem and that their task is to educate the Gentiles in the ways of Hashem. A phenomenon.
[By] Ben Eliahu
Last weekend three unusual gentiles arrived in Israel. These three American gentiles, Dr. James Tabor, Mr. David Davis and Mr. Jack Saunders came especially in order to meet with well-known rabbis including Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu.
Their purpose was to receive these respected rabbis’ instructions on keeping the seven commandments of the sons of Noah according to Jewish Halakhah.
These gentiles are the official representatives of an exciting and pleasing phenomenon that excites the imagination and is taken from a vision of the end of days. This is the “Bnai Noach" phenomenon that is spreading in the US and worldwide. More and more Christians have arrived at the awareness that their belief in “that man” has led them to a dead end and is all in vain. In wondrous ways that that Providence has cleared for them they have realized that if they wish both their thought and their deeds to be accepted, they must become... children of Noah. That is, gentiles according to Torah and Halakhah. Gentiles who observe the seven commandments that were given to Adam and then to Noah and that obligate all humankind according to halakhah. According to reports, this is a spreading phenomenon that includes at least a hundred thousand people. These gentiles told two known Jerusalem rabbis about their visit: Rabbi Yoel Schwartz arid Rabbi Menachem Burstin. These two rabbis have been communicating for some time with American groups that have been seeking their path to the HOBH without the Christian waste. These two rabbis learned of the Bnai Noach about two years ago. This connection led to cooperation, when, about a year ago, Rabbi Burstin traveled, with the blessings of the greatest rabbis in Israel, to the founding convention of "Kerem Agudat Bnai Noach” in Dallas, Texas.
We met this week with Rabbi Menachem Burstin and heard about this wonderful meeting between Israeli rabbis and these US gentiles who are seeking their way to the HOBH.
“The group’s leader,” Rabbi Burstin told us, "Is an American Gentile by the name of Vendyl Jones. For years, he was a Baptist minister, a thinker with a wide knowledge of Christian history and during his deepening studies he realized how distorted the things about "that man” that Christian faith is based on, are.
After much soul-searching he finally decided to tear the mask off his Christian faith. He dared inform his congregation that their Christianity is a distortion. Vendyl Jones, a sympathetic man with leadership qualities and rhetorical capabilities, pulled his flock after him and his whole church gave up Christianity, in order to come closed to the ancient roots of religion”
“He came to me,” recalled Rabbi Burstin, “because of my search for the resting place of the Temple vessels. He was also interested in the Temple and participated in a number of archaeological excavations in Israel”.
"When we met”, adds Rabbi Burstin, “He was thinking of converting [to Judaism] and I explained the idea of ”Children of Noah", a gentile who lives according to Torah and accepts the seven commandments then according to Rambam (Hilkhot Melakhim 88.5.11) "he is careful to do them — he is a righteous gentile and has a share in the world to come”.
These things made an impression on him. Especially, since he had heard the same from important rabbis and teachers. And so he decided consciously to remain a gentile and to accept the seven commandments of the children of Noah (by the way, two of his children, a boy and a girl are converts and live in Israel).
I gave him the book “A Light Unto the Nations” by Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, which deals with the laws of the children of Noah”, and I arranged a meeting with Chief Rabbi Mordchai Eliahu for initial instruction on how he should carry out these laws. Thus were formed the ties that remain strong to this day.
The Revolution Begins
Vendyl Jones returned to the US a new man, and there in the land of mass communications, used that medium to spread his opinions. He publicly stated (and even wrote a book against belief in that man) that there are grave doubts about Christianity and its sources, but that there is another path to Hashem open to the believer, one that is more logical and natural, that is the path of the children of Noah.
Amazingly his words fell on open ears, people from all over the US turned to him. It turned out that these doubts had been eating at the heart of many, who looked for a way out of the religious dilemma that they were in.
And so was born the idea of the convention, held in the month of Iyar last year”. During this conversation, thick files began to pile up on Rabbi Burstin’s desk. These included the correspondence between himself and the heads of the Bnai Noach, especially in the United States, letter after letter uncover another stifling face of the souls of these seekers of God. Their simple fear of heaven and desire to worship the Blessed Creator according to halakhah are outstanding. We also learn of the Agudat Bnai Noach in the United States’ publications which tell of their spiritual revolution and proclaim, with unusual strength, the words of the prophet Amos (8:11): "Behold the days come, says the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst or water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”
"Hundreds of people registered for the convention,” Rabbi Burstin returned to the story, “hundreds from all over the huge country. Then the organizers turned to me and asked that I participate, together with a group of rabbis from Israel.
“The truth is that I did nor know what to do. I consulted with Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, whose book on The Bnai Noach caused the Americans to consider him a spiritual guide. We were in a dilemma and didn’t know what to do. This was the first such request and we didn’t know whether to accept or reject it.
However the rabbis with whom we consulted encouraged us, one of the [halakhic] authorities said: “They want us to show them the true way, how can we keep that from them.” He meant that while we are under no obligation to influence the gentiles to return to the “commandments of the children of Noah”, but if they ask - we must.
"Well, a group was formed, that took upon itself the burden and the responsibility to meet these gentiles in their own stronghold. The members were Rabbi Joshua Friedman from Kokhav Hashahar whose father is a mayor in the US and who’s close to the “Bnai Noach”. Rabbi Moshe Tabachnik, a former kibbutz member and now a Haredi ba'al tshuvah [newly repentant Ultra-Orthodox”], Mr. Yithak Oked, a Rishon-Lezion journalist, a good personal friend of many of the speakers at this convention, and myself as the representative of Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu.
A Suspenseful Meeting in Dallas
"And so we arrived at Dallas for a journey into the unknown. To tell the truth we were quite anxious about the upcoming meeting. We knew that we had a heavy responsibility to sanctify the name of heaven at all cost. We felt that this was a historic meeting between representatives of observant Judaism and gentile refugees who had escaped the sinking ship of christianity. We were afraid, because we did not know to what extent these people were willing to accept Halakhah and to cut off all ties to Christianity. “When we met them, we learned that they were experiencing the same anxiety. They too felt the beating wings of history. They were very anxious about meeting the rabbis. They did not know what the rabbis would demand of them. Perhaps they would demand an adherence to commandments beyond their ability.
However the more we got to know each other, the more serious and deep the talks became, with heartening honesty and willingness on their part to hear the message of true Judaism and to act on it.
“For four days we met with the heads of the organizations. We wanted to define our objectives for the convention itself. We discussed the basic issues and the practical application of these commandments. We were in constant telephone contact with Jerusalem, with Rabbi Eliahu and Rabbi Schwartz, who was in contact with the important [halakhic] authorities.
“We spoke about the basics. We explained to those good people that the first condition is that they sever all ties to the beliefs and rituals that are associated with “that man”. As long as they have any connection to him they are idol worshipers. This is a necessary condition for the acceptance of individuals of groups into the Bnai Noach movement. “When, in the course of our discussions the question of: why not convert [to Judaism] came up. We explained that according to Torah each person has his place, and just like in the people of Israel there are Priests, Levites and Israelites and no one can change his place, so is it for the gentiles. While the conversion option does exist, there is no obligation to turn it into a mass movement. G-d can be worshiped and favor found in His eyes in fullness of heart as a Bnai Noach as well. They accepted these basic concepts. ‘‘Afterwards, in these preliminary meetings, there came difficult practical questions. “We left an ordered church", they argued, we had prayers, rituals, a day of rest, holy-days and so on. But now, we have nothing but true heart-felt faith. What should we pray? How should we rest once a week? Gentiles are forbidden to rest on Shabbat, Sunday is the Christian day, and Friday is the Muslims’ religious rest day? How are we to marry? Are there rules for us? Besides which, in order to keep those commandment that are meant for us we need a detailed guide [the Hebrew says “Shulhan Arukh”. using the name of the Jewish law-code].
The Road is Long and Hard
"Difficult and correct questions. We told them that there is an answer. We will not force you to do anything, but know that everything we say is according to Halakhah. For you must know that the sages [Haza”l, the rabbis of the Talmud] thought of everything. You should feel some of the sages greatness. They lived in the Roman and early christian Periods and were constantly persecuted. And even so they thought of the gentiles who might wish to keep the commandments that the HOBH gave them.
“I must also add", said Rabbi Burstin. “the name of another important participant in this convention. I mean Rabbi Michael Katz from the United States, who has been the rabbi and teacher of one of the Bnai Noach communities for some years. He studies at Belt Hatalmud in Israel and by consultation with important American rabbis decided to take on himself the job of guiding one of these gentile communities. And he helped us during the convention to find a common language and understanding with them. After these days of discussions the big convention was held. Masses filled the arena. We were surprised to discover that the gentiles that were gathered were intellectually above-average. Young and old, mostly professionals. None of the weirdos that usually attach themselves to these kinds of meetings. No, they were perfectly normal people. At these meetings we got to know the leaders who had visited us in Israel. Mr. David Davis, a former minister of an established church, who told his people that he had decided to change his path. From that day onward he worshiped Hashem alone and took all Christian items out of his church. Today he has ties to Rabbi Michael Katz. Mr. Jack Saunders, also a former minister who turned toward Judaism, and Dr. James Tabor, and interesting and colorful personality who is not a clergyman but rather a scholar who investigated Christianity’s Jewish roots and proved in books and articles how false they are. These are special people with high spiritual values. Davis, by the way, confronted a Christian theologian on CNN and defeated him soundly, which caused a stir in the US. “The convention was impressive. One by one the gentile and Jewish speakers came to the podium and spoke of the position of the Bnai Noach. At the end they all signed a declaration which was sent to Chief Rabbi Mordcchai Eliahu.
“We Give Thanks to the G-d Of Israel”
“Please read this declaration” tells me Rabbi Burstin, “and you will appreciate the enormity of the revolution and the historical moment, when gentiles declare for the world to hear that they accept the faith as the Torah commends them to. If you remember the thousands of years of our history and the way we were treated by the Christian nations — one cannot help but be excited..
“This is the declaration (in free translation):
“We Bnai Noach answer on this 29th day of April l990 (4 lyar 5750) and express our deepest gratitude to the Rabbinate in Israel for helping us revive the ancient teachings and the knowledge of the obligations, rights and responsibilities that are assigned to the gentile as is written in the Holy Scriptures.
“We give thanks and bow before the G-d of heaven and earth, creator of all worlds and father of all humanity.
We totally believe in one G-d who made a covenant with the ancestor of humanity, Noah, and gave him commandments for all humankind, commandments for human behavior in acceptance of His will.
We wish to research, to learn, to understand and to keep these seven commandments (which are then listed).
We believe that the Torah, the five books, were given to Moses by the HOBH at Mount Sinai.
We realize and accept all that was said by Moses and by the other holy prophets.
We accept the significant difference that Hashem made between you, the people of Israel, and us the nations of the world. And since the HOBH gave His holy word to you, we accept your authority and ask you to accept your responsibility to educate us so that we may do G-d’s will in our lives and deeds”.
A Special Prayer Book and a ‘Gentile” Code of Law
“Isn’t this an moving document”? exclaims Rabbi Burstin for the who-knows-how-many time.
“And now”, he adds, they came to Israel for this purpose. We are working on a special prayer book for them. Here’s part of the manuscript that Rabbi Yoel Schwartz gave me. Likewise we’re working on a code of laws [Shulhan Arukh] for the seven commandments. I must point out, that even though all parties agreed that Rabbi Eliahu would be the authority behind this activity, the Bnai Noah asked that everything be done by consultation with other leaders of Orthodoxy.
"And we are indeed in contact with the other authorities.”
"As I said, the convention was impressive. These gentiles are euphoric, in another world. They didn’t know what to do with us. We were in their eyes the messengers of Hashem. Despite our telling them that we have no mastery over them, that we only wish to teach them Hashem’s ways, they carried us on their shoulders. Even little things. They asked for our autographs, drove us wherever we wished, insisted on paying for the gifts we bought for home and more. They simply enveloped us with love. With the same love for the people of Israel that we hope will come from all gentiles, on that great day when the verse will come true 'for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.' Until then, we watch with interest the development of this movement, which by the way as I said before, is not just in the United States. But in other countries. Here for example is a letter I received from a group in Belgium, and here is a letter from a member of the international court at the Hague, and we know of similar groups in Switzerland, in France and other places."
And now, we look forward to fruitful talks with the American leaders who have come, hoping that with the aid of the great Torah scholars we will find a fitting solution to the problems that we shall face”. — Rabbi Burstin completed his fascinating statement.
The caption on p. 6 says: Leaders of the Bnai Noach movement in the company of Rabbis of Israel
The caption on p. 7 says: The arena in which the convention was held
The box on p. 7 is a quote from Rashi and Rambam listing the seven commandments.
The captions on p. 8 say: Dr. James Tabor speaking at the convention by him Mr. Yitzhak Oked sitting on the left the movement leader Mr Vendyl Jones [sic]
Some of those gathered in the arena
The" logo” of one of the Bnai Noach bulletins. The title "The Gap" the picture on the left Noah' s ark and the rainbow of the Covenant on the right a shield [star of David] and the font of Torah in the middle the uniting sea of Halakhah
The caption on p. 9 says: Davis signing the declaration of intentions by him Vendl Jones [sic] and Rabbi Menachem Burstien