The Jewish News, September 9, 2004
The Rainbow Connection
ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM /AppleTree Editor
Michael Dallen was reading one of those incomparably rousing texts — a law journal — when he came across an extraordinary passage. The passage discussed the Noahide Laws, seven basic regulations the Torah says are to be observed by everyone:
• Do not worship idols.
• Do not blaspheme the name of God.
• Do not murder.
• Do not steal.
• Do not engage in inappropriate sexual relations.
• Do not eat a torn limb from a live animal.
• Establish a justice system and courts of law.
As he read of the laws, Dallen, of Detroit, experienced an "Aha!" moment, that magical instance when something suddenly makes profound sense.
"This," he realized, "is the Torah for the nations."
"Judaism is not just a little parochial sect," he saw. "It is a revolutionary movement. The Jews were created to serve as a light to the world, and the Noahide Laws are the essence of our whole mission."
According to the Torah, Jews are obligated to try and establish the Noahide Laws, Dallen explained. "Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses, our teacher] commanded from the mouth of God to convince all the inhabitants of the world to observe the commandments given the children of Noah," the 12-century scholar Moses Maimonides wrote.
Yet, Dallen saw little when he looked for ways in which this was being done. A few obscure texts, generally short and poorly written, were out there. But the approach was always condescending, he said. . -.So Dallen set out to do the work himself. The result is The Rainbow Covenant: Torah and the Seven Universal The 350-page Rainbow Covenant is published by Lightcatcher Books, established by a group of B’nai Noach (gentiles who observe the Noahide Laws), together with the Rainbow Covenant Foundation, which Dallen helped create. The nonprofit foundation, funded by private donations, is committed to raising awareness about the Noahide Laws.
Dallen, an attorney, said these laws have been overlooked by most Jewish scholars. He says the majority of the rabbis he meets today don't even express much interest, in part, because they can be so easily misunderstood.
Understanding The Laws
The Torah states that an idol worshipper should be killed, but "the whole nature of Torah jurisprudence is that its riddled with loopholes; it sounds much more severe than it really is," Dallen said.
In fact, one really cannot understand the laws of Torah without reading its partner, the Talmud, which explains the Torah and provides practical application of its laws.
The Torah, for example, says simply, "Don't cook a kid in its mothers milk." The Talmud considers exactly what this means in terms of separating meat and milk. Yet how could one explain the important details of this system to gentiles?
Another reason many are unfamiliar with the Noahide Laws, and why Jews have failed to teach them, has to do with timing, Dallen said.
"I think it's beshert [destined]," Dallen said.
“The time is right only now. "I just happened to be in a unique position, as a lawyer and writer and an activist-minded Jew, at a unique historical moment, to deal with all this Rainbow Covenant law, to take the material, including all these scholarly legal articles from books and journals, together with the classic source texts, already available in English, and try to turn it into a decent guide to the subject, to put it all into context.”
Dallen’s own journey to his place as an "activist-minded Jew" began when he experienced another epiphany of sorts at 17. Raised in a fairly secular home, he was reading an essay by Victor Daim in a journal published by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institution.
The article was called "Moses, the First Revolutionary."
Dallen said he saw "something world-changing." He became seriously interested, for the first time, in his own religion. The more he learned the more intrigued he became, especially when it came to Zionism. He began serving, and still serves on, the National Council of Americans for a Safe Israel.
Religion began playing an even greater part of his own life as he worked on The Rainbow Covenant.
"When I was 9, I was an atheist," he said. "I just couldn't buy all the supposed truths of any religion. Then, at 19, I became a Zionist. Then I became interested in religion, but I wasn't a practitioner. Then this [Noahide Laws] aspect of Torah opened up to me, and it was dazzling."
He researched and wrote for 10 years, reading texts mostly in English, sometimes in Hebrew. Then he sent each chapter for review to B'nai Noach leaders and Jewish scholars, notably Rabbi Michael Katz of Miami, a longtime supporter of B'nai Noach.
The vast majority of his financial backing comes from gentiles, specifically the B'nai Noach. A large number live in Tennessee and Texas, though other groups — Dallen estimates several thousand persons, including actor Jon Voight, actively identify as B'nai Noach — can be found throughout the United States and the world.
Dallen described them as "much more attentive to the Divine commandments than many Jews. They are no longer practicing Christians, reject the concept of the trinity, and most regard Jesus as a false prophet," Dallen said.
The idea that persons of another faith would turn to a Jewish text for guidance on how to live might strike some as strange. Wouldn't their own religion provide that very guidance?
Dallen described his book as helping gentiles answer the question, "What's my internal compass?" The Noahide Laws are a "universal doctrine" that serves at the core of other faiths ("How can you be a Christian without knowing these laws your own Bible says you have to know? [The Christian leaders] Paul and James emphasized these very laws," he said) and of Judaism as well.
"These laws are beautiful," Dallen said. "You can't begin to understand the greatness of the Torah without understanding the sublimity of these laws."
In fact, "I think this book answers the ancient question, 'Why be Jewish?' Here's a compelling spiritual and historical world view, a rational, non-mystical approach to Torah learning in general, and universal laws, norms and standards of moral conducts."