Are the Jews good or bad? We mean, over-all, when all is said and done. “If the Jews succeed, as they define success, will that be good for the world?” Or are the Jews more of a pernicious, evil force?
The answer depends, in large part, on the Jews’ universalist ambitions.
If the Jews stand for restricting people’s freedom to think and believe as they wish, that’s bad. If, on the other hand, they stand for complete freedom of belief and thought, it would validate the Bible’s praise for Israel. The question is practical: are the Jews a coercive or a liberating force?
We – our little, out-of-the-mainstream First Covenant Foundation – advocate for one side. The vast majority of those who teach the Noahide Covenant or involve themselves with it at all stand for the opposite point of view.
In fact, they claim to be the only Orthodox, genuinely legitimate side.
They teach that the gentile nations of the Earth should submit themselves to the authority of Jewish wise men and receive their laws and instruction from them. Since the legislators of the gentile nations lack the Torah-knowledge of the rabbis, they postulate, while the nations’ laws need to be grounded in Torah, and consonant with Torah, in all respects, everyone everywhere will just have to defer to the rabbis (or as they put it, “Rabbis” with a capital ‘r’).
This thinking underlies everything that these folks – our competitors, if that’s the right word: those supposed to be more Orthodox than we, the followers of the Zohar and Chassidus, Chabad and the Hasidic Movement, and others, too – teach about the First Covenant system.
As we see it, if these folks are right, anti-Semites are right to fear the Jews. Despite the Bible’s promises, and even though the Jews are supposed to be an elevating source of blessing. Being coerced in matters of religion, law and practice, or needing to submit your beliefs to another's supervision, smacks more of curse than blessing!
Some people might say that, since we know from the Bible – and from history, if we’d look - that Israel means blessing, everybody needs to shut up and love Israel, and hope for the best.
Allow us to reassure you. Anything that’s anti-freedom is the antithesis of Torah. Man-made religions coerce people, trying to forbid or enforce ultimate beliefs. That’s not the Way of HaShem!
No conscious servant of HaShem would ever try to force a matter of belief on someone else – because freedom of belief is the very root of being human, the most sacred thing God gives us; the essence of free will. In fact, it’s only fuzzy thinking – extremely fuzzy thinking - that entertains such a wrong idea, that people need to sacrifice their freedom or any part of what makes them human in return for “getting with God.”
The truth is that Israel gets these sorts of things, these big questions that come up in Torah, wrong all the time. Orthodox Israel isn’t infallible.
Eventually, everything gets resolved. Questions get settled, the truth can come out and the Torah is justified - and with it God’s Name. History does its work: this is how Historical Monotheism plays out. HaShem’s Law and Way turn out to be infinitely more holy, wiser, practical and elevating than most people ever imagined. But the process – that is, history - can be messy. Sometimes we have to wait a long time for resolutions. We’re living through that process now.
In this case, only a minority of Jews, and relatively few gentiles, have even heard of the scary teachings of our colleagues. But history is dynamic and human reactions to false Torah teachings tend to be explosive. Only a minority of Jews may, as in this case, hold to a mischaracterization of Torah, but the reaction can be huge.
When Israel or a part of Israel makes such mistakes – misinterpreting Torah to forbid causes like going back to Israel, say; or enabling trends like going back to Egypt; or discovering false messiahs; sneering at genuine scholars and prophets, burning books, and generally disgracing ourselves and making a hash of God’s Name – the payback tends to be horrific.
Coercion is NOT the way of Torah nor HaShem nor the First Covenant. It’s true that Israel exists to raise up the whole of mankind, but not by ordering it around. The job of the rabbis of Israel is not to command the world’s gentiles!
Indeed, Israel has Torah that the world needs. But Israel isn’t the nations’s father, just the elder brother (“Israel is My first-born.”) Elder brothers deserve respect, not obedience. People can and should learn the higher consciousness principles of Torah for their own sakes – in fact, it would insult HaShem to reject Israel’s learning! – but HaShem gives them plenty (‘way more than enough) to live full lives on their own.
Natural Law and Natural Religion
What we have with the First Covenant and Noahism is a practical but sublime system for humanity to elevate itself. It begins and ends with universal revelation: the great truth that should be clear to all men, the one great Principle that God revealed to everyone: that the individual human being is sacred, that we are all brothers. (See Genesis 1:26-27)
From there, all the nations need to do is make it operative.
What is man, that You are mindful of him? And the son of man, that You visit him? For You have made him little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet. (Psalms 8:5-7)
Seven kinds of acts – crimes – contradict that one great Principle to the point of reducing it to mockery and making it appear ridiculous. These – egregious acts - are what the nations need to outlaw. They shouldn’t need to know Torah to do so! All they need to know, and follow, is that one Principle.
Our book, Rainbow Covenant: Torah and the Seven Universal Laws, remains, to our knowledge, the best book available on all this. If you haven’t read it, why not?
Stealing from someone is an egregious denial of his or her humanity. Worshipping some supposed god or “higher value” that celebrates cruelty and meanness insults the worshipper’s humanity. Aborting a fetus that’s already literally taken on the image of man lacking any substantial reason for the killing undermines the very concept of humanity. Taking the gift of human sexuality and using it to oppress and degrade someone is a crime – an egregious crime – against humanity.
We could go on – which we shall do shortly, God willing, in the next issue of Covenant Connection. Coming this February: natural sex laws.
By Michael Dallen*
Note: Rabbi Michael Katz, reviewing first drafts of this article, described it with words including “unnecessary” and “contentious.” (January 25-26th). With all respect, equating God’s Way with coercion or the surrender of free will is so noxious, to put it mildly, that we (we feel) should always want to denounce it.
The power of the Jews is, by and large, soft power – the power of ideas and consciousness, of the ballot and the marketplace – versus ‘hard power,’ the power to push around.
People choosing to go beyond the Universal Law, or deepen their observance of it, to learn, from Israel, more conscious service of HaShem, fulfill the prophetic vision, “We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” (Zechariah 8:23) In our humble opinion, any notion that anybody needs to give up any free will to accomplish that is an insult. - MD