Talking with a fellow who’s converting to Judaism, he asked about the First Covenant Foundation. It struck him strangely. “Why would I want to share Judaism?” he said. “If I had a wonderful girlfriend and wanted to marry her, would I share her? Why would I tell anyone, ‘claim this wisdom, take this goodness, gain strength and power’? Why should I share what gives me power with a non-Jew?”
“Good for you!” we said (more or less). “You appreciate that God frees slaves; that Judaism - the Way of Sinai - gives power; you appreciate that it’s precious, like a true love. You’re sharp enough to recognize that there is no obligation in Judaism - no commandment, no compulsion - to try to export, explain or proselytize Torah principles to non-Jews. So, definitely, you’ve got the right to stand mute as to the glory of God and the greatness of Torah. But, do you really think that's optimal?”
“I will also give thee for a light to the nations, that My salvation may be unto the end of the Earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
Naturally, nobody’s saying, “Talk to the deaf.” Nobody commands you, “Preach to the bigots.” But, said the Psalmist, “Praise God!” “Exalted and sanctified be His [God’s] Great Name in the world which He created,” Israel prays, repeatedly, every day. “Blessed and praised, glorified, and exalted and uplifted, honored and elevated and extolled be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He.” “We are obliged to thank You, praise You, glorify You, bless, sanctify, and offer praise and thanks to Your Name.” “Let all who walk the Earth recognize and know that You alone are the God over all the kingdoms of the Earth,” etc., etc.
Yes, true knowledge of the One God and His Ways is empowering. The thing is, for all the edge that Torah knowledge - of doing things God’s way - can give a person, His Ways are really all about love: love for God; for life and His Creation; for the God-like in mankind; and for the Torah of God, the supreme gift of knowledge of His Ways and how the world works. Torah can give you spiritual and moral power and correct philosophy, but if you love God, and man, and life, Creation and Torah, you want to see God’s will fulfilled: to see justice, truth and mercy reign in a world transformed by higher consciousness and goodness, and all Earth “filled with the knowledge of the glory of HaShem as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14).
So, even though a Jew is not commanded to go before non-Jews to publicly bless and praise, glorify, sanctify and elevate God’s Name, it’s still a very good thing to try to do wherever possible.
Similarly, even though God does NOT legally compel Jews to help non-Jews establish their Seven Noahide Commandments, that too is a very good thing to try to do, wherever possible.
Ferplutzing the System
We hate to see people making God’s Ways- the Path or Paths of the Righteous - more difficult than God makes it and harder than it needs to be.
Jewish men are obligated to study the detailed laws of Sinai, in all their minutia; the Torah is very rich in very detailed precepts. To pore over the minutia of Torah - the statutes, laws, rituals, ordinances and customs - is part of the glory and the burden of the Jews. The obligation of a Noahide who seeks knowledge of God is, on the other hand, only to go through the Torah’s general principles, and take away whatever seems fitting.
The Noahide Way is, largely, one of logical inference and common sense. The Noahide Law all follows from the spectacularly universal Revelation that every human being is sacred, and infinite: that God made us, all the sons and daughters of men, of every race and class and color and previous condition, whether good or bad, in “His image” (Genesis 9:6). The way it’s supposed to work, besides the basic Seven Laws (don’t murder, don’t worship horrible vile false gods in horrible and vile ways, don’t commit disgusting oppressive sexual acts, don’t commit robbery, etc.), it also activates the considered experience and wisdom of one’s nation, informed, enlightened, expanded and sanctified by familiarity with the Bible and respect for the collective wisdom of Israel.
That’s the ideal, which is entirely attainable. It’s just requires good will, common sense, and humility: if we’d just open our eyes to the greatness of the program….
My Religion is…
A non-Jewish friend of ours was struggling, “I’m Jewish,” he said, “except that I’m not Jewish; my religion is Jewish even though I’m a gentile.”
Notice, when they asked the prophet Jonah about himself, he didn’t try to teach them a lot of complicated Hebrew concepts. He called himself an “Ivri” or Hebrew, a name they were already well-familiar with, and explained, “I worship HaShem, the God of heaven, Who has made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:10). Jonah, in other words, kept it simple.
We’re disposed to think that we, like Jonah, should try to keep it simple.
But let us hear from you. What should a non-Jew who worships God the Father, God the King, call himself or herself? What should one say? “I believe in God”? “I’m a monotheist and I follow the God of Abraham and Israel and Moses”?
“Noahide” or “No’achide” is meaningless to most people - and, besides, hardly says anything about one’s religious identity, because all it is a Hebrew word for non-Jew….
One our members told us, “Labels are meaningless; I know what I am.” But labels, it seems to us, help define us. They keep us dialed into our beliefs and cultures and who and what we are.
What do you think?
- Michael Dallen