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Volume 1, Issue 3

Covenant Connection

February, 2006.............. Shevat 5766

From the Desk of Michael Dallen

Shalom, a happy new month to you! Not just January turning into February but the month of Teves turning into Shevat, 5766. We have a short piece below, in "Science," that briefly reflects on the Torah dating system, among other interesting matters. But most of this newsletter addresses other issues. This has been a busy month and we have much to discuss with you:

Idolatry and the Noahide Law

We came out strongly for Torah and tolerance in the last newsletter. Then, from Jerusalem to England and the United States and even some Pacific islands, came fierce denunciation. One outfit in England with the name Noah in its title literally banned the book, Rainbow Covenant, while condemning this foundation, particularly me.

(Actually, a number of "Noahide outreach" sites, all of them affiliated with a certain Jewish sect, had already banned Rainbow Covenant, not because of anything in it but because they are mad at us. Some time ago, we reprinted a scholarly rabbinic article on our - the Rainbow Covenant Foundation's - web site. This article infuriated them. Not only did they denounce us for it - the book, the foundation, us personally, the orthodox rabbi and his mainstream orthodox group that produced the original article - they declared us "forbidden.")

In this case, they accused me of being "pro-idolatry" and "soft on idolatry." They insulted and carried on - all verbally, so it didn't physically hurt anyone - and huffed and puffed and threatened. Some unusually mean comments that misrepresented some facts about me hurt a bit but I'll live. Some of the attacks - particularly the anonymous attacks - were funny. One completely crazy writer wrote that our last newsletter and web site revealed me to be a "Messianic Christian," out of the closet at last!

Besides the invective, we got also got lots of support. And advice. "Dumb down your writing," I heard several times. One of our very good friends in Australia recommended that we do what "other Jewish web sites" do: avoid even mentioning any of the gentile religions. I wrote her back, "that's because they don't know how to think about those religions. We do. That's a big part of what we're here for."

Actually, we come under attack every time we say something that people aren't used to, every time we say something that's true that's new to them. One recognizes that. One also recognizes that I do indeed need to make what's new and different clearer.

As for the chief cause of these last troubles, this is probably the key phrase, directly from the web site homepage, repeated in the newsletter: whether you are a Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist, you still need to live up to these [the Noahide] laws.

That, according to our accusers, "tells everyone that idolatry is OK."

OK, let's cut to the truth. There are seven Noahide laws, not six, not five. The commandment against avodah zorah ("strange service," generally translated as "idolatry") and the commandment against sacrilege apply to mankind with full force today. They are not held in abeyance 'til some future time (I apologize for anything in Rainbow Covenant that says otherwise). They are as current, crucial and applicable right now as they always were and always will be. They apply to each and every human being now; they will apply to every individual and every human society forever - even after "Shiloh comes."

Jack Saunders is co-founder with me of the First Covenant Foundation. He had returned from a business trip - a First Covenant business trip - to Israel only a few days earlier, but he still managed to get in on the craziness. He called in the midst of the recent fuss and left a message saying, "turn to your Hertz" [the Chumash, the great Hebrew-English Pentateuch and Haftorahs (2d ed., 1965), with commentary by Rabbi J.H. Hertz (1872-1946), former Chief Rabbi of the British Empire], "page 759."

That page was already marked - the only one so marked - with a golden cord. The Hertz speaks of "the seven commandments given to the children of Noah." It refers to Deuteronomy 4:19, concerning the mere created things, stars and planets, that God seems to have "allotted" as objects of worship to gentiles. Rav Hertz does not say that "idolatry is OK" but he does show that God has suffered Noahides to worship false gods. He calls their idolatry a "stepping stone," part of the nations' path to God.

"The righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come," he says, quoting the Oral Torah, "and are heirs of immortality, alongside the righteous of Israel." The bottom line: Noahides must keep only the Noahide Law. "Hence the amazing tolerance shown by Judaism of all ages," he writes, "towards the followers of other cults, so long as these were not steeped in immorality and crime [emphasis in the original]." As Rav Hertz says, "War had been declared against Canaanites not because of matters of dogma or ritual, but because of the savage cruelty and foul licentiousness of their lives and cult."

Now, we here - our foundation, through its directors, and I personally - not only recognize but insist that idolatry detracts from the honor due God. It detracts from God's Name.

Michael Dallen
Rabbi Katz
Jack Saunders

To believe that God is so weak or distant or pre-occupied with vastly larger matters that He won't respond to you . . . that He doesn't have time to care about you . . . that you must go to one of His stand-ins, one of His representatives, in order to connect with Him or get an appointment with Him. . . that is very insulting to God. It diminishes His Name. So long as God's Name isn't honored as it should be, the world isn't as it should be: His Name is not complete.

On the page before the page marked with the golden cord, in Deuteronomy 4:6, Scripture speaks of the future when Noahides - in this case, the nations, goyim - begin to understand something of the greatness of Torah. They will discover that God is close, that they can call to God directly, that, as Rav Hertz puts it, "No intermediary of any sort is required for the worshipper to approach his God in prayer."

The future is here. Every Noahide who discovers the amazing truth above, who teaches it and helps others discover it, helps magnify God's Name.

In fact, the ultimate completion and perfection of God's Name is something that only Noahides can accomplish. Not only can't Israel do it alone, the real work, of magnifying and sanctifying God's Name everywhere, belongs to B'nai Noah.

Everyone who recognizes the truth about God should want to go door to door, telling everyone about Him, about His awesome works and His supernaturally profound Teachings. To honor and perfect His Name (and save the world) they should want the whole world to know that He is the God of the whole Universe. But - what if our Noahide neighbors don't believe as we do? Can we go door to door telling our neighbors about how we all need to behave ethically? Can we tell them about God's commandments without fussing about their religious faith - without disparaging their gods and insulting their religion?

Worshipping God - HaShem - opens up worlds of opportunities for gaining wisdom and soul-growth that are completely foreclosed to those who don't. They "inherited lies, vanity, things of no profit" (Jeremiah 19:6). But the worst kind of argument to have with people is a religious argument, an argument about the Divine. Furthermore, we can and must be tolerant because God is tolerant. Eventually, He knows, everyone will turn to Him, the One, only true God.

People can and should tell their neighbors about the commandments. They can do it without arguing with them and they should do it, certainly, without insulting their faith. Unless the neighbors worship a god that personifies evil - like Satan, say - their spiritual beliefs don't make them criminals.

Idolatry. Image from Rainbow Covenant

God's Name is seriously diminished by every actual First Covenant crime - by every case of murder, robbery, rape, or lawless injustice, for instance. Incest, bestiality, and every other abominable sex crime seriously detracts from His Name - particularly when a nation begins calling the abominable wholesome. So God has given us His holy First Covenant system.

"The whole Torah exists only for the sake of peace. For the sake of peace, truth may be sacrificed (or at least left unuttered)." See Rainbow Covenant, pp. 235, 258, for the sources of this quote). But we are not sacrificing truth here.

This is the Plan. This is the great "conspiracy" that the enemies of Israel and Torah fear so much. First we go after the things that really, seriously detract from God's Name - the First Covenant violations. We need to share the truth with our neighbors: that man wasn't made for lewdness, for instance, that violating the eternal laws of sexual morality destroys society, as does larceny, illicit abortion, oppression, murder, thievery, etc.

Our neighbors need to know that modesty is not neurosis, that sexual purity is not primitive, that self-restaint does not mean that one is uptight, that thievery is really wrong. Our neighbors, everybody, needs to recognize these things. If they ask about the Divine Lawgiver, great. If they don't, that's ok too. It doesn't matter overwhelmingly how hard they pray or if they pray or to Whom they pray. They need to know that every First Covenant crime makes man less worthy of God's salvation.

We recognize that some BN will stand up and say, I am a Noahide and I keep the First Covenant, the Noahide Law, and I believe in Yeshu. . . or in Shiva, or Ganesh, or even in no god at all. While that last notion may be a little hard to accept, the Torah condemning that idea particularly, those BNs' statements may, depending on the person's actual personal conduct, be 100% true.

Of course we recognize that that person has a wrong belief and we acknowledge that belief as idolatrous. Nevertheless, the First Covenant Law requires that one keep the Commandments, not "the faith."

Maimonides, who asks in the same volume "can there be a greater stumbling block [before the blind] than Christianity?" (Hilchot Melachim 11:4), says that a BN who accepts upon himself the First Covenant Law, the Seven Noahide Commandments, who is "precise in their observance," is considered "one of the pious (or saintly, hasidishe) among the nations," if and only if that person recognizes that the Law comes from God, Who gave it to Noah and then to Moses and Israel through the Torah." If that BN fulfills the Law out of intellectual conviction, he is not considered a saintly or pious Noahide but is considered wise. (Hil. Mel. 8:11)

This tells us that, according to Rambam (Maimonides), a BN can fulfill the Law even if he follows other gods or no god. Of course "follows", in this case, doesn't just mean intellectual belief but actual worship, ritual observance, communal prayer, etc.

Does this Rambam tell us that such a Noahide has no chance at eternal life? Not at all. Rambam is merely saying that a BN who does keep the Law for the right reasons is guaranteed eternal life and merits it.

Any idea that Heaven is restricted to very few souls or that God is condemning and harsh rather than forebearing and loving is simply a foreign import. Other religions' idea that the One God of Israel restricts the afterlife to those who follow a particular religious communion is blasphemous. (And anyone who thinks that Christianity introduced love to Israel's knowledge of God doesn't know anything about God, or Israel, or Torah.)

If the Book of Job has a central message, it's that God is great beyond imagining but that He is also always near. (Biblical theology - Torah theology - is and always has been the most sophisticated but simplest on the planet.) God is immanent and not just transcendant. He sustains every particle and atom in the universe. He is immediately, intimately somehow "with" each of us and concerned with every human being in ways that confound even the proudest philosophies.

God existed before He created the Universe and He shall always exist. If there's such a thing as beyond the end of time, God will still be there. He is complete. He is perfect. However, while this may sound like heresy, His Name is not complete, His Name is not yet perfect.

To perfect and complete His Name God needs us - human beings. In the words of kaddish, the ancient but mysterious "mourner's prayer" that punctuates every Hebrew prayer service: "magnified and sanctified be God's great Name." Kaddish speaks to the future. The Amidah, or Shimoneh Esrei, Israel's principal prayer, does too. God's great Name will be magnified and sanctified but it is presently incomplete. "May He give reign to His kingship in your time." Only when all mankind begins to turn to Him, when His kingdom comes into being, God will "magnify and sanctify Himself." (Ezekiel 38:23) "On that day the Lord will be one and his Name will be one." (Zechariah 14:9)

We understand that God's Name is not Him. He is perfect and complete even though His Name isn't yet. His Name is only connected to Him. But that's a crucial connection. In another context Scripture says, "as is his name, so is he." (Samuel 25:25)

Using words of command, God clearly tells us in the Scripture: honor His Name, do not take His Name in vain, for any low purpose, and - a Universal commandment - do not curse or blaspheme His Name. Since God gives us free will, we see that we have this choice, right here on earth: to honor His Name or dishonor it. We can help complete and perfect His Name or we can diminish it through our own thoughts and actions.

How will His Name finally become perfect? God works through history. Aleynu, the spiritual highpoint of Israel's morning and evening worship services, provides an outline of the future in the second, final paragraph. Israel prays to see God's mighty splendor, for: 1) The removal of detestable idolatry (in other words, not just any idolatry but particularly offensive, noxious idolatry; in Hebrew, gilulim) from the earth. Then, 2) He will utterly cut off all false gods. Then, the final stage, 3) He will perfect the universe through His holy sovereignty.

All humanity will begin calling upon His Name - we will all recognize His sovereignty; we will all realize that to Him and only Him every knee should bow. At that point we will all a) render homage to God's Name and (then) b) accept upon ourselves the "yoke" - the standards that we need to live up to - of His kingship.

Noahide Life

On the subject of how a Noahide should live, I had a conversation last week that took up the question of Torah study.

I said, "never mind me, this Foundation has as directors two eminent Noahide Law scholars besides me: R' Michael Katz and Rev. Jack Saunders."

"We ask each other Torah questions - especially Jack and me - all the time. We also study with others, scholars, not just on our own." (This is in addition to the weekly study we all do in the yearly cycle of Torah readings, including the haftorahs or prophetic portions assigned to each one. If you don't know what I mean by this look at the Stone or Hertz Hebrew-English chumash.) "Jack probably talks to R' Katz more than I do, and that's just one of the rabbis he studies with. R' Katz studies every chance he gets; he also probably speaks with more Noahides than I do. [As for me] I study with the leading rabbi of our shul [synagogue], one of the leading rabbis in Michigan, separately with the shul's presiding rabbi, and separately with my old pal, another writer, the grandfatherly president of one of our biggest orthodox shuls."

Shortly after that I was talking with Pam and Larry Rogers, who are helping so much with the website and with (for example) getting this newsletter to you. Pam remarked on a book she had purchased at a Noahide conference she and Larry had traveled to in Tennessee, years ago. It's a very expensive book - even when Pam bought it, years ago, it cost $50 - and it's extremely difficult to read. It's Professor David Novak's The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism - long, strange, not just full of footnotes but mostly footnotes. It's written more for professional scholars of the highly esoteric rather than for normal intelligent educated readers. Further, it's written from a somewhat contemptuously irreligious perspective, so one needs to treat the author's arguments very skeptically. Still, it's a very rich book, loaded with classic sources and statements of Torah. 480 pages long, it gets a qualified positive mention in Rainbow Covenant. It took me years to finish, and several years to even really begin to understand it.

Pam's experience with it was similar. But we both treasure it, as does Jack; it has a prominent place on our bookshelves. I bring this up not to brag about finishing such a misery of a book but because what I'm talking about here is what BN are supposed to do: to learn all they can about God and His Universal Torah.

Incidentally, besides the sort of study mentioned above, all of us study in a sense when we go through our prayers. Every Siddur or prayerbook is a treasure-chest of wisdom.


a) The biggest thing to come out of modern science has to be the scientific validation of God's creation of the Universe ex nihilo (in Hebrew, yesh me-ayin, something out of nothing), "the Big Bang." But this came out just last Fall, September 9, 2005: two "very well-conceived studies" reported in the journal Science that a "brain-building gene" which plays a crucial role in giving mankind human intelligence first came on the scene "approximately 5,800 years ago." That was as close as they could date it. See The New York Times, Sept. 9, 2005, p. A-14.

Torah teaches that the first true men, Adam and Eve, arrived on the scene 5,766 years ago.

b) In other news, a new brain-scanning study, published online on January 19th by the journal Nature, suggests that: 1) when men see a cheater, a person they have seen to have dishonestly cheated in something, get a mild electric shock, they not only don't "feel his pain" at all but rather enjoy it. 2) when women see the same cheater get the same shock, they do empathize with the cheater's pain and don't get a kick out of it at all.

Dr. Klass Stephan, a senior research fellow at University College London and co-author of the study, says that this could help explain why men have historically taken charge of punishing criminals. Dr. Tania Singer, who led the study, says that "the results were a surprise." (New York Times, "Side Effects," January 25, 2006, p. D-3)

We are not surprised. God Himself requires the men of a society, rather than the women, to take responsibility for the First Covenant Commandment of dinim - the Universal law against anarchy. He requires every society to create, maintain, and apply just laws, as well as a system of courts and police, etc., to enforce and defend them. The primary responsibility for this - for the fulfillment of this Commandment - falls on men, not women. (See the discussion in Rainbow Covenant, pp. 213-214). And in case you wondered, among the people of Israel, the same principle applies in Torah.

Torah Study

Responding to anyone who thinks that only a rabbi or only a Jewish person can teach Torah: please reconsider. Just as anyone who truly respects Torah can and should study Torah, teaching is part of learning. Anyone who studies Torah with reasonable humility can and should teach Torah - if only to the extent of sharing one's learning with one's family. Someone who knows more Torah and can teach it should teach it. How else will the world learn? Who knows better how to reach and teach Noahides than Noahides?

What does it mean to study Torah with reasonable humility? To make the most of the resources available to you and not be so puffed-up or proud that you can't accept being shown, often, that your previous conceptions about what God says in Torah were misconceptions. No one, ever, has learned it all or even "learned enough."

Famously, the great sage Hillel said to the brash gentile who demanded that Hillel teach him the Torah while he, the Noahide, stood on one foot: "Do not do to others what you would not have done to you. The rest is commentary. Now, go and study."

We recognize that, in this day and age, the best way of getting great religious truths out to the entire world is usually not by going door to door. It's usually more a matter of celebrity endorsement.

If you know any celebrities. . . .

We have been requesting donations to help defray some of the costs of operating the First Covenant Foundation - particularly, at the moment, webhosting, name domain, and accounting services (legal help is my domain, but we need to pay something for the invaluable help of our very knowledgeable Certified Public Accountant). We have no overhead. We donate what our homes and offices provide. Other than that, nobody - none of the directors - makes even a penny from the First Covenant Foundation. To the contrary, we give money to it. As for the book Rainbow Covenant, not some but all of the author's royalties go to the foundation. The book's publishers, the Lightcatcher Books people, resigned from the board - partly to avoid even the faintest appearance of having any monetary interest whatsoever in the success of the foundation.

New York State's late great senior U.S. senator, Professor Daniel Patrick Moynihan, taught that "the great conservative truth is that culture is everything." ("The great liberal truth," he continued, "is that government can help change culture for the better.") We believe that culture is everything - and that without Torah, there is no truly, genuinely human culture. So the best way to make the world better is to help bring it closer to Torah. The best way to do that, I have long believed, is by helping others live it, by introducing the world to the greatness and majesty of the First Covenant - of God's Universal Torah. That's what we're in this for. If you share this belief, then the best cultural cause in the world, the most worthy charitable concern (other than those that directly, immediately save life), is the one that does the best job of bringing people the truth, not cant or fiction, about God's great First Covenant.

You can help by buying and getting others to buy Rainbow Covenant. You can help even more directly by simply clicking on the new Contribute button on the website and using the secure PayPal facility to donate some of your hard-earned money to this all-important cause.

Every penny received will go to the work. For an accounting, just ask.

We will never sell or rent any list or name of any of our members or contributors to anyone.

Please treat this newsletter as a call to action. We call on God, as the prayer that Israel says every morning just before reciting the Hebrew statement of faith known as the shema asks: (Please understand that this is much richer in Hebrew than in English.)

We call on God for help. As the prayer that Israel says every morning just before reciting the Hebrew statement of faith known as the shema asks (please understand that this is much richer in Hebrew than in English): Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy on 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. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love and fear Your Name. Amen

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