One remark from a foundation friend - his picture pops up in the video alongside his incidental comment (from an Amazon.com review of Rainbow Covenant) that non-Jews aren't bound by the Ten Commandments - struck us wryly: “I've written so many scientific papers, that disappeared beneath the water without leaving a trace. Then I write a short review of your book - next thing I know I'm featured in a YouTube video!”
Crude lies aside, let's not fault people too much for feeling offended by having the Ten Commandments “snatched away” from them. Even though - we must remember this - these folks don't actually want to “do” things like sanctify the Saturday, end-of-week Sabbath (that special “sign” between God and Israel, Exodus 31:15). Or accept the requirement to worship HaShem alone. Or, e.g., treat covetousness as crime.
The Torah's language is so compelling; speaking to “you” in the plural - “you all” - and then to “you” in the singular, to you as an individual, as God “spoke” to Israel at Sinai, it's mean to sink in. So it's not strange that many people, non-Jews, think the Revelation at Sinai is addressed directly to them. Especially when the best that's been offered to them in place of the Ten sounds strange to them - false conceptions of the 7M, that dishonor God and Israel; "new" multiple covenants, tied to Biblical-literalist fundamentalism; wacky legal theories, that make God's Way unreasonable, that make it - the 7M - tyrannical, cruel, primitive, and man-made.
Love, Love, Love
These remarks from the last issue won praise:
“We LOVE the Seven Laws. We have studied them for decades. Only God could have devised such a magnificent system!”... “the whole Covenant Code, the entire Universal Moral Law, in less than 15 words”… “[nothing] that ever came from a committee, or anything manmade, [is] anything like this - so terse, plain, and perfectly comprehensive… Even the language of the 7M, apart from the inner message, points to the supernatural.
“If you want to know how Jews are supposed to interact with non-Jews, or how Noahides (non-Jews) are supposed to interact with Jews, or benefit from Torah, or regard HaShem, you need to go to the 7M. If you want to know what God wants for the vast majority of the human race - the non-Jewish part - and what Noahides have to contribute to the process of redemption, whether apart from Jews or in partnership with Jews, you need to look at the 7M.”
Does that overstate the case for the 7M? No, it understates it. It neglects this benefit from the 7M, for instance: the light that they and First Covenant studies generally throw upon the Torah as a whole. The 7M allow us to explore the whole Torah and history of Israel from a universalist perspective instead of just the point of view of Israel. The First Covenant lets us look at these things in more than two dimensions. And, speaking of new perspectives, consider how the First Covenant offers us a new look and fresh perspective on the 7M's blessed, infinitely wise, more-than-wonderful holy Author, HaShem!
Devotees of Yah-shua, Yehoshua, Yeshua and “Rabbi Jesus” - "Messianics," co-called - liked our comments that people who believe as they do shouldn't have trouble keeping the 7M. After all, as we noted, the Golden Rule, the sacredness of the individual human being (all of us of one family, and “made in the image of God”), and free will - the principle that people have the ability to choose our own course for ourselves, whether to do well or do evil, in our day-to-day actions - are Christian fundamentals. They lie at the root of the 7M.
What WE didn't like was hearing this argument: that “Messianic” gentiles (Christians who identify with Israel) actually belong to Israel as Jews themselves, “Spiritual Jews”; that they - who read the “Old Testament,” who “believe in” the 7M, who use Hebrew names to refer to Jesus and sometimes like to call his Father by His very sacred four-letter Name - are part of the Jewish People, “Metropolitan Israel,” as it were; members of the tribe, with their own vote when it comes to telling us, their “fellow Israelites,” what's what in respect to Judaism.
[We have Jewish readers who are Messianics. They already know what happens with their vote - so do Jewish Buddhists, Jewish Muslims, Jewish atheists, Jewish Scientologists, etc.]
That's not how this system works.
Indeed, even the most Torah-centric Noahide, someone who genuinely thinks like an Orthodox Jew (at least in matters of theology and Torah), who would never even consider accepting any sort of intermediary in worship, is NOT a Jew or Hebrew. He or she doesn't get any kind of member's vote when it comes to Israel's fate and Israel's religion. He or she shares the same religious beliefs as Israel but that's not the same as being “grafted onto Israel.”
This is not an insult! It's no insult to Noahides to stand apart from Israel. To the contrary - it's an opportunity.
Only a Noahide can become 1) a sincere gentile worshipper of HaShem; 2) a non-Jewish lover of Torah, seeking truth with true humility; and 3) a devoted friend of Israel and the Jewish People who isn't Jewish.
In fact, the Noahide who manages to cut through the darkness and reach all three levels, above, becomes one of an exceedingly small and special class of human beings. They bring the world, including Israel, much blessing …
Contrary to the idea that Noahides can't join the “cool kids,” the Jews, in God's system, Noahides, if they choose, take their destiny into their own hands; they choose God!
This is no small thing and - in a world that has yet to be redeemed - not easy. We believe that those who manage it successfully potentially become eligible for the most honorable and exclusive club in the world: this is the club of the Thirty-Six - the so-called “lamed-vovniks,” literally, 36 - of Hebrew legend; the living saints of every generation, whose collective merit is so great that it alone makes the Earth worth saving!
Naturally, even a gentile lamed-vovnik doesn't merge into or “graft onto” the Jewish People. That's not the way the system works!
Ferplutzing the 7M
One way that some of us, Jewish people, have ferplutzed the 7M is by teaching that Noahism is just a stage on the road to Judaism. So they try to convince Noahides to convert to Judaism. They brag about the numbers of converts they've “made,” and they're disappointed when a Noahide remains “just” a Noahide.
That's not how this works! God doesn't ask Noahides to become Jews but “only” to become truly God-conscious - truly “God-fearing.”
We put “God-fearing” in quotes because we don't mean to praise “fear.” Actually, yirat-shamayim, “fear of Heaven,” just means putting God first, ahead of everything else that people fear. “God-fearing” is a shield against what rules others.
The Bible's model for Noahides isn't Ruth (a convert) but a gentile like Na'aman (2 Kings 5). Na'aman acquires yirat-HaShem, “fear of HaShem,” but keeps his job and country, home and family.
Na'aman makes HaShem, the God of Israel, his God - as Ruth does - as all people shall eventually (unless the Bible lies). He differs from Ruth and remains apart from Israel because he doesn't subscribe to the rest of Ruth's famous pledge, the formula for converts, spoken to Naomi: “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you reside, I will reside; your people shall be my people, and [like Na'aman] your God my God; where you die, will I die, and there I will be buried…. (Ruth 1:16-17).
This is no little thing, your God will be my God! It's far more than the 7M require. A Noahide need not recognize or even know of HaShem. Pending the apocalypse - the universal revelation - promised by the Bible, when all people will “see” HaShem, a Noahide can believe in no god or in (almost) any god, according to the 7M, and still be a good person. That is, a non-Jew can lawfully entertain a false belief about ultimate reality. (Maybe we should capitalize that, because God is the universe's Ultimate Reality.) It's lawful, but it's still a bad mistake to make, because getting such a basic, root belief like that wrong is going to misdirect you constantly. But it's not a 7M crime. It's just a mistake. God tolerates mistakes.
No mortal thinks correctly all the time. A false theology is unusually problematic in that it's a systemic, constant source of error. Someone who thinks that no Higher Power cares how he or she acts, for instance; or that God is indifferent to the suffering of the weak, the orphan, the unjustly accused, etc., is bound to make many mistakes - mistakes in judgment, grievous sins, even 7M crimes.
You can't, in the 7M system, worship a god that personifies evil. That is, you can't serve a deity who - clearly, obviously, to every person cognizant of the universally revealed truth that all men are brothers, that the individual human being is sacred - doesn't deserve to be worshipped.
A “god” who delights in murder, torture and oppression isn't tolerable in the 7M, and woe to you if you follow such a damnable religion. The 7M are all reasonable laws and reason precludes following a god of evil. But you can, as a Noahide, worship a god that isn't God, if that's all you know about God. You can, absolutely, introduce some intervening force or spirit - or, more accurately, the concept of such a force or spirit - between you and God.
In fact, any theology that delimits God by trying to conceptualize Him as material in any way, or as a being who isn't infinite, eternal, compassionate, just, intelligent and holy, or who isn't fully involved with His Creation, or doesn't grant free will, or can't be effectively petitioned except through the intervention of some other being, is a false theology.
Every false theology blasphemes God. It's such a harmful thing that the Ten Commandments' laws provide for the severest punishment, through Torah courts, for any Jew who promotes a false theology. Fortunately for Noahides, Noahides have much more room to err.
If God didn't care what Noahides believe, that would indeed be insulting to Noahides. But nothing could be further from the truth. The whole point of Israel in the world is to make the world more truly God-conscious! We wonder, though: what level of consciousness are people really ready for?
We see from the responses to our last issue that some Noahides - and a few Jews too, Jewish “Messianics” and even some devotees of the late Rebbe of Chabad - seem to require an intermediary in worship, a god or demigod or comforting divine spirit between them and HaShem, a literally adorable divine being that they can visualize.
Every visualization of God is a false visualization. Every image of HaShem, the Torah teaches, is an image of what isn't HaShem.
Torah-centric Noahides and Jews generally “imagine” God in highly symbolic, very abstract ways. They think of His works, of the order and complexity found in nature, for instance, in relation to His wisdom; of titanic cosmic fireballs and stupendous interstellar forces, or the microscopic world, etc., in relation to His power. They don't look for the concertmaster's hands, in other words, but contemplate the production. Or they consider some of God's more famous attributes - His infinite intelligence, His compassion, His passion for justice, His fury over injustice… Because somebody who visualizes Him, HaShem, in any way, is associating Him with something infinitely less than He is - something that delimits Him.
[Despite Islam's famous cry that God - Allah - is one, Islam delimits God by making Allah the only reality. By hallowing fate and denying human free will, it makes life, effectively, a mere dream that plays out within Allah. God becomes synonymous with the universe. By visualizing the universe, the cosmic everything, one visualizes Allah. And this is a false - and very crude - conception of God.]
Israel's famous prohibition against trying to pronounce God's most holy Name - HaShem, the Name of the God of the Ten Commandments; the Tetragrammaton, the ineffable Four Letter Y, H, V, and H - helps keep us all from imagining Him blasphemously. So does the rule against writing the Name frivolously, without compelling cause.
It makes it harder to visualize HaShem when you shouldn't write and mustn't even try to pronounce His Name. But these are rabbinic prohibitions, edicts of the Jewish People's rabbis, the post-Biblical sages. Which means that they aren't much respected except by people who respect - that is, actually respect - Israel and Torah.
Naturally, this means that some of our correspondents go around frequently writing, mispronouncing, and improperly pronouncing the Holy Name of HaShem - while committing the extremely serious mistake and sin of misconceiving Him.
Israel has a saying (R' Yochanan ben Nappaha in Talmud, Megilla 13a) to the effect that everyone who thinks of God as the Jews do - as HaShem, a completely unimaginable but unitary, non-physical, impossible to visualize Being - should be called a Jew . But this is hyperbole, a huge exaggeration. Very few non-Jews, relatively speaking, conceive of God as the Jews do. But, in fact, not everyone who conceives of Him in this highly abstract way is Jewish. And those who do certainly don't need to convert to Judaism!
Eventually, as we believe, everyone will share the “Jewish” conception of God - of a Being Who is purely One, purely spirit - and Ultimate Reality. The power and the habit of thinking about Him - Ultimate Reality - in such a sophisticated, abstract way has certainly helped the Jews intellectually (not to mention the power that comes from simply being right, from “knowing” God this well); we would be shocked if this theology and mode of thinking doesn't similarly benefit others. From our limited observations over two decades, of HaShem-devoted Noahides, we believe it does. In fact, correct theology may be the secret of Redemption. When all the world shares the uniquely abstract conception of Ultimate Reality - of God - that Israel stands for, humankind will probably be ready for Redemption!
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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