Symposium. Fourth essay
By Michael Dallen, responding to the first three papers.
I did find this interesting. Also frustrating, because it's not possible to respond directly to the author of the first piece. I presume that's Alan Cecil, but I have no address for him and one can't reach any website called www.academyofshem.
1) What I'd like to do is put this whole conversation up on our 1stcovenant website as a series of articles, in the nature of a symposium. If anyone has an objection to that, let me know asap.
2) Alan should know that it's not dinin but dinim, and, as the second writer observed, not all Lubavitchers subscribe to any of that Rebbe=moshiach business.
3) I think both of the first two writers made some good points. I don't know about Adam's essay - somehow it seemed sort of soft and fuzzy. No offense, but the others weren't soft nor fuzzy but sharp and memorable.
4) An important point that nobody seems to make, and I haven't done the greatest job of explaining it on the 1st cov site: the 7M (seven universal mitzvos/commandments) need to be studied in their G'd-given context: in the context of Sinai and the Torah.
Only Israel, of all the nations, kept the First Covenant/7M Tradition intact, as part of the larger Torah, the Biblical Tradition. That's the way history gives them to us and there is no way of getting around it. So you have to learn them in this context, in company with all the fundamental cosmic truths of Torah. Truths like: G'd is the Maker of all things; He is eternal; He is intimately concerned with humankind; He loves compassion, loving-kindness, mercy and justice; He acts in history - He's not merely transcendant but also imminent; and, not least, that He blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse Israel. That's just what you get out of Genesis.
If you were to say that Noahides were actually practically limited in which parts of the Torah or Biblical Tradition they could explore - I agree with the second writer, that, in practice, everything in Torah is accessible to a seeking Noahide, if he studies for a proper purpose - then, at the very least, a Noahide should study:
*all of the Torah's fundamental cosmic truths in the Biblical narrative up to Sinai,
* plus the story of Bilaam and Balaak,
* plus everything following Deuteronomy, from the Book of Joshua through 2d Chronicles,
* plus everything not included above which bears on the 7M, in the positive and the negative sense (that is, learning to doing the opposite of what the 7M forbid). This includes, of course, the whole of the Oral Torah relevant to all of the above.
(Parenthetically, what this means, practically speaking, is the whole Torah. It would be hard to find something that doesn't fit into the categories above: including, e.g., the matter of tefillin - since there's something there for BN to learn, even tho the positive act of putting on tefillin as a mitzvah/connection doesn't apply to BN.)
At any rate, there's a lot there and BN should be worshipping this G'd Who gives us all so much and teaches us all so much.
As for Rambam in the Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 10:9, about not creating a new religion: I looked at it last night, yet again. Gentiles need to come to the One G'd and they need to be ever-mindful of Him, love Him and fear Him with all their heart and all their soul and all their might.
Rashi says that the gentile who does so absolutely needs to keep shabbat in the sense of celebrating it in its cosmic aspects (as opposed to its Hebrew national enmanicipatory aspect). We also know from the Talmud that the time will come when Israel won't even accept converts (since it won't be possible to separate the sincere from those who just want to advance themselves status-wise). What are monotheistic BN to do then? It's psychologically impossible that they just confine themselves to legalisms, or live vicariously through Israel's religiosity. That couldn't be good for them spiritually, either: there's no way that this would allow them to become all that they can be or all that G'd wants them to be.
Somebody once asked R' Katz about getting them the date of Noah's landing, and maybe Noah's birthday, or day of death, and turning them into Noahide celebrations. R' Katz refused to oblige. I think he was right to do so - because that's the kind of thing that Rambam was saying is prohibited.
Anyway, we won't get all of this wrapped up today. I did want to make clear, though, that we have to take the 7M in their proper context. By doing so, we get more than enough in the way of cosmic truth to have a vibrant and passionate religious life. Not dry, not legalistic, not loaded down with putative kabbalah (who can guarantee that any particular kabbalistic "truth" is really true or genuine?), and still completely monotheistic. Let's just remember that completely monotheistic means blessing both G'd AND Israel.
For a later response to this series of papers, click here.