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First Covenant

Covenant Connection

Volume 2, Issue 6

February 2007.......Adar 5767

Pro-life, Pro-Choice


• Pro-life, Pro-Choice

• Seven Candles, by Andrea M. Chester: "Bnai Noah Identity Crisis"

Why We Exist

Tattoos and Kosher Food

Help Wanted

Happy Purim!

Enlighten Our Eyes


In her Seven Candles column below, Andrea M. Chester brings up abortion.
Huge numbers of American voters believe that "nothing matters more than the issue of abortion." About half of American women will face an unexpected pregnancy sometime in their lives. At current rates, about one-third of them will end the pregnancy through abortion.
Since the United States Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion has been legal everywhere in America. Only at the point that the fetus becomes "viable," according to Roe - when the fetus becomes capable of living outside the mother's womb, about six months after conception - can the law "interfere with the woman's right to choose." 
The issue here, for those who call themselves "pro-choice," is preserving women's freedom and equality - the right to make personal decisions for oneself. On the other side, the "pro-life" people say that it's all about the sanctity of human life. "We've got to stop killing babies." 
Can one be both "pro-choice" and "pro-life"? What do Torah and the Noahide Law say about abortion? What does God say?
TIMEThe latest issue of Time Magazine has a cover photo which may help clarify God's position on the subject.  It shows a lifesize human hand - a woman's hand. Models of four human fetuses, in progressive stages of development, are resting on her palm. They are scientifically accurate, well-crafted models.
Beginning on the left, the first and smallest represents a fetus at about eight weeks after conception - that is, about 56 days after the father's seed fertilized mom's egg.  
He or she is wonderfully human - you can see thumbs and fingers, a mouth and nose, and the beginnings of eyes and ears. You can decide for yourself whether the law should afford some protection to this child - because, at this stage, he or she obviously is a child.
The others, to the right, are even better developed. The one on the right, the "oldest," at about 14 weeks after conception, looks like a complete baby. He or she is absolutely adorable, but still only two inches long. And the law doesn't afford any protection at all to the child - even at this point.
God's Law requires more. Here is the general rule. The Holy One regards abortion, or feticide, in the case of a human fetus, as "shedding the blood of man in man." The Torah strictly forbids it - see Genesis 9:6, together with the Oral Torah on this point. (Or get Rainbow Covenant, http://1stcovenant.org/pages/thebook.htm, and read pages 194-197, 205, for quotes and citations.)
The matter is different when the fetus is still only a fertilized egg. It takes at least 40 days from the time of conception for the egg to develop into a higher form. 
Take a look at a second photo.  This shows a fetus that's not yet 40 days old.
EmbrIt doesn't look human at all. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just undeveloped. A fetus like this can grow into a full-fledged human being, but that's only an expectancy. It's definitely not a human being at the moment.
Just in the last year, science has demonstrated that the fetus develops a working nervous system only after 40 days from conception. Before that, it cannot feel pain. And then the news reported another discovery. Only after 40 days does the fetus's gender become firmly determined. Even though gender is usually determined at the moment of conception, it can still change in the first 40 days. Then the window slams shut.
Next to science we have prophecy, Divine revelation. Science - real science - and prophecy (real prophecy) always complement each other. What does the Torah say?Up to 40 days after conception the Torah considers a human fetus to be "mere tissue." It's not a child, it's not a baby. It's almost on a level with "mere water," or really little more than a hairy egg. There is no legal liability in Torah for ending the fetus's progress at this point.
We also learn from Torah how to regard the fetus after the first 40 days. To save the life of the mother, abortions can be performed at any time. That is, at any time before the baby's head or the larger part of the body has left the womb. Until then, it's not a living nefesh, or soul. (See Soul of Fire, http://1stcovenant.org/pages/eternallife.htm, the July supplement to Covenant Connection, http://1stcovenant.org/pages/newsletter.htm regarding the different elements that constitute a human soul.)
The Torah teaches that birth alters being. Departing the womb and entering the world isn't just transformative physiologically but also spiritually. It's at that point that the fetus acquires a full-fledged human soul. Before that point, whether you call it a partial birth abortion or not, if the mother's life depends on it, the baby's life comes last. If the fetus inside her seriously threatens her and there is no other way to save her life, the fetus, the Torah teaches, should be treated like a "rodef," in Hebrew - a murderous pursuer.
Rabbi Katz writes on this point: The threat to life does not have to be immediate.  If the pregnancy will damage the mother's physical or mental health to the extent that she will eventually die from this episode either because of deteriorated physical health or damage to her mental health that can lead to suicide, then the abortion would be permitted as threatening her life.

Beyond that, abortion is forbidden. We hope and presume that a look at the pictures here should suffice to explain why.


Seven Candles, by Andrea M. Chester
B'nai Noah Identity Crisis

Oh Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in a day of trouble, to You nations shall come from the ends of the earth and say, Our fathers inherited utter delusions, things that are futile and worthless.  Can a man make gods for himself?”  Jeremiah 16: 19, 20 



Last month, Michael Dallen posted an article to the First Covenant Foundation blog that seemed to spark a storm of activity.  Dr. Dallen stated that First Covenant Foundation appreciates Christians who take a pro-Israel stance.  In the ensuing flurry of letters, I noticed something curious, and quite important. 


It seems that many b’nai Noah are experiencing an identity crisis.  I think we need to explore that a bit.  Most of us have Christian backgrounds, and still have family connected to Christianity.  Some of us work with deeply committed Christians, and we face questions and comments from our co-workers.


As a Christian, I had a pretty good idea of who I was in the scheme of things.  I knew that I was a child of the Eternal God, and that He loved me.  I knew that He had certain expectations of me, expectations He had expressed thousands of years ago, as recorded in the Bible. 


Much of what I had been taught was comforting and strong and true.  Unfortunately, my beliefs also included some things that were not true….  I had to go through a process of growing, sorting, and examining.  I had to decide, for myself, what I thought.  And, like a teenager in the throes of identity crisis, I didn’t find it easy. 


Last month, I noticed similar things going on in the posts to the blog.  It reminded me of when my children were teenagers. 


They tested every rule I had.  They questioned me, defied me, tried to trick me, and told me outright lies.  They implied that I was ruining their lives, and told me I should just butt out of their business.  Sometimes, they hated me.  They treated everything I said with suspicion.  They fought with me, with each other, and with themselves.  Sometimes, home was a very tense place.


But they also cuddled up to me to watch a television show, or brought me a little gift bought out of money they had worked hard to earn.  They brought friends to me because those friends needed “a mom’s advice.”  They trusted me to still love them, even when they told me how well they could do without me.  Sometimes, I wept with joy over how much we loved each other.  That was my job.


Through it all, I had to remember that God entrusted those precious lives into my care, but that they weren’t really “mine.”  I wasn’t to keep them home and safe under my wing.  I was to teach them how to fly, and build their own lives, and find their own answers 


I was to lay a good foundation, but I couldn’t build the house.  I could guide and direct, but I couldn’t live their lives or make their decisions.  I could glow with joy over their achievements or anguish over their difficulties, but I couldn’t go through it for them.  That was their job. 


My children had to make their own mistakes, and figure out where “Mom” was right, and where my thoughts didn’t work for them.  They had to shed the image of being “my children,” and become themselves.  And, I had to let them. 


Actually, that’s the point.  As b’nai Noah, I think we are in much the same situation.  We are still trying to find where we fit in the scheme of things.  We’re testing what we thought we knew, and we are challenging those from whom we take instruction.  We are learning how to hold the line of our beliefs, and still get along in this world.  We are figuring out how to support Israel’s mission to be a light unto the nations, without feeling that we have to be a trophy or a Jewish “Mini Me.” 


We have a good foundation.  We have the truth of Torah and Tanach/the Bible.  We have teachers who care about our growth, who try to guide us away from the mistakes they themselves have made.  In the end, however, we will make our own decisions about things. 


The introductory quote from Jeremiah implies that we have to learn to think for ourselves.  “Our fathers have inherited delusions…”  Maybe those delusions served them.  Perhaps they didn’t know how to question the authority of tradition.  But our fathers left us some important truths, too. 


We have the time and technology that makes study easy for us.  We can examine the delusions we inherited without despising those who believed them.  We can respect the truths we inherited without worshipping those who revealed them.  In the end, God will hold us accountable for acting honorably towards Him and our fellow man.  He will hold us responsible for our own decisions and actions. 


How will we resolve our identity crisis?  As I sit here writing this article, a young man I know mourns for his cousin.  She died aboard a military vessel yesterday, in the line of duty.  A co-worker battles cancer.  It metastasized after her double mastectomy four months ago.  A young woman faces the bleak decision whether to abort her child or not.  Her boyfriend has vanished, and her parents will ostracize her if she comes home pregnant. 


These mundane vignettes are the places where God measures the true degree of our religion.  These are the tests of life. And God’s gauge of genuine faith comes down through the ages, in the words of Micah 6:8:  “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you:  Only to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God; Then will your name achieve wisdom.”

Why We Exist

What the vast majority of Christian evangelicals - as well as Jews - don't know is that there are Seven Universal Laws within Judaism. As it happens, these go directly to the two defining cultural issues of our time: abortion and homosexuality.

The Noahide Laws confirm what Christian evangelicals believe anyway: that no decent country can give a broad OK to abortion and homosexuality and remain a decent country.

Orthodox Jews and Christian evangelicals believe that God is very close. But many non-Orthodox Jews believe that God is distant, and that religious Judaism is obsolete. They would, if they knew something about them, find the Noahide principles embarrassing. Especially since they - non-Orthodox Jewish people - are often leaders in the cultural crusade to give a broad OK to abortion and homosexuality!

They do this in the name of liberty and what they consider to be humanistic values. But this comes under the heading of the Torah's repeated warnings - directed right at them, right at the Jewish people - not to follow their own shallow ideas of what's actually "humanistic," or trendy doctrines of any time or place which contradict the Torah.

They need to get in touch with the religion of their fathers - especially its core teachings, the Noahide Law. Christian evangelicals and other Noahides need to get in touch with the core teachings of Sinai too.

The best way to do that - we humbly submit - is through us. Come to our website. Get our book, Rainbow Covenant, and study it. Join and support the First Covenant Foundation.

We exist to put all Jews and Noahides, including evangelical Christians along with non-Orthodox Jews, together on the same page. We exist to help everyone make God's covenant connection.


Tattoos and Kosher Food

Torah, Israel, and the Noahide Movement are all about God consciousness - about the higher principles that bring out the best, most godly qualities in human beings.

In the next issue we plan to begin a series on the Torah's "statutes," the more mysterious part of the Torah. These are the precepts regarding, say:

* eating kosher food (including the fact that one need not be a vegetarian to be holy)

* circumcising male infants (and only males)

* prohibiting the implanting of tattoos or scarification marks on the human body

* kosher burial (not cremation, not embalmment, nor burial at sea, or anywhere but in a cemetery, if possible)

These go beyond the Noahide Laws. The Seven Universal Laws are the Torah's completely, obviously rational, logical precepts. But none of these "statutes" above are completely rationalistic or purely logical. We probably wouldn't keep them but for Divine revelation. Nevertheless, we have the remarkable promise of Deuteronomy 4:6:

"for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, who shall hear all these statutes. . . [and recognize their holiness]."

In other words, even though these apparently non-rational statutes don't make conventional "sense," the whole world will come to recognize their holy nature - and will, presumably, want to adopt them for themselves.

Actually, many Noahides are doing exactly that today. They study and adopt the statutes that particularly resonate with them. It goes beyond accepting the Seven Laws. The real-world fulfillment of Deuteronomy 6:4 is a big part of today's Noahide movement.

Help Wanted

If you have some experience with blogs, consider giving us a hand: we could really use a blog administrator, an organizer and moderator.

If you can help and want to help, please call or send us an email.

Happy Purim!

Starting Saturday night, March 3, 2007 (the beginning of the 14th of the month of Adar) immediately following the Sabbath. Israel reads the Bible's Book of Esther.

In Persia, long ago, the Prime Minister, Haman - who is Amalek, the Anti-Israel -tried to wipe out the Jewish People. He and his co-conspirators cast lots - "pur," in ancient Persian - to determine an auspicious day. They settled on the 14th of the month of Adar as a lucky day for them to begin the slaughter. See what happened! Read the Megillah (the Scroll), the Book of Esther!

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.Questions? Comments?

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