A JEWISH MESSAGE FOR MANKIND
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Many non-Jews, especially those who come to Israel and Jerusalem, are interested in what, if anything, Judaism has to say to them, and how Jews regard them. Jewish tradition has a clear response.
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Truly traditional Jews accept the Torah, the Pentatuch, as God's revealed Word; it is amplified and explained by Moshe (Moses), God's messenger, during the 40 year desert trek to Israel; that which we have retained of this teaching, and our attempts to reconstruct the rest, are found in our oral tradition, briefly summarized in the Talmud and Midrashim. It is the unique heritage of Israel- " ... for BY THE MOUTH of these words have I made a covenant with you" (Ex. 34:27). God picks the Jewish people to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6) after Exodus, prior to entering Israel. A "Priest" implies that there's a congregation. A cursory glance at Genesis shows this to be all of mankind.
When God created man, there was no division into Jews and non-Jews for at least 20 generations, until the time of Avraham. Adam and Eve left Divine intimacy, the Garden of Eden, to "do their own thing". Individual sins of passion and power, eating the forbidden fruit in Eden and Cayin's murder of Hevel, set the tone for humanity's future development. Amidst great technological progress and civilization, Collective Man continues these deviations. The flood generation drowns itself in debauchery (cf. Aids) and the power bloc of Babel disintegrates when it challenges God Himself (cf. Eastern Europe). Avraham and his seed are chosen to develop role models--individual, familial, and national, to bring everyone back to themselves and God, to Eden. Avraham and his son Yitzchak partially succeed; each develops one side of man, relational and introspective, but loses that son most like him, who abandons dad's mission. After three generations, Ya'akov (Jacob) merges the development of Avraham and Yitzchak, and becomes a model man, called "Israel" by God. All his 12 sons finally walk in his path, becoming a variegated model family, ending Genesis, Vol. 1 of the Torah-- Creation, Destruction, and Re-Creation.
In Exodus, this family develops into a nation and is taken out of Egypt to build a model State of Israel, from which all nations will learn, return, and greatly benefit. As priests to mankind, the Jews are given over 600 laws and rituals not commanded to the rest of mankind; they're the focus of Leviticus. Israel's initial failure to live by their priestly code in Numbers leads to Mose's deeper review of both God's Law and Israel's history in Deuteronomy. Both God and Israel never give up.
But Universal man is not forgotten by God-- his redemption is the raison d'etre of the Jewish people. Our tradition, based on God's addresses to Adam, Noah and Company, subsumes the rules of living for every man under the rubric of the 7 laws of Noah. Any gentile who accepts and fulfills them is righteous and has a share in the world to come. No formal religious ritual or liturgy is required, tho shared traditions and texts and meeting together for prayer and study may be necessary to build a viable Noachide society. In March 1991 the U.S. Congress passed and Pres. Bush signed into law a resolution praising Noachism as the oldest human religion.
Due to persecution of the Jews, little was done to teach these laws for the last few thousand years, despite Maimonides' command to do so (Laws of Kings). Interest in them has revived over the last few years and Noahide groups and literature are slowly but surely springing up amidst Western civilization. Some Noahides cut all ties with their past, viewing Jesus and Christianity as irrelevant, possibly harmful, to their lives and faith. Others retain ties to Jesus as a teacher, possibly messianic, but reject Christianity and its pagan holidays, e.g. Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. All reject any Divinity of Jesus and view prayers to him as idolatry. Most Jews take the former view, but Rabbi Yaakov Emden viewed Jesus and Paul as Noachide teachers, whose views were distorted by the early anti-semitic Greek Christians (Seder Olam Raba V'zutra). Rav S. Riskin (Video- A Jewish View of Jesus) sees him as a traditional Jew who later regreted his claim to be Messiah. Should this movement spread to Arabs, it might solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Noachide Arabs too would feel part of Israel's Mission and abandon Islam, the source of much of the present Arab hatred of Israel and attempts to harm and kill Jews. They want to be on God's side, but have twisted His Biblical message.
A simple statement of the 7 laws: 1) not to murder. 2) not to worship idols. 3) not to steal. 4) not to take another's wife or commit incest. 5) not to eat meat of an animal still alive. 6) not to blaspheme. 7) to establish well-functioning legal and political systems. Basically, every person should acknowledge God's Revelation to Israel, Israel's unique role, and his or her duty to be a decent human being (plus one "kosher" law above, #5). No one is encouraged to become Jewish, though some sources feel that study and observance of the Torah is good for everyone.
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The Jew is commanded to treat every decent human being well, with integrity and pleasantness, and to teach them God's Word. The gentile is to explore, conquer and develop the world for everyone's benefit. While learning from Israel, Noachides can also arouse the consciousness of those Jews who either have become distanced from their mission or who observe the Torah mechanically, without inspiration and a global perspective.
As the Jews are to build a model "holy nation" in every realm, not just be a monastic "kingdom of priests," they will share knowledge and experience in every field with the rest of mankind. Those who help rebuild the State of Israel and the Jewish people are taking the first steps in the messianic redemption of all mankind. The non-Jew should not be discouraged when he meets Jews who lack warmth and friendship-- many Jews still suffer from centuries of terrible persecution by Islam and Christianity; this makes them suspicious of outsiders, and their education, unfortunately, often ignores their global mission.
Avraham, first to lead man back to Eden, tells the children of Chet: "I am a stranger and a settler with you" (Gen. 23:4). Yes, he's a resident-- a full-fledged leader in Canaanite society; he speaks Hittite well and knows the ropes-- when Efron means the opposite of what he says, when witnesses are needed, etc. Yet, Avraham's a stranger too; he lives in another world, with different values and concerns, transcending time and space. The Jew is always a settler, part of his society and his age; yet he must also be somewhat of a stranger, a priest immersed in God's teachings, in order to teach and help everyone else. This combination of Torah and the "way of the earth" forever characterizes the ideal Jew (Rav J. B. Soloveichik; great Torah scholars must also possess worldly knowledge to be great Jewish leaders, as he and the Lubavitcher Rebbe).
"...A STRANGER & A RESIDENT (together) WITH YOU" is also the tale of Everyman's brief existence between eternities. Live life to the full, but don't forget-- it's but a brief transition, to fully develop your Divine Essence while a mammal. A tourist, seeing the Chofetz Chayim's simple hut, asked: "Where's your furniture, Rebbe?"; he replied: "Where's your's?". The astounded visitor said: "But I'm just here on a short trip!"; the sage retorted: "So am I!". Modern man is trapped in existential confusion, dispair, and helplessness amidst technological boom and progress. The Torah, the Jewish people, and the State of Israel may pull him out, once Israel itself beautifuly blends the Torah with the ways of the world. May it be soon!
For further information on this subject, these resources are available at TOP.
LIGHT UNTO THE NATIONS, by Yoel Schwartz
THE 7 LAWS OF NOACH, by Aharon Lichenstein
THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILE, by Chaim Corfine
AUDIO TAPES of the dialogue between Noachides and Rabbi Michael Katz.
RALPH MADDEN discusses his path from Christian pastor to Noachide leader.
RABBI KENNETH ADMUN speaks of Israel's role as "A Light to the Nations".
J. DAVID DAVIS & JACK SAUNDERS, former Baptist ministers, and JAMES TABER, Prof. of Religious Studies at UNC portray their Noachide beliefs and the state of today's world Noachide movement.
PROF. TABER WRITES: According to Jewish rabbinic tradition, all non-Jews are "children of Noah," and as such are subject to a special universal Noachite Covenant. This covenant, made with Noah following the Flood, is prior to, and separate from the Toarh Covenant made at Sinai with the "children of Israel". All humankind is accordingly obligated to follow the "seven Laws of Noach". The basic Talmudic discussion of the notion of the "Noachite" is in Sanhedrin 50-60. Various additions and amplifications were made to these seven, so that in one place thirty Noachian laws are listed (Hullin 92a)! See the Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. "Laws, Noachian," the Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. "Noachide Laws," and the Talmudic Encyclopedia, B'nai Noach, for general discussion and basic primary and secondary literature. Many scholars of ancient Judaism and Christianity believe that something akin to this rabbinic concept of the"Noachite" existed in the Greco-Roman period.
Generally speaking, both Moslems and Christians have been considered "Noachites," as long as the latter have avoided the tritheism sometimes associated with popular Trinitarianism (i.e. making Jesus a "second" Diety, separate from God). Steven Schwarzschild, "Do Noachites Have to Believe in Revelation," Jewish Quarterly Review 52 (1962): 297-308 and 53 (1962): 30-65, but now conveniently reprinted in "The Pursuit of the Ideal: Jewish Writings of Steven Schwarzschild, ed. Menachem Kellner (New York: SUNY, 1990), pp. 29-59. But one might argue that Moslems do not qualify as they distort the Torah and Christians because they deny the eternity of Israel's mission.
The best known Gentile exponent of "the Noachite religion" in our time was Aime Palliere (1887-1949). See his moving autobiographical testimony, now translated into English by Louise Wise titled "The Unknown Sanctuary: A Pilgrimage from Rome to Israel" (New York: Bloch, 1985).
The "Seven Laws of Noah" are seen as topical headings, under which an elaborate set of theological and ethical concepts are organized. For example, under the prohibition against "idolatry," one would delve into a whole cluster of Jewish ideas and observances as applicable to Gentiles: the nature of God, prohibitions against the occult, definitions of idolatry, and so forth. Likewise, under the heading of "sexual immorality" would come the whole Jewish understanding of human sexuality as expounded in Torah and rabbinic tradition. Accordingly, like their Jewish counterparts, B'nai No'ach have embarked on a lifelong effort of talmud Torah. It offers a way to worship and follow the God of Israel, short of conversion to Judaism, but free of many restraints of creed and cult.
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