Introduction to the Noahide Laws

Written by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky Posted in eBook - The Path of the Righteous Gentile

This eBook summarizes the Jewish teachings on this subject to inform and guide the Gentiles, or descendants of Noah. Jewish readers will also be interested in learning about this little‑known area of Jewish study.

The doctrine of the Seven Noahide Commandments brings the Jewish idea of unity to the world. In fact, the very idea of unity in religion originated with Judaism. Whoever has this concept other than the Jews, got it from the Jews.[1] And when we speak of unity, we mean both the unity of God and the unity of mankind. The unity of God means monotheism, and the unity of mankind means a world in which all people come to God in peace and harmony.

All the religions of the world, other than Judaism, approach the idea of unity with the precept, "Believe as we believe, and the world will be one." This approach has never worked. Judaism approaches unity from an entirely different perspective. It teaches that there are two paths, not just one.[2] One path is yours. The other one is mine. You travel yours and I will travel mine, and herein will be found true unity: the one God is found on both paths because the one God gave us both. The Noahide laws define the path that God gave to the non‑Jewish peoples of the world.[3]

The Seven Noahide Commandments comprise the most ancient of all religious doctrines, for they were given to Adam, the First Man, on the day of his creation.[4] Wondrously, the Seven Noahide Commandments remain the newest and most uncharted of all religious doctrines. Humanity has managed to keep them new by ignoring them throughout history. But now, in these latter days when the footsteps of the Messiah can be heard by all who will listen closely, the Seven Noahide Com­mandments must finally be studied and observed by all the people of all the nations.

The word commandment isa translation of the Hebrew word mitzvah, which also means "connection." By observing God's commandments, a person becomes connected with God's infinite will and wisdom and thereby elicits a Godly light which shines onto his or her soul. This Godly light is eternal, and in it the soul earns eternal reward.[5] By observing the Seven Noahide Commandments, a Gentile fulfills the purpose of his creation and receives a share of the World to Come, the blessed spiritual world of the righteous.

The hurdle that must be cleared in preparation for ob­serving the Seven Noahide Commandments is the acceptance of the idea that mankind's way to the Father is through the rabbis. Rebellion against the sanctity of rabbinic authority and tradition has been with us since those first days in the Wilderness of Sinai when the followers of Korah led a revolt against absolute rabbinic authority, as we learn in the Torah, "And they assembled themselves against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, You assume too much; for the whole of the congregation are all of them holy, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then will you lift yourselves up above the congregation of the Lord?" (Num. 16:3). In the end, God performed a great miracle to demonstrate His preference for the Mosaic authority, "And the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them and their houses and all the men that were for Korah and all their wealth. And they went down, they and all who were for them, alive into the pit; and the earth closed over them and they disappeared from the midst of the congregation" (Num. 16:32,33). The lessons of the Torah are eternal as we see by all those down through the ages who have emulated the actions of Korah and his band.

When God gave the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, the people all accepted the written Torah willingly, but God had to lift the mountain over their heads and threaten to drop it on them to persuade them to accept the Oral Torah,[6] that is, the rabbinic interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. If the Jews had difficulty in accepting the Oral Torah as no less divine than the scriptures themselves, how much more difficult must it be for the non‑Jews. But accept the rabbis[7] they must, for the source of understanding the Seven Noahide Command­ments is found in the Talmud and the later rabbinic teachings, and nowhere else.

There is a second difficulty that arises in considering the Seven Noahide Commandments. It is seemingly a semantic problem, but it has profound implications. The Gentile as well as the Jew should not relate to members of the non‑Jewish nations of the world as Gentiles, but rather as Noahides. Seen as the Children of Noah, or Noahides, the non‑Jewish nations of the world at once have a unique and specific spiritual role in the world, one that is exceedingly exalted. The Children of Noah are co‑religionists of the Children of Israel. Together, they are peaceful partners striving to perfect the world and thereby give God satis­faction. By viewing himself as a Noahide, the Gentile becomes like the Jew, in that he is a member of a people whose peoplehood (not just his religion) is synonymous with its relationship to God.

At this time, The Path of the Righteous Gentile is the only book that attempts to present a framework of the doctrine of the Seven Noahide Commandments in a usable form, albeit a limited and seminal one. For reasons explained in the "Historical Overview," previous treatises on this subject were written by Jewish scholars for other Jewish scholars and were intended to remain theoretical and academic. The Path of the Righteous Gentile is a call to action for both the Jew and the non‑Jew, the Israelite and the Noahide. As the great sage Rabbi Tarfon said: The day is short, the work is considerable, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Boss is pressing.[8]

It all depends on us, which includes you. And so, this introductory book on the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah has been prepared. It is meant not as a document of final authority, but as a means by which one may become familiar with the subject.

We hope and pray that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel will forgive any errors this work may contain, and that it will become an instrument for bringing all mankind closer to its Father in heaven. May His revealed Presence soon dwell among us.

[1] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, chapter 1, laws 2, 3

[2] Ibid., Laws of Kings, chapter 8, law 10

[3] Ibid., chapter 8, law 11

[4] Ibid., chapter 9, law 1

[5] Likutei Torah, Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Bekhukotey, page 45, column 3

[6] Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 88a. Note: The Oral Torah, that is, the explanation of the Holy Scriptures (primarily the Talmud and the later Code of Jewish Law), according to rabbinic tradition was revealed to Moses by God at Mount Sinai, then transmitted from rabbi to student throughout the ages. This traditional rabbinic interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, known as the Mesorah, has the same inviolability as the Holy Scriptures themselves, for the Written Torah and the Oral Torah are two halves of one thing.

[7] The rabbis referred to are those who themselves accept the absolute authority of the Oral Torah.

[8] Chapters of the Fathers, 1:15



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