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The Way of the Righteous Gentiles
By Shlomo Phillips © December 20, 2015 (last updated September 13, 2017)
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We often make things too complicated."No sophistication is needed in serving G-d - only simplicity, sincerity and faith.
Simplicity is higher than all else. For G-d is certainly higher than everything else, and G-d is ultimately simple! -- Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Sichot Haran #101
The original and ongoing divine covenant between humanity and the Holy One includes all of humanity. Whoever you are YOU already have a Covenant with G-d. There is no need to seek another! The only real question is whether you will accept it. That is up to you. The Holy One grants us all freedom, not slavery.
Derech Noahide, the Noahide Way, is an easy life path with glorious blessings for all who choose to walk it. The heart of this universal covenant consists of Seven Laws. Our sages teach that following "the letter of the law" is not as effective as observing it with joy and gladness of heart. This is true for the Jew and Gentile alike. HaShem is not a slave master, G-d forbid, He is our most trusted Friend and Guide. What does HaShem (God) require of Noahides?
Consider Micah 6:6-8With what shall I come before the Lord, bow before the Most High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves?Our sage Rashi notes on verse 8:
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God.and to walk discreetly: Jonathan renders: Walk discreetly in the fear of your God. Another explanation: And walk discreetly. The standard of flesh and blood is not like the standard of the Holy One, blessed be He. The standard of flesh and blood is: If one man embarrasses his fellow and comes to placate him, the fellow says to him, “I will not accept your apology until so and so and so and so, before whom you disgraced me, come.” But the Holy One, blessed be He, desires only that the man’s return to Him be between the two of them. [from Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 163b]This is what HaShem wants of Noahides: teshuvah (repentance), and humility. HaShem wants to forgive us all and to dwell in communion with us.
Come before the Eternal One not with burnt offerings and extremism, but with justice, loving kindness, and humility. Come before Him with mercy for others that you might merit His Mercy.
Rabbi Hillel said much the same when he explained to a seeking Gentile that the whole of the Torah consists of not doing to others what we would not want done to us. This is instructive for both Jews and Noahides. If we would be offended by some action we should not do that action. Conversely if we would feel blessed by an action from someone else, then we do well to offer that blessing to another. In this way we bless the world. By blessing the world we ourselves are blessed. What a marvelous philosophy! Put another way:"This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live" -- Deuteronomy 30:19.To what end?"To love the Lord your God, to listen to His voice, and to cleave to Him. For that is your life and the length of your days, to dwell on the land which the Lord swore to your forefathers to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob to give to them -- ibid 30:20.
To guide Noahides in this Path of Love and Justice HaShem has established Seven Universal Laws. Let's take a look at these:
HaSheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach
(The Seven Laws of the Children of Noah)Avodah Zarah: Prohibition against idolatry.This is the Path of the Righteous Gentile. Its not complicated, but it takes a lifetime to perfect.
This includes all forms of idolatry including placing anything before ones service and devotion to HaShem.
Birchat HaShem: Commandment to bless the Name of HaShem.
Inherent in this is the prohibition against blasphemy, cursing and dishonoring the Name of God in any way. For this reason we typically say/write HaShem ("The Name") rather than utter or write the Holy Name. The Sacred Name is most sacred. All the more so when we grasp that the Oneness of HaShem is all encompassing. He and His Name is One.
Shefichat Damim: Prohibition on murder.
"Murder" refers to the unjustified taking of a human life (killing animals is not murder biblically speaking, nor the taking of human life in a just war or under a duly constituted judicial ruling). There is a righteous taking of life and an unrighteous taking of life.
Gezel: Prohibition on robbery and theft.
Gilui Arayot: Prohibition on immorality and forbidden sexual relations.
Ever Min HaChay: Prohibition on removing and eating a limb from a live animal.
This is broadly interpreted and has its origins in practices long since abandoned (with extremely rare exceptions), but essentially it forbids all cruelties and perversions done to animals. Noahides must treat all life with respect.
Dinim: Requirement to establish justice systems and courts of law to enforce the other 6 laws.
Today this is fulfilled by obeying the authorities that rule over us and by making personal judgements in a honest and informed way.
As one walks this life path one discovers that the Seven Laws encapsulate an ever growing number of principles that sincere Noahides inwardly feel drawn to embrace and perform. For instance, with Birchat HaShem, the commandment to bless (and not dishonor) the Name of HaShem: A Noahide who lives in a less than godly manner -- for example, if he or she is rude or dismissive to a waitress, a neighbor, etc. -- will realize that such actions do not bring 'blessings to HaShem' nor to the other party. God forbid that others witnessing our unbecoming behavior should say, "This Noahide claims to know G-d but just look how she/he acts!" Noahides need to be aware that their actions can bring praise or dishonor to HaShem. Because HaShem is completely echad or Singular, the Sacred Name encompasses everything about Him including His reputation. Safeguarding His reputation through our actions as his servants is therefore included under Birchat HaShem.
Derech Noahide is therefore all encompassing, as is the life of the observant Jew. Understand that the Spiritual Path is not something one does; it is who one is. Self transformation in any area takes time. As you grow in your practice of Derech HaShem don't be an extremist about it! There are those who, through their zeal, turn this Path of true freedom into one of slavery. Slavery is not the Way of G-d. Such people seek to place every minutia of possible restriction on themselves. They seek out every obscure Rabbinic counsel and ruling from the Middle ages and demand perfection of themselves. In time such people only succeed in burning themselves out and returning to their former ways discontented. Then they inevitably proclaim: "I tried this Seven Law Path, it is slavery!" Worse, they proclaim, "Derech Noahide is a trick of the Jews to enslave us!" I've heard this from many people, just ask Rabbi Google! In truth, such people give themselves over to an ego based counterfeit. They focus on their glory rather than HaShem's. Truth be known, through seeking their own glory they are violating the first law of Noahide spirituality, Avodah Zarah. Self righteousness and show bottle spirituality is not Derech HaShem.
But beware, there are also those who do not take the Path seriously enough! Transformation does not come without effort and firm resolve. One must maintain the firm intention (kavanah) to advance from "belief in G-d" to "knowing G-d" personally. Through Derech HaShem the creature can come to know the Creator. How? By walking the Path:
Steps to Knowing G-d:And then:
- Determine to find and know G-d
- Study Torah regularly
- Regularly practice hitbodedut
- Study the wisdom of Rebbe Nachman and other accomplished Chassids
- Be kind to others and humble yourself before G-d
- Purify your consciousness by clinging to what is good and avoiding what is not."Even after all the wisdom and sophistication - even if you possess true wisdom - you must cast aside all wisdom and sophistication and serve God with complete innocence and simplicity, with no sophistication whatever.
The greatest wisdom of all is not to be wise at all. The truth is that no- one in the world is wise, for "there is no wisdom and no understanding. before God" (Proverbs 21:30). The main thing God wants is the heart" -- Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Likutey Moharan II, 44,
Remember that extremism is detrimental to spiritual advancement and to our goal of devekut, attachment to the Holy One. Be easy on yourself. Walk this path with joy and peace. Be yourself, only better, enthused by the Blessed One. As you continue along the path you will find that with a little effort you are becoming a more spiritual, happier and fulfilled individual. The more one seeks to live as an observant Noahide (or Jew) the more opportunities will naturally come for greater levels observance and subsequently more blessings.
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