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The Seven Noahide Laws As Religion

By Shlomo Phillips © May 30, 2016 (last updated, August 08 2017)

Recorded Live on Facebook

The B'nei Noachidim (or "Children of Noah," "Noahides" in general usage) are those who embrace the "Rainbow" or "Universal" Covenant established between HaShem and all the world. While all humans are descended from Noah, only those who observe the Covenant may correctly be referred to as Noahides.

While many B'nei Noahidim believed in and worshiped the G-d of Noah, as time passed most abandoned the Covenant and became idolators (i.e. placed other things ahead of G-d including false gods and material possessions and conceptions). The people we think of as "Noahides" today began with those who left Egypt with the people of Israel, as recorded in the Torah, during the Exodus. For the most part these Gentiles (Hebrew: Goyim) gradually assimilated into Klal Israel (i.e. the "people of Israel") because they lived "in the camp of Israel" (Exodus 14:20). Throughout our history there have always been Noahidim who chose not to convert for various reasons and who were accepted as "the righteous among the other nations." The belief by some that the Noahide Covenant must be viewed as limited and only for those in the process of formally converting to Judaism is incorrect.

The Seven Noahide Laws do not establish a "Noahide religion" any more than the Sinai Covenant established an "Israelite religion," however within each Covenant there is a family religion.

Both Covenants establish a moral and ethical legal code to be followed by civilized people under their authority. This is why Judaism is not a race, a religion, etc. The same is true with the Noahides. Noahides are attached to or "grafted onto" the Sinai Covenant, which establishes the ongoing authority of the Seven Law Covenant under the Jewish oversight umbrella.

The Noahide Covenant is associated with and under the authority of the Sinai Covenant. The most accurate way to think about both the Jews and the B'nei Noahidim is that we are one extended family, the Noahides being our spiritual "cousins." Some members of the Jewish extended family practice our family religion: "Judaism" is the "ism" -- i.e. the distinctive practice, system, or philosophy, typically a political ideology or an artistic movement -- of Judah and its people. Many Jews are not religious, some are sadly even Atheists, some practice the religions of the nations (which for us is avodha zarah: foreign worship) and so all, yet we are all Jews because each of us, past, present and future, personally accepted the Sinai Covenant when it is given.

The Seven Law Covenant is incumbent upon all the nations other than Israel. Those Gentiles (goyim) who choose to cling to the God of Judah will observe this Noahide Covenant, even as those Jews who wish to cling to the God of Israel will practice Judaism. In both cases, everyone is free to choose their path.

Christians, Muslims, and other religious practitioners are not counted among the Noahidim, even though they, like everyone else, are physical descendants of Noah as explained above. Unlike non-religious Jews, who remain Jews, non-observant descendants of Noach are not (or no longer) Noahides. Most Goyim of course do not practice the Noahide Way of Seven Laws.

Christian dogma violates the Seven Laws of the Noahide Covenant:

Therefore Christians can not correctly be viewed as Noahidim. They practice a "religion of the nations" and have no association with Judaism at all.

Muslim dogma violates the Seven Laws of the Noahide Covenant:

While there are a few small outreach programs and individuals to the Noahidim, mainstream Judaism, whether Orthodox or non-Orthodox, does very little to guide these people. Much more is needed. The Goyim are coming, as prophesied, but we are offering too little assistance:

So said the Lord of Hosts: [There will] yet [be a time] that peoples and the inhabitants of many cities shall come.
And the inhabitants of one shall go to another, saying, "Let us go to pray before the Lord and to entreat the Lord of Hosts. I, too, will go."
And many peoples and powerful nations shall come to entreat the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.
So said the Lord of Hosts: In those days, when ten men of all the languages of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you" -- Zechariah 8:20-23.
It is our sacred duty to assist these people. In Rambam's Laws of Kings and their Wars, Chapter 8 we read the following:

8.9 A Yefas to'ar that does not want to put down idolatry, after the twelve month receives capital punishment. Likewise with the city that submits, no treaty is made with them until they have denounced idolatry, destroyed all its places, and have taken upon themselves the rest of the commandments that were commanded to Noahides. Any non-Jew who does not accept the laws that were commanded to Noahides receives capital punishment if he is within our jurisdiction.

8.10 Moshe Rabbenu gave the Torah and the commandments as an inheritance only to Israel, as it is written: "[The Torah is...] an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" (Deuteronomy 33:4). Anyone who wants to may convert from the other nations, as it is written "as with you, [the same shall be] as with the convert" (Numbers 15:15). Anyone who does not wish to is not compelled to accept the Torah and commandments. Instead Moshe Rabbenu commanded, at the word of the Almighty, to compel all those who come into the world to accept the commandments which were commanded to Noah. Anyone who will not accept, receives capital punishment. One who accepts these [basic laws] is called: Ger Toshav [or as we say today, a Noahide] in every place.

8.11 Everyone who accepts the Seven Laws and is careful to do them, this person is one of the Chasidei Umos HaOlam (very pious of the nations of the world), and he has portion in the world to come. This applies to one who accepts them and will do them because the Kodosh Baruch Hu commanded them in the Torah, and informed us by means of Moshe Rabbenu, that Noahides were previously commanded concerning these laws. But if he does them because of an intellectual decision, then he is not a Ger Toshav, and is not of the Chasidei Umos HaOlam, he is [only] one of their wise men (of the nations of the world).
Referencing 8.9 above:
A Yefas to'ar [can be] a middah [i.e. a virtue or value] that we see is associated with the yetzer hara [i.e. the negative impulse] that we feel can be used for avodas Hashem [works of righteousness]. We want to take that middah into our houses and put it to use -- Ki Sei'tzei, Devarim 21:11.
To clarify, while Jews should not study with the Goyim due to concerns about avodah zarah (in this case, coming into contact with foreign idea), one should assist the seeking Gentiles, even if it requires "getting ones hand dirty."
...serve Hashem with your good traits and harness your bad traits [so as] to serve Hashem well. Rav Hutner was once learning by himself in Slabodkeh. The Alter [Rebbe: i.e. Shneur Zalman of Liadi] asked him, Reb Yitzchok, where is your chavrusa [i.e. study partners]? He answered, I have a chavrusa! I'm learning with my Yeitzer Hara [i.e. negative impulse]. The Alter responded, Reb Yitzchak, if you're already learning with a Yeitzer, why don't you learn with your Yeitzer Hatov [i.e. your positive impulse]? Rav Hutner answered "because the Yeitzer Hara is a bigger masmid and a bigger baal kishron [i.e. pushes me harder to master myself].
This is related to our present discussion. Assisting the Noahidim and potential Converts requires us to evaluate ourselves, to more fully understand Torah and our Derech HaShem, our own Way to G-d. By helping them elevate their Sparks we elevate ourselves as well. By loving the Noahide and the Giyur (converts) we demonstrate and advance our own love of G-d and devekut, our desired attachment to HaShem.

This is what we Jews have believed since the days of the Exodus. Today many rabbis are hesitant to work with Noahidim, in part because of concerns over the current missionary menace, in part because of the time demands to do so, in part due to a lack of understanding of the Noahide Covenant, in part because of the current exclusionary and politically based rules on conversion, etc. This is truly unfortunate as the existence of the Noahidim during the End Times and on into the Olam Haba or World to Come is clear in the writings of our prophets and sages. We need to assist everyone who is seeking truth and understanding!

While much of the Torah, Tanach, Mishna, Talmud, Kabbalah, Zohar, etc. is only intended for Jews (as stated above by Rambam), under rabbinic supervision some Noahides may be permitted to go beyond their peers in both study and practice as they progress, according to the verdict of our their mentor. It is important to remember however that Noahidim are not members of the Sinai Covenant. They should live according to the Covenant granted to them and not that of another. Those wishing to embrace the Noahide Covenant need to seek guidance from qualified rabbis and other knowledgeable Jews in order to determine what is required, permitted, and forbidden. If the Noahide eventually converts into the Covenant, they are no longer to be considered Noahidim (nor converts) but rather they are Jews just like all others (again as Rambam explains).

Just as it is a mitzvah [blessing/command] to direct someone onto the path where he belongs, so too it is a crime to direct someone onto a path that does not belong to him.
Each person is born with a path particular to his or her soul, generally according to the culture into which he or she was born.
There are universal truths, the inheritance of all of us since Adam and Noah. In them we are all united. But we are not meant to all be the same.
Our differences are as valuable to our Creator as our similarities -- Tzvi Freeman

Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach
The Seven Laws of the Children of Noah
  • Avodah Zarah: The prohibition against idolatry.
    This includes all forms of idolatry including placing anything before ones service and devotion to HaShem. This includes worshiping images or people as gods. The positive practice includes worshiping the One True God alone.
  • Birchat HaShem: The prohibition against blasphemy and cursing the Name of HaShem. The positive aspect of this commandment is 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 of four letters. The commandment also references living in a way that brings honor to HaShem and avoiding all acts that dishonor Him. The Sacred Name is the most sacred utterance in existence. It must be carefully honored and guarded by all who would bring honor to the Holy One.
  • Shefichat Damim: Prohibition on murder.
    "Murder" refers to the unjustified taking of human life (self or other defense, just warfare, killing animals for food, etc. is not murder biblically speaking). There is a righteous taking of life and an unrighteous taking of life.
  • Gezel: Prohibition on robbery and theft of any kind.
  • 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, but essentially it forbids all cruelties and perversions done to animals. Noahides are commanded to treat all life with respect and to protect it within the confines of Dinim (in other words, taking matters into ones own hands through violence etc. is generally not supported by this law).
  • Dinim: The requirement to establish justice systems and courts of law to enforce the other 6 laws.
We humans have free will. Our societies are not static. The Seven Noahide Laws require and empower humanity to unite and to organized self-rule that is harmonious with the divine revelations granted by HaShem. Such rulings are always harmonious with Torah and Rabbinic rulings:
Zechariah 8:23 So said the Lord of Hosts: In those days, when ten men of all the languages of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."

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