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The Seven Noahide Laws As Religion

By Shlomo Phillips © May 30, 2016

The original Noahides were those who left Egypt with the people of Israel as recorded in the Torah. For the most part they gradually assimilated into Israel because they lived "in the camp of Israel" (Exodus 14:20). Throughout our history however there have been Noahidim who chose not to convert and who were accepted as righteous Gentiles.

The Seven Noahide Laws do not establish a "Noahide religion" any more than the Sinai Covenant established an "Israelite religion." Both covenants established a legal code to be followed by civilized people. This is why Judaism is not a race, a religion, etc. The most accurate term seems to be that we are an extended family. SOME members of our extended family practice the family religion, which is also called Judaism. Many Jews are not religious, some are Atheists, and some even practice the religions of the nations (avodha zarah: foreign worship).

The Seven Law Covenant is incumbent upon all the nations other than Israel. Those Gentiles (goyim) who choose to cling to the God of Israel 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 are not Noahidim even though they, like everyone else, are bnei noach (descendants of Noah). Similar to non-religious Jews who still remain Jews, non-Noahide Goyim remain members of their greater group (the Goyim) but are not considered Noahides. Most Goyim do not practice the Noahide Way of seven laws.

Christianity violates two of the Seven Laws of the Gentile Covenant:

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

It has been argued by some that while Chabad has a small outreach program to the Noahidim, mainstream Judaism, whether Orthodox or non-Orthodox, does not. This belief reflects a lack of knowledge of both Chassidus and traditional Jewish understanding.

Chabad, like all of Chassidus (i.e. the spiritual descendants of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov), are in every way full members of Jewish life and the greater community of Israel, whether the Misnagdim (the opponents of Chassidus) like it or not. Also, while there are many exceptions among the Orthodox and others, many non-Orthodox Jews also welcome the Noahidim and work with them. The Noahidim have been with the Jewish people since the very beginning. Following this path is quite difficult because there are very few communities that embrace and welcome them.

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).

This is what we Jews have believed since the Exodus. Today many rabbis are hesitant to work with Noahidim, in part because of concerns over the current missionary menace. This is unfortunate as the role of the Noahidim during the End Times and on into the Olam Haba is clear in the writings of our prophets. We need to assist everyone who is seeking truth and understanding.

While much of the Tanach, Mishna, Talmud, Kabbalah, etc. is only intended for Jews (as stated above by the Rambam), under rabbinic supervision some Noahides may be permitted to go beyond their peers in both study and practice as they progress. It is important to remember however that Noahidim are not members of the Sinai Covenant. Those wishing to embrace the Noahide Covenant need to seek guidance from qualified rabbis and other knowledgeable Jews. If Noahidim eventually convert into the Covenant, they are no longer Noahidim but rather they become Jews like all others (again as Rambam explains).

HaSheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach
(The Seven Laws of the Children of Noah)

  1. Avodah Zarah: Prohibition against idolatry.
    This includes all forms of idolatry including placing anything before ones service and devotion to HaShem.
  2. 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.
  3. Shefichat Damim: Prohibition on murder.
    "Murder" refers to the unjustified taking of a human life (killing animals is not murder biblically speaking). There is a righteous taking of life and an unrighteous taking of life.
  4. Gezel: Prohibition on robbery and theft.
  5. Gilui Arayot: Prohibition on immorality and forbidden sexual relations.
  6. 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. Treat all life with respect.
  7. Dinim: Requirement to establish justice systems and courts of law to enforce the other 6 laws.

We humans have free will and our societies are not static. The Seven Noahide Laws require and empower humanity to self-rule harmonious with divine revelations granted by HaShem. These laws are for all the world. Those nations and individuals that choose to embrace them prosper, those do not embrace them do not prosper in the long run.

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