A reader sent me a question, here is the core query..
‘’…we are reading Tabor’s “Abrahamic Faith” to our children.. ..and he posits that the whole TEN are for everyone with a minimal of the 7 Noahide….. I went thru the “Path…” book with our Chabad rabbi, and was not thrilled with the 2nd class nature of a Noahide.
Where do you see “us” in the Messianic Age? The “Sabbath Goy” or a keeper of the “ger” Sabbath? (and any other law they deem only Jewish)’’
As a precursor to this question I feel I should place all of my cards on the table at this point before continuing.
Firstly, we often build issues for ourselves based on a lack of information or a strong negative feeling wrapped around misinformation or things taken out of context. These issues are more than not walls that surround areas we can’t get to grips with and form a barrier to further study, they are problems that we engineer for ourselves.. we could choose to de-construct them but it is very rare that we do so.
Secondly, the events at Sinai were planned for one group of people and their decendence. While the Tanakh speaks of the Creator assigning the Jewish people to be a kingdom of priests and a light to the nations, it doesn’t say that it’s the job of Israel to promote the laws given to Israel to the nations. God doesn’t send the Jews on a ‘great commission’ to the gentiles to convince them to keep the laws of the Torah, in fact, more often that not they are instructed to keep well clear of the gentiles. It’s a hard truth, especially when, like me, you might have a religious history within a movement that tells you that YOU are part of that group. Indeed, it’s a truly hard pill to swallow.
So am I saying that we should NOT use the Torah as a guide regarding ‘how to live our lives in a manner pleasing to the Creator?
No. But we should always remember to whom it was given and why, I can only speak for myself, this is an opinion piece and I’m not professing that I’m in anyway qualified to offer a theological perspective, but I am confident in my own mind, based on the text that I wasn’t at sinai and I don’t read anywhere that Israel was directed to preach torah to me or that I am instructed to live as a Jew.
So, now that we have covered that lets move onto the ‘noahide’ angle.
Firstly, I think everyone would agree that the world ‘noahide’ doesn’t appear in the Tanakh. The ‘Noahide code’ or ‘laws’ are the conclusion of scrutiny regarding text rather than straight forward evidence taken from the text. The name, Noahide, is the result of a traditional review of the information at hand, an appropriate label. People get hung up on the name, on the word, judging the content of the box on it’s wrapping, the book by it’s cover.. so for now let’s try to put the title ‘noahide’ label or title to one side.
I’ll be using the term ‘Jewish’ to mean Israel in this piece, I know this can be frustrating or annoying to some people. This frustration usually comes from a lack of reading regarding the ‘why’ of the title Jewish’. I did a video on why Jews are called Jews, you can check it out right now, by clicking here, before you read on.
Non-Jews have been living cheek to jowl with Jews within Jewish community, even when those communities were part of a larger secular city for thousands of years. The Tanakh speaks of Ger Toshav and Ger Tzadik. In the roman period ‘God fearers’ and ‘righteous gentiles’. Conversion as a means to catalogue a personal change in faith and community standing or position has changed form greatly over the last couple of thousand years, those non-Israelites who left with Israel at the exodus had a very different ‘conversion’ experience to Ruth. The ‘god fearers’ of 50 CE underwent a very different process to become Jewish than we might today. But that aside, there was always a ‘non’ jewish element to many Jewish communities.
Obviously I can’t write a thesis on the 7 laws in this blog post but I’ll try to nutshell it in simple terms, from my perspective and understanding. Careful scrutiny and study of the Torah reveals certain behavior. Sifting through the text highlights certain stand out events or nature within the human race that Judaism has categorized as the 7 laws. Regardless of personal faith, ethnicity or sex, these basic 7 rules define the minimum of what mankind needs for a fair, kind and just society. It’s in fact interesting just how many of these 7 laws we not only find in worldwide culture but we instinctively do without instruction. Almost as if they are pre-programmed into the human soul.
I think, often the biggest 2 objections to these 7 laws are a) ‘it feels like we are getting short changed’ and b) ‘we can’t find actual evidence in the Bible’ of the Creator declaring to mankind that it needs to do these 7 things.
I don’t think anyone would argue that these 7 laws are NOT worth applying in any community. They, within themselves mean social justice, law and order, a lack of cruelty and a devotion to the God of Israel. Who doesn’t want to live like that?
We sometimes think that that isn’t enough.. right? I know I went through that phase, but then I wasn’t unpacking it. Let’s take the ‘should not eat the limb of a living animal’ part.. what does that infer? That we shouldn’t eat blood. We shouldn’t be cruel to animals. We shouldn’t let anything living pass our lips. We should promote kindness, help shelters, look after our wildlife, environment, planet etc etc etc.. how much of that do we actively try to do each day? We could fill our whole lives.. just on that one line. But do we? I know I don’t do nearly as much as I could if I put my mind to it.
We already have enough content and direction in this one command to keep our days full but we want more.
Is there a ‘2nd Class nature’ attached to the Non-Jew?
Within the Torah we see a few different groups. Let us not forget that Jacob had 12 sons.. the offspring of those sons became Israel. Within Israel we have men and women, young and old, adult and children, priests, soldiers, crafts people,… etc etc. Each group has it’s own laws, each group of people has it’s own function. There were instructions for women that didn’t apply to men and for men that didn’t apply to priests, for soldiers that didn’t apply to children. Everyone has their part to play. The sojourner who lived within the community was included in some of the Torah and was not included in other parts. This sojourner having it’s own set of laws, like any other group.
Being a non-jew doesn’t make you a second class citizen… it’s just means, like any other group, there are some parts of the Torah that are not intended for you. That said, like all religion, there are some groups within the whole that see ‘outsiders’ as ‘less’. I’m not going to go into that in this post but sadly that’s a fact. My advice is to avoid getting involved with people like that. As a non-jew, I have found great acceptance by 99% of the people I interact with in my walk.
It’s human nature to wish a label for ourselves when others may not be interested in giving us such a label.
To be honest, I tend not to think about the messianic age much. We live in a world that is equally beautiful and terrifying, simple and complex. We have technology now that blows my mind. We have means and ways to study and connect that would never have been thought possible even 20 years ago. I can’t conceive of what the next 20 years has in store.
Should we live to see the Messiah rule from Jerusalem then I have to say that my place in that picture will be something I don’t have to stress over.
Jeremiah states that all men shall know God and brother shall no longer teach brother. Imagine the Torah 2.0 download from Zion, everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. The 12 tribes taking their inheritance and the whole of human kind living and getting on with enjoying life. My status and place within that group is already decided. I don’t see any reason to contemplate it. When the time comes, things will fall into their assigned place.
.and finally ..’Shabbat’.
One of the biggest issues I hear is that someone has been told by someone else that they ‘can’t keep shabbat’ because they are not ‘jewish’.
I have yet to come across a person who is not Jewish that keeps a Shabbat as a Jew. What I mean is that usually the spectrum of observance for non-jews who ‘remember the 7th day’ ranges from ‘rest’ and no work, to lighting candles and not cooking.. with some study maybe and these are things you are totally free to do, especially if you have made a vow or personal pledge to the creator that you want to set this time or action apart in acknowledgement of Him. As a reminder.. He did NOT command the whole world to ‘keep’ a Jewish Shabbat.. or even to guard the Shabbat. That was an instruction for Israel. When a Jewish family engages in ‘Shabbat’ they keep to a ritual, tradition and program of events that will read very differently to the day held by a non-Jewish person or family. We use the label of ‘Shabbat’ for every and anyones ‘set apart 7th day’ regardless of the content of those days and that in itself is the cause of misunderstanding. The non-Jew should absolutely not keep the Jewish Shabbat. They should, if they want to, keep their own.
My faith life includes some personal choices, my diet, my weekends, my inclusion of remembrance regarding jewish holidays. I do these things, not because I want people to think I’m jewish.. not because I feel commanded to but because I want to steer my life in a way that is more in the direction of how God suggests Israel is to live. Someday I hope to join the fold, I’d like to try to hit the group running. In the mean time I’ll take small steps in living a life that is suggested by the King of the Universe.
‘But the Torah says that there is one rule for the native born and for the sojourner!’
Well, no. Torah contains many, many instructions.. and some of those instructions are the same for the Native born, (Israel, the sons of Jacob) and the non-native born (sojourners). But one important part of that is that they, these sojourners, were sojounring, living within jewish community. Without doing that this verse really isn’t of any help.. and even if you are, again, it’s only regarding some areas.. not all. Remember.. if sojourners were ‘Israel’.. then why would the text speak of 2 different groups.
In summation. It’s about entitlement. As a human being, you can adopt whatever faith, ritual or practice you want. But if that faith is based on the Tanakh, I think we have to be honest. As a non-jew I’m not commanded to
keep any of the Torah, that was one set of instruction, given to a specific group of people regarding themselves and a smaller group of different people within them. remember the Torah was never addressed to the sojourner.. only to the son’s of Israel.
Noahide, Ger, God fearer.. they are just names. At the core we are human and if we have faith in the King of the Universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.. and we believe the Tanakh.. then we might decide we want to stream line our lives with the choice to change some parts.. to change them in some way because they cause us to THINK and expose our faith, these changes allow us to live parts of our lives in special way.. in a meaningful way. Not because we are commanded to.. but because we chose to.