I am starting a project soon in which I’ll be sharing my advice and opinion regarding various parts of a non-Jew’s faith life lived through the lens of Judaism. I’ll be recording different topics to video soon but I wanted to respond to a private message I received on Facebook as a blog post. Just to set the goal posts in place and explain some of the boundaries and definitions I’ll be using to square off my video topics.
Question: “How to handle the holidays, you had a good post about that last year, would like to hear more about funerals, April posted the other day about we aren’t just ex-xians without jc it is a whole different mind set. It is learning what that mind set is. It is being comfortable with not being xian in a xian world. It is understanding that we don’t have to feel guilty about so many things.“
The writer of this message was responding to a post in which I asked people to share with me topics they would like to hear more about in regards to a non-Jew partaking in them. To be honest most of the messages and posts that were made in regards to this question can be answered with a simple reply.
If we use the Tanakh as a reference, the non-Jew, like me, really has 2 choices to make.
1)We can take the Holy writings at their word or we can ignore it.
2) We can then decide how to include or exclude that content in our devotions.
Why is this the case? Because the life events, holidays and social law that exists in the Torah and the examples of those themes are, for the most part, given only to Israel. ‘Israel’ being the 12 Tribes of Israel, the blood line of Jacob. That’s a fact. ‘What about the Mixed Multitude‘? you might ask, you will find in the text that the Torah was give to the children of Jacob and when a piece of that instruction was meant for the sojourners it was mentioned explicitly. A little like you getting a letter from a friend who says to say ‘hi’ to the neighbours. So when we think about things like Pesach, Diet or clothing we have to look at those instructions as being given to Israel and that some were for those sojourning WITH Israel (if those sojourning WITH Israel WERE Israel then they wouldn’t haven been mentioned at all). If we aren’t of the tribe then we shouldn’t assume that it is ‘commanded’ of ‘us’ if we do not live within Jewish community or the Land of Israel.
I think that’s the big divider really.. Am I commanded?
The answer is no. The Tanakh itself doesn’t display a coherent list of events in which God directs His prophets to tell the gentile nations how to live, dress, farm or pray. It seems that for the most part the world is left to get on with things.
There are some areas in the text that we can say, that character or people could refer to me. Naaman and the people of Nineveh are two examples of ‘gentile’ or non-Jewish interactions with Prophets in which we can pull information from. In an interesting twist Naaman, not being ‘Israel’, can build an altar to the Creator (although I wouldn’t recommend it). Nineveh believed in the Creator and repented their wickedness (while the text is not explicit about what that sin was, they knew) with fasting, sack cloth and ashes. We can assume that if this was acceptable to the King of Heaven for Nineveh then other non-Jews can also use it as a means to express repentance and worship.
But what about those things like diet, holidays, Shabbat and wardrobe?
Well (and I’m sorry if you were hoping for quick answers) that is really up to you. You see, whatever you do is by choice and not by demand. The real question isn’t can I keep Shabbat and the Holidays, the real question is can I keep some or all of the ritual and tradition. It’s the extras, the candles, seder and shofar. The answer is yes, yes you can. You are ‘free’ to do what ever you want, after all you have free choice. But does the Tanakh indicate that someone from the nations who doesn’t live within Jewish community should feel obliged to ‘keep’ the Torah, no it doesn’t. That was for Israel alone. Sorry, it just doesn’t imply that. Until of course we hit that time when the Torah will pour out of Zion and everyone shall know God. Then things may change, but that isn’t now.
So what then? Are we non-Jews to avoid anything that reflects a physical lifestyle based on the Tanakh and Jewish tradition? Well, no. But it is really important to explore the ‘why’ you want to observe any of the customs or instructions regarding to Torah. If you feel you have to keep Kosher or you are sinning, you must keep Shabbat or you are wicked or you are commanded to pray towards Jerusalem.. then it’s time for a re-think. You are not commanded. There are some areas of life that we can pull some guidance from. Monotheism for example, is not something commanded of the Nations but we find God giving favor to those gentiles who hold to it and it would be fair to say, reading the start of the Torah that if a person chooses the Creator and abandons any other idea of deity then that is the preferred option. In fact the big names of Genesis all seem to follow that theme. It might seem obvious but it’s those obvious clues that we can use as our bread and butter and it leaves us ‘noahides’/’ger’/nations or gentiles an open book regarding how we live our lives.
Should I rest on Shabbat? If you feel that by doing so you can honor the Creator then yes. Can I keep a biblical kosher diet? If you feel that by adding boundaries to what you do and don’t eat you are serving the King of the Universe then yes. Equally you might work on Shabbat – it is up to you.. you are not commanded to rest.
Some people, myself included, do include some areas of Torah in their lives. Incorporating areas of ritual and tradition into your devotions and life style can be very helpful in growing your faith and reminding yourself during different parts of the day, month and year that your faith is different and central to your existence. They also help as stepping stones on which to remove yourself from the physical to the spiritual, making the natural supernatural.
You are just as important to God regardless of your ritual or lack of ritual.
Ritual only helps YOU to get to a more focused place. Some people need that ritual, some don’t. You need to decide what you need to do rather than what you feel or believe you ‘have’ to do.
This is really a round up to express where I’m coming from as a preface regarding future videos. I hope it made some sense. I’ll be looking at subjects like ‘I need to attend a church because of a Family Event’, ‘I haven’t told my friends and family I don’t believe in Jesus’, ‘can non-Jews Teach?’ and many others. I hope they give a little help.
Thanks for reading and if you have a subject you would like me to include please leave it in the comments.