by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
G-d's Message for All Humanity
"But flesh, when its soul is with its blood, you shall not eat it... He
who spills the blood of man, by man shall his blood be spilled, for in the
Image of G-d did He create man." [Genesis 8:4,6]
As an Internet program, Project Genesis reaches out to Jews all over the
world -- this week, we received a wonderful and heartfelt letter of thanks
from a Jewish woman in Zimbabwe. Also, of course, a significant number of
interested non-Jews join our program, curious about the Jewish religion,
customs, and/or practices. We've even had a subscriber from the Vatican!
Most of the time, our messages about honesty, ethics, and kindness are
appropriate to everyone. At other times, however, we talk about distinctly
Jewish practices -- Shabbos, holiday observances (the Sukkah, Chanukah
candles, the Pesach Seder), etc.
Parshas Noach is the best time to turn the tables. Most every non-Jew
curious about Judaism will inquire what Judaism has to say about non-Jews
-- it's only logical, and it's only appropriate that we address this
Unlike the other religions of the world, Judaism does not believe that
everyone must become a Jew in order to approach G-d or earn a place in the
World to Come. When King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, he
asked of G-d that He hear the prayers of all who pray towards that Temple:
"Also a gentile who is not of your people Israel, but will come from a
distant land for Your Name's sake... and will come and pray toward this
Temple, may You hear in Heaven Your dwelling-place, and do according to
all that that gentile calls out to You..." [I Kings 8:41-43]
Judaism neither solicits converts, nor suggests that non-Jews must follow
all the Jewish practices and laws. Quite to the contrary! Maimonides
writes in the Laws of Kings 8:10:
"Moshe Rabbeinu (Rabbi Moses) did not give the Torah and the Commandments
to anyone but Israel, as the verse says, 'The Inheritance of the
Congregation of Jacob.' [It was also given] to anyone from the other
nations who desires to convert... but we do not force anyone who does not
want [to accept them] to accept the Torah and the Commandments."
But even so, Jewish prayers call for the day when "all humanity will call
upon Your Name... they will all accept upon themselves the yoke of your
Kingship...." How is a non-Jew to come close to G-d, to do His will? What
does it mean to "accept the yoke of His Kingship" if the Jewish
Commandments do not apply?
The answer is found in G-d's statement to Noach, father of all humanity.
As Noach leaves the Ark, G-d tells him that he may eat meat -- but not
while the nefesh [soul] of the animal remains in its blood, meaning that a
limb or blood taken from a living animal is prohibited. Murder is also
forbidden, and Noach is told to set up courts to judge murder and other
All told, Judaism teaches that G-d gave seven laws (or more accurately,
seven categories of legal obligations) which are incumbent upon all
1) Not to eat a limb or meat that was severed from a live animal
2) Not to curse the name of G-d
3) Not to steal or rob
4) Not to worship idols
5) Not to commit adultery or have other forbidden sexual relationships
6) Not to murder a fellow man
7) To establish courts of justice, to pronounce and mete out decisions for
all mankind, and to ensure observance of the previous laws.
And with this, concludes Maimonides (8:11): Anyone who accepts these Seven
Commandments, and is careful to do them, this person is one of the 'Pious
of the Nations of the World' and has a share in the World to Come. This is
provided that s/he accepts them and performs them because they are G-d's
Command, part of His Torah, which our Rabbi Moses informed us were
Commanded previously to the sons of Noach.
In our day, there are scattered non-Jewish congregations that have
accepted upon themselves these "Seven Noachide Laws." There are
organizations and web sites devoted to them, their needs and their
studies. The best I've seen is www.hamayim.org [HaMayim is Hebrew
for "The Water," explained on the "About Us" page.] For those interested,
there is much to learn!
Good Shabbos, [and for those not called upon to celebrate the Shabbos,
Have a Great Weekend!]
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Text Copyright © 2003 Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.