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Parshas Noach

The Seven Noachide Laws

The Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach, Seven Noachide Laws given to mankind are (1) Not to worship idols (2) Not to curse G-d (3) Not to murder (4) Not to commit adultery or incest (5) Not to steal (and civil laws) (6) To establish courts of justice and (7) Not to eat flesh from a living animal (Sanhedrin 56b; Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 9:1).

The Seven Noachide Laws are universally binding upon every member of mankind.

Simply put, they are in place to establish a basic level of morality and a set of religious values applicable to all members of the human race. This is the pathway to construct the framework for a functional, vibrant society.

What, then, is the difference between the Seven Noachide Laws as relevant to "gentiles" and the 613 Commandments that are reserved for the "Jewish nation"? Why two sets of rules? And why did Israel have to make the choice to accept the 613 Commandments of the Torah whilst the Seven Noachide Laws were divinely imposed upon humanity without their prior agreement?

Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner (Pachad Yitzchok, Chanukah 9) brilliantly distinguish the two. The precepts within each category are intent upon achieving a different set of results.

The 613 Commandments are "Torah"; the Seven Noachide Laws are not.

The necessary undertaking of "Torah" is because it marks the beginning of a commitment to create a dynamic new reality within the world. The agreement to enter into a new covenant of mitzvah observance was exclusively struck by G-d with Israel at Sinai following its rejection by all the others nations. Neither do the gentiles have a connection to Torah (Eicha Rabbah 2:13) nor are they obligated to observe the 613 Commandments that are referenced and called by the name "Torah".

The process of entering this new order, which involves creative intelligence, meant per force for Israel to make the mindful decision as active participants in the creation of this new reality. In-other-words, they had to choose the Torah and agree to abide by mitzvah observance.

The reason why no original undertaking was necessary in the imposition of Seven Noachide Laws is because these rules do not play any role in the development of something new like the 613 Commandments of Torah but rather relate, instead, to preserving the existing reality.

The existence of these rules predate the giving of Torah going all the way back to the emergence of man and civilization.

The Seven Noachide Laws are therefore essential to acknowledging the pre- existing reality and of taking all the necessary steps and measures for the basic preservation of humanity and the world. Accordingly, the function of these rules and their universal application to mankind is to safeguard the status quo, to guarantee the continuity of existence.

This marvelously explains the selection of the rainbow as the sign to indicate to Noach, after his emergence from the Ark after the Flood, how G- d would never ever destroy the world (Bereishis 9:12-13). It was specifically the rainbow, a natural phenomenon already in existence since the creation of the universe, which intrinsically conveyed the promise for the continuation of the existing reality.

In our world of compromised morality and religious scruples, the observance by mankind of the universal laws of the Seven Noachide Laws will ensure in safeguards to preserve existence and foster greater religious commitment in the knowledge of G-d.


The course is presented by Osher Chaim Levene, author of SET IN STONE (2004: Targum) about the meaning of mitzvah observance and PEOPLE OF THE BOOK (2007: Targum) about the biblical personalities. A London-based writer and educator whose website www.mitzva.org explores the wisdom of the commandments, he learned at the Gateshead and Mir Yeshivas, holds a Bachelor of Science (Honors) business degree from London's City University, and is a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.


 






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