Monday, March 24, 2008

The 7 Noachide Laws

My husband commented recently that if a yid sins, chasve shalom, Hashem has mercy because we have 613 commandments to fulfill. No such luck for goyim, he pointed out.

That got me thinking about an unpopular topic, namely goyishe morality. Specifically, I started contemplating the way that goyim are judged, namely the 7 Noachide laws:
  1. Do not murder
  2. Do not steal
  3. Do not worship false gods
  4. Do not engage in sexual immorality
  5. Do not eat the limb of a live animal
  6. Do not curse G-d
  7. Erect courts and effect justice
The principle is simple: follow the above 7 dictates, and be deemed worthy of Olam Habah. Not bad, you say. And yet, a brief look around will evidence wanton sexual immorality, plenty of stealing in all its forms, curses galore, etc.

The question remains though: are most goyim engaged in deviations from the Noachide laws? Tolerance for such deviation has become more accepted in the past few decades in the Western world. But is this tolerance the true picture of goyim? Since non-Jews have historically followed these laws, is the basis for their cultures not rooted in them?

I am in the minority here in Brooklyn; I do not adhere to the popular view that there is no point in acknowledging goyim because they are unworthy of our consideration. Since Hashem created a world in which goyim exist, I believe He has a purpose for goyim just as He has a purpose for Klal Yisroel. In other words, let's not fall into the snare of an elitist mindset whereby all goyim are bad and low-level human beings. There is good and bad everywhere, and in all of us. The question is, which drive do we allow to prevail?

As yiddin, certainly we are meant to set an example, or rather be "a light unto the nations". Should such a people openly espouse vitriol about the rest of the world's inhabitants? I have met many, many goyim who are good, honest, kind people- people who intuitively follow the 7 laws. Last week on the metro (on Taanit Esther, to be exact), I saw a bunch of strangers leap immediately into action when a man fell down and began to convulse. The entire car was poised to help in any way that was necessary. Are these the goyim that my neighbours in Brooklyn openly condemn?

When I lived in the South, there was one family whose teenage daughters spent each Sunday afternoon handing out business cards on the street. The neighbourhood in which they performed this distribution was one notorious for its bars and club life. There they stood in the sweltering sun for hours, giving the cards to anyone who would take them. What did the business cards advertise? The 7 Noachide laws. On these cards were written the laws, and a brief explanation of their purpose. In other words, these girls devoted their time educating goyim of their spiritual duties in an effort to help them transform.

That is what a yid should be and how a yid should act, in my opinion. We should be concerned not only with yiddin, although obviously that should always be our top and most pressing priority. Yet this priority does not negate our responsibility to the other nations and inhabitants of this planet.

It is after all Hashem's world. And if our actions as yiddin determine the state of the world, then we also determine what happens to goyim. Why not then step up and help the goyim improve spiritually? It will only make the world a better place and help us emulate the very compassion that Hashem shows to none other than Klal Yisroel.

1 comment:

  1. We all know that historically some Non-Jews risked their lives to save lives of Jews during war and other times. There were righteous Christians who risked their lives, and the lives of their children, to save Jews during the Holocaust.

    Children need to be taught, from an early age, to treat goyim with respect and not to think that they are all bad. I feel disgusted when I hear all goyim are painted bad. It is not ok to make statements about how non Jews are evil. We can even learn something from non Jews, especially the ones who show tolerance and sensitivity towards others.

    They are G-d fearing, law abiding decent citizens! In fact, in many cases they were nicer and more helpful than a lot of our brethren. It's horrible for our people to walk around like we are better. We should have hacoras hatov to the 'goyim' for they are letting us live in their country. Since this is their country and they are letting us live here, we have to show some respect.

    I have non Jewish neighbors who are much better neighbors, more caring, and more willing to help out.... than many of my Jewish ones.

    Either it was Rav Avrohom Pam or Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky or both, who went out of their way to greet in a very warm and friendly manner, non-Jewish neighbors, mailmen etc. "and taught in his/their shiurim the importance of doing so"

    It is our obligation to treat every human being with respect, since all mankind has an aspect of Tzelem Elokim. There is no obligation to hate and one should certainly not be rude to goyim. We must also be warm and polite to everyone.