"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

Noahide Commandments

May 7, 2011

in Rachav

by: Rabbi Yoel Schwartz

Translated by: Yitzhak A. Oked Sechter
taken from Rachav’s page with permission


This book deals mainly with the effort of defining the commandments that the non-Jewish nations should fulfill or make an effort to do so. In addition to  the seven basic commandments, there are several other active commandments that have not been clarified and explained in depth in the scriptures and subsequent Torah literature. Just the same, according to what is written in the Torah and the Midrash, we are able to learn something from the actions of those that existed before the Torah was given to Israel. According to the Midrash, the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob upheld more commandments than what the children of Noah were called upon to do. Even commandments that the sages turned into laws many generations later were kept by the Patriarchs.

According to these same sources, Jacob already upheld all of the 613 commandments of Judaism. This is why Jacob’s children are no longer called children of Noah but children of Israel. Just the same, we can learn from some of their actions and from their expectations from those that lived during their generation  regarding the ways that apply to any person who wants to come closer to G-d should act and attain spiritual fulfillment.

The matters that we are trying to explain in this book are not in any way an effort to try and establish a new religion. But to look at the Scriptures and other Torah literature and reach conclusions concerning what a person should do or try to do. Our prayers are that this modest beginning will bring others to write a more complete book and that it should cover a greater scope. In order to help all those among the nations who are looking for ways to come closer to G-d.

Judaism forbids establishing a new religion, as explained by the Rambam (II Kings 10, 5:6-9): “The principle of the matter: You cannot allow them to establish a new religion or to carry out commandments from this knowledge…”

Anyway, what we are doing here in connection with the Children of Noah is not the establishment of a new religion. Since a foreigner (Gentile) is not ordered in writing to fulfill them, but only, if by his own free will, wishes to carry out such commandments as the Rambam wrote: “We are not allowed to stop a child of Noah that seeks to be compensated by fulfilling the laws of the Torah.” So it seems that the establishment of a new religion occurs only when a person comes and says that he has been ordered by G-d to fulfill such and such a law and not when he is trying to reach a degree of spiritual perfectness by fulfilling the commandments that the children of Israel have been ordered to carry out.


“We will fulfill and we will hear” (Shabbat 88:a). Here we will try to explain the importance of spiritual fulfillment and its effect on the personality of the person. We will also see why it is not enough to feel this spiritual fulfillment in the heart, but that it must be accompanied by actions. All this has been explained in the Torah and was understood as something quite simple by many intellectuals of the world like Captain Soren Kirkgor (In his book “A Jew, Who Is He, What Is He?” page 22) who said, “A belief that does not bring in its wake a fulfillment and a change, is a false one. The greatest believer, who carries out his belief with great enthusiasm, but shows no sign of a complete change in his life, proves, that his belief is simply part of his own imagination only. The influence and recognition of a belief in a human being depends on the way he carries out his day-to-day life and manages to control and suppress his desires, stops doing evil and the actions he takes to carry this out.”

The Greek philosophers, who did not believe in a practical religion, but believed that human perfection comes from recognizing and studying the truth, believed just the same, that a person must carry and fulfill deeds that will teach him spiritual perfection: Yehudah HaLevi in his book “Hakuzari (Article A, Part A): “Question the truth on the things that you want to know, in order that your brains will act and not be acted upon. Talk to the point and in truthful ways. This will help you seek and recognize the truth. Then you will demand less, be more humble and accumulate good measures.”

The Philosophers did not recognize G-d or the need to act accordingly to His commandments. This is why they believed that human beings can act in any way suitable that will bring them to fulfillment of their goals. Just the same, these intellectuals understood that it was not enough fro a person to acquire education and knowledge but that he also needed to carry out and act in order that his internal thinking could turn into a reality. Which is exactly what the Torah tells us to do, and we will bring several examples here.

A) The Precepts (Mitzvot) connected to prayers: These precepts connected to prayers are done through the heart as it is stated in Ta’anit 2“and to labor for him with all your heart – what is the labor of the heart  – it is prayer.” Anyway it is not enough to pray from the heart. if a person has some thoughts that stem from his heart but does not utter them out through his lips, then he has not fulfilled the commandment as it is stated in Berachot 20, “Thoughts are not the same as an utterance.”

B) Repentance: The precepts connected to repentance are also connected to the heart: Nevertheless, “A person repenting must confess through his lips and say the things he has decided to do through his heart.” (Rambam, Repentance, Chapter 20).

C) Ownership: When ownership is transferred, the most important part in this transaction is that the heart of the original owner agrees with the action. But all of this is not legal until some sort of action of transference is performed, such as that a deed or legal paper is signed or changes hands or the transfer of ownership done according to the Jewish religion (Halacha) (This includes an action which is accepted as a valid transference of ownership by the society where the transaction is taking place.)

D) Marriage: It is not enough for both sides to agree to marry and to live like a family, but a legal action must also be carried out for this agreement to be formal.

From all these examples we have learned that it is not enough for the heart to tell you to do something. There is a need for some sort of act to carry out the will of the heart. For this reason the spiritual fulfillment of a person is not reached unless it is carried out by action. The belief and the desire to be close to G-d and the actions connected with it must be according to the precepts (Mitzvot) that G-d set forth in the Torah.

There is, sometimes, an opposite process when outside actions (not connected or controlled by the person) influence the internal thinking of a person as
it is explained in Sefer Hahinuch 40:16, explaining why the Torah has so many practical precepts: “You should know that a person is governed by his actions. His heart good or bad. Even a wicked man whose thoughts are concentrated on doing evil all day, if he should start studying Torah and Mitzvot, even if he is not doing it for G-d’s sake, he will start acting in a more positive manner. This is because the heart goes after the deeds. The same holds true, concerning a righteous man, who lives according to the Torah and Mitzvot, but makes a living from dubious transactions, or if for example he is forced by the King or ruler to deal in such dubious matters, he will eventually be transformed from a righteous man to an evil one.”

In the book Mesilat Yesharim, chapter 7 it is written, “that hastiness is brought about by the internal enthusiasm of a person. But even if a person lacks this internal enthusiasm, he should carry out and do things in an accelerated pace, this will bring about an internal enthusiasm. Since external actions brings about internal ones.”

The Rambam, Maimonides, in his commentary to the Mishna, Avot, wrote, “If a person wants to give a certain sum to charity. it is worth while to divide this charity into several portions and give it away at different intervals and not at one time. By doing so, it has a greater effect on a person, than if he would give the sum to charity all at one time. This despite the act that to do so he must invest more time and effort.”

The actions of a person should be done in order to fulfill and carry out the commandments of the Creator, since these are the things that elevate a person. As the Maharal from Prague wrote in Tiferet Yisrael, chapter 4, “The commandments of the Torah can be likened to a rope by which a person is drawn out of a hole or a well. The person is drawn from the lowest levels to  the higher levels of the world. The more he does the more he removes materialism from himself, which then enables him to  sit next to the Lord of Hosts.”

The meaning of the word Mitzvot in Hebrew comes from the root Unite and Bind. Which means that each mitzvah unites and binds the person to the Creator of the world. (See the book of Tania). The Tanna, Rabbi Eliyahu says in Chapter 9, “I testify before heaven and earth, Israel and the nations, man and woman between a servant and handmaiden, the Holy Spirit rests upon a person according to his actions.”

The fulfillment of the commandments in the Torah, builds the character of a person and raises him to a level of perfection, as it is written in Deuteronomy 4:14, “And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that ye might do them…” (The English version of the Bible is not translated 100 percent perfect, since in the Hebrew the word “Leasotchem” is not exactly “ye might do them“, it also means “will do to you.“)

This word “Leasotchem” teaches us here that the statutes and ordinances, the “mitzvot“, builds the person and does not only mean that a person must carry them out. This is why it is written in this special way. A person must be trained on the way he should build his life, starting from early childhood. Anyone reading books dealing with child-care can find many examples there. But even as a grownup, a person must take a grip on himself, if he wants to “discover himself” and find a real meaning to his life. The  Noachide laws are logical. Many intelligent people will even agree that there is a need for them, but this is not enough. We must remember that we must carry our these ordinances and statutes because we have been ordered to do so by the Creator. They were given to Adam and Noah. Then again given on Mount Sinai. Part of the Torah was given on Mount Sinai to the Israelites as a Holy nation of Priests. The remaining part is intended for entire human race.

The Rambam wrote in Malachim, Chapter 8:11, “Every person that agrees to carry out the seven “Mitzvot” of the children of Noah,  and does this in a careful manner, is a righteous gentile, and has part in the world to come, meaning that he carries this out because G-d has ordered him to do so in the Torah, through Moses. But if these seven “mitzvot” are carried out just because he feels a necessity to do so, then he is not a Gentile resident in Israel,Ger Toshav”, nor a righteous gentile or one of its wise persons.”

The Mitzvot have been handed down to us in the form of an order, but just the same we are called to accept them gladly. A person must accept the Mitzvot with love. Despite the hardships in fulfilling them, he must carry them out. This also has an educational value.

When a person decides to do a good deed without being ordered to do so, he feels he is important and just. But when a person decides to carry out the Mitzvot because he has been ordered to by G-d, then he feels the importance of the G-d that orders. it is only then that he manages to discover and find all his hidden powers in order to carry out these “mitzvot“. These hidden powers cannot be tapped to their utmost if a person carries out the “mitzvot” simply because he has the sudden urge or mood to do so. This decision is strengthened even more when the person announces it before three learned and wise Jews. This acts transforms the person into a “Ger Toshav“. Even today, when, since all of the Israelites have not yet returned to their land the laws concerning a “Ger Toshav” are not applicable – in reference to the special privileges which would otherwise apply to a non-Jew who has made such a declaration – such a declaration made before three wise Jews nevertheless still enhances the status of the non-Jew.

This declaration should include: belief in the principles of the existence of the one true G-d, who is everlasting, the Creator of all things, guides all of his creations, is the One that gave the Torah in Sinai for humanity, and oversees all the actions of the human beings to reward and punish them for their deeds. Then the person should state that he is willing to fulfill the seven mitzvot that were given to Noah.


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