You may have heard the saying that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s most likely a duck. It’s just the basic observation that you can normally see what something is by looking at its behaviours and traits.
Now, a certain group that seems to be a major part of the “noahide movement” has made some significant moves in order to establish itself. But in making those moves, it seems to have made more obvious the fact that it is going in a direction which raises red warning lights for some, although I’m sure it will tickle the fancy of others.
This following quote is used on the very same website of that group in its attempt to show that it has pure hands and intentions.
The general principle governing these matters is: [Gentiles] are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create divine commandments for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the divine commandments or retain their Torah without adding or detracting from them. (from Mishneh Torah, Section Shoftim, Kings and Wars, Chapter 10)
So Gentiles shouldn’t create new religions. This is forbidden to us. I’ve read in book after book after book and it has been told me ad infinitum that we, as Gentiles, not should create novel religions or religious practices. We should focus on our Seven Commandments.
[Aside: I’ve dealt with the claims that this only refers to “idolators” and not righteous Gentiles to my own satisfaction in a previous blogpost. To say such a thing (that righteous Gentiles can create new religions but idolators can not) is inherently ridiculous and is rejected by many Jews who have studied this law. So I’m not going into that.]
Let me just give the whole law, just to add some context.
A gentile who studies the Torah is obligated to die. They should only be involved in the study of their seven divine commandments.
Similarly, a gentile who rests, even on a weekday, observing that day as a Sabbath, is obligated to die. Needless to say, he is obligated for that punishment if he creates a festival for himself.
The general principle governing these matters is: [Gentiles] are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create divine commandments for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the divine commandments or retain their Torah without adding or detracting from them.
If a gentile studies the Torah, makes a Sabbath, or creates a religious practice, a Jewish court should beat him, punish him, and inform him that he is obligated to die. However, he is not to be executed.
It’s kind of obvious. We Gentiles should be primarily be focused on our Seven Commandments. We’re not to make new religions or delve into things that relate to Jewish commandments that have nothing to do with our Seven Commandments or our responsibility. We should not even have religions based on the seven laws. We have no sabbaths. We have no divinely given festivals. We have no rituals. The Jews have their job, and we Gentiles have ours, and that’s that.
Why add to that when it seems so simple?
So this gentile organization which refers to itself as “noahide” as made moves to educate those affiliated with it in what it sees as important information for “noahides”. It has made up titles to give its more educated individuals. Its aim is to create “noahide communities”. If you think about it, you’ll understand how confusing their definition of “noahide” is, where you can tell if they are talking about a normal bog standard Gentile, or if they are talking a certain Gentile that has a specific knowledge of the seven laws and a belief in the God of the Torah included. Think about that when you think of “noahide communities” and about exactly who it wants to educate when it refers to “noahides”.
Anyway, it’s got all the fancy titles. It’s got the drive. It’s got the rabbis that give it their blessing. I mean, what’s a gentile organisation without a rabbi, right? And then it mentions one of its aims. It wants to help out gentiles in the army by having …. wait for it …. “noahide chaplains”.
Yes. I said it. “Noahide Chaplains”.
They want these “chaplains” to be associated to armies and prisons and other public organization so support the soldiers or prisoners.
Now some will look at me blankly and say “David, what’s wrong with that?” Some will look at me angrily and say “David, what are you condemning?” Some would have stopped reading before they even got to this point. *chuckle* Oh well.
Firstly, think about the word “noahide”. If it’s not obvious to you, then all I’ll say is that in this context of “noahide chaplain”, the word “noahide” no longer means “just a gentile”. Gentile chaplain could mean anyone that is not a Jew. No, we’re talking about a more religious meaning. But that’s not the main point.
What does the word “chaplain” mean? The normal usage is a clergyman, a priest, a religious minister. This minister of a religion is distinguished from the layman, the normal Joe, in this religion. There are the laity and the priests, ministers, clergyman.
Now some may say “but aren’t their humanist chaplains?” Humanist is similar to atheist. And I would say yes, there are ministers of the religion call humanism. And now it seems there will be ministers of a religion called … what? I guess we can only call it “noahidism”.
Quack! Quack! Waddle! Waddle!
I said to myself, “David, don’t be so superficial. It’s only a word, right? I’m sure nothing else that group does seems religious, as if it’s developing or already developed into a religion.” So I thought I’d look deeper.
I take a look on some of their pages. Even though there is no sabbath for Gentiles, I see pages talking about a “noahide sabbath”. Hmmm….
Let’s look at the syllabus for the this course their are doing to empower “noahides”. Hmmm… strange.
Before I continue, let me remind you again what our seven commandments are. And yes, I enjoy doing it.
– No injustice (or Dinim)
– No cursing God’s name
– No idolatry
– No forbidden sexual unions
– No murder
– No theft
– No eating the limb of a living animal
So let’s compare this with the syllabus. Hmmm… apparently we have “Bnei Noah celebrations” like … what? The birthday of Adam and Noah??? Hmmm … also there’s a sizeable chunk of that syllabus dealing with … Jewish festivals? Ok let’s compare Jewish holy days with the Gentile Seven Commandments and … hmmm … strangely enough there is no sign of any Jewish holy day included in the Seven Laws. I mean, I can understand extension to the commands, like murder teaching us about how to deal with injury, or theft teaching us about cheating and business practices. I can understand if there are sections dealing with plain human decency. But Jewish holy days? This is supposed to empower a “noahide”? To do what? Become a Jew?
Hmmm… there’s even a part about becoming a “noahide”? Interesting. So a gentile isn’t a noahide. A gentile becomes a noahide. Sounds a bit like become part of a …. a religion?
Let’s look under the section called Daily Law. Let’s see if we can see our Seven Commandments there. It’s called “Daily Law” so where else would our Gentile Law be? Section three, Tzitzis, Tefillin & Mezuzah???? There are other sections on prayer and blessing over food. In other parts we have sections about Noahide Bar Mitzvahs, the covering of hair for some marriage ceremony.
Let me tell you about an experience of mine. In a small group on Facebook I belong to, a Jew showed up promoting a book. As the focus of the group is the Seven Laws it was strange for him to show up. So we ask him why he’s there. You know what he said? He said that he has been directed to “Noahides” because they are essentially Jew-lite. And according to him, rabbis have said that for Jews of questionable parentage, before they fully convert, they should settle amongst “Noahides” because again “Noahidism” is essentially “Jew-lite”.
As I look at the syllabus for this course, I had to think to myself, “Damn, he’s right! That’s exactly what it looks like.” What these gentiles are doing, what this noahide group has essentially done, is create a noahide religion with all the trappings: prayer, holy or specials days, special rituals. But if you take a look at what exactly our Gentile laws are, such things are totally absent. And, strangely enough for gentiles, there’s even a section on “When to Consult your Rabbi”.
Let me say it now. This syllabus does include the Seven Laws scattered in its midst. There is what looks like a fantastic section on Civil, Monetary & Criminal Law. But the strange thing is that it only includes the laws concerning theft and injury. Yet, even according to Rambam, all the other six laws are part of criminal law.
Although the motive and intention may be pure, they’ve essentially got the looks of a religion and they are giving religious training. Even if it’s a religion based on the seven laws, it’s still a religion, a new religion. The Seven Commandments aren’t a religion, neither are they the basis of a religion. They are behavioural laws for a society and an individual. They are as much societal law as they are individual. But they aren’t religious. You don’t have to have a special title to say you’re part of some religion to keep the seven laws. You could have the title of christian or atheist or whatever. What matters is what you do. But this “noahide” group has created something else.
Let’s be blunt. When you’re aim is to have clergymen (chaplains), and your syllabus contains ritual and observance of holy days – things that have no part of the Seven Laws – … well let me put it another way. If it looks like a religion and has the essential parts of a religion, then it looks like you got a religion.
Who are you to judge when we got the blessing of rabbis?
In so many ways, it could be said that I’m a nobody. I have no fancy title. What can I say that is authoritative on its own? Heck, many a “noahide” thinks me an outcast creating my own religion (I’ve gotta laugh at that one). Some will say that at least these people, these “noahides” are doing something. Some will say that men more knowledgeable than me have said that what they are doing is fine and have put their force behind it through teaching.
Irrespective of all that, I’m allowed an opinion.
Firstly, I don’t think that authority or a title dictates correctness. A person can be either a educated rabbi, and educated Gentile, an ignorant Jew, or an ignorant Gentile, and make a correct point. And each of these can get it wrong. It’s not the title that makes someone right. It may only determine how much trust you put in their word.
Of course, this group can be applauded for the good that they do. They are trying to spread the knowledge of the Seven Laws. They are taking active steps. They made their way onto radio and onto different media. They’ve got links to rabbis. Now they look to be aiming to converse with the army and the prisons. If I were only seeing this, then that would be great. But just making it onto radio isn’t enough if the message isn’t correct. Getting cosy with politicians and prison wardens isn’t enough if you flood the prisons with nonsense and white noise, i.e., push a religious agenda. So for the good they do, I would applaud them myself. But for them creating a new religion where the adherents are called “noahide”, no thanks. They’ve overstepped a mark.
As someone wise said: if you wanna do what the Jews do, become a Jew. If not, then don’t, just stick to your own stuff. Apparently some think our own laws is not enough. It needs “spirituality”. But to me, Torah is enough, whether it’s the Torah for the Jews, the 613, or the Torah for the Gentiles, the 7 broad categories of social, criminal and moral law.
And of course, there is a strength and a weakness that comes from rabbis as teachers. Sure, they know Torah. But they know it from a Jewish perspective, a culture that keeps laws that are irrelevant or not central to a Gentile’s way of life. Unfortunately, too many times, instead of focusing on our seven laws, we get whole sections of time discussing mysticism, the soul, the supernatural, prophecy and inspiration, the messiah, the world to come, prayer, blessing over food, Jewish ritual observance and days and much more. And yes, this is all done instead of, in the place of us focusing on the knowledge and implementation of our law.
I’ll be blunt: It’s wrong. And unfortunately it is accepted. It is accepted that the rabbis come in and teach us irrelevant stuff that is not part of our seven laws, and because they are rabbis, it is ok. For me personally, it is not. All it does is build a fence between one of set of Gentiles and another, a fence not based on righteousness, but based on religion, based on the fact that certain Gentiles get taught how to live their lives as mini-Jews which isolates them from the others who just see the big sign “religion” stuck on the foreheads of the “noahides”. And unfortunately, the non-noahide Gentiles are right. This is just a new religion. It’s not about being a good Gentile, a righteous one who simply avoids what is prohibited in our fundamental law and are just decent human beings. It’s about ex-christians finding their kosher christianity. It’s about religious people who miss religion and thus create it. Despite the religious education of people, many can tell the difference between a guy who is just a decent bloke and what is essentially a religionist.
So who am I to judge? Yes, I’m an outsider. No I don’t need to be an insider to have an opinion, or even to have the right opinion. I don’t need to be a christian to judge some of their beliefs as total nonsense. I don’t need to be scientist to see that some things naturalistic scientists say is totally nonsense. I don’t need to be part of a gang to know that it’s a dangerous life. I don’t need to be a politician to know that the world of politics is a poisoned place. I don’t need to be part of a noahide group to think some of what it does is messed up, with or without the blessing of the rabbis.
The fact is that I’m not giving a total condemnation of the group. I’m not. As I’ve said, they’ve done some good. But let’s call a spade a spade. They have either created or are continuing a new religion which their endeavours have made more obvious. I’ve got no obligation to agree with what they are doing as I’m not even part of their outfit. In fact these days I’m more and more reluctant to even call myself “noahide”. Sorry, let me rephrase that. I don’t call myself “noahide” because it has too many wrong connotations, as if I’m part of a religious sect. I personally joined nothing after I left christianity. I didn’t purposefully join any club or any other religion.
We as Gentiles should focus on being decent human beings and fixing our current problems. In this current climate, a new religion called “noahidism” won’t cut it. It’s not even meant to exist as a religion. The Seven Commandments shouldn’t be the basis of some religion. There should just be aware Gentiles, conscious of their obligations, not to be like Jews, but to obey basic morality and to make sure our countries obey that morality in whatever way we can. And where that is concerned, I think this “noahide” group has taken the wrong path.