Last week's column discussed the first three Noahide Laws. According to Judaism, the Noahide Laws are the seven restrictions given by God to the non-Jewish world. While Jews are required to fulfill 613 commandments, non-Jews are required to fulfill only these seven. Any non-Jew who fulfills the Noahide Laws earns a place in the world to come.
The first three Noahide Laws -- no sexual immorality, no murder and no stealing -- concern interactions between human beings. The next two revolve around man's direct relationship with God.
The fourth Noahide Law prohibits idolatry. The Bible states in Genesis 2:16: "And God commanded the man, saying ... " The fact that God himself commanded the man implies that man must be subservient only to God.
Idolatry includes substitution of any idea or object in God's stead. In today's age, it is rare to find any large group of people openly worshipping physical objects. Different types of idolatry have emerged. Some people worship money above all else. Some worship nature. Some people worship their own appetites. The most common idolatry is the worship of human intellect. This idolatry is often expressed through mass movements. Communism and Nazism are recent examples. Worship of ideology often takes on an openly idolatrous character. Communism deified V.I. Lenin and Josef Stalin, Nazism Adolf Hitler, and Baathism Saddam Hussein.
The fifth Noahide Law condemns blasphemy, cursing God with the use of his name. This prohibition is expressed in Leviticus 24:16: "One who pronounces blasphemously the name of God ... stranger and native alike ... " God created the faculty of human speech in order to allow man to communicate with God through prayer, as well as to elevate interpersonal relationships. Blasphemy is the ultimate misuse of this faculty. Because speech is such an important part of God's world, it must be used for higher purposes.
The final two Noahide Laws concern man's relationship with the world around him. The sixth discusses man's relationship with nature; the seventh revolves around man's relationship to society.
The sixth Noahide Law bans eating meat from a live animal: "But flesh; with its soul its blood you shall not eat"(Genesis 9:4). This seems like an odd commandment among the other, more obvious commandments. Yet this commandment is just as important as the other six, especially because of the care required in following it. Eating meat from a live animal betrays a barbarism, a rapaciousness extending to all walks of life. While the Bible clearly gives man dominion over the animal world, it prohibits man from devolving to the level of animals. Meat must not be removed from an animal until that animal is completely dead and has stopped moving.
The seventh and final Noahide Law constitutes the only positive law: Courts of law must be established to enforce the other six Noahide Laws. The courts must be dedicated to carrying out a higher will. As long as these courts adjudicate civil and criminal cases, they fulfill their duty. They must not punish actions permitted by the Noahide Laws.
Courts do not fulfill their requirement if they become corrupt. Judges may not take bribes of any form. When more than one judge is sitting on the same case, no judge may openly assess the case -- the other judges could be influenced.
The Noahide Laws provide the formula for a better world. Imagine a world with no Enron, no Mafia, no satanic cults. Imagine a world where people use the faculty of speech for its highest purpose, where rapacity and ego are tamed, where the innocent are acquitted and the guilty punished. The Torah commands such a world. American Christianity brings such a world closer to reality.
American Christianity binds its adherents to most, if not all, of the Noahide Laws. Why shouldn't Jews rejoice when Christians practice their faith? Observing Christianity often means fulfilling the obligations of the righteous non-Jew. May Jews and non-Jews alike serve the Creator in the way God meant them to, and may we share the fruits of our labors both in this world and in the world to come.