Noahide Seven Commandments Torah classes
© 2017 by Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner
Introduction/ The Seven Commandments’ List
1: Congress Recognition
The front page of this internet site posts the USA Congress’s recent resolution, recognizing the Seven Laws of Noah as the “base for the moral fabric of our great nation” signed by President GW Bush, 3-26-91.
By this declaration, the USA has become the first nation ever to publicly honor the Seven Laws of Noah as its moral guidance. Let’s pray that other nations would follow suit.
Let’s highlight some words quoted from the Congress’ declaration:
Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great nation was founded
Whereas these ethical values have been the bedrock of society from dawn of civilization when they were known as Seven Noahide Laws
Whereas without these ethical values and principles the edifices of our civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos
Whereas society is profoundly concerned with the recent weakening of these principles that has resulted in crisis that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society…
The USA Congress in its wisdom declares that without these Laws of Noah, our society stands in serious peril of returning to chaos, inferring to Noah’s Flood.
It is therefore incumbent on every American to become familiar with these Seven Laws and know their origin.
2: Commandments aimed at Mankind
As the Congress declaration says, the Seven Laws of Noah are the basic for any decent human society (also told by Ebn Ezra, 12th century Spain.)
These Seven Laws of Noah are:
VII: PROHIBITION TO CONSUME BOOD and LIMBS TORN FROM A LIVING ANIMAL
Note that these are huge headlines of moral principles, that split into many laws, which would take a lifetime to master.
Where and when were they given?
Although many religions and traditions recognize these laws, only the Torah spells them out as an explicit body that comes in a list with a certain order.
Moreover, the Torah’s tradition holds that the first Six of these Laws, are primordial, given to Adam (and Eve) in the Garden of Eden. Hence they are engraved in our psyche and shared by all Mankind. The Seventh Law was later added to Noah after the Flood, part of the Rainbow Covenant.
If so, why wouldn’t we refer to the Seven Laws after Adam, rather than after Noah?
One good answer is that Noah replaced Adam after the Flood. We are all Children of Noah.
In fact, it has become customary to refer to Mankind as ”Children of Adam” to emphasize our common BIOLOGY and ancestry, and use the term “Children of Noah” to emphasize our common FAITH.
The Book of Genesis and the seven laws
In our course we will follow the Seven Commandments as they appear one by one through the Book of Genesis. Thus,
Genesis Chapter One presents our CREATOR, whom we should worship, and the topic of (I) IDOLATRY and the list of the idols whom we should worship not.
Then the Story of Eden establishes Marriage and (II) ADULTERY in the same verse.
Then the Story of Cain and Abel describes the first (III) BLOODHSED.
it is followed by the story of Noah’s Flood and his generation that sinned with BLOODSHED and (IV) THEFT. it culminates with Noah’s Rainbow Covenant and its BLOODSHED laws, along with the new (VII) Commandment: the Prohibition to Consume Blood and a limb torn from a living animal. Hence Noah’s Seventh came to support Adam’s Third.
Then the Story of the Babylonian Tower introduces King Nimrod and the birth of the great Empires that were based on (IV) ORGANIZED THEFT, ABDUCTION and FORCED SLAVERY.
This was the background for the appearance of Abraham and his fight against TEHFT. Abraham received a new,. EIGHTH Commandment: Circumcision, one more than Noah’s Seven. Abraham’s 8th came to support Noah’s 4th, THEFT. Since what is a circumcision if not the emblem of our Master, AaDoNai, in our flesh? (Soforno)
Then Abraham’s grandson Jacob struggles for his (V) CIVIL RIGHT and for JUSTICE. He fights for his firstborn birthright, for his right to get married to his promised bride Rachel without being cheated by her father, and for his right to be fairly compensated for his hard work as a shepherd.
Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, designating the introduction of HOLINESS in the world and the end of (VI) BLASPHEMY.
It seems as the Book of Genesis was written with the Seven Commandments of Noah on the author’s mind.
Note that knowing the Seven Commandments would not necessarily make you a better Jewish, Christian or Muslim, but rather a better human being.
Tthe material used in our classes is drawn from classic commentators of the Torah, like Rashi, RaMBaN, Midrash, etc.
There are several good books about the Seven Commandments, among them:
1. “The Seven Laws of Noah,” by Aaron Lichtenstien, a scholarly work.
2. “The Seven Commandments,” by Michael Dalen, an easily read book.
3: Historical impact of the Commandments
The impact of the Seven Commandments of Noah on history is immense.
Thus, Christianity was born when St. Paul was ‘dispatched’ by the elders of the nascent Christian Jewish sect in Jerusalem, to teach the gentiles the Seven Laws plus the “good news of the coming of the Messiah” (see Acts.)
Islam, centuries later, was born when Jewish tribes in the city of Yathrib (now Medinah, north of Mecca) opened their schools to the local pagan Arabs, teaching them the Seven Laws of Noah, and other stories of the Bible. The rest is history.
In fact, other major religions like Buddhism and Shintoism, share similar moral principles with Noah’s Seven Commandments.
4: The order of the Commandments on the list:
Before diving into each Commandment separately, let’s look at the list as a whole. There are several lists in the literature. The list we’ve chosen for our classes reflects some legal, philosophical, and psychological principles.
Legal (Halachic) reasons:
The three laws at the top: IDOALTRY, ADULTERY and BLOODSHED, are often quoted together, since they are ‘severe,’ their violation incurs the death penalty by a human court. Although this is rarely implemented, their retributions reflect their serious status.
Another reason for bounding them together at the top of the list, is the fact that we are obligated to surrender our lives rather than violating them. |We sanctify God’s name by our lives rather than violating them. This applies to Israel as an explicit, separate Commandment, whereas the Nations are rewarded (but not commanded) to keeping them.
Psychological or logical reasons:
IDOLATRY comes first, for if you do not believe in G-d, what would stop you from violating all the rest of the commandments?
ADULTERY follows, for if you do not fear G-d, what would hold you back from having an affair with your best friend’s wife?
BLOODSHED follows next, since once you’ve committed ADULTERY, wouldn’t you aspire to also get rid of her (his) spouse? And who would run after you with a drawn knife, if not her humiliated husband (or wife)?
THEFT follows next, since once you’ve stolen someone’s wife, why not stealing his or her property, thereby committing also
INJUSTICE follows for sure, since once you’ve committed the above, wouldn’t you aspire to cover your actions with INJUSTICE?
BLASPHEMY follows next, since living in a society that allow the above, would bring you to curse your mother, your father and your CREATOR.
A sad case as a demonstration.
The above cascade of events is often observed in our society. Such was the following case I’ve personally witnessed:
A decent member of our congregation, a physician and a devout religious man, had a wife who did not believe in the Torah or in G-d (IDOLATRY.)
One day the husband caught her unexpectedly with her lover on a couch inside their home (ADULTERY)
He later said that had he his gun on him at that time, he would have shot them both (BLOODSHED)
He also discovered that his adulteress wife had supported her lover financially, for years, out of her husband bank account (THEFT)
When they appeared at the court, her notoriously shrewd lawyer turned everything upside down, bringing the judge to decide against the husband (INJUSTICE.)
In his sorrow, the husband almost cursed G-d (BLASPHEMY).
Another famous example: The Great Gutsby
At first, the Great Gutsby makes a fortune in a wicked, godless way (IDOLATRY)
He still covets and entices his former girlfriend, who is now married to another man (ADULTERRY)
Her cheated husband now plans Gutsby’s murder, which indeed takes place at the end of the story (BLOODSHED)
But his adulteress girlfriend runs, accidentally, over a woman involved in stealing (THEFT)
The Great Gutsby now covers the accident, protecting his beloved one (INJUSTICE)
The author was so successful, and his story seems so compelling, because it is (unintentionally) based on the predicted cascade of the Commandments, engraved in our psyche from the time we were in Eden.
Now: what is IDOLATRY, exactly?
Read also: "Genesis Vs. Science, Can They Match?" By Zvi Aviner, at www.smashwords.com
END OF INTRODUCTION TO THE SEVEN LAWS