Noahide Seven Commandments Torah classes
© 2017 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
Torah Class THEFT-5/Abraham’s Unique Faith
“And Abraham said, AaDoNai, ELoKiM, what would you give me?” (Genesis 15:2)
1: Why should Noahides learn about Abraham?
In our quest to study Noah’s Fourth Commandment, THEFT, we move from Noah and King Nimrod to Abraham.
Many wonder: why would Noahides learn about Abraham, who came later?
Noah and Abraham
I’ve been asked that question numerous times. Some even claim that Abraham is the “father of Monotheism,” the origin of ‘Judaism.’ Others even write that Abraham “introduced YHVH” while the previous generations had known ELKM. How wrong! Traditions says that it was Adam who coined the Names YHVH and ELKM, while he was still in Eden (see our classes.) Moreover, it is explicitly said that In Enosh’s time they “began calling the name of YHVJH,” which means, as we’ve learned, that they erred by calling YHVH only, neglecting ELKM. And then it is said about Noah that he found face in YHVH eyes, while walking in the ways of ELlKM. He implemented YHVH ELKM Oneness. Even more striking is the depiction of the Heavenly Court in session before the Flood.
Hence Abraham did NOT introduce a new religion, or the name of YHVH. According to the RaMBaM (Maimonides) Abraham was in fact a dedicated Child of Noah. In fact, tradition says that Abraham at age 58, met Noah, who taught him the Seven Commandments. Moreover, Abraham studied with Noah’s firstborn son, Shem, in his Torah Academy near Mt. Moriah. The difference between Abraham and Noah was, according to the RaMBaM, that Noah abided by only Seven Commandments, whereas Abraham abided, at his old age, with one more; the Eighth, Circumcision. But as we’ll see, this addition, the Eight, does not introduce a new religion. It does, though, introduce a new level of commitment. For Abraham also introduced a new Holy Name: My Master, My Owner, AaDoNai, expression TOTAL SUBMISSION TO THE SERVICE OF G-D. He also called G-d “the OWNER OF THE HEAVENS AND EARTH.”
As we’ll see, all the stories about Abraham evolve around the issue of legitimate OWNERSHIP. He fought not only against IDOLATRY, but mostly against ABDUCTION, FORCED SLAVERY and ORGENIZED THEFT. These are good enough reasons for all Noahides to become familiar with Abraham and his contribution to or faith.
The same holds true for Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Though they lived AFTER Noah, their teaching SUPPORTS his Seven Commandments. Thus,
Noah’s 7th, Eating Blood prohibition, supports Adam’s 3rd, BLOODSHED.
Abraham’s 8th, circumcision, supports Adam’s 4th, THEFT,
JCOB’S 9TH, Sciatic Nerve prohibition, supports Adam’s 5th, JUSTICE
Joseph and Israel’s 10 Commandments, support Adam’s 6th, BLASPHEMY.
2: Abraham’s society and Organized Theft
The Nations breached the Noahide Treaty
Let’s repeat the description of Abraham’s society, into which he was born around 1900 BC.
We remember King Nimrod’s Tower of Babylon. It was a very effective and successful endeavor, changing society forever. People became aware of the power of an ORGANIZATION and social hierarchy. Successful the organization was, but the culture of indifference and cruelty that it introduced enraged YHVH.
The Tower toppled and the people dispersed, but the legacy of Nimrod survived. Other leaders emulated him. But whereas Nimrod based his rule on the Free Will and the enthusiasm of the workers, the new leaders based their Towers on policing and the sword. Armies were formed to invade other people’s territories and enslave their inhabitants. The quickest and most assured way to get rich was to subject others to work for you.
When Abraham was born, Empires were consolidated to wage WAR against each other. Karen Armstrong, in her history books, describes the ORGANIZED THEFT that prevailed (see our previous class). This new THEFT differed from the rampant stealing and mugging that permeated Noah’s generations. Now it was elevated in scale, to be performed by STATES.
transgressing all the Commandments
Beside failing THEFT, Abraham’s generation also transgressed all other Commandments: IDOLATRY, ADULTERY, BLOODSHED, INJUSTICE and BLASPHEMY. Noah and his teaching were forgotten and he became an obsolete figure. Only a few loyal disciples remained active, like Noah’s firstborn son Shem, and his son Ever.
3: How Abraham’s society degenerated into IDOLATRY
The RaMBaM (Maimonides) describes how humanity sled into IDOLATRY:
1. First they repeated Enosh’s errors and addressed YHVH and prayed to Her everywhere, even through natural entities
2. Next they prayed to the Sun, the Moon and all celestial bodies as YHVH’s COUNCILORS
3. Next they prayed to the Celestial bodies themselves
4. Next they worshipped natural forces such as Ocean, Strong Wind, High Mountains, Magnificent Trees and so on.
5. Next they made statues and images of these natural entities and worshipped them
6. Next they created images of anything imaginary and worshipped them
7. Next they worshipped kings and leaders as gods
Moses, in the Ten Commandments, followed that path of IDOLATRY, saying :
“Thou shall not have
1. “Other ELoKiM (partners, side by side with Him)
2. “Over my Face” ( like his putative wife, son)
3. “Thou shall not make for yourself any (imaginary) idol”)
4. “Statue or image” (man-made)
5. “Of everything that is in the sky above and on the earth below” (Natural forces)
6. “Thou shall not bow to them” (don’ bow to anything but G-d)
7. “And not serve them” (kings, political parties, etc.)
They breached the Rainbow Covenant.
By violating all the Noahide Seven Commandments, Abraham’s generation breached the Rainbow Covenant. A second Flood was imminent, had not G-d in His Compassion sent us the precious soul of Abraham to save us from extinction.
The act that Abraham was born ten generations after Noah, whereas Noah was born ten generations after Adam, indicates that both Noah and Abraham were sent to humanity by Heavenly Design.
Abraham would be the strong horse which would pull humanity’s sunken wagon from the mud.
So, who was ‘greater,’ Abraham or Noah?
Both were “completely righteous.” But Noah as “a righteous in his generations” (Genesis 6:9) implying that perhaps in Abraham’s generation he would not have been considered so righteous. Hence Abraham was greater.
On the other hand, you can read it as Noah was righteous EVEN in his generations. Had Abraham lived in Noah time, Abraham wouldn’t be so righteous. Hence, Noah was greater.
The fact is, that G-d in His Compassion sends humanity precious souls that fit their generations’ faults
Noah’s generations stumbled over BLOODSHED, therefore G-d send them Noah who engaged in a struggle against it, as seen in the Rainbow Covenant.
Abraham’s generation, in contrast, was fascinated by ORGENIZED THEFT. G-d therefore sent Abraham whose whole faith was aimed at RIGHTEOUS OWNERSHIP.
4: Abraham’s youth and his budding faith
Abraham grew up in idolatrous society. How did he come to believe in the true G-d? The Torah does not elaborate on this, but the rabbis found hints in the text that says:
“These are the generations of Terach.
Terach begot Abram, Nachor, Haran, and Haran begot Lot.
Haran died before his father Terach in the land of his nativity in Ur Kasdim.
And Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves
the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah.
But Sarai was barren, she had no child.
And Terach took his son Abram, and his grandson Lot the son of Haran
And his daughter in law Sarai the wife of his son Abram,
And they went from there, from Ur Casdim, to go to the Land of Canaan.
But they came to Haran (Syria) and they stayed there.
And where Terach days were 205 years, Terach died in Haran. (Genesis 11: 27-32)
Abraham was born either in Syria (Haran) or Mesopotamia. His father Terach was not only a pagan, but a pagan priest. Moreover, the father was an artist who made the idols and sold them in his shop. His livelihood depended on IDOLATR.
Abraham, a young boy, helped his father in that shop. One day he asked his father Terach: "What right do we have to sell those idols?"
His father replied: "We have the RIGHT to sell the idols since we have made them. An ARTIST OWNS THE ART HE PRODUCES.”
"If so,” Abraham said, “do we have also the right to destroy the idols?"
“Of course,” the father replied: “we’ve made them, and we may destroy them.”
A few days later, when Abraham’s father was out of the shop, Abraham took a stick and broke all the idols to pieces, apart from the biggest one. He then placed the stick in this idol’s hand. When the father returned and saw the devastation, Abraham explained: "Father, in your absence, this big idol took the stick and broke all the others idols to pieces."
Seeing that his father raised his brows, Abraham said: "Father, if you doubt my story, why do you worship these lifeless statuses?” (Midrash)
Abraham’s evolving faith
This is more than just a funny story. It expresses the ESSENCE OF ABRAHAM’S FAITH.
When Abraham grew up, the Midrash says, he discovered how beautiful Nature is.
1. So first he said in awe: “What a beautiful Castle is this World!”
2. Next he said: “This beautiful Castle MUST have a great BUILDER- ARTIST who built it.”
3. Next he said: “This BUILDER-ARTIST of the world must be its OWNER” (Genesis 14: 22) by the right of the artist to own his artwork!
4. Next he said: “The BUILDER-ARTIST OWNER also owns me, my body and my life. He is MY MASTER, AaDoNai (Genesis 15:2) and I am His Slave.
5. Next he said: “Since we are slaves of our Master in Heavens, we can be save to no human
We’ll learn these points later in detail.
6: The novelty of Abraham’s faith
Thus, in a society plagued with ORGENIZED THEFT, predicated on FORCED SLAVERY, Abraham preached RIGHTEOUS OWNERSHIP.
It was a novelty. No other religion had ever related OWNERSHIP to an idol:
The Egyptians and the Greek never attached OWNERSHIP to their gods. Thus,
Neptun was the god of the ocean, but not the OWNER of it.
Mars was the god of War, not the OWNER of it.
Athens was the goddess of Wisdom, not the OWNER of it.
Indeed, the notion that a Deity OWNS something seemed weird.
But for Abraham, seeing the CREATOR as an OWNER had enormous implication:
THEFT and ABDUCTION is forbidden.
MY Life is therefore dedicated as a SERVICE to My Owner.
No wonder the Talmud is so passionate about RIGHTFUL OWNERSHIP. Many pages of the Talmud are devoted to assure it.
An important legal implication: Since we do not own our body (it belongs to its CREATOR) we therefore have no right to donate it, even for good causes such as medical research or organ transplantation. Such a decision should be made only with the help of a qualified rabbi.
Abraham met Noah
We’ve already said that there was an overlap between Noah and Abraham. When Abraham was 58 y old (“Noah” in Hebrew has a value of 58) he met Noah who was 892 years old. Noah must have solidify Abraham’s spontaneous faith.
7: Abraham, the hard vessel
If the CREATOR is also an ARTIST, Abraham was a good Vessel.
As perfect vessel Abraham was, he could improve itself by trial and tribulation. The text count at least ten such trial that Abraham had to withstand. Then “his vessel” or body was improved by adding the eighth Commandment, one above Noah’s seven, namely the Circumcision. As it is said: “Walk before me and be complete, tamim.”
The first trial: The fire of Ur
Immediately after being introduced in the Bible, Abraham undergoes the first test of his life:
He is thrown, along with his brother Haran, into an OVEN (Ur) for the crime of teaching Noah’s Seven Commandments. Abraham was therefore the first martyr for Noah!
Haran perished, but Abraham miraculously survived. As if hardened by the fire, Abraham and his family went to exile, into the Holy Land.
8: A receptive vessel
END OF TORAH CLASS THEFT-5
Kabala explains why Abraham had to become a harder vessel. To be able to receive G-d’s Benevolence and Blessing, one has to be strong enough to absorb it.
If the vessel is ’transparent,’ the Light would go through without affecting it.
A person should develop a strong personality, to absorb that light and get benefit of it.
This idea explains also why Israel received 613 commandments on Sinai. By abiding with them all, Israel becomes a strong vessel that can absorb G-d benevolence.