Noahide Seven Commandments Torah classes
© 2016 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
Torah Class JUSTICE-1/Jacob Sought Justice
1: Jacob’s sought justice
In today’s class we move on from Abraham and Isaac to Jacob. With this, we move from Noah’s 4th Commandment THEFT to the realm of Noah’s 5th Commandment, JUSTICE.
As we’ll see,Jacob’s life story revolves around JUSTICE and CIVIL RIGHTS.
Unlike Abraham, he did not fight against IDOLATRY.
He was not thrown alive into a burning oven for the sake of G-d.
He did not convert people to the faith.
And unlike his father Isaac, he wasn’t bound on the altar for G-d.
Instead, Jacob fought for his JUSTICE and RIGHTS. Thus
He fought his brother Esau for his BIRTHRIGHT
He fought Laban for his CIVIL RIGHT to marry the woman he loved without being cheated
He fought Laban for his CIVIL RIGHT to be fairly compensated for his hard work as a shepherd
He fought the Citizen of Shehem for his CIVIL RIGHT to live peacefully as a citizen without his daughter being abducted and raped by the mayor
He fought for his truth against his brother Esau’s lies
Thus all the stories about him revolve around his struggle for JUSTICE.
And by this, Jacob differs from his forefathers.
2: The Book of Genesis leads from one commandment to the next
As we move from Abraham to Jacob we need to remember that:
Genesis chapter One introduces G-d, his Names, and (I) IDOLATRY
Then the story of EDEN shows how Adam and his wife ailed IDOLATRY and (II) ADULTERY
Then comes the story of Cain killing Abel committing the first (III) BLOODSHED
Then comes Noah who fought against BLOODSHED. He enters the Rainbow Covenant and receives a new, 7th Commandment that enforces his struggle against BLOODSHED
Then comes Abraham who struggles against (IV) THEFT (beside violating other commandments). He introduces new Names for G-d: (1) “Who buys the heavens and Earth (by creating it) and “My Master,” AaDoNai. Like Noah, he receives a new commandment: the eighth, Circumcision, as the “emblem of My Master in my flesh.)
Then comes Jacob who struggles for his (V) JUSTICE and his CIVIL RIGHTS.
3: JUSTICE given in Eden (‘DINIM’)
Let’s recall that In Eden, Adam and Eve received the basic Six Commandment:
From these six, only the first two were applicable to Eden. Only there they could,, and did, violate IDOLATRY (by not listening to their CREATOR-FATHER-KING) and ADULTERY (by the woman cohabiting with the Serpent.) The rest of the Commandments were ‘activated’ and became relevant only on Earth.
Note that these basic six Commandment of Adam in Eden constitute our “natural moral code” that is essential for any decent, stable civilization. Man’s society can’t survive for long without them.
Having driven out of Eden to live on Earth, Man stumbled over the Commandments one by one, as if programmed to be tested by them.
The Book of Genesis takes us through these successive trials, from one commandment to the next.
In fact, this journey was not only designed for the generations of the Bible. Each one of us, without exception, is moving in his life through the chain of these successive trials.
4: the Journey through the Book of Genesis
Again, throughout the Book of Genesis, whenever Mankind stumbled over a Commandments, G-d intervened and offered a remedy by giving Mankind a new Covenant sealed by a new Commandment that ENFORCES the one upon which humanity has just failed. Thus,
After the Flood, seeing that Mankind had stumbled over (III) BLOODSEHD,
G-d entered with Noah and his sons a new, Rainbow Covenant
Sealed by a new, 7th Commandment: the prohibition to consume blood and a limb taken form a living animal.
It enhances Man’s MERCY and helps us to overcome our lust for BLOODSHED.
Then, seeing that Man had stumbled over (IV) ORGANIZED THEFT, G-d entered a new Covenant with Abraham
Sealed by a new, 8th Commandment: Circumcision.
It enhances our stance for Rightful Ownership, as we’ve just learned.
Then, facing so much (V) INJUSTICE, the children of Jacob-Israel accepted over themselves a new, 9th Commandment that prohibits the consumption of the sciatic nerve.
It symbolizes Jacob-Israel stance against INJUTICE and LIES.
Thus in summary
Noah’s 7th came to support Adam’s 3rd, BLOODSHED
Abraham’s 8th came to support Adam’s 4th, THEFT
Jacob’s 9th came to support Adam’s 5th, JUSTICE
Israel’s 10 would come to support HOLINESS and fight against Adam’s6th, BLASPHEMY
The story of the Great Gatsby illustrates how a person may slide over the Commandments one by one.
At first, the great Gatsby enjoys the tremendous success and power. G-d is not in his life. His extravagant life-style demonstrates what modern IDOLATRY is: worshipping wealth and power.
Then the Great Gatsby commits passionate ADULTERY by coveting his former girlfriend, now a married woman.
As a result, her jealous husband plans, and brings about the final MURDER of Gatsby.
Meanwhile Gatsby prepares to STEAL his beloved woman away from her husband.
But on their way, she accidentally runs over her husband’s mistress, killing her. The Great Gatsby tries to save her by covering up her crime, thereby committing INJUSTICE. At that point he is murdered.
Walla! The hero slides down the Commandments’ list in a predicted way, one by one. No wonder the story speaks to our heart and mind, since Man is made to withstand that cascade of sins.
5: Is JUSICE a ‘positive’ or ‘negative’?
JUSTICE can be grasped as a prohibition: Do Not Perform INJUSTICE, a ‘negative’ Commandment. By this it resembles all other Noah’s Commandments which are ‘negative.’ Thus
IDOALTRY infers ‘Do Not worship idols,’ a negative order.
ADULTERY infers ‘Do Not commit adultery,’ a negative order.
BLOODSHED infers ‘Do Not murder,’ a negative order.
JUSTICE infers ‘Do Not commit Injustice,’ also a negative order.
But very uniquely, JUSTICE can ALSO be perceived as a ‘positive’ Command (Maimonides) that tells Mankind to DO the following:
1. To establish righteous laws
2 To set up court houses in every district
3. To appoint qualified and righteous judges, men or women
4 To set up a police force to execute the court’s verdicts
The laws of Israel or of Noah?
Which laws of JUSTICE should the Children of Noah follow?
Some hold they can establish their own justice system (Maimonides)
Others say they should follow Israel’s Laws (Nachmanides)
We’ll learn the source of that discussion as we learn about Jacob and tha rape of his daughter Dinah.
6: The unique status of JUSTICE in Israel
Rabbi Abraham Heschel (the founder of Conservative Judaism) writes:
Today’s humanity is accustomed to the notion that the G-d of Israel has a deep interest in JUSTICE. Most people are familiar with Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah and other prophets of Israel who told their people that G-d loves JUSTICE more than animal sacrifices.
We do not realize however how revolutionary this thinking was in antiquity. Until Israel appeared on the stage of history, no other religion or culture had ever associated JUSTICE with a deity.
Why should they? JUSTICE, after all, is a matter between Man and Man… Rarely if ever that matter is of any concern to another, third party, unless that party is also involved with the debated case. How much more so was god perceived as having no interest in the social JUSTICE between ‘Man and Man.’
The gods of the ancients were concerned only with their glory, their Temples and sacrifices. Often the gods themselves were depicted as participating in all sorts of plots full of rivalry and jealousy and sexual perversion. Seeking JUSTICE was none of their business.
In fact, the gods were perceived as standing above the law and above morality. The Roman Emperor Caligula married his sister and impregnated her precisely to show that he is god and therefore above morality or human customs. The Greek and Chinese perceived JUSICE as important foundation of society that common sense dictates, but they did not associate SEEKING JUSTRICE with any deity.
How revolutionary was the idea that the CREATOR has a deep interest in human JUSTICE, that G-d hates those who take advantage of the widows and the orphans and the poor and the weak of our society!
Furthermore, the Torah says that the CREATOR set on the Throne of Judgment when creating the Universe. Hence by seeking JUSTICE, Man emulates ELKM.
The great question is: Can Man emulate ELKM? Can a human judge find he absolute truth about a case?
END OF NOAHIDE TORAH CLASS JUSTICE-1