Zayin, The Seven Noahide Laws

Zayin, The Seven Noahide Laws

Zayin, the Seven Noahide Laws are the universal aspect of the Torah, which belong to all of humanity. I will explain their origin.

Humanity did not prove itself to be worthy of God’s trust and thus forfeited its right to exist. Therefore, God sent the Flood. Only Noah and his family were saved, because Noah was “righteous” despite the influence of his depraved generation. After the Flood, God revealed Himself for the first time since the creation of Adam, in order to stipulate the terms of His pact with Noah and his descendants.

We were promised that there would never again be a flood to destroy humanity. Human beings, however, would have to accept and obey God’s precepts, the “seven precepts of the children of Noah.” These became the laws that define moral life.

No dogma is imposed in the Noahide laws. Indeed, any philosophy, theology, or legal system could be based on the Noahide principles. In his explanation of these seven precepts, Maimonides comments,Moses our teacher transmitted the Torah and the laws only to Israel…and to those of the people who decide to convert…. No one can be forced to adopt them.

What all human beings should instead accept as Divine legislation are the precepts given to the children of Noah…. Anyone who adopts, professes, and puts them into practice is called righteous, and will have a portion in the world to come.

This is a further acknowledgement of the equality of man, since all humanity descends from Noah. With the exception of Noah and his family, all humanity prior to the flood had violated moral principles that guide human behavior. In the path to redemption, the process of spreading the Seven Precepts of Noah is considered a fundamental step.

Here are the Seven Precepts, with brief commentary:

  •  To acknowledge the existence of a single God, infinite and superior to everything, and to not replace Him with idols (including other human beings, or ourselves). This precept includes prayer to God, meditation, and the study of spirituality.
  •  To respect the Creator. As frustrating as it might be, given the circumstances, there must be no expression, not even jokingly, of disrespect toward the Creator.
  •  Not to murder. Every person is an entire world. Saving a life means saving an entire world, and destroying a life means destroying an entire world. Helping others to live, with every form of assistance, is a corollary of this precept.
  •  To respect the institution of marriage, since the union between man and woman is a reflection of the union between God and His Creation. Marriage is a Divine institution, and therefore every form of dishonesty within it is considered a desecration of that Union.
  •  Not to steal. One must do one’s work honestly. By trusting in God, rather than in one’s own powers, one expresses one’s faith in He who sustains life.
  •  To respect God’s creatures. Adam was created to care for and to protect all creatures of the Garden of Eden. At the beginning, eating the flesh of animals was forbidden. After the Flood, it was allowed, but on the condition that no avoidable suffering would be caused to living creatures.
  •  To maintain justice. True justice is a Divine task, but humanity is required to do all it can to reinforce justice by applying the law. When societies are just, humanity becomes God’s partner in the work of Creation.

Unfortunately, the Jews did not succeed in spreading those laws. This is partly due to their difficult relations with the nations (thousands of years of persecutions), and forgetting the importance of such a universal inheritance.

Today there is a large number of people who are interested in Kabbalah, or who want to convert. According to the sages, in reality there is no extra spiritual merit in being a Jew over being a non-Jew practicing the Seven Noahide Laws.

The real mission of the Jewish people is not to convert people to their religion (on the contrary, they try to persuade people not to become Jews) but to help create a world not only more “enlightened,” but also more ethical, towards humans and animals alike.