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Acts of Kindness Verses Engaging in Forbidden Relations

This personal essay was submitted to by a pious observer of the 7 Laws of Noah:

I was reading the Torah portion Vayeira (Genesis chs. 18-22), its associated reading (the Haftarah) from the Books of the Prophets, and my cycle of going through Proverbs. Although there are many insights, several things came to light that grabbed my attention. These are the three subjects of Hospitality, Visiting the Sick, and the Prohibition of Forbidden Relations.

Lot and his daughters escaped from Sodom.

In the beginning of the Torah portion, G-d visited Abraham on the third day after he circumcised himself. That is the day when the pain is the most intense, and the man is at his weakest. Abraham in his weakened state also welcomed three strangers, (who were really angels), and had a meal prepared for them. From this we see several things that need to be done in society today. How often do we hear about people in the hospital or who are sick and nobody is there to help? Or there is nobody to comfort them, or just to visit and talk with them to uplift their spirits?

This requires going out of your way to treat people the way you would want to be treated. This good can also be accomplished by inviting people for a social gathering, either private or public. These acts of righteous kindness help other people to feel welcomed, accepted, and better about themselves. And you will feel wonderful as well, in the joy of doing the good deed!

Angels to the rescue

Later in that Torah portion we learn about Lot and the two strangers (angels) that went to him in Sodom. At first, they said they would sleep in the public square. Lot pleaded with them to come into the safety of his home, and they did. But then, all the men of the city surrounded his home, demanding that the strangers be sent out to be raped.

When Lot pleaded with the people not to act so wickedly, they became violent, and at that point the angels struck all the Sodomite men with blindness and told Lot and his family to escape quickly from the city, because it was about to be destroyed by G-d. As we all know, Sodom was a very sinful and sexually immoral place.

This goes hand-in-hand with the section of Proverbs that I was studying that day, from the Artscroll Stone Edition Hebrew Bible (Tanach):

Proverbs 5:1-7, 20-23

My child, be attentive to my wisdom, give ear to my understanding, to heed wise designs and let your lips guard wisdom. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her palate is smoother than oil, but her end is as bitter as wormwood, as sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet lead to death; her footsteps support her to the grave. Lest you liken the path of life [to hers] – her courses wander [astray]; you cannot know.

And now, [my] children, listen to me, and do not stray from the words of my mouth. Distance your way from her, and do not come near the door to her house, lest you give your glory to others, and your [remaining] years to the cruel one. Lest strangers be seated with your strength, and your painfully earned wealth be in a stranger’s house.

You will groan your life’s end when your flesh and body perish. Then you will say, ‘How could I have hated discipline, and my heart spurned rebuke? I have not listened to the voice of my masters, and have not inclined my ears to my teachers. For pittance [of enjoyment] I was into everything evil, in the presence of the congregation and assembly!’

Why then, my son, should you err with a strange woman [i.e., a woman who is forbidden to you] and embrace her alien bosom? For a man’s ways are opposite G-d’s eyes, and He weighs all his courses. The iniquities of the wicked one will trap him, and he will be suspended in the cords of his sin. He will die refusing discipline, and for the abundant foolishness with which he strayed.

Relating this to the Noahide Commandments

From the Torah portion regarding Lot and this section of Proverbs, we learn the importance of the Noahide Commandment of the “Prohibition of Forbidden Relations”. In almost every society, at least some of the Forbidden Relations are now rampant and mostly accepted as the norm. People see it on television and the Internet, hear it on the radio and watch it in the movies, and it’s being taught (i.e. promoted) in our schools. Divorce rates are very high, due to infidelity and disrespect for spouses (man and woman) and the family. Traditional marriage, which is the bedrock of society and civilization as a whole, is being destroyed.

As we see from the above Scriptures and what we have learned from the civilizations of the past, and from many people in our time, people who engage in forbidden relations destroy themselves with dysfunction, sexual promiscuity and perversion (which for many becomes like an addictive drug), STDs, and general loss of well-being, respect for themselves and others, and sometimes loss of life. Other prohibitions come into play as well, such as lying, stealing, cheating, cruelty, drug addiction, pride, greed, and lust, to name a few.

Human beings are made in G-d’s image, but in these ways, some people make themselves literally worse than animals. Such people and their liberal societies normally don’t realize their mistakes until it’s too late. Unfortunately, this pattern is cyclical unless laws are put into place and enforced to prohibit such behavior.

As followers of the Noahide Code, we must continually guard ourselves from these pitfalls and stand against them at all times. It seems to me that this subject of Forbidden Relations has a connection with most of the Noahide Commandments:

A list of the Seven Noahide Commandments

1. Prohibition of worshiping any false gods

2. Prohibition of murder and injury

3. Prohibition of forbidden relations

4. Prohibition of theft

5. Establishing just laws and courts

6. Prohibition of eating meat that was taken from a living animal

7. Prohibition of blasphemy (speaking a curse against G-d)

How is each one related to this issue? While people are engaged in forbidden relations, they are not only violating that prohibition. They are also engaging in other misdeeds:

– Worshiping acts of illicit sex, by making that their highest priority. For many, it’s what they choose to think about, want and desire the most.

– Matters associated with the prohibition of murder and injury, by continually causing spiritual harm, and usually long-term physical harm, to themselves and the people with whom they are engaging in forbidden relations. (An obvious association is that some women will resort to abortion if they conceive from adulterous or incestuous relations.)

– Matters associated with theft, since the promotion of their sexual behaviors takes away young people’s innocence and sense of traditional morality.

– Violating an inner intent of the prohibition of eating meat that was taken from a living animal, which logically teaches that since you are prohibited from being cruel to the degree of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, how more so should you not to be cruel or cause physical or spiritual harm to your fellow human being.

– Matters associated with the prohibition of blasphemy, because they don’t revere and fear G-d, and they are not following His will, whether it’s in regard to things that are either commanded or logically or morally obligatory.

– Finally, the society is violating the commandment to establish laws and courts by failing to enact and enforce laws that prohibit those destructive behaviors.

Concluding with a prayer

I will end my essay with excerpts from the daily prayer of “Accepting G-d’s Unity and Kingship” and its introductory paragraph, that were authored for Noahides by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet o.b.m. and Rabbi Moshe Weiner, respectively, and published by Ask Noah International as recommended prayers for Noahides:

“…grant our heart understanding to comprehend and to discern, to perceive, to learn and to teach, to observe, to practice and to fulfill Your will with love. Enlighten our hearts in Your wisdom, cause our hearts to cleave to Your Seven Commandments, and unite our hearts to love and fear Your Name…”

“Almighty G-d, we accept upon ourselves that which is written in Your Torah: ‘You shall know this day and take to your heart that G-d [alone] is G-d, in the heavens above and the earth below – there is no other!’ We affirm the precepts of ‘You shall love G-d, your G-d, with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might,’ and ‘Fear G-d, your G-d, and serve Him, and in His Name [alone] shall you vow,’ and as it says, ‘Fear G-d and keep His commandments, for that is a person’s entire duty!’ ”

With very best wishes,
Christopher Ben Noach