What can we learn from the Noahide Commandments?

Contemplation in the Seven Noahide Commandments

by Rabbi Moshe Weiner, author of “The Divine Code”

Translated by Rabbi Yosef Schulman, Assistant Director

Edited by Dr. Michael Schulman, Executive Director

Every person is obligated to contemplate the commands given explicitly to him by G-d and to understand everything that he is obligated and forbidden to do, and how to better his character. Therefore, a Gentile should contemplate the 7 Noahide Commandments, and what one can learn from them to rectify his nature and correct his deeds. Of primary importance is contemplation on the very fact that G-d gave commands to mankind. This teaches that G-d has purpose in the world – and anticipates the world coming to its proper rectification – through the actions of mankind. G-d’s commands teach that a person is able to do meaningful good deeds and rectify himself and his environment. Surely a person should not view himself as being naturally evil, nor imagine that it is impossible to change one’s nature to goodness. Rather, a person should know and believe that since G-d commanded him and anticipates his doing specific good actions, G-d surely has given him the power and capability to accomplish this. To this end, the following lessons can be learned from each of the Noahide Laws.

The Prohibition of Idol Worship: Just as this command is central to the other commands, one can also learn from it advice and correct views for all areas of life. It embodies the truth in all of G-d’s commands, that He wants the good of the person. In any situation, a person is obligated to accept that there is only one G-d Who rules over all and is the Master of all, and only He has the power to do anything He wills. The all-powerful G-d gives commands to humans – giving them this gift of being duty-bound to His will – to believe in Him, and to repudiate idol worship. This teaches that G-d does not simply force His will upon humans; rather, He is a loving Father Who wishes the best for a person – that a person should actively achieve his rectification, for his own good. This command teaches: “Be with G-d constantly, in all your thoughts and actions; I, G-d, will be with you if you so desire and are fitting for this. You should cleanse your actions from submission to any false deities, and unify yourself with the truth that I am always with you.” Together with acceptance of G-d’s authority as the Master of all, G-d wants a person to be complete, rectified, elevated, refined, and connected to Him for the person’s own good. Therefore, with every action a person takes, he must think through and examine the deed to see how it is further connecting him to G-d. A person should not think that there is any action which is neutral and does not fall on one side or the other. Rather, when a person is scrupulous and examines his actions, he will see that every action he can take will either be for the good and has positive purpose, or, G-d forbid, is bad and destructive. From this a person should understand the importance of every action he takes, and should not listen to his evil inclination which tries to persuade him that his actions are insignificant and make no difference.

The Prohibition of Blasphemy: There is no greater denial of G-d’s sovereignty than the commission of blasphemy. This command is logically a branch of the prohibition of idol worship, which precludes separation from G-d and obligates a person to accept His rulership. Why then was blasphemy assigned a separate command? This teaches the extraordinary power of human speech. Mankind is distinguished from all other creations by his power of intellect and choice, and in his power of speech. A person should not think, “Are my words of any consequence?” For speech is a special gift that G-d has given people, and one should use it only for good, and not for evil.  Do not be an ingrate by using this power to curse the One Who gave you this gift! And do not speak evil about others, for every person was created in the image of G-d, and one who curses another person is also cursing the image of G-d within.

The Prohibition of Murder: This command is not limited to murder; rather any harm caused to another person or to his honor is a branch of this prohibition. From this we learn the value of a person’s life and his honor. A person must endeavor to help and save every person to the best of his capability. From this follows the obligation to give charity and help others. The   Mishna teaches that Adam the first man was created alone for the purpose of peace, so that a person should not tell his friend, “My father is better than your father,” and to show G-d’s greatness: that He creates every person in the image of Adam, and yet each one is distinct in his appearance and nature. This is unlike a person, who makes only identical copies from a single mold. Therefore, each person is able to say, “The world was created for my sake,” along with the recognition that “I was created to serve my Creator.”

The Prohibition of Forbidden Relations: The power of procreation which G-d gave to humans is wondrous. With it, a person becomes a partner with the Creator Who forms the child together with the parents. Therefore, humans are somewhat comparable to and partners with G-d in this power. Every precious matter needs protection and proper respect, and the more precious the matter, the more it needs to be protected. Just as a respectable person would not disgrace himself to run in the streets naked and filthy, so too a person must respect his abilities and use them in a fashion befitting their ordained purpose – especially the abilities associated with the powers of consummation and fulfillment of marriage, and procreation. If not, one degrades himself and degrades the Craftsman Who made him, and sullies the physical vessel which G-d created for the spiritual soul. Yet many people foolishly destroy their honor and Divine image by not guarding and honoring these wondrous abilities. Just as a person can become imprudent from abundance of wealth or fame if he does not know how to handle it wisely, and therefore it makes him unbalanced, so it is with one who does not use his G-d given sexual nature correctly, as G-d commanded in Genesis 2:24.

The Prohibition of Theft: One should contemplate that G-d provides necessary sustenance for everyone, himself included. That which a person needs and is fitting for him has been provided by G-d, along with the lawful means to obtain it. That which he cannot lawfully and honestly obtain, he has no need for. Though at times it is hard for a person to agree with this, he should know that this is the truth. He should not desire the possessions and successes of others, but should rather endeavor to reach his G-dly ordained potential and income on his own. From this contemplation, a person will come to recognize even more so the individual Divine Providence which has exact design for each person’s needs. He should constantly trust and pray that G-d will provide for his essential needs, and also give charity to others from what he has.

The Command to Establish Courts of Justice: A person should contemplate that G-d desires a just society, with justice based on standards that upright people can agree on among themselves as to what is just or unjust. All people are partners in the building of a just society with a foundation on good behavior. Therefore, this is an obligation for every person who is capable of influencing others to do good – such as parents who must influence their children, or any person who has influence upon others. Another lesson is that since G-d guides everything with His individual Divine Providence, it must be that the evil which appears in the world occurs with G-d’s knowledge. A person could ask, why then should he get involved in G-d’s plan for the world? This command teaches that G-d wants people to rectify themselves and the world, and therefore He put some evil and deficiencies in the world, so that mankind could do His service by rectifying it. If one sees a matter that needs to be fixed, he should not say, “Others will take care of it.” Rather, since G-d showed him this problem by Divine Providence, it is clear that this rectification is relevant to him, and he is fitting to be involved. He shouldn’t say that G-d will do the work, or that others will solve it without him.

The Prohibition of Eating Meat Separated from a Live Animal: This teaches us not to be cruel to any creatures. Even if one has dominion over other people or over animals, he was given this power for a purpose, but not to cause them undue harm or pain, or to be cruel toward them. It also teaches that G-d desires the establishment of the world and the rectification of nature, while also caring about the pain of animals. Even though they were made available to people for food, they were not given over to be subjected to cruelty. Likewise, one should not waste things needlessly, which denigrates G-d’s blessings. All that G-d gives to mankind has a special purpose for which it is meant to be used, and not for it to be wastefully destroyed.

Share