What other righteous traditions were accepted by Noahides after the Flood?

Charity canIn addition to the Seven Noahide Commandments, the Noahides of antiquity voluntarily accepted several rules of moral behavior, which are in fact intellectually incumbent obligations for all people.

Six of these meritorious activities are described in Chapter 4, “The Seven Universal Laws of Noah,” in the book by David Sears, “Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition” (Pub. by Jason Aronson, Inc., Northvale, NJ, 19’98). The following list of these righteous practices is taken from this book with the gracious permission of the author, in synopsis.

1. Contemplation of G-d: Abraham discovered G-d by contemplating the origin of the universe. Following his example, contemplating nature and searching out its mysteries can be a path to G-d. Contemplating on the omnipresence of the Creator, Who is the Source of existence and the only True Existence, is another spiritual practice discussed in Kabbalistic and Hassidic works.  However, for most people, it is very difficult to progress on the proper path without being guided by a Torah teacher. Unlike Abraham, we live after the Torah was given, so it is the mission of each individual to learn and observe the Divine commandments that apply to him personally.

Synopsis of excerpts from a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, on 11 Nisan 5743 (25 March 19’83):

“In truth, thinking about G-d is itself a prayer. This is a mitzvah [in the sense of a righteous activity] that precludes idol worship, which is a prohibition contained in the seven universal Noahide Commandments. Since every mitzvah has the nature of leading to another mitzvah [Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 4], surely this good deed will have a continuing good effect on the person. There is no doubt that if you inquire of the person about the events in his life in the following days and weeks [after he spends time thinking about G-d], you will recognize Divine Providence. When one thinks about G-d the result is that later, when he considers doing something which is perhaps not proper and just, he will remember the “Eye that Sees”, and this will stop him!”

2. Noahide Torah Study: In order to live by the Universal [Noahide] Code, one must study its precepts. An outline is really just a starting point. The various ramifications of the Seven Noahide Commandments are discussed at length. The Sages of Israel taught that study of the Torah’s precepts (including the Universal Code) should be in a spirit of humility and faith. Therefore, Gentiles who believe in the One True G-d and strive to live by the Universal Code should study the details of their seven commandments, as well as other parts of Torah literature relevant to their spiritual needs and responsibilities.

From “The Divine Code”, p. 91, by Rabbi Moshe Weiner:

When a Gentile learns a part of Torah for the purpose of observing a Noahide commandment, he receives a reward, in addition to the reward for observing the Seven Noahide Commandments themselves. And even more so, since his learning Torah about the seven commandments is connected to the particular commandment that it relates to, the learning is a fulfillment of a directive from G-d. Therefore, learning about the Seven Noahide Commandments is called a permissible ‘involvement’ in Torah study, and the reward for this learning and involvement in Torah is great.”

3. Prayer: Every person can establish a relationship with G-d through prayer. One should petition the Creator for all of his or her needs, and pray for the welfare of others. G-d receives the prayers of all who sincerely call upon Him. Thus, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem is called “a House of Prayer for all nations.” [Isaiah 56:7]

Through devotional prayer one can come to experience transcendence of self and attachment to G-d. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov especially recommended going into the forests or fields in order to achieve this. (In one’s home, it is beneficial to pray in a quiet, private room.) This practice is associated with Isaac, the second Patriach, who is described as praying alone in the fields (Genesis 24:63). Isaac also prayed at home with his wife Rebecca, she on one side of the room, and he on the other (Genesis 25:21).

The following (based on talks by the Lubavitcher Rebbe) is from the book Vedibarta Bam (And You Shall Speak of Them), by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, copyright © by Sichos In English:

What practical lesson can we learn from G-d’s command to Noah to enter into the ark? …The Hebrew word teivah used for “ark” also means “word”. G-d is telling us as well to “enter” into the words of Torah and prayer… Just as Noah was commanded to enter with his entire being into the ark (teivah), so are we told to “enter” with all our heart and soul into the words (teivot) of Torah and prayer, reading the words carefully [from a properly translated Hebrew Bible or Psalms, etc.], saying each word with feeling. In this way we will fulfill, in the spiritual sense, a previous command G-d gave to Noah: “A light shall you make for the ark (teivah)” (Genesis 6:16) – you shall illuminate the words (teivot) of Torah and prayer with deeper feeling.

4. Good Deeds and Proper Charity We are all merely custodians of the wealth we possess, the purpose of which is to improve the world as much as possible. In addition to benefiting others through giving charity and other kind acts, one overcomes the ego, ceases to be a taker, and becomes a giver. Even without completely pure motives, the one who gives is meritorious, for the receiver benefits in any case… People of all nations elicit Divine mercy and protection through their acts of charity and good deeds.

5. Return to G-d: Anyone can turn away from evil and come back to G-d at any moment, no matter what they may have done (Jonah 3:10). As the sages taught, nothing can stand in the way of repentance. The state of spiritual accord that one regains is the original unblemished condition of the soul. The prophets of Israel taught that G-d seeks the repentance of Jews and Gentiles alike (Jonah 4:11; Jeremiah 18:8). This is fundamental to the entire purpose of creation.

6. Joy: Despair is the antithesis of faith. When one truly considers that everything is in G-d’s hands and that everything is for the ultimate good, it is possible to be happy in all circumstances. Thus, the Talmud relates that a certain Sage … would habitually remark, “This, too, is for the good” (“Gam zu le’tovah“). The prophets of Israel declared that all of history is leading to a time when evil, suffering, and strife will cease. Then, all the good that mankind has accomplished will be gathered together, and G-dliness will be revealed to all. This will be in the Messianic era.

When a person realizes that by following G-d’s precepts he is helping to bring the world to this state of perfection, he should be especially joyous. There is a Hassidic story that illustrates this point. Once there was a poor person who was known for his great joy. Some of his neighbors, who were having a hard time themselves, found this a bit annoying. “You’re the poorest man in town,” they said. “Why are you so full of joy?” “I borrowed it,” he admitted, “from the better days ahead!” May we soon see the days of true joy, when at last there will be peace between nations, and “the knowledge of G-d will fill the earth like the water that covers the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

Here are two more principles that are righteous traditions from Biblical times:

7. Honoring One’s Father and Mother: Although Gentiles were not specifically commanded about honoring parents, from the beginning of mankind’s creation they distinguished themselves by accepting this as a righteous obligation.

8. Not To Deceive Others: This is evidenced by Jacob’s accusation against Laban (Genesis 29:25), “Why have you deceived me?” against which Laban took pains to justify himself (thus showing that he agreed that deception was considered a sin). This rule also forced Jacob to marry Rachel, as he had originally promised her before her father Laban switched her for Leah, even though Jacob personally wished to restrict himself to only one wife.

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