Although most religions believe that in order to find favor with God and gain entry to Heaven one is required to convert to that religion, Judaism completely rejects such an idea.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Noah” (Genesis 6:9-11:32), and it is from here that we derive the seven universal laws binding on all humanity. These are known as “the Seven Laws of Noah” or the “Noahide Laws.” According to Judaism, all mankind is required to follow these seven laws of monotheism and morality in order to be considered a good person and gain admittance to Heaven.
Although they weren’t issued by Noah, they are attributed to him, as following the flood, Noah was the new father of all humanity. By extension, they were taught and circulated by Noah after the flood and were the only laws in existence until the giving of the Torah many years later at which time the Jewish people were given the Torah with many more mitzvot for them to observe.
Although most religions believe that in order to find favor with God and gain entry to Heaven one is required to convert to that religion, Judaism completely rejects such an idea. Judaism believes that there is no need for Non-Jews to convert to Judaism in order to find favor with God or go to heaven. Judaism simply says to the Non-Jewish world: Believe in God and be good people –you’ll go to Heaven. (Tip to remember: “Keep Seven and go to Heaven!”). Any non-Jew who accepts and observes these seven commandments is considered to be a “Righteous Gentiles”
Let’s see what these seven laws are:
Not to Worship Idols; Worship God
It is not enough to merely not worship idols (or the modern-day equivalent!) but every human being is required to believe in and worship the One and Only God. The God of Abraham, Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Not to Curse God
It is forbidden to curse God or profane His name in any way.
Not to Murder
Every single human life is sacred. To destroy a single human life is equal to having destroyed an entire world. By extension, when we sustain and promote human life it is as if we are sustaining and promoting an entire world!
Not to Commit Sexual Immorality
All sexual acts other than those between a man and a woman (and hopefully a man and woman who are married to each other!) are forbidden. The family unit is the foundation of human society and continuity. As we continue to see, when sexual lines are crossed all forms of craziness ensue. Traditional values are the only values!
Not to Steal
Yes, stealing is much worse than you might have thought. It was the rampant stealing that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and triggered God to send the flood in the days of Noah…more so than for any other sin!
Not to Eat Any Part of an Animal While it is Still Alive
I don’t want to point any fingers, but…this is rampant in certain Asian countries. Eating animals is completely acceptable. Making them suffer is not.
To Establish a Justice System
A proper and moral legal system ensures that society functions in a safe and competent manner.
According to Jewish tradition, six of these laws were first given to Adam, while a seventh, the ban on eating an animal while still alive, was the seventh commandment given to Noah who then went on to teach all seven laws to his children, descendants, and the entire world.
Truth be told, there are actually more than seven commandments that all mankind must follow. These seven are merely “categories” of commandments that branch off into many more precepts that all are expected to keep. For example, commandment number 1 would include a requirement to pray regularly, and commandment number 7 would include a requirement to do acts of charity and kindness and possibly even a requirement to honor and respect one’s parents, as well. Some of our sages have actually enumerated up to 100 commandments that extend from the seven. Remember: “keep seven and go to heaven!”
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