The general principle governing these matters is: [Gentiles] shouldn’t be allowed to originate a new religion or create divine commandments for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the [Jewish] divine commandments or stay in their Law neither adding nor detracting. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and Wars, Chapter 10, law 9 (or 12))
Other rabbis talking about this teaching from Maimonides say the following.
Noahides may not create their own original customs of worship, religious ceremonies, or any other religious obligations to be treated as law or set in stone. (Guide for the Noahide, by rabbi Michael Shelomoh bar-Ron, Part II, Chapter B, section h, online version, emphasis mine)
So it seems that the establishment of a new religion occurs only when a person comes and says that he has been ordered by G-d to fulfill such and such a law and not when he is trying to reach a degree of spiritual perfection by fulfilling the commandments that the children of Israel have been ordered to carry out. (near the beginning of “Noahide Commandments”, by rabbi Yoel Schwartz, found online, emphasis mine)
This acceptance restrains the non-Jew from creating a new religion, even one based on the Seven Laws, because one then understands that the human sense of morality can never improve upon the laws given to Moses from on high. (pg 126, The Seven Colors of the Rainbow: Torah Ethics for Non-Jews, emphasis mine)
A Talmudic statement relevant to the topic at hand states the following, along with commentary.
Resh Lakish also said: A heathen who keeps a day of rest, deserves death, for it is written, And a day and a night they shall not rest, and a master has said: Their prohibition is their death sentence. Rabina said: Even if he rested on a Monday. Now why is this not included in the seven Noachian laws? — Only negative injunctions [laws to sit down and not do – DD] are enumerated, not positive ones [laws to get up and do – DD] (38).
Footnote 38. The seven Noachian laws deal with things which a heathen must abstain from doing. But when we say that a heathen must not observe a day of rest, we bid him to do a positive action, viz., work. (Soncino Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 58b)
And Reish Lakish says: A gentile who observed Shabbat is liable to receive the death penalty, as it is stated: “And day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:23), which literally means: And day and night they shall not rest. This is interpreted homiletically to mean that the descendants of Noah may not take a day of rest. And the Master said (57a) that their prohibition is their death penalty, i.e., the punishment for any prohibition with regard to descendants of Noah is execution. Ravina says: If a descendant of Noah observes a day of rest on any day of the week, even one not set aside for religious worship, e.g., on a Monday, he is liable. The Gemara challenges this: But let the tanna count this prohibition among the seven Noahide mitzvot. The Gemara explains: When the tanna counts the seven mitzvot, he counts only those that require one to sit and refrain from action, i.e., those that include a prohibition against performing a certain action. He does not count mitzvot that require one to arise and take action. (The William Davidson Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 58b, emphasis mine)
[The various listings of the seven Noahide commandments contain only prohibitions against performing certain acts (e.g., do not steal, do not commit adultery). The Noahite fulfills them by not acting (refraining from theft and adultery).] The prohibition against ceasing from work, however, is actually a positive command, requiring people to perform acts of work. It is thus not included in the lists of Noahide laws. (footnote 42, from the Schottenstein edition of the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 58b)
Ok. The background reading is done. So what’s the point of this post?
According to what was taught, the seven laws are seven prohibitions, seven commands demanding restraint from certain actions. Only the law of Justice has an additional active element to the law.
So the law concerning murder is saying, don’t do the act of murder. A person who doesn’t do the act of murder is innocent regardless of the reason why he or she didn’t murder.
The law concerning sexual partners is saying, don’t have sex with these certain people. A person who doesn’t do the act of having sex with, for example, an animal is innocent regardless of the reason why he or she didn’t do it.
If someone were to claim that God also gave the positive command to get married in his seven laws, someone saying “well, not having sex with the wrong partners is hinged on having sex with the right partner, therefore God commanded everyone to get married; it must be done by divine decree,” then that would be adding a religious law. God now gave eight laws, not seven. Or such a positive command contradicts the statement from the Talmud (and its commentaries) that God only gave prohibitions, bar the law of Justice.
So again, to claim that God commanded people to get married among his seven laws would be a lie and an addition to his law.
Maybe someone already disagrees. Whatever.
So we have the command concerning idolatry. The core command says “don’t actively give divine worship to an aspect of creation,” or “don’t give divine worship to an idol accepting it upon yourself as a god.” The command is a prohibition. It’s a command not to do something. It says nothing about the reasoning. It just says, “don’t do x.”
Now Jews, a good amount of them, arise, rabbis among them, saying, “God commanded Gentiles to know him; it’s what the law of idolatry is hinged on.” There’s chabad.org saying this:
What Are the Seven Noahide Laws?
The 7 Noahide Laws are rules that all of us must keep, regardless of who we are or from where we come. Without these seven things, it would be impossible for humanity to live together in harmony.
Do not profane G?d’s Oneness in any way.
Acknowledge that there is a single G?d who cares about what we are doing and desires that we take care of His world. (The 7 Noahide Laws: Universal Morality, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/62221/jewish/The-7-Noahide-Laws-Universal-Morality.htm)
And on noahide.org, when it lists the seven laws, it says the following in the place of the law concerning idolatry:
Knowledge of the One True G-d (The Seven Laws of Noah – Noahide.org – http://noahide.org/sevenlaws/
As may be well known, the Divine Code teaches this.
The prohibition of idolatry has two facets: the command to recognize
and know God (this was explained in Part I, topics 1:1-4), and the prohibition against serving idols. (Part II, chapter 1, topic 1)
All of these well-known sites and resources, and others, state that a Gentile is, as part of his core obligation, the seven laws, commanded, in an active and positive manner, to know and recognise God.
What again does it mean to create a new religion according to what I quoted above? It means to create a religious obligation to be treated as law, as a command, set in stone. It’s when someone says they’ve been commanded, ordered, by God to fulfil such and such a law that is not part of the seven.
“Hey, God commanded us to give charity.
Well, yes, I mean it’s actually part of the law of theft, but yes, God gave us this law.”
But we have a problem. God only commanded about stuff we should not do, told us to restrain ourselves from various actions. Doesn’t such a law fly in the face of and contradict that principle? Yes. It does.
“Well, my rabbi told me we’re commanded to give charity.”
But that contradicts a teaching more authoritative than him. In addition, when Maimonides wrote out the law of theft, he wrote it in accordance to the ancient principle: he only wrote a prohibition, not an active command to give charity.
With evidence like that, from Maimonides and the Talmud, if someone says we’re commanded to give charity, then that’s creating a new religion or adding a new command. And as was said above, one should understand “that the human sense of morality,” even the sense of a rabbi, “can never improve upon the laws given to Moses from on high.
“But, David, my rabbi, this great rabbi, the website of these rabbis, this book from a great rabbi with a multitude of approbations tells me that I have a positive command to know God. I have to rely on his authority and expertise rather than your lone Gentile voice.”
But I’m not telling anyone to do anything. You don’t even have to read this or listen to me. But I have to do what I think is right. I have to use what I’ve been taught to judge what comes my way.
And yes, it’s not just ok but also necessary that we judge things.
So if I see the ancient teachings saying that God mainly gave only prohibitions, idolatry being one of them, and then anyone comes to me saying, “actually, there is also a positive command in the seven,” I would say that person is adding religious commandments, even the commandment to believe in or acknowledge or know God. It’s that simple.
There’s two other factors that I didn’t include that buttress the point even further.
Firstly, according to the Talmud, its commentaries, Maimonides and Nachmanides, breaking the actual seven laws brings the liability of death, the death penalty, in a righteous Gentile court. Do I have to give quotes for that too? But, David, who’s gonna believe that you ain’t making this stuff up yourself if you don’t give quotes. Hmmm … Damn! Well it’s a valid point. So here goes.
The Gemara asks: And is a descendant of Noah executed for idol worship? But isn’t it taught in a baraita: With regard to idol worship, matters for which a Jewish court executes the transgressor are prohibited to a descendant of Noah. The Gemara infers: Yes, there is a prohibition for a descendant of Noah, but there is no death penalty. Rav Na?man bar Yitz?ak says: Their prohibition is their death penalty. Since the only punishment mentioned in the Torah for transgressing a Noahide mitzva is execution, any descendant of Noah who transgresses is liable to be executed. (tractate Sanhedrin 57a, The William Davidson Talmud from sefaria.org, Sanhedrin 57a:12, https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.57a.12)
A non-Jew who violates one of the Seven Commandments is executed by means of the sword. How is this so? Anyone who worships idols or blasphemed or murdered or had sexual relations with one of those forbidden to him or stole even less than the value of a Prutah or ate any amount from a limb or the flesh of a live animal or saw someone else violate one of these and failed to judge and execute him, is himself executed by means of the sword. (chapter 9, law 14, Laws of Kings and Wars, Mishneh Torah)
The RAMBAN (Bereishis 34:25) asks many questions on the words of the Rambam. Among his questions, he asks that the Mitzvah of Dinim includes the law that a judge is not allowed to decide a case based on corrupt or fraudulent grounds. If a judge does so, he is Chayav Misah [worthy of the death penalty] for the active transgression of a prohibition. (The Ramban cites a Yerushalmi as proof for this.) However, if the Nochrim [gentiles] in a certain city failed to set up a court altogether, they are not Chayav Misah, since they merely neglected to perform a positive commandment and did not transgress a prohibition. The Gemara later (57a) teaches that “Azharasan Zo Hi Misasan” — the law prescribes the death penalty for Bnei Noach for transgressing any command for which they have been warned. This implies that only the violation of an Azharah, which refers to a negative prohibition (see 58b), carries the death penalty. Since the Mitzvah of Dinim is a positive commandment, failure to fulfill it should not warrant the death penalty. (INSIGHTS INTO THE DAILY DAF – Sanhedrin 56, http://www.dafyomi.co.il/sanhedrin/insites/sn-dt-056.htm)
Ok. My back has been covered.
Secondly, as can be observed from the list of the seven, they only cover action, not belief or inner acknowledgements. So the acknowledgement of or belief in God would have no place in the seven laws.
That’s where I am now. I think claiming God commanded us to know him is creating a new religion, making a religion out of the seven laws that should not be done.
I also am aware that it’s blatantly obvious that rabbis, Jews and many of their Gentile following these days teach that a lot more is commanded and forbidden than what is in the seven laws. The implication is that it’s God doing the commanding and forbidding. Although I think the Divine Code is a great book, unfortunately it’s easy to get examples of this “adding to God’s seven laws” from that book. Page 29, a Gentile is commanded, in addition to the seven laws, to act in a way that human intelligence dictates. Page 57, we are commanded to remove and silence those who try to add to the seven commandments (how ironic) or who try to nullify them. Page 59, we’re forbidden to arrange debates with false prophets. Page 126, it’s forbidden for a person who has been wronged to be cruel and not be appeased. Page 144, it’s forbidden to listen to music of idol worship services. Ibid, it’s forbidden to enter a house of idol worship. Page 270, any mention of God’s name for “naught” is forbidden. Page 440, any type of harm, even scaring and embarrassing, is forbidden in the same way that murder is forbidden. Page 522, it is forbidden for us Gentiles to have prostitutes or licentious women in our midst. Pages 525-527, Shem’s court way back in the day has jurisdiction over the world to tell us all that no Gentile can marry an idolator. Page 543, a Gentile is forbidden to go swimming in a place where there is a mixture of men and women.
Believe me, this list is far – far – from exhaustive. And it’s important that I include things that people would be glad to be forbidden, such as gossip or embarrassment because, as was quoted above, it is very tempting for people, even rabbis, to feel as if they can improve on God’s law. And yet, for so much which is claimed to be forbidden or commanded, it’s not commanded or forbidden in God’s law for humanity, the seven laws. To claim it is and then to treat it as divine law is to create a new religion. Whatever I find to be distasteful or wrong, far be it from me to conflate it with the seven divine laws as if it has the same authority: it does not and it can not!
To get back to the original point, to claim that acknowledging and recognising God is one of or part of the seven laws is establishing a new religion as far as I read it. And I will stress the importance of knowing God exists without incorrectly proclaiming it’s one of God’s laws.
You know, I feel someone is gonna talk about God still being very important or that being moral and decent are vital. I can’t be bothered to give that sort of disclaimer for this whole article. It’s a separate question that I’ve answered enough times that I’m just gonna state my case, no apologies.
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