Kabbala and the Mitzvot for Gentiles
G-d "created the world
that it might be settled" [Is. 45:18]. This implies a level of civilized
conduct, which can be achieved only when non-Jews also observe their mitzvot.
Indeed, the perfection of the world that leads to the Messianic Era requires the
spreading of the seven commandments that G-d through the Torah provided for all
the nations of the world.
These are the Seven Noachide Laws, as enumerated in
the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 56a.
CARRY OUT JUSTICE - An imperative
to pursue and enforce social justice, and a prohibition of any miscarriage of
NO BLASPHEMY - Prohibits a curse directed at the Supreme Being.
IDOLATRY - Prohibits the worship of any human or any created thing. Also prohibited
is the making of idols and involvement with the occult. This necessitates an understanding
of the One G-d of Israel and His nature.
NO ILLICIT INTERCOURSE - Prohibits
adultery, incest, homosexual intercourse and bestiality, according to Torah definitions.
HOMICIDE - Prohibits murder and suicide. Causing injury is also forbidden.
THEFT - Prohibits the wrongful taking of another's goods.
DON'T EAT A LIMB
OF A LIVING CREATURE - Promotes the kind treatment of animal life. It also encourages
an appreciation for all kinds of life and respect for nature as G-d's creation.
authority of these laws derives from the verse, "And the L-rd G-d commanded
it upon the man..." [Gen. 2:16]. They were given again to the nations of
the world through the teachings of Moshe at Marah [Ex. 15:25-16], but are known
by the name of Noah because they first became fully applicable in his time, when
meat-eating became permitted.
Jews who ask what their attitude towards
their non-Jewish friends should be can be shown a complete formulation for non-Jewish
integrity and well-being, which can be applied wherever they live. These principles
may be taught freely to all non-Jews who encounter them.
In Kabbalah and
Chassidut, the Ten Divine attributes (sefirot) through which G-d made the
world and man, are divided into three "intellectual" attributes: Wisdom,
Understanding and Knowledge, and seven "emotional" ones: Kindness, Might,
Beauty, Eternity, Glory, Foundation and Sovereignty. The Seven Commandments are
equivalent to the seven lower Divine Attributes.The three intellectual attributes
are associated with the Jewish people who provide the legal and spiritual interpretations
of the Seven Laws to the descendants of Noah. Each law parallels one of the seven
Sexual misconduct is the perversion of
love, and is related to Chessed [Kindness]. Sexual transgression disrupts
G-d's love for us and harms people in their love-capacity, while permitted sexual
relations are cherished in Heaven, and facilitate the Divine influence throughout
Murder is the perversion of strength and power, and corresponds
to Gevurah [Might].
Theft is the destruction of harmony in human
relationships, and corresponds to Tiferet [Beauty], the harmonious blend
of kindness and might which enables social balance. In a world where questions
of business morality are at the top of the agenda, this commandment fosters ethical
conduct in an area where it is sorely needed.
Idolatry and Blasphemy correspond
respectively to Netzach [Eternity-Victory] and Hod [Empathy-Glory],
which are often paired together as the two supports of faith. Idolatry is a violation
of Divine rulership, and blasphemy of Divine love. Since G-d's rulership and His
love are inseparable, each in turn facilitating the other, so too these two commandments
support and enhance each other. G-d alone is to be worshipped, directly and without
any conjoining or intermediary, and He alone desires and hears prayer out of His
love for all mankind.
Eating a limb from a living animal corresponds to
Yesod [Foundation], associated with the reproductive drive. The link between
eating and sexuality is well-known. The eating of living meat fosters the purely
rapacious aspect of both eating and sexual relations. It adds to the desire for
purely exploitative sexual relations which resemble eating, since such food contains
the actual 'heat of life' which arouses selfish passions. Sexual rapaciousness
and cruelty of all kinds are rectified by abstaining from living meat as defined
by the Torah. This in turn inspires gentle and respectful practices, such as those
directed towards maintaining the environment.
A functioning judicial system
corresponds to Malchut [Sovereignty], the lowest Sefirah, which rules in
supremacy but is selflessly devoted to public service. This is the responsibility
of good government. Our sages state, "War comes to the world through the
delay of justice, the perversion of justice, and the teaching of Torah not in
accordance with Jewish Law" [Avot 5:8]. When both Jews and non-Jews can learn
Torah without distortion of its halachic [Jewish law] meaning, true peace becomes
possible. This includes recognition of the principle that Jews can be judged only
according to Torah law, no matter where in the world, and that non-Jews in Eretz
Yisrael are considered according to the Seven Noahide Laws by the Jews there,
with no sovereign jurisdiction of their own.
guide to the 7 basic laws can be found in the Encyclopedia Talmudit, under "Ben
Noach." A philosophical understanding is available in 'The Seven Laws of
Noah', by Aaron Lichtenstein. See also, the U.S. Congressional Declaration: H.
J. Res. 104, Public Law 102-14, March 20, 1991; and the talk of the Lubavitcher
Rebbe on Shabbat Beshallach 5743/1983.
Rabbi Yermeyahu Bindman
moved to Israel from his native England in 1979. He is the author of Lord George
Gordon (the 18th century English convert), "Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto-His
Life and Works," and of 'The Seven Colors of the Rainbow," a book-length
explanation of the concepts in the above article.