Some Thoughts on Noahides

Noahide rainbow

Noahidism is a monotheistic way of approaching religion based on the seven laws of Noah, as interpreted by rabbinic Judaism. According to Judaism, non-Jews are not obligated to convert to Judaism but are required to observe the seven laws. Non-Jews who agree with this are referred to as B’nei Noach (בני נח), Children of Noah, or Noahides.

The seven laws are found in the Tosefta, and in the Mishnah, tractate Sanhedrin 56a

Do not deny God.
Do not blaspheme God.
Do not murder.
Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
Do not steal.
Do not eat a live animal.
Establish a legal system & courts.

There have always been gentiles who accepted the Jewish Bible yet who did not want to, or were unable to, convert to Judaism.  In many Jewish communities, past and present, they worship in Jewish synagogues.

In the 20th century a new phenomenon developed. Some Orthodox Jewish rabbis began reaching out to disaffected Christians, and offered the option to become Noahides, under their tutelage. Meir Kahane was a leading speaker at the first Bnai Noach Conference, Fort Worth Texas, April, 1990.  The Chabad-Lubavitch movement – Ashkenazi Hasidic Orthodox – also began systematically reaching out to Noahides since the 1980s.  In recent years a number of rabbis on Facebook have been doing so as well.

Some people have mixed emotions about the results: When an individual chooses to educate themselves about rabbinic Judaism, they may end up becoming monotheists that are friends of the Jewish people. That’s great! In a world where antisemitism has been the norm, having more friends is a blessing.

Yet sometimes their interpretations of the Hebrew Bible skew fundamentalist. Some become hostile to any forms of Judaism that are not politically and religiously right-wing. So instead of becoming friends to the Jewish people, some individuals become hostile to Modern Orthodoxy, Conservative/Masorti Judaism, or Reform Judaism.  This is an issue because one would hope that someone who wanted to learn about Jewish views of God would be friendly to all of Klal Yisrael, not just 10% of it.

If one wants to become a Noahide it would be advisable to learn about the historical development of Judaism’s oral law, and learn about the range of theological and social beliefs that historically have existed within the Jewish community.

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