Response to "Thought You Might Find this Interesting, regarding the Alan W. Cecil essay:
I do find it interesting. I also find it filled with inaccuracies,
condescension, and pseudo-hopelessness/pointlessness. I don't want to write
a lengthy dissertation as to why I feel this way, but I do want to hit the
highlights anyway. If I'm the only one who feels this way about the Noachide
movement, then I'll be very surprised.
This is not to say that some very valid points were brought up in the
article. Not to impinge upon the memory of Rebbe Schneerson or upon the
Chassidic movement in general, but the points relative to the Lubavicher
Rebbe's Messianic claims (which I believe were proclaimed by certain
fanatical followers as opposed to his own claims) are serious in nature and
do indeed mimic the erroneous and dangerous dogma of modern christianity.
From my own research into the movement, however, I have noted that - though
revered - there are few traditionalists in the movement itself who hold that
he was the divine incarnate, and many who do not believe in his messiahship
either. Be that as it may, I would certainly advise caution as to the
direction and motives of the ChaBaD to those who are using this movement as
their sole source of Torah education. It is also important to point out that
the Chabad movement has done a lot of work in the realms of bringing
authentic Torah sources to the English speaking audience, as well as
outreach to both disenfranchised Jews and B'nai Noah.
What I do find most disheartening (and I find it exceedingly disturbing that
it seems so prevalent an attitude in the B'nai Noah community) is the SOLE
focus on legalism. Is this ALL that we can ever hope for? Incessant debates
about the minutiae of performance of 7 laws? (And no, I'm not against or
opposed to that. What I AM opposed to is doing ONLY that.) If the only thing
that B'nai Noah are to be permitted to do is study a couple tractates of the
Talmud and Mishneh Torah and deliberate about them - while being deprived of
the depth of the Torah upon which they are based, then really, what is the
point? If we are to be legislators, then why not be legislators of modern
jurisprudence such as American or International Law? Certainly, through the
study of American law we will be fulfilling our mitzvah of establishing
courts of justice? Surely, through the practice of American law we can
attempt to influence our society to be more moral. To what does the study of
two or three tractates of Talmud avail us? How does sitting as judge and
delineating points of law (which are only binding upon those whom subjugate
themselves anyway) improve our world, or spread morality or the words of
If the B'nai Noah movement is not a religion but merely a society of lawyers
who rule on points of law which can be subjugated upon no one...then really,
For me personally, I left christianity because I was dissatisfied with its
theology intellectually, with its attitude of spiritual arrogance, and with
its obvious idolatrous and Torah-perverting teachings. However, I did these
things because I wanted to get CLOSER to the G-d whom they (christians)
professed to follow. What I fail to realize and understand is at what point
I was supposed to give up spiritualism altogether?
True, correct actions matter. They are of the utmost importance. But they
are little more than lip service if they are not accompanied by correct
thoughts and intentions. A religion is dry if there is no spiritualism to
fill its veins. How can I expect to convince others to keep a set of
intricate laws while at the same time denying them the reasons why they
must? To perform or keep rituals to fill their time if there is nothing
deeper than the laws of "theft, fraud, wages, bodily injuries, damages,
loans, sales, and commercial dealings" with which to spend their free time?
I do not debate that establishing credentialed, educated, and halachically
knowledgeable leadership is a priority. This WILL involve the establishment
of institutions of higher learning (such as a "B'nai Noah Yeshiva") for the
education and credentialing of these leaders. Likewise, there WILL have to
be established an authorized ruling body - thoroughly versed in the Noachide
laws and pertinent tractates of Gemara, Midrash, Mishneh Torah, etc. who
will establish the structure of the Noachide movement and delineate the
finer points of living a holy life as a Ger Toshav. Yet, this brings up some
real problems which need solution.
First, who is to fund and set up this establishment(s)? Who are to be the
instructors? Who among us holds the prerequisite familiarity with Talmudic
thought and logic that could pass this on to others? Or are we to hire
Rabbinic scholars to teach these skills? The real question of where we will
find Rabbanim expert in the Noachide laws and how we will pay them are
really of secondary importance as to whether any would be willing? And if we
do not establish our own Yeshivot, then who is willing to establish a B'nai
Noah curriculum and teach non-Jews at their already established
institutions? And if we cannot reach these goals because of lack of
resources, lack of interest, or lack of support, then how are we supposed to
develop our own teachers, lawyers, and judges? And who will we get to
credential the "ordination" of these individuals that will be recognized by
the larger Jewish community?
Or are we to open our own Yeshivot now, on our own with no overseeing body?
To me, it would be like moving to Beijing and opening a kung fu academy
because we had a few classes at the local YMCA and watched the Matrix. No
disrespect to anyone is intended, but WHO is going to be the Rosh Yeshiva?
Who is a qualified halachic sage?
And then there is the reality that most of the laity of the movement have no
interest in devoting themselves to such an endeavor. Most members of the
organization are more interesting in knowing what they are "supposed to do".
How shall we approach HaShem in prayer? What shall we say? What holidays CAN
we keep and how? Where can we go to worship our G-d? What schools can we
send our children to where they won't be inundated daily with christian
beliefs and are surrounded by 99.9% christian boys and girls? What daily
rituals can we perform? Shall we kasher our meat? (HaShem told Noah not to
eat meat with blood in it...) What meat can we eat? Do we eat pig?
I have recently realized that as a single person with no real family ties
that I was perfectly comfortable with sitting around and studying the Torah
with no real practical implications (beyond a few laws which no moral person
is truly in any danger of breaking anyway). In fact, this is my estimation
of the current situation for B'nai Noah today. Sitting around learning
interesting and intellectually edifying facts which have NO PRACTICAL VALUE.
With the birth and maturing of my children, I suddenly realized that this
was unsatisfactory. I have effectively taken away anything SPIRITUAL
(holidays, prayer, religious service, etc) from my children while
simultaneously replacing them with NOTHING.
We have no siddur, no religious services, no real holidays, no real places
of worship, no institutions of higher education, no institutions of
elementary education, and honestly no real sense of community. What kind of
legacy are we creating for our children? And if we are simply going to cross
our fingers and hope that our kids will spontaneously embrace the Noahide
movement simply because we did, then we are DELUSIONAL.
So, if you want my opinion about what the B'nai Noah movement NEEDS, then it
is these things. If we want this wonderful and unusual gentile discovery of
Torah to peter out as a historical anomaly, then we should continue doing
what we have - idly pontificate. But if we want to PASS ON a legacy to our
children which will validate our unique experience, then we should change
1.) Delineating the minutiae of Noachide halacha is important, but first we
need a practical vehicle through which to achieve that goal. (i.e. Yeshivot
and legitimate backing from a RECOGNIZED authority - i.e. the Orthodox
2.) We need to develop spiritual practices that are in keeping with the
spirit of the Noachide laws and do not abrogate Jewish law.
3.) We need to develop a sense of community - including places of worship,
places of higher study, private B'nai Noah day schools to train a new
generation of Torah observant gentiles, etc.
4.) And we need to rethink our study focus to include time for study which
goes beyond "the letter of law" and provides a spiritual component to
provide purpose to our outward actions.
A final point, and then the whirlwind can commence... if you do not wish to
participate in the study of authentic Kabbalah, then don't. If you wish to
dissuade me from doing so, then fine.
However, kosher Kabbalah from legitimate sources isn't an aberration of
Torah - it IS Torah - the very heart. Almost all of the great sages that
were listed in this article were renowned Mekuvalim!
From RaMBaN to Rabbi Yosef Caro, the Kabbalah has NEVER been something that
was separate from authentic Torah. It isn't a quaint philosophy, it isn't
Gnosticism, it isn't pantheism or polytheism, it isn't numerology or
divination... It is the very CORE of the Torah. I can prove it a hundred
ways, from a hundred sources, some as old as the TaNaCh itself. It is
prevalent throughout the Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim, the apocrypha, the Dead
Sea Scrolls, the Gemara, and COUNTLESS works throughout the modern era of
diaspora Rabbinic Judaism. True, it is a difficult subject and can easily
lead the uneducated astray. Nevertheless, to imply that a gentile is
INCAPABLE of or PROHIBITED from studying it is the ultimate condescension.
Many Kabbalistic works speak overtly to the universality of their teachings.
These works and practices have provided me with endless inspiration,
feelings of closeness to my Creator, awe before His Inexplicability, and
desire to cleave to Him.
Therefore, I would view suspiciously anyone who attempted to say that this
type of learning was a distraction. It isn't distraction; it is the ESSENCE
that makes it all relevant!!
Finally, it may not be INCUMBENT upon a Ben/Bat Noah to study Torah for its
own sake - however it is certainly to his/her spiritual growth NECESSARY!!
True, there are portions of the Torah that do not really apply to gentiles.
However, in the Jewish Siddur (prayerbook) the "korbanot" (offerings)
section is repeated at both the morning and afternoon service. But wait,
only Kohanim (priests) can bring an offering - and then only in the Temple
(which lies in ruin and desecration). So how can the greater Community of
Israel (which are not all priests) study these works and their respective
tractates of the Talmud if they don't apply to them personally?
Perhaps it should be emphasized that the Torah CAN be studied, even the
sections that don't specifically apply to B'nai Noah, if it aids in the
gentile's spiritual understandings and generates a closeness to HaShem
(provided the study is not with the intention to practice).
Well, despite my own statement to the contrary, I have written a pretty
lengthy response. Honestly, I could go on and on still, but I won't. I would
welcome anyone's thoughts or disagreements, but you should think through it
clearly first. Torah is a way of life, for the observant gentile as well as
for the observant Jew. There is A LOT of work to do, and no one is going to
do it for us. It will take a concerted effort on the part of the Noachide
movement, but it is essential for the rectification of our world. We should
start DOING and stop TALKING about doing.
For the paper which followed this essay, click here.