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Noahidism (//) or Noachidism (//) is a monotheistic branch of Judaism based on the Seven Laws of Noah, and their traditional interpretations within Rabbinic Judaism. According to the Jewish law, non-Jews (Gentiles) are not obligated to convert to Judaism, but they are required to observe the Seven Laws of Noah to be assured of a place in the World to Come (Olam Ha-Ba), the final reward of the righteous. The divinely ordained penalty for violating any of these Noahide Laws is discussed in the Talmud, but in practical terms it is subject to the working legal system which is established by the society at large. Those who subscribe to the observance of the Noahic Covenant are referred to as B'nei Noach (Hebrew: בני נח, "Children of Noah") or Noahides (//). Supporting organizations have been established around the world over the past decades by either Noahides or Orthodox Jews.
Historically, the Hebrew term B'nei Noach has applied to all non-Jews as descendants of Noah. However, nowadays it's primarily used to refer specifically to those non-Jews who observe the Seven Laws of Noah.
The Seven Laws of Noah
The seven laws listed by the Mishnah in Sanhedrin 56a are: to have laws and courts for the society, and to refrain from blasphemy, idolatry, a set of six forbidden sexual relationships, murder, theft, and eating flesh that was removed from a living animal.
There are two different concepts of Noahidism in Judaism:
- The B'nei Noah movement whose members observe the Seven Commandments or Laws only and hold that the remaining commandments do not apply to them. This is the view of Chabad-Lubavitch and a few other movements. This means that Noahides may not observe the Sabbath, study Torah (except for the Seven Laws), etc.
- The B'nei Noah movement whose members hold that they can adhere completely to Judaism in order to learn from the Jews and together promote the World to Come (Olam Ha-Ba) but without becoming a part of the Jewish people (i.e. without performing a giyur). After B'nei Noah accept the obligatory seven commandments, they can, if they so desire, carry out the rest of the Jewish commandments, including studying the Torah, observing the Sabbath, celebrating Jewish holidays, etc. This view is held, for example, by Ravi Yoel Schwartz and Rav Uri Scherki.
According to the first approach, the answer to the question "Can a non-Jew observe the Sabbath and study the Torah?" is negative, and according to the second one, it is affirmative.
In one place in his books, Maimonides writes "The goy must not observe the Sabbath and study the Torah," while in another place he says "If a Noahide wants to observe additional commandments besides the seven basic ones of B'nei Noah, he receives a reward from Heaven, and we (the Jews) must support him in this." Many people quote the first of his statements, not knowing about the existence of the second one. Rav Uri Scherki (and the rabbinical council of the Brit Olam organization) explain this contradiction in Maimonides by saying that the goy and B'nei Noah are different halakhic concepts. A goy is a gentile who has not yet accepted the commandments of B'nei Noah. However, if he has already accepted Seven Laws, he ceases to be a goy and became a B'nei Noah, and as such can follow additional commandments, including keeping the Sabbath and teaching the Torah.
High Council of B’nei Noah
Rabbinical Council for the Noahide Movement
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The Rabbinical Council for the Noahide Movement is composed of the rabbis of the Noahide Academy of Jerusalem which include Rabbi Moshe Weiner, author of the Divine Code, the complete compilation of the Noahide Code of Law, Rabbi Moshe Perets, Executive Director of the Noahide Academy of Jerusalem, Dr Michael Schulman, Rabbi Shimon Cowen, Rabbi Ytshock Dubovick, Rabbi Assaf Studnitz, Rabbi Zalman Notik, and Rabbi Assi Harel.
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Rabbi Meir Kahane organized one of the first Noahide conferences in the 1980s. In 1990, Kahane was the keynote speaker at the First International Conference of the Descendants of Noah in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has been the most active in Noahide outreach, believing that there is spiritual and societal value for non-Jews in at least simply acknowledging the seven laws, and even more so if they accept or observe them. In 1991, they had a reference to these laws enshrined in a Congressional proclamation: Presidential Proclamation 5956, signed by then-President George H. W. Bush. Recalling Joint House Resolution 173, and recalling that the ethical and moral principles of all civilizations come in part from the Seven Noahide Laws, it proclaimed March 26, 1991 as "Education Day, U.S.A." Subsequently, Public Law 102-14 formally designated the Lubavitcher Rebbe's 90th birthday as "Education Day, U.S.A.," with Congress recalling that "without these ethical values and principles, the edifice of civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos," and that "society is profoundly concerned with the recent weakening of these principles, that has resulted in crises that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society."
In April, 2006, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, met with a representative of Chabad-Lubavitch to sign a declaration calling on all non-Jews in Israel to observe the Noahide Laws as laid down in the Bible and expounded upon in Jewish tradition. The mayor of the Galilean city of Shefa-'Amr (Shfaram) — where Muslim, Christian and Druze communities live side-by-side — also signed the document.
In March, 2007, Chabad-Lubavitch gathered ambassadors from six countries to take part in a gathering to declare, in the name of the states they represent, their support of the universal teachings of Noahide Laws. They represented Poland, Latvia, Mexico, Panama, Ghana, and Japan. They were part of a special program organized by Harav Boaz Kali.
In April, Abu Gosh mayor Salim Jaber accepted the seven Noahide laws as part of a mass rally by Chabad at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv. In May, the newly elected president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, met with a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, Dovid Zaoui, who presented him with literature on the universal teachings of the Noahide Laws.
In 2016 Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef taught that Jewish law requires that the only non-Jews allowed to live in Israel are Noahides: "“According to Jewish law, it’s forbidden for a non-Jew to live in the Land of Israel – unless he has accepted the seven Noahide laws.” The Anti-Defamation League issued a strong denunciation of Yosef’s comments, and called on him to retract them.
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